I'm continually surprised by the fountain pens that can be had for less than twenty dollars. I have a few, and they've mostly been delightful to use and share with others who are interested in fountain pens. Today I'll be focusing on the Pilot 78G.
I first learned about the 78G after reading a couple of reviews from PenFan and The Daily Acquisition. To be honest, I've had many Pilot fountain pens on my wish list for quite some time, but most of them are a little expensive. After reading these reviews, I quickly found a reputable eBay dealer and bought a pen to try. The pen shipped from Hong Kong, so it took a week and a half to arrive. For a "cheap" pen, it has not let me down. I think I paid $12 for the pen with shipping, which is a few bucks cheaper than the Metropolitan.
The nib is a very smooth writer, which I expected from a Pilot. The fine nib is on par for the Japanese nibs – nice and small. I used the black ink cartridges that came with the pen, though it also came with a converter. The converter is the type that is included with the Metropolitan. The black ink from Pilot is dark and quick to dry.
The ergonomics of the pen are comfortable, but they detract from the aesthetics. It's light, which makes it ideal for long sessions, but it also looks like brittle plastic and attracts scratches from minor use. I'm not a fan of the gold trim, but that's included on all the color options. In general, I don't expect it to look amazing because of the cost. The aesthetic concerns vanish once I start writing or drawing.
This pen is similar in price to the Sailor High-Ace Neo, and I sometimes favor that pen over the 78G. It's a tough call, but the Sailor puts down a finer line. The pens feel similar in my hand, so maybe I'm just partial to the Sailor because of the silver trim.
Overall, I don't think you can find many pens with such good value and solid performance. It can be slightly difficult to find one, but I had very good luck with eBay. There are several colors (black, red, teal, and green) and nib options (F, M, and B) to choose from. Some sellers even sell packs of several colors. If you are looking for a cost-effective Pilot for yourself or a fountain pen beginner, the Pilot 78G is a good place to start.