In case anyone is in need of a new (or better) soldering iron: Aldi currently have one of their "specials"* - a Work Zone (own-brand) soldering station comprising a stand (with sponge tray), the iron itself (with three tips, threaded fitting), and a control box with LCD digital temperature setting and read-out, all for £19.99 (and potentially discounted if they don't manage to sell them).
* When it's gone, it's gone.
I prefer to use leaded solder (it's so much easier!). Leaded solder is still (commercially) legal for repairs to pre-lead-free existing equipment, but becoming more difficult to obtain (I reckon I have a lifetime supply in stock!). For lead-free soldering, a TC (temperature-controlled) iron is a must (the lead-free solder needs a higher temperature than leaded - but not so high that you burn the pads off the board or damage components - and quick work to avoid too much heat going into the assembly). Also you need an iron (or a tip) that has never been anywhere near lead (otherwise lead-free solder won't work). That alone could be a reason to buy one of these just in case you ever did need to do some lead-free soldering.
I've had one out of its box for inspection. The iron itself is quite large, not a delicate pencil like my little trusty (and ancient) 15W Antex Model C, but comparable with typical irons (including one I have with built-in thermostat). The cable is fairly thick, no doubt due to it having to carry heating current to the iron element and also temperature sensing back to the control box. There is electrical continuity between the iron tip and the mains plug earth pin. At this price, I wouldn't expect the cables to the control box to be detachable (and they're not).
Two small reels of rosin-cored solder are provided, one thick one thin. It doesn't say whether these are lead-free or tin/lead, but if pressed I would have to guess they are lead-free. The iron tips are two conical and one screwdriver, not my preferred fine chisel tip for general soldering (and I use a longer tapering conical tip for really fine work). I'm not sure how easy it would be to find replacements - there seem to be some on the Internet, but I don't know whether they would fit. The conicals should be OK for fine soldering. That said, I have adapted tips in the past...
Obviously I have not tested the Aldi iron in anger, but overall, for the money, I reckon this is a useful addition to the tool kit (even if only for the dreaded day when leaded solder is unobtainable).
Military and Automotive Electronics Design Engineer (retired)
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