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Cool Tools 2020: USB Soldering Iron - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 10
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 9
The price to performance ratio was good: 9
TotalScore: 58 / 60
  • RoadTest: Cool Tools 2020: USB Soldering Iron
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Workshop Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: This USB soldering iron is big on quality and possibilities in a very large field of competition. It’s size and portability take it a step in front of the rest finding a spot in your field bag and on your bench.
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: None from the Soldering iron but read on for the other challenges when taking iron on the road!

  • Detailed Review:

    Like many of you I have had my fair share of soldering irons. Some from more than 30 years ago from a little store we all loved, Radio Shack. That little store has gone the way of the Dodo bird, extinct, but the irons still work, sometimes better than others. I have always called them old reliables a 20 watt that I have thoroughly abused over the years and a 20/ 40 watt “desktop” that we bring to RC meets and other after school activities. The problem with these old irons is finding a place to plug them in and let’s face it they are old. Getting a good connection takes a little finesse and let’s not even discuss their looks.

     

    With new technology comes a much better, more reliable product that will open many doors. Multicomp PRO has introduced a USB Soldering Iron that I was fortunate to test drive. The Multicomp PRO Soldering iron came well packaged protecting the product so well that the carrier could have played football with it and it still would have arrived safe. Packaged with the iron is a small but robust stand, usb cable with ground wire and a single sheet of instructions giving you the basics of how to set up the iron to your liking. The instructions can be a little confusing especially if your want to change from Celsius, which is the default, to Fahrenheit. So let’s make this simple, hold the down arrow when plugging into power, done! It is now changed, you can't get simpler.

     

    Before we get carried away with the features I want to point a few things out that I found to be quite impressive and unfortunately one thing that I didn’t like. First let us look at the “looks”, the iron has a silicone cover over the iron protecting you from the sharp tip that the iron comes too. The working end of the iron is a nicely turned solid piece of metal, possibly stainless, going into the handle with no gaps. The handle is about a half inch in diameter but feels good in your fingers similar to a number 2 pencil. It’s well balanced and found very easy and light to hold. I found it more comfortable than the iron attached to my expensive work station. The next thing that caught my eye was the length of the cord. I stood up as I let the cord fall to the ground holding the iron in front of my face and the controller at the other end was within inches from the floor and I’m 6 feet, with my work boots! I looked at all my other irons that I pulled out onto my work bench and thought wow finally a good looking iron with a nice length of cord on it. Even my nice expensive desktop work station doesn’t look as nice as this unit. I know what your thinking, Really it can’t be that nice, can it? Well I do mill and lathe work and I always appreciate nice metal work compared to a stainless tube! The long cable is high quality connecting to the controller that fits well with no obvious gaps and looks solidly built. Overall initial impression is this unit will provide many years of service. Even the included accessories are high quality thought through items. The stand is a weighted die cast metal that will stay where it is placed. My only small issue with the stand was I needed to file the casting marks where the irons holder goes into the base. Easy to fix just a couple of minutes with a hobby file and it was perfect! So with so much perfection what could be the issue?

    Comparing pro with a pencil and standard work station iron

    The only “issue” with this 10 watt soldering iron, that behaves more like a 20, is also what makes it great for all the small boards and tiny gauge wire we mostly work with when developing, making and repairing. It has the one very thin tip which works great for working with dev boards of all types especially the complete build kits. The end of the iron looks like you should be able to replace or change tip but I was unable to find anything stating or offering different tips. Maybe this is something the manufacturer could consider since this is the only fault I could find.

     

    The Multicomp PRO has a great cord length of 4’ 6”. The iron is 8” and the controller is nearly 4”. You provide the 2.1 amp usb power adapter, which we all should have from our phones and that is how I started the test. I wanted to evaluate the irons performance under the most perfect condition, then move out to pushing its boundaries. The iron work as expected with thin and small gauge wires but what I really noticed was how good this iron felt in my hands, that is why I pictured it with a pencil, it feels that light and that good. It seems like it is half the weight or less of my work station iron. Having arthritis in my hands, this makes a considerable difference when working for extended periods. I was able to solder 10 gauge stranded wire with a little patience but 12 gauge and smaller was easy and enjoyable.

    10 gauge left 12 gauge middle 20 gauge right

    On new board kits it performed nicely. With its small tip I was able to get the solder exactly where I wanted without scaring the board. My soldering has never looked so good! Now reworking some boards that I ordered to do a partial conversion to cnc for my mill I wasn’t as fortunate but I feel this has nothing to do with the iron. Even with my work station iron I ended up scorching the board. After reading up others who purchased these boards  have had this issue.

    Board on left from work station iron board on right from PRO iron

     

    I wanted to bring up why I was excited about the Multicomp PRO iron and that is an iron that doesn’t need to be plugged into a wall. There have been many attempts over the years but in my personal opinion they have all failed miserably! With the PRO iron needing 5v and 2.1 amps there are many options on the market since all our phones, pads, tablets and the list continues to grow take this power level. USB adapters for our automobiles are cheap but what about all the power packs that allow us to recharge our devices from literally anywhere and nothing near us? YES these all work, well kinda. I want to say first this has nothing to do with the iron and everything to do with what you plug it into. I never experienced the irons controller getting even warm let alone hot, no matter how high I turned it up. The batteries I tried were a different story. The highest quality battery was 24000 mah solar charging that got so warm that the glue that holds the solar panel released. Although it provided over an hour of soldering time it became uncomfortable having it in the inside pocket of a light jacket. Another battery not only was uncomfortably warm but shut off every 5 minutes. A friend’s 12 volt jump box seemed to provide the best solution which I myself wore out before either the battery or iron did. I was able to get the same results as being plugged in at my work bench, which is what I hoped and expected.

     

    My opinion of this little iron with how light and maneuverable it is make it a joy to use. It is more like the Goldilocks of soldering irons, not too thin but thinner than the standard size. It seems to have been developed for what is popular right now with Arduino, Raspberry PI and beagle boards and there small connections. With its ability to run off a battery, it is perfect for makers fairs and Remote Control meets but I have found that I’m grabbing for it in my shop as well because of how comfortable the iron is to use. If the iron came with a small chisel and a thicker more round tip I would call it perfect but either way it has found a permanent spot in my to go tool bag as well as on my bench. The price is slightly steep but when you look at the quality and features like the long cord plus the stand I feel Multicomp PRO hit a home run with their soldering iron.


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