While like most people who start with interest in electronics and working on Jaycar / Dicksmith electronics kit. You probably started out with a $10-20 soldering Iron from Dick Smith or JayCar, which plugs straight into a powerpoint.
These have been great for years and will do most jobs that needed soldering. however if you need to do SMD and hot air work. The Aoyue is made in China, however price comparison this unit is value for money. Cost about $250 -$300 AUD to get it in Australia ( $120 USD in America/Asia ). This is mainly due to shipping/transport as the Boxed product weighs about 7kg,
Theres Currently only on importer in Australia that sells this and thats http://www.ludatronics.com.au
What you get is below.
The solder stand is made of Solid metal
Accessories that came with the Aoyue968, It did not come with any other extra solder Tips.
Overall it is a compact unit if desk space is a premium. The Fume Extractor is quite noisy.
Heating Element Comparison to standard Solderin Iron.
Excessive use on Automotive solder, If you are going to solder radiator, speakers etc, I recommend getting a larger soldering iron.
Heating Element, built in.
This is a $10 soldering Iron that was purchased from Bunnings. It started to smoke straight away as if it was melting. ( Which it was - aka the name Fire Stick )
The source of the Smoke. This is soldering Iron is Useless.
The Aoyue 968 heating element. This is built right at the tip and you don't have to wait for the soldering Iron to get ho.
You can turn the pump on and off to extract the fumes, This can be removed quite easily.
Overal, if you want a next step up from the plug in soldering irons, I would recommend the Aoyue 968. If your willing to fork out the money for it. If you take care of this, this will last a long time.