We buy fountain pens for more than one purpose. Some pens are esthetically pleasing and functionally excellent. Others are works of art. Then there are the work horse pens that we call "daily writers" that may not be glamorous but deliver clean, smooth writing and feel good in one's hand. The Lanbitou 866 represents another niche of the fountain pen market. The Lanbitou is a very slim and not of great length of weight. It is a capable but not remarkable writer, but the Lanbitou 866 is very portable, reliable, and offered at unsurpassed prices given the quality the pen delivers.
1. Appearance & Design - 8 – The Lanbitou 866 is a slim and fairly small pen with a polished stainless steel exterior. There are three fluted depressions behind the nib to properly position the user's fingers. Other accents on the pen are understated and include two black lines just above and below the finger depressions and the brand & model name printed in black capital, block letters on the clip. The look of the pen is completely different than its big brother the 603. The impression is one high quality, self-confidence, and prim elegance. Whereas a Reform 1745 looks somewhat dated, this pen looks modern. It would be a perfect companion for a leather diary or appointment book. Score of 8 in that the pen achieves very well what it seeks to achieve. It is of a conservative style, deliberately "small boned" and offering visual appeal with it's unadorned shiny steel surface and the flair provided by the fluted grips and the black, block lettered branding on the clip.
2. Construction & Quality - 7 – While the 866 is light in the hand, it feels solid and competent in its design and assembly. There are no visible seams and fittings are tight. The clip is solidly affixed and feels strong when flexed. Removing the snap off lined cap, one finds a small, hooded nib. The Lanbitou pens are designed to be posted and the back of the pen steps down so that the barrel receives the cap with a positive snap. I very much like that the posted cap is solidly attached and will not slip from the pen. I don't as much enjoy the characteristic that, when posted, the cap can spin around so the clip side of the cap always points toward the floor. Overall, this pen has moderately good quality components, above average design, and very good assembly. Overall, a score of 7.
3. Weight & Dimensions - 8 – For any serious writing project I prefer a large pen. However, the 866 is a small pen and not meant for penning doctoral theses or constitutions of Latin American countries. The Lanbitou 866 achieves, and very competently, the purpose for which it is designed. It's a great incidental pen to jot down a grocery list, make entries in a diary, or to take notes in a business meeting. Given the purpose for which the pen is designed, the weight and dimensions are ideal for providing lack of bulk and portability. I measure the length closed at 4 7/8" and 5 5/16" posted. The diameter is 5/16th". (For comparison, a Reform 1745, another smaller and slimmer pen, measures out at 5" closed, 5 7/8" posted and diameter 7/16ths".) Score of 8.
4. Nib & Performance - 8 – In choosing the Lanbitou 866, one chooses the nib there are no options or alternatives. The 866 delivers a smooth, fine-medium line. The nib of the 866 is smoother than it's cousin, the Lanbitou 603 giving very little feedback. The nib was received needing no adjustment and starts up and writes reliably every time. Having two pens from the same company with well-functioning nibs leaves the impression that Lanbitou employs a reasonably good quality control system. I read Richard Binder's comment that 85% of the pens he sells require nib adjustment prior to delivery. Any company selling a consumer product at premium prices (read here the great majority of pen types FPN members purchase) should do better than that. I think that consumers have a right to expect that manufacturers deliver a finished, well-adjusted, usable out of the box product. That Lanbitou achieves this while big, prestigious pen makers so often fail is one of my pet peeves. As one would expect for a lower-cost Chinese pen, the nib is plain steel and monotone. The nib writes well on lower-end paper and is not removable. Score of 8.
5. Filling System & Maintenance - 6 - The pen has a light plastic converter filler of a design I'd not seen before. Rather than use a corkscrew-style plunger, the converter fills though a slide-plunger. To use the converter, one presses a release button and slides the plunger down. The nib is submerged into the ink bottle, then the plunger is slid back, sucking ink into the converter. The pen is small and the converter capacity reflects that size. I'd guess it holds about 1/3 less ink than a Sailor Sapporo. The converter is leak free. Score of 7 in that most pens of this size are cartridge only. Lanbitou has designed a unique and diminutive converter that retains the convenience of using bottled ink.
6. Cost & Value - 10 – This pen was an Ebay purchase. In competitive bidding I paid $2.55 for the pen with free shipping. For a brand new - NOT NOS pen - a cost of less than $3 is utterly amazing. I find it hard to believe that one can get a usable, fairly sturdy and reliable fountain pen at this price. But you can and I did. With their faults and shortcomings, the Lanbitou pen offers one of the best values in low-end fountain pens available today. At this price they blow any non-Chinese pen out of the water in terms of their value to cost relationship.
7. Conclusion - Overall score, 47 out of possible 60 Points. - The Lanbitou 866 is an attractive, reliable pen that far exceeds expectations. I'd buy the pen again and recommend it to anyone - students, business persons, travelers - that need a very portable pen for day-to-day use.
I have read several recent FPN reviews that compared inexpensive pens. They weigh the virtues of pens in the $20-$30 dollar range. However, by overlooking the Lanbitou company offerings, the best alternatives may be missed. It is natural to examine lower end products from familiar companies that are well-established in Europe, the US, & Canada and, perhaps, to see those fountain pens as the universe from which we should choose. However, times are changing and it's time to look at the better offerings from China.
Yes, there are a lot of "junk" pens from Asia being dumped onto Ebay. With the Lanbitou and, doubtless, some other brands, we are beginning to see very, very low-priced fountain pens that are well-designed and of adequate quality to deserve consideration. With this in mind, I can recommend the Lanbitou 866 for anyone desiring a small but reliable fountain pen and the Lanbitou 603 to those that could use a larger, heavier low-end fountain pen.
Edited by PatientType, 16 July 2009 - 21:57.