The world of inexpensive Chinese fountain pens is something I've recently fallen into, and I've had mixed results so far. My most recent impulse buy is a Hero 529 fountain pen. For less than $3 (sometimes less than $2), you get a fountain pen shipped from China. There's something completely unbelievable about that, but it's the real deal.
So, what do you get from a $3 fountain pen? Well, not much.
When you consider the functions of a pen, a few things that come to mind are: it writes, it's comfortable to hold, it keeps ink from drying out when not in use, it clips to a pocket, and it's reusable. Lots of pens cover these basic characteristics. But there's another characteristic that many of my favorite pens have that's difficult to quantify: they're delightful to use.
That's where the Hero 529 falls short and the main reason it will probably not see very much action after this review. It's not fun to use, and it actually detracts from my writing experience. These are harsh words for a pen, and I should probably back them up. So, here we go.
The Hero 529 is black -- I never saw any other options in my search. From what I can see, it's also only available in a fine nib. The material of the body and cap is cheap plastic. Each part of the pen has a slightly different shade of color, adding to the low-quality look. The metal clip is silver and actually does a good job as a clip, but it also looks like plastic.
The main thing that does it for me is the silver label on the cap of the pen. I was really disappointed when I realized it wasn't a sticker that could be removed. I'm not sure why it's there. In the top part of the rectangle are Chinese characters, and the bottom part says "fountain pen" in a script font. Why? The pen would look a bit classier if the silver stamp wasn't there.
There's also a plastic gem in the top of the cap that feels a little loose to the touch.
Uncapped, the grip section is textured in a hatch pattern, although it doesn't really provide any real grip. The texture is very slight. The nib is hooded by the end of the grip section, which gives it a unique look.
Overall, it looks like a $3 pen, and that's fair. No problem.
The pen writes fairly smoothly. I'm sure that a little nib smoothing would help a bit, but I'm not really interested in working on it.
It's a very light and narrow pen and handles well either posted or unposted in my hand.
The nib can be finnicky regarding the angle of attack. I have to be very mindful when writing with this pen of whether I'm holding it at the right angle. If it changes by a degree or two, it skips and stops writing.
Again, it works, but not in a way that makes me want to continue using it.
This is a perfectly good pen for $3, and I'm really impressed that a functional fountain pen can be made at that price.
Unfortunately, this pen just isn't enjoyable to use. It asks a lot of the writer and introduces constant distractions and speed bumps along the way. There's nothing wrong with buying a $3 pen just to experiment, and I certainly don't feel like I wasted my money. I'm just disappointed that I now own a pen that I'm certain will never be used.
It's fun to experiment with different pens, but every now and then you end up with a dud. I guess that's just part of the game. At least I have plenty of other delightful writing instruments to use instead. After all, it's not fair to hold a $3 pen to high standards. In this case, you definitely get what you pay for.