Is the second cheapest tool you can find any better than the cheapest one?
Readers with long memories will recall there was a time when I amused myself by tacking inexpensive tools or electronic devices to my various orders from the Chinese electronic Aladdin’s Cave. Often these inexpensive purchases proved to be as disastrous or ineffective as you might expect, but sometimes they show unexpected promise, true diamonds in the rough. It’s been a while and life has intervened over the last year, but it’s time to resume this harmless diversion.
Memories Of An Explosive Conclusion
A particularly memorable review came in April 2018, when I bought a five pound ($6.30) desoldering iron. I described it then as an “unholy lovechild of a cheap solder sucker and an even cheaper soldering iron“, and while that was an accurate portrayal it also showed promise as a useful tool that would fill a niche in my requirements. Desoldering is always slightly annoying, and a heated desolder pump genuinely does make a difference. Unfortunately for me, the cheap desoldering tool was not a product I’d recommend that anyone try for themselves. A combination of questionable electrical safety and a propensity to explosively deconstruct itself meant it has languished unused in my big box of cheap junk, and I’m still without a decent desoldering solution. It is time to buy something better, and in the rich tradition of reviewing inexpensive stuff I decided to pick up the next cheapest desoldering iron I could find. Eight pounds ($10) secured me a Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8, and I set to on this review.
The unit arrived in a blister pack along with a wire tool for clearing its nozzle and a metal pointy thing whose intended use is unclear. All the information on the pack is in Chinese, but with Google Translate it was revealed to be nothing more than the usual descriptive text. The iron itself is similar to the previously reviewed model, something like a chunky take on a cheap soldering iron with the plunger and button of a spring-loaded desoldering tool protruding from the handle. It also has the same arrangement of the power cord emerging from the side of the handle below the element, and the same American-style NEMA mains plug.
Commenters assured me last time that in China this is sometimes used as a 230V connector, however for UK mains I put a BS1363A plug on it.
Extra Insulation Gives Confidence
Examining it more closely it was clear where at least some of my extra three quid had gone. The element and tip look very similar to those on the cheaper iron, but where the previous one’s mains cable had entered without sleeving right against the hot metal base of the element, this one has an extra insulating collar between handle and metalwork. It doesn’t have a double-insulated symbol anywhere on it, but unlike the other model it gives me confidence in its 3A twin wire no earth mains cable.
In use, the iron performed exactly as expected. A heated solder sucker is an effective tool, able to more efficiently remove solder than a separate iron and sucker. It smoked a bit on first use due to oil from manufacturing and it could use a bit more power than the quoted 36W because large joints needed a bit of time to get the heat into them, but otherwise it’s exactly the desoldering tool I expected for my 8 quid.
Will It Blow? Or Will It Suck?
So to the most important paragraph of the whole review, the one with the answer to the question you’re all asking. Did this tool explosively deconstruct itself as its cheaper competitor had? That solder sucker had been fixed together by friction alone, its piston was a push-on fit, and a bit of usage had dislodged it. I’m pleased to say that this one appears to have a different design with a secure cap over the top of the piston, and try as I might I couldn’t launch its plunger off across the room.
In conclusion then, the Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8 desoldering iron is an effective tool for its size and power rating that appears to have been designed with some thought to electrical safety and which seems well-enough assembled that it remains in one piece during repeated use. It won’t replace your high-end desoldering station, but it’s a handy bench tool for the occasional desolderer.