RoadTest: METCAL GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station
Evaluation Type: Workshop Tools
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Weller WT1012N Soldering Station
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Upgrading firmware. The documentation describes the process but the vendor provides no resources documentation/firmware to do it.
The application test procedure for this RoadTest was to do a comparison between the METCAL GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station and Weller WT1012N Soldering Station. I had successfully completed a RoadTest using the Weller station and wanted to leverage that knowledge to evaluate the Metcal.
The RoadTest Review is supported by five blog posts. Initially, the review plan called for four posts. Some additional discoveries while using the unit I wanted to include, so a fifth blog post was added.
GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station: Application- What was the plan that secured the RoadTest
GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station: Introduction- What are the technologies at play.
GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station: Tear Down- Examining the Equipment.
GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station: Tear Down The Sequel- Some addition discoveries
GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station: Comparison- Let's do some soldering with the unit.
Using the details from the five blog posts, I created a summary for the RoadTest Review. The reader can find pictures and details on the blog posts. In the blog post, the reader can find supporting pdf documents discovered while preparing the review.
If I was looking to purchase a soldering system and the decision was between the Metcal and Weller, I found no reason that would discourage me from purchasing the Metcal. I have used the Weller solder system for a few years, so I have some experience. I can’t say I would select one system over the other. They are both professional products.
The Metcal uses an AC adapter to supply power to the power controller. The Weller is an all in one unit. I had hoped this would make the physical footprint of the Metcal power controller smaller, but it didn’t. What advantage the AC adapter provides didn’t become clear to me. It didn’t create any problems either.
In the short time period that I used the Metcal, I found some design features I liked. The Metcal pencil rest offers some advantages. The ergonomics of the brass pad and sponge placement, I feel, are more user friendly and the tip storage doesn’t create problems like the Weller.
Performance wise of both units, I found nothing that stands out. I found the pencil iron cord on the Metcal stiff. I suspect the cord is new and being used for the first time compared to something you have used extensively makes this reviewer critical.
The Metcal display viewing angle is narrow. It's difficult to see the display from the side. I noticed this only because this is a comparison. Most times, the solder station would be in front of the person, so side viewing the display wouldn’t create a problem. Another user that tried the Metcal pointed the side viewing issues out to me, so I felt it prudent to mention it.
I saw no advantage to having a tip/cartridge verses cartridge option only on the Metcal. Maybe in an industrial application or more precision use, the advantages might show themselves. I did sample test of a few of the tip options to discover the one I liked the most.
The warm-up time from cold start to usable tip temperature is less than 30 seconds. Weller system warm-up time is shorter, but not enough to make a difference. The Weller system introduced me to the feature of fast warm-up. I would find it extremely difficult to go back to an iron that takes minutes verses second to come up to a working temperature. Once you discover the feature, it would be hard to go back.
I like the Energy management option Standby Timer. This feature reduces the temperature of the tip if the pencil is at rest (i.e. not moved) before the timer set value expires. I refer to it as an inactivity timer. I like the feature and feel it would be useful. The Weller unit touts the feature, but it is not available in the unit I reviewed.
Documentation for the unit is slim. I couldn’t find sufficient knowledge of the % Power display reading to determine why it is important. The bar graph for the option is changes on the screen at times. The vendor included the procedure on how to upgrade the firmware in the box, but the finer details on actually how to perform the operation and/or get the firmware I could not find. I like to ensure firmware is up to date before doing a review. I couldn't perform that step for this equipment.
I made an appeal at the RoadTest review site to find more information on the firmware upgrade, but there were zero replies. The lack of response could be that people didn’t know the answer or the website’s operation affected people’s ability to respond.
If you are in the market for a soldering system and cost is a requirement either solder station will be a challenge to justify. It is difficult to rationalize purchasing a unit for >$500 to do soldering when you can purchase a solder pencil for less than $20.
I was in that rationalization camp before using the Weller. I suspect if you use a Metcal you will follow my lead. The experience I have gained from using a high quality (and price) soldering system is that it is worth the money. The experience of having an iron ready shortly after clicking the power on button is enjoyable. Stacking up work so that you can solder everything once the iron is hot is no longer needed.
I confess the RoadTest had its challenges. Not with the product but with the E14Community website. They upgraded the website during the RoadTest. There were technical issues when the site launched that affected both performance and usability for me. The new site does things differently that the old site, so there was a learning curve for making posts. Some documentation I used to prepare for the RoadTest(i.e. application) was not available on the new site. I had to go from memory on what my application offered.
I would like to thank the Metcal and the product vendor along with the RoadTest Review committee for selecting my application for this review. If there is anything in the review you would like to discuss, please contact me.