Hakko FX-901: Better Than TS-100?

You’ve surely seen the TS-100 soldering iron. It has an OLED display, an ARM processor, and will run with an external battery pack. They are not too pricey, but at $80 or so they aren’t exactly an impulse buy, either. [Drone Camps RC] used one in the field and decided to try a Hakko FX-901 instead. He did a video review that you can see below.

The FX-901 is about half the price of a TS-100. Granted, it doesn’t have a fancy display and you can’t hack it to play Tetris. However, it does take batteries (including rechargeable) without an external pack. The manufacturer claims up to two hours of use and that it will melt solder in 40 seconds. From the video, the iron actually melted solder in under 30 seconds. The two hours, by the way, is with rechargeables. Alkaline AA batteries should give about 70 minutes of operation.

In addition to showing the unit and doing a few tests, [Drone Camps RC] also shows several common soldering jobs with the iron. It seems to work very nicely. He also looks at some much less expensive alternatives, but all of them had some issue like not heating quickly enough.

If you really need temperature control and programmable profiles, this isn’t your iron. But most of us went decades without any sort of fancy stuff like that, anyway. If you really want to see what’s going on with the TS-100 though, we did a review. If you want to build your own, there’s always this ugly iron.

45 thoughts on “Hakko FX-901: Better Than TS-100?

  1. I have one of these, it’s great. Really handy for working on the car or random things around the house, and plenty of power. It’s not going to rival a plug-in, you have to take your time, but for a lot of wiring and repair tasks it’s more than adequate.

    I use Eneloops with mine, it doesn’t seem to have a problem at 1.2V.

  2. Can anyone with experience comment on how the FX-901 compares to a SolderPro 50/70? As an electronics dabbler, that’s been my go-to for a while now and I love how quickly it heads and how compact it is. It does have some drawbacks though: the sparker in the cap won’t always light it very easily when the iron is cold, replacement tips seem to be most of the cost of the complete iron, and you have to be careful how you hold it and set it down, as the exhaust can melt or burn things on its own.

    1. I can’t speak to the SolderPro 50/70 specifically, but I used several butane irons for years and last year I replaced them all with an FX-901 and I haven’t looked back.

      The hot exhaust danger was always my biggest complaint – I’ve even fried neighboring components on a closely spaced board once or twice – and the Hakko doesn’t have that problem. Otherwise, the soldering experience for me is similar; both types heat up quickly but don’t put out a tremendous amount of heat. However, the Hakko with either alkalines or an external 5V 1A supply I often use will put out almost as much heat as the best butane iron I used, and when I put it away it’s with fully charged Eneloop-knockoffs so it’s always ready to go. Even with those it puts out plenty of heat.

      The biggest factor for me was the ability to recharge it off the grid. I live in the woods for months at a time sometimes, and I can charge rechargeables with either solar or a TEG, but I can’t refill a butane iron without butane.

      1. Correction – I can speak directly to the SolderPro, because after a cursory google I see it’s apparently identical to a Radio Shack model I used to own, which was my very favorite butane iron, with my first Radio Shack model (the earlier thick pen-shaped one) a close second. So IMO if you like the SolderPro, you’ll like the Hakko. The SolderPro’s biggest plus is the adjustable heat output, while the lack of an exhaust and off-grid recharging are the Hakko’s strengths.

    2. I’ve owned two SolderPro’s – a 50 and a 70.

      Both suffered from leakage. The first one failed suddenly after 3-4 months of light use, bursting into flames!
      The second was a lot sturdier and survived a couple of years of heavy use (it failed safe).
      This was about 10 years ago, plus I assume I got a couple of dud’s, than to knock them.

      My last pen was a Portasol, which suprisingly blew the SolderPro’s out of the water – heated faster, easier to ignite and never leaked.
      I lost it, since sticking to plug-in’s.

  3. I have two of these. I keep one at my desk for emergency repairs when I don’t want to go upstairs to a lab to use a bench type regulated iron. I love these Hako’s. I keep the batteries recharged and ready to go. Great also for auto related soldering tasks.

  4. How many watts are the fx-901 and ts-100? Since I moved toward my own built 70w T12 iron I don’t want to go back. It is not carry-able though, but I don’t have much use for that :)

    The fx-901 seems to do the job reasonable.

    1. TS-100 has ~68W@24V and 17W@12V. I often use mine with a Laptop step up converter from 12V battery to 24V because it heats up so much faster (10s vs. 40s). I do not want to roast components at low heat, but to do good solder joints.
      Probably this tiny battery powered iron can reach the performance of a TS-100@12V – but the TS-100 @24V is comparable with a good bench-top soldering station. The fx-901 may be good for emergencies, when your alternative is a lighter and a nail. :-)

      1. The RoHS stuff does not only need more temperature (melting point around 220°C) but I think it needs also more heat, as it’s heat capacity seems to be higher. But I just avoid it. If I make modifications to our prototypes (*) I remove the leadfree crap where necessary and use good tin-lead solder.
        *) Which are of course manufactured lead free by the EMS contractor.

  5. With any soldering iron taking an AA battery or two,
    I didn’t expect to see any wattage rating on the unit, though I’d guess we would of hoped for a tear-down to measure the wattage.
    This thing certainly looks bulkier than the TS-100 as well for what looks like not much.

    The TS-100, however, with my generic Aukey laptop battery PSU pack putting out 19V+/-10% and hooked up to the TS-100:
    That tiny iron really packs a punch and the stock tip is unbelievably usable on what normally required the angled wedge tips…
    Oh and whats more is the TS-100’s stock tip hasn’t “dried out” yet so the whole tip still takes solder without forming a moat between the tip and the heater like most irons I’ve used (Including Weller branded irons).

