I finally got the bug to try some Chinese pens and ordered a few from isellpens.com. Paying with paypal, and waiting a few days for the USPS to do its thing they showed up. One of them was the Hero 329 – a sort of Parker 51 clone.
The heft and feel of the pen is about what I would expect from a $5 pen. It’s not something that will have me gazing at it’s beauty as I use it, or holding it just to hold it. But for $5 I don’t expect that. Even at $25 I wouldn’t.
The pen is a squeeze filler, and like many squeeze fillers it took a few squeezes to get more than a few drops of ink in it. The threads that hold the barrel in place suggest gentle handling, but otherwise the pen seems solid enough. The nib is fine, but a wet fine so the line it lays is dark. I think a lot of pens leave the factory way too dry, but I suspect that’s because it is far easier to make a pen write wetter than to make it write drier.
Looking at the pen under a loupe the nib seems well formed, and the tines were aligned properly. It writes as I would expect – smooth, but without a lot of expression. If I close my eyes, I could imagine it was a rollerball, except it will write with zero pressure where most rollers won’t.
The cap and clip are very heavy duty. The clip is very tight, and looks like it has good clearance. It has a brush finish, so it’s not going to show fingerprints, and the body of the pen is not highly polished.
If I was a college student who was looking to save some money on pens, save the environment by using a fountainpen, and save my hand and wrist by using something that allowed a nice relaxed grip this pen would be a pretty decent choice. The nib size is fine enough to use for math or sketching, and wet enough that notes have good contrast. The pen itself may require some gentle handling to get long life out of it, but at $5 a replacement is not a large investment. That said, I think I might spend more and go for the Hero 100 which is a bit surdier, but that’s a different review.