I recently posted that about what hot-air rework station I would buy if I had to buy one right now. Since then I’ve been doing some research, and now I’m not quite so sure anymore…
This is a pretty basic combination soldering and hot-air station. While the soldering iron is not bad, I don’t actually use it because I have a better one.
The hot-air handle is pretty much the same as thousands of other hot-air stations, where pretty much everything is in the handle. These stations are cheap, which is nice, but my problem with it is that the air speed can’t really be turned down far enough, so you have to be really careful when using it, or it will blow away small components.
This one is widely recommended on other forums for hobbyists. The construction is a better, and the blower is in the base unit instead of the handle. People rave about how hot and how fast it can blow, which I guess is great, but I haven’t seen any information about how slow it can go, which is really what I want. In general, nobody who reviews hot-air stations seems to care about the minimum speed.
If you happen to have $850, and nothing to spend it on, this is supposed to be the best hot-air station there is. In addition to the basic hot-air functionality, this also has a vacuum pump that connects to a small pipe coming out of the middle of the hot-air stream. This allows you to pick up chips directly with the handle, at least if the chip is big enough for a suction cup to fit on it. This thing is also meant to work together with a pre-heating pan and an arm thing that should make it absolutely fantastic for working with large chips. For fixing graphics cards and laptops, this is probably the best there is. For my use, it’s probably not.
I’ve used a different version of this, and I liked it. Unlike all the other units in this list, it uses a diaphragm air pump. This makes it noisier than many other options, but I do wonder if it doesn’t give better control over the air flow at lower rates. On the flip side, the air pump cannot produce as much air flow as a blower, so if you need that, this is probably not the right choice.
I would have already bought this one, because the thinner ligher hot-air pencil looks like it might be exactly what I need. However, I just couldn’t get past the fact that they literally put “A MUST for Fixing Small PCB’s, Mobile Phones & Tablets!” in the name of the product to make it seem better than it is. Now it doesn’t seem to be available anymore, and I haven’t found any reviews of this thing that I trust.
Buying a hot air rework station seems to be rather difficult. Only Hakko seems to care enough about quality of their product to sell replacement parts, and of course they are the most expensive. I think maybe I would buy the Aoyue, because it’s relatively inexpensive, and I did like the one I tried before. Although, maybe I will find a better option before I actually need to buy one…