    I can’t find the very one of the Aukey battery packs like what I’ve got from the boot sales for practically nothing. I got several as I knew they’ll be handy, Glad I did as they are non existent on the usual sources now.

    For the heavy duty soldering… I have a butane smoldering-iron.

  6. The biggest problem I have with Hakko stuff is that they look like toys. They all look so incredibly cheap. What I don’t like about it is that it’s not temperature controlled, which makes it really only good for field work. As for me, I think I’ll stick with my 5USD USB soldering irons from ebay (which I’m really impressed with btw!) for field work.

  7. I used to work for someone who had two little cordless soldering irons with built in batteries that plugged into charging cradles. One he had removed the heating element and in it’s place mounted a little drill motor that was built by the same company as an intended accessory. I think they were both Wellers although so many years have past, I don’t remember for sure.

    Anyway.. I am more of a fan of butane than batteries for portable soldering irons. But… that drill was convenient! Every now and then I search Ebay but no luck. I suspect it’s my search terms. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Does anyone know the make (in case I am wrong about them being Webber) and the model of such devices? Or.. for that matter… what did they call the drill attachment? Searches for soldering iron drill have gotten me nowhere!

    1. Weller is what you are thinking of. The PSI100K is probably the best of the butanes. Very powerful when you need it, great for welding large terminals, 125W equivalent and is adjustable. Also can be turned into a torch, hot knife, or hot air blower for heat shrink. I always bring mine on long trips.


    1. Add an inductive charging station, then you have the ideal solder station and portable iron solder: plenty of power as the station could provide power to heating the element and charge the cell at the same time.
      Removed it from the station, 2 modes could be available, power saving for standalone usage when on the move without the station or max power for regular bench job. The perfect product with no dangling cord, lightweight.

      Anyone willing to make a kick-starter with such product can count me i!

    2. 18650’s would require case modification, but I’ve considered using two of the AA-girthed (14xxx?) LiIons; if I can find some that are exactly as long as 2 AA’s, it’d be a drop-in replacement.

      Should put out a bit more heat, too, until the tip burns out…

      1. I got some from Aliexpress for a LED torch, they are called 14500. But be careful, sometimes they advertise them as “2600mAh” (don’t know how much this have really) or blue “Ultrafire” “1200mAh” – which had around 350mAh! Then I got some which have the advertised 840mAh, but they were quite expensive (something like 10-12 € for a pack of two). They are red and supposedly Panasonic, but ink is cheap and they did not use much of it. The print is really faded. I would not expect them to be genuine, but they work so far. So expect to pay much more than for 18650s and absolutely avoid “Ultrafire” or similar lowest quality products.

  8. I’m sure it’s a good iron, but I’ll stick with my gas iron solder, beefy 125W, one hour available with one gaz load, refill instantly with ligther canister available almost everywhere. Works flawlessly with big wires of 6mm²+ on car harnesses. The best 60€ I’ve spent so far. Ref is PortaSol Super Pro 125

  9. “The manufacturer claims up to two hours of use and that it will melt solder in 40 seconds. From the video, the iron actually melted solder in under 30 seconds.” …is this the time from cold to first viable junction? tell me it isn’t the time to each subsequent solder junction.

    1. As a happy owner of an FX-901, I can confirm that it takes about 30-40 seconds to heat up from colt to first viable junction, and has no problem keeping up with me soldering SMT or through-hole components, either Manhattan-style or to a board. Devices with large tabs on them (like audio jacks) take 10-15 seconds, but are very doable.

    1. Well the FX-888D ain’t as cheap as the old analog version anyway. I paid €145 for mine.

      The FX-901 i got pretty cheap tough. Because it is battery operated you don’t have to worry about getting a 230v EU-plug model like with the Stations. So i bought one from Sparkfun.

  10. From Maplin, the iron is £39.99 & replacement tip £!9.99
    Iron http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Hakko-6W-FX-901-Battery-Powered-Soldering-Iron-Cordless-T11-B-Soldering-Tip-/191924676407?epid=1223180476&hash=item2caf9a2737:g:7B4AAOSw6WdXi2dC
    Tip http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Hakko-T11-B-Soldering-Iron-Tip-Replacement-for-Station-FX-901-/201605217503?epid=1173923352&hash=item2ef09b7cdf:g:FKcAAOSwGIRXYrB-

    From Japan prices for the iron vary from less than £20 to more than £40, but from the US they are from around £50 inc. postage to over £70. From the US tips are about twice. From Canada they are cheaper! I notice that the tips include the heating element.

    The thing that really surprised me was this – http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2-in1-Soldering-Iron-Rework-Station-Hot-Air-Gun-Solder-Heating-Iron-Digital/263178509856?_trkparms=aid%3D555018%26algo%3DPL.SIM%26ao%3D2%26asc%3D20140122125356%26meid%3D4fe32902f7424f05af8f7737947eeced%26pid%3D100005%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D6%26sd%3D191924676407&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851 Looks like very good value. Its a long time since I’ve had my own shop, so I never had anything as sophisticated.

    1. you guessed correctly – it LOOKS like its good value, what you get is shitty ancient hakko clone with rattling maybe/maybe no ceramic heated with non fitting junk tips and very basic weak heatgun

  11. I cut mine at the rear and put in a standard DC barrel plug wired in to take over if plugged in. Sometimes I don’t want to worry about batteries but like to simply pull the dc barrel out and move to another location and do a quick solder joint.

    1. I’d like to do the same. Seems ideal to be able to power this little iron from a supply if you have a mains connection nearby. Saves batteries and gives plenty of power. :-) Would you be interested in sharing your design? Sounds like you managed to install a DC plug without ruining the battery cartridge altogether.

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