While visiting Pumping Station: One in Chicago, I noticed that member Tomer had a curious device: a soldering iron that plugged into his laptop. I was skeptical about how well it could work, so I asked if I could give it a try. A few minutes later, I had a potentiometer, wire, and solder in hand, and was ready to give it a go.
The iron has connections to use two USB ports to draw lots of power. It heated up quickly on my Thinkpad laptop, though I suspect that results might vary based on how closely the computer manufacturer follows the USB spec. Though quite light, the iron was pretty solid, and maintained a good amount of heat while I soldered some wire leads onto a potentiometer. It apparently doesn’t come with a stand, but Tomer’s solution of using a binder clip worked quite well.
My conclusion? I don’t think I would recommend it as a first iron, and it won’t be replacing my trusty bench-top unit any time soon, however I could see picking one up to keep in my backpack when traveling with prototype hardware.
This particular model is from an apparently no-name company, and is branded as ‘mega-power’. Getlofi sells them for about $25. Have you tried this one or a similar device? Do you hate the co-opting of USB ports for powering things they were never meant to power? Let us know in the comments!