With everyone recommending the Hakko liine of products I went with the Hakko FX-888D, I also added the tip pack that gives you a variety of tip sizes.
Up til now the only soldering Iron I owned was a cheap radio shack 35 watt pencil iron, so this is a serious step up. First impressions are very good. most of the unit is made of metal and build quality seems to be very good. the iron itself has a nice feel in your hands and the grips are nice. Where your grip the iron doesnt get hot either. I have had other brands at places I work where the grip gets uncomfortably warm if left on.
It came with everything you need to get started (short of liquid rosin and solder). Has a spot for the included tip cleaner and sponge. The holder where you park the iron is perfect! it fits nicely without geting stuck and doesnt flop around like some other companies.
Where I was most impressed was with the heat time! this thing goes from room temp to 750 degres F in less than a minute. The LED indicator can hardly keep up with it the change is soo fast. The temp is very stable as well, so you dont need to keep the iron above 600-650 F for most projects. largest gauge wire I have been able to solder with ease is about 12 gauge. (set to 750 F)
Setting the temp is about as easy as it gets. Press and hold the enter key and then set the temp one digit at a time. You can also use the preset system. you can have up to 5 preset temps for temperatures that you commonly use
The setup system did not follow the instructions unfortunately! I had to look on youtube to figure it out, but once you have done it, it is very simple. Hold the "UP" key while you turn on the power and it goes into settings mode. things like calibration, passwords and presets are set here. The password feature is pretty neat, but pretty useless for the private user. if your company has these they can lock down the temps so you dont have people set the iron to 900 F all day and burn them out.
Since this is a resistive heater type iron, The only feature I wish it had a sleep mode. some companies will go to 50% heat if left alone for more than 15 minutes or so. saves the heater from burning out as quickly.
It is certainly not the most expencive iron out there by far, but if you are not going to do alot of soldering, you might want to look elsewhere. I have Amazon Prime and it was $136 shipped including the extra tip kit. Far cry from the $15 Radio shack, but out performs it in every way.