In the box, aside from the handle containing the electronics, was a surprisingly comprehensive array of parts and accessories. The handle itself is similarly-sized to its competitors, being only slightly longer than that of Pine64’s Pencil. The tip supplied was unexpectedly a slanted chisel, so I may have managed to order incorrectly, though since it shares the same tip design as both the TS100 and the Pinecil I have plenty of alternative tips should I need one. Otherwise, there was a little bag of hex screws along with a key and a driver for them, a little stand with a sponge, a set of Secure stickers, a USB-C to barrel jack cable, and a barrel jack-to-XT60 connector for use with LiPo battery packs. These last two cables are a particularly useful addition.
In use, it’s remarkably similar to the other irons we’ve looked at of similar size and shape. Soldering is straightforward, it’s light and easy to use with plenty of heat. The instruction leaflet has a blow-up diagram of its internals, but it pains me to admit that this iron provided a rare moment in which my tear-down skills were defeated. Unexpectedly the tip is mounted to a sub-assembly that comes away from the mainboard with a 3.5mm jack, and while this was easy to remove, it proved almost impossible to slide the mainboard out of the handle tube. The reason was that the two silicone buttons would foul on the display and would not budge despite a lot of coaxing. I could have revealed the board by intentionally destroying either buttons or the display, but since I prefer to keep the iron useful I didn’t do that. If similar irons are anything to go by I would expect it to contain a USB-PD chip, and an 8-bit microcontroller because it has none of the firmware upgradeable features of the TS100 or Pencil, and then a MOSFET to control the tip. It’s a tested and reliable formula for these irons.
Should you buy one? If you’re looking for a mini iron with a reasonable feature set and some really useful cables bundled all at a budget price. Compare it with the old reliable TS100 and the super-hackable Pinecil, and make up your own minds.
Review experience from Jenny List