My review of Antex TCS230 soldering iron

written on Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recently I've started to study electronics, and immediately realized, that soldering absolutely needs to be mastered, - and for this you need a soldering iron or a station. After some research and reading, I decided to buy the temperature controlled soldering iron, primarily because it's much more compact, still has temperature control and cheaper than the soldering station (within the same brand). With my deep belief in the European quality, I bought an instrument from British brand Antex - TCS230 and here the story starts.

Time, Cosmetics and Build Quality

After waiting almost three weeks, I finally received the item. Immediately it was noticed, that the quality was far from the expected one. Such things, like badly printed and inaccurately glued sticker, were obvious even during brief examination:

antex_sticker

antex_sticker

The handle itself feels very plasticy and cheap (© Dave Jones), and the adjustment of the parts is poor - just look at this:

hole2

hole4

Then I decided to examine the quality of the soldering of its PCB:

horror_soldering1

horror_soldering2

horror_soldering3

From my point of view, the soldering is quite inaccurate; and in addition, on the next picture you can see some other defects:

  • the left leg of the right resistor in front has a piece of the burnt foam - that is the number one sign of the overheating
  • the PCB itself is bent inward slightly
  • look at the wires near solder connections - the isolation is burnt and damaged

horror_pbc_soldeing

The blobs of solder are everywhere:

solder_blobs

I'd personally do it much better, if I was going to sell it to somebody!

Usage

Strangely enough, it works very well despite the mess inside. I should admit, that the design is decent, tips are the quality ones, and ceramic heating element is wonderful, being placed inside a metallic tube for additional protection and better heat transmission:

heating_element

base_of_the_element

After several months of usage I concluded, that the ergonomics is also quite good, and a heater of a shorter than usually length allows precise operation. The handle doesn't warm up excessively even after several hours of lead-free soldering with 310°-320°.

The sole "but", which is left, is the PVC cable of this instrument. It is so uncomfortable and heavy; if not operated cautiously it can even pull out the iron from the stand with all corresponding consequences! Madness!

As a comparison, I have another temperature controlled soldering iron from Japanese brand Goot - PX-201. It's a well made instrument with very good price tag; an interested person can find photos of Goot's internals. Although Goot's iron is far better built, than "TCS230", but from the point of view of design (ergonomics), operation and heating element the latter outperforms the first one.

Anyway, I'll try to write the back to back review of of these irons soon - and keep you updated!

Thank you for looking at this small article and have a good day!

Update, 11.03.2014

I contacted Antex with all my issues, and received the following explanations:

  • The black handle labels were found to be substandard throughout our stock & this has been taken up with the supplier. This is something we buy in & will now be regularly quality inspected.
  • Handle moulding: We have checked our stocks & all seem to be to specification. We mould these here & our mould tool was also inspected & found to be in order. We believe this instance is a “one off.”
  • With regards to the soldering “quality/join size. These joints appear larger because they are “mechanical” joints, which we are obliged (by law) to use because of the 230volt supply to the board.

Although the solder blobs are hardly excused by "mechanical" joint, the rest looks more or less valid. As a compensation I've received silicon cable for this iron free of charge ;)

Categories: soldering and tools

blog comments powered by Disqus