I haven't written a review in a long time, but I feel the need to write one on this pen because it seems like there's no review on it yet! This is actually my third time writing this review. Safari keeps crashing on my iPad, so here it goes. Third time!
I was walking by a pen store during lunch today and I went in with the intention to buy a bottle of ink. I ended up buying a bottle of Iroshizuku Kon-peki. I later saw that they were doing a 25% discount on (Graf von) Faber-Castell. I couldn't resist and I ended up buying the pen, and so here is the review. I apologize for the low quality photos taken on an iPad. I didn't include information about packaging, as packaging shouldn't influence the score of a pen, but I have posted the pictures for the sake of visual enjoyment. As well, several sections of my review will be split into subsections for clarity. I hope you enjoy reading this review!
Appearance & Design (10/10)
Materials (5/5): This pen deserves a perfect score. I see a pen constructed from a solid block of grenadilla, and metal parts covered in platinum (might be rhodium, but advertised as the former). Nothing used that doesn't evoke a premium feel.
Design (5/5): While beauty is subjective, you can put a score on design touches, and this pen deserves full marks. The completely white metal cap is perfectly cylindrical and crisply flares at the top. Mounted dead centre is a spring-loaded clip; a tribute to German engineering. The top is engraved with "Graf von Faber-Castell" around the family crest. Milled grooves run longitudinally along the body of the pen, which is perfectly cylindrical in shape, broken only by the smoothly tapered grip section. The blind cap is flush with the body, and also adorned with the Graf von Faber-Castell crest. You are ceaselessly reminded of the brand that you're using.
Construction & Quality (9/10)
Another area where this pen shines. Engravings are done perfectly. Each mark is crisp and clear, and always aligned. Of note, are the shaded areas in metal engraving, accomplished by mattification. Every groove on the wooden body is milled perfectly, and most impressively, even on the curved grip section! The lines on the blind cap are engraved to the calibre only found among the top metal craftsmen. The spring-loaded clip is sturdily mounted and the plating on this pen is done well. The plating is likely to survive many years of use. The only issue that I can find, is in the fit of the cap. When closed, there is a small gap which allows for a bit of wiggle. This is a minor problem though, and is not a defect.
Weight & Dimensions (8/10)
Dimensions (4/5): This is a large pen. The grip section is as girthy as a 149, and imposing in every angle. While I find the grip comfortable, I am sure this is not a size for everyone, hence -1.
Weight (4/5): This is a weighty pen, as you'd expect from the metal and the wood. The pen alone feels solid and not unwieldy. However, while the pen posts beautifully, it is absolutely impossible to be used that way, hence -1. The cap is simply too heavy. I find that in general, I cannot post any Graf von Faber-Castell pens.
Nib & Performance (9/10)
Nib Construction (5/5): Awesome nib. The size is perfect for this pen. The nib is 18K gold, marked "18ct 750", and masked in rhodium for a 2-tone effect. The masking is nicely done, and the decorations on the nib look sleek and accurately stamped. While I think the crest in the middle would look cool in gold, it doesn't bother me that the nib is 2-tone and not tri-tone. Unlike the nibs used on the rest of the Graf von Faber-Castell range, this one doesn't have a breather hole; looks avant-garde to me! Most unique however, is that the nib size is stylistically engraved on the nib. I often find nib size letters out of place on a nib, but in this case, I think the letter adds style to the nib design.
Performance (4.5/5): The nib on my Classic was a lemon. It had bad ink flow, and when flexed, the nib doesn't spring back. The nib on this pen impressed me though. It wrote straight out of the box, no flushing needed. Ink flow is perfect (7/10 wetness, just the way I like it). I was also able to flex it a little bit. While it wrote smoothly however, I would like a touch more feedback. Overall however, a state-of-the-art nib.
Filling System & Maintenance (9/10)
Filling System (5/5): Who says a cartridge/converter pen can't get a good score? Where I normally feel cartridge/converter fillers only deserve a 7/10 due to its good reliability and maintenance, but lack of engineering the one on this pen is a different story. Yes, it's still cartridge/converter, but there's a piston knob on this pen that lets you screw out the internal unit for filling. I find this absolutely awesome. It's creative enough for me, since I don't think there are other pens filled this way.
Maintenance (4/5): The very same 5/5 filling system, is the cause for score reduction on maintenance. The complexity of the filling unit mechanism worries me, and this is a pen I don't think I know how to take apart. Yes it's German engineering, but our awesome German cars seem to be prone to maintenance issues. So, a -1 here.
Cost & Value (8/10)
This is no cheap pen. The MSRP on this is $895 USD. Because this manufacturer is not known for discounts, when I saw 25% off the $8,410 HKD price, I couldn't resist. By the time you're at this part of the review, you already know that I find this pen absolutely awesome in every aspect. However, this section is not one where this pen excels in. While it is a good deal, I can only say that the pen is worth the price. For me, 9/10 means "bargain", and 10/10 is an absolute steal. By all means, buy this pen, but don't think that the price is in your favour.
Conclusion (Final Score: 53.5/60)
This pen is truly excellent in every way. On paper, it's almost like a perfect pen. But it's not. This pen deserves every single laudatory word except for "exceeds expectations". Just like in school when a 90+ grade, means that achievements exceed expectations, this pen falls just short of that. Excellent, splendid, stunning, exquisite, exemplary, and so on, but this pen is within expectations.