I decided to get me a Basic Engine, but since this was going to be my first time soldering SMD components (I have ample experience with through-hole), I thought it was a good idea to make 5 of them at a time, in case I messed up the soldering. Also, some components are sold in bundles of 5 or 10 (some even more), so I thought it’s a nice way to use some of the stock I was going to buy.
I ordered most of the components from Aliexpress, and a bunch of them already arrived. I’m still waiting for the passives and a couple more, but I could start soldering some of them. The boards and the video chips have also arrived from JLCPCB and TME respectively, so I decided to do a first soldering session, to get some of the most complex components on.
The first thing I did was soldering the video chip, since it was the most difficult, and I wanted to get it on the board as soon as possible and forget about it. I managed to get all 5 of them on, and only one has a weird pin (the legs are incredibly weak, and tend to bend easily, so you have to be careful), but all of them seem to be soldered ok. No bridges or weird things. The method I ended up using (and the one that seemed less problematic) was using a lot of flux to make the solder runny and get the capillary effect needed, applying way more soldering than needed and then removing the excess with desoldering wire. I used (fake) kapton tape to position the chip, soldered one side, and then proceeded to solder the other three. Not bad for my first time with such a minuscule component!..
The other components that I could solder at this time were the ESP microcontroller, the micro USB connector, the regulator and the SD card socket, since these are all low-profile components and won't get in the way of other components. I particularly hated soldering the SD card sockets, since the tiny support feet are really hard to solder and tend to snap if not soldered properly, but finally all of those got on the boards too.
So, after some cleaning, testing and visual inspection done with my smartphone's magnifying function (I'm over 40...), I have a bunch of boards ready for a second round...
Now I need to wait for the passives and the rest of the components to keep completing the boards.
I'll keep you updated!