1. Hero 9075
Point width: fine
Weight (grams): 18 (body, 12; cap, 6)
Length (cm): capped, 13.5; posted, 15.8; uncapped, 11.7
I bought this pen because I saw it offered on eBay for a paltry $5, shipping included, and could not let such a bargain pass by. I have not yet inked it, because I expect to make a gift of it to someone rather than use it myself; and that is because, while I think it is a very nice pen in its way, it is not a good pen for me. As soon as I got my hands on it, I could tell that it was too light and above all too thin for me to use comfortably. At its thickest point, it is just over 1 cm in width. The grip is even narrower than that, and has three grooved indentations for the fingers, rendering it narrower still. I believe that only someone with particularly small and delicate hands would find this pen comfortable to write with.
The pen is of a rather elegant design, at least as dirt-cheap pens go, with a simple color scheme of black and chrome. The clip is similar in shape to that of a Parker Vector. The nib is tiny, the visible part of it being only about 5 mm in width and just over 1 cm in length. Because it is also of very thin material, though, it flexes easily.
A notable attraction of the pen is that its convertor is worked by a sliding rather than a twisting mechanism. Thus one can easily fill the pen with one hand (useful when one needs to tilt the bottle to immerse the nib in the ink), and can flush it by simply inserting the point into water and sliding the plunger of the convertor up and down with one's thumb. (Perhaps I will keep the pen for the sake of the convertor alone. I find that it can be used in place of the twisting convertors of the other Hero pens, though the swap cannot be made in the other direction.)
2. Hero 7030
Point width: medium
Weight (grams): 32 (body, 19; cap, 13)
Length (cm): capped, 13.8; posted, 17.0; uncapped, 13.4
This is a full-sized pen of moderate weight. The nib has an attractive, or at least unusual, shape, having such width in the shoulder as to look almost wider than the barrel (it is, of course, narrower). Overall, though, it has, in my judgment, the least attractive appearance of the four pens under review here. The cap shows an excess of chrome, as it displays it not only in the clip and the base of the cap, but in two rings above the base and again on the tip (though a black plastic plug in the top of the cap moderates the effect). The clip imitates not only the head of an arrow at its tip but also the feathers at its top, in a dully protruding shape. The manufacturer's name (in roman and Chinese characters), its logo, and the numeral of the model appear on the ring of the cap, not engraved, but in a series of fine cuts---a cheaper, or certainly cheap-looking, technique that I believe is called "peening." The two-tone plating on the nib shows weak contrast and, to my eye, merely adds gaudiness rather than variety.
As far as function is concerned, the pen suffers from a lack of balance, as far as the use of it posted is concerned. The cap does not slide far down the tail, resulting in a rather unwieldy length of 17 cm (6 3/4 inches). The nib is fairly stiff and its point of a moderate degree of smoothness. I did not have the pen in use long enough to be able to report on how well it starts, but I don't recall having any troubles. The convertor is of the common twisting sort.
3. Hero 1026
Point width: medium
Weight (grams): 41 (body, 23; cap, 18)
Length (cm): capped, 13.6; posted, 15.0; uncapped, 11.4
This pen bears a considerable resemblance to the 7030, being of about the same length and thickness capped, and bearing almost the same amount of "bling." Closer inspection, however, shows it to be of somewhat more tasteful design. Although it has almost as much chrome showing in its capped state, the chrome pieces are better balanced, as three of the bands of it---one just below the tip of the cap, one just above the base of the cap, and one between the barrel and its tip (I'm not sure if one calls that a "blind cap" when it is non-functional)---are of identical thickness. Setting aside the chrome band at the base of the cap, which detracts from the effect, this imparts a certain unity to the design, as does the similarity of length between the black tip on the cap and that on the barrel. The clip, regrettably, is of a width that gives it a chunky appearance, with an arrow motif repeated over its length, making for a bit of visual clutter. But the manufacturer's name and logo and the numeral of the pen model are not only engraved rather than peened in the base of the cap but also colored in black, which, as it repeats the color that predominates in the pen, is a rather nice touch. The nib is, like that of the 7030, broad-shouldered, though not as much so as that pen, and free of the other's unfortunate two-tone plating.
The pen is also superior in functional respects. Although the cap, at least on the specimen that I got, snaps a bit too firmly on to the barrel (removing it may require extending the elbows for leverage), it fits nicely on to the tail, so that the center of gravity, when the pen is posted, lies near the web of the thumb where it belongs, rather than above it. I initially had a bit of trouble with the point: although it moved over the paper without pronounced difficulty, it made a scraping noise, almost a screeching. After enduring this imperfection for a while, I did some doodling on a sheet of Micromesh and now the point works very smoothly. With that modification, the pen has become one of my favorites among my many cheap Chinese pens. The nib is of moderate stiffness and the ink flow consistent.
4. Hero 382
Point width: fine or extra-fine
Weight (grams): 35 (body, 22; cap, 13)
Length (cm): capped, 13.6; posted, 15.7; uncapped, 12.2
This pen bears comparison with the 9075 (no. 1 above), in that it has about the same proportion of chrome to shiny black and has a fine, or possibly extra-fine point. (I am not sure how to classify it.) Its color scheme is somewhat marred, however, by the use of two-tone plating on the nib and on the ring at the top end of the section grip. A peculiarity of its design, which some may like and some may not, is that the visible part of the feed is completely smooth, with no gills or indentations of any kind. The clip is without frills of shape or surface, other than an engraved flower---apparently the manufacturer's logo---near its top. The name and logo of the manufacturer and the model are engraved in the chrome ring at the base of the cap. If not particularly elegant, it is at least not tacky-looking.
There is one defect of the design, at least in the specimen that I got, namely that the cap does not snap on securely. It does audibly click into place, but the fit is so loose that one can make the cap fly off simply by giving the pen a sharp flick like a dart. For this reason, I would not venture to carry this pen in a shirt pocket, unless it were enclosed in a sheath of some kind.
The pen does, however, write very nicely. My initial impression of it was that it managed somehow to combine smoothness and scratchiness: the point seemed to move smoothly, but with a kind of grinding feeling at the same time, as if there were some sort of extremely fine grit on the writing surface. I gave it the tiniest bit of smoothing with Micromesh and now it moves flawlessly. I have never known a pen with such a fine point to move so smoothly. It is also a rather wet writer. So, on the one hand, if you need a fine- or extra-fine-point pen to avoid feathering when writing on poor-quality paper (as in making entries in a check register, for instance), this pen won't do well. On the other hand, if you just like to write small or in a fine line, this pen is the first that I have found that lets me do so with as easy a motion over the page as I get with my smoothest medium-point nibs.
I would also mention that, like the 9075 (no. 1 above), its convertor works by a sliding rather than a twisting mechanism.
In conclusion, I would say that the 9075 (no. 1 above) is a specialty pen for small hands, the 7030 (no. 2 above) makes an umipressive showing all around, the 1026 (no. 3 above) is a very good all-around pen (if, like me, you like a moderately heavy pen that is well-balanced when posted), and the 382 (no. 4 above) is a very attractive extra-fine point.
Edited by Miles R., 27 June 2012 - 00:39.