Review of the Hero 711
A gold nibbed offering from the brand behind all the Parker Clones you know and love… or hate.
The Shanghai Hero Pen Company is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting fountain pen brands in the world. They do not make the highest quality pens, and they are almost never recommended as a “first” pen for beginners. They make gold nibbed offerings which are compared only to steel nibbed cousins. Hero pens are either loved or hated, and their discussion always brings some who believe they are a great value for the cost and some who believe they are foolish, low quality knockoffs who shouldn’t even be considered. I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Their low-end pens are just that, low-end, and are interesting for nib-grinding experiments, cheap giveaways, and that’s about it. Hero’s high-end, gold nibbed offerings, however, warrant some consideration on their own merits as real, useful, enjoyable pens. The Hero 711 is one of these gold-nibbed Hero’s, and despite some fixable flaws I think it is a very interesting, compelling, and ultimately worthwhile pen. Due to the recent discussions about reviews and some of the flaws with them, along with my own thoughts on the nature of this pen, I will not be providing number scores with this review, because I believe that using quantitative observations for such a pen would introduce even more subjectivism. I will only be providing my own qualitative observations, with the hope that you will be able to draw your own conclusions from them.Initial Observations/First Impressions
The Hero 711 arrived, shockingly, in a box. I say shockingly because every other Hero I’d ever ordered had arrived in an envelope, so I wasn’t expecting much in terms of packaging. Inside the box, to my great surprise, was another box! Although it probably matters very little to most of you, the Hero 711 did indeed come with its own Green 70’s-style case, branded with the Hero logo. Once I opened that second box I got to finally see the pen. Small. That’s the first word that came to my mind. The pen is rather small. I uncapped the pen to find an even smaller nib, smaller than I would expect even for a small pen. It isn’t pocket pen small, in fact it’s nearly the exact length of a Noodler’s Konrad, but it is much thinner. Also, the Konrad comes with a big, mighty #6 nib, the minuscule thing on the 711 just adds to feeling that the Hero is a shrunk down version of a pen that was always intended to be slightly larger.
An initial view of the capped Hero 711Build Quality/Feel in the Hand
Despite being small the pen is not light. The barrel is painted, not made of black plastic, and the entire pen is made of metal. This made the pen feel of higher quality than any other Hero I’ve tried before I even had a chance to put nib to paper. Despite the problems I will get to in a later section, despite the frustrations the pen gave me, the one thing I never once had a problem with was the build quality. It really is a very nicely made pen. The cap is shiny, polished steel. It itself weighs more than an entire Hero 616 yet it doesn’t feel overweight. The clip is springy, durable, and just entirely excellent. The cap closes onto the pen with a satisfying click, and the only cap I know that’s more satisfying to put on is the Pilot Prera’s. (Side note: I LOVE the cap on the Pilot Prera. I could literally sit there clicking the cap on and off for hours on end.)
The Hero 711 with its cap.
The metal threads of the section screw nicely into the metal threads of the barrel, and the pen feels very sturdy. My one complaint with the pen body is that the section is rather slippery, and gathers fingerprints easily. Pen manufacturers, if you’re reading this, which you almost certainly aren’t, please stop making pens with chrome sections. Chrome sections are just the worst. Everything else on the pen’s body, however, is excellent, and the 711 has the unique distinction of being the most well-made Chinese pen I’ve ever held.
A profile view of the 711.Nib/Writing Performance
This is where things get a little dicey for the Hero. The 711 comes with a 10k solid gold nib, albeit a tiny one. I was very excited to see just what the folks in Shanghai could do with gold, as I had in the past enjoyed the steel nibs on their cheaper offerings. For the first few lines, just after being dipped in ink, the Hero was brilliant. Smooth, dark, medium line, an overall enjoyable writing experience. Then the problems began. Within a few lines the Hero’s nib showed its true nature, that of a horrible, horrible hard starter. Nearly every word would have half of its first letter missing, and although it was smooth after that, it was an immense irritation. The problem was temporarily solved by flooding the feed, and that fix lasted for a couple lines at best, but it just isn’t practical to have to flood the feed every twenty seconds when you write. (I have a feeling I wouldn’t have been a pen lover in the era of only dip pens). So, the 711 was banished to the pits of my desk drawer. Several months, tens of pen acquisitions, and the purchase of a loupe and some micromesh later, I remembered the little gold-nibbed Chinese wonder sitting in my desk drawer. I diagnosed the pen with a case of “Baby’s bottom”, and sorted it out with micromesh rather quickly. Now, the pen is a wonderful, smooth writer, and I have not had any issues with skipping or hard starting, nor have I had to flood the feed. Despite being made of gold, the nib is a nail, and there is no line variation whatsoever. The nib on this pen almost made it unusable, but with a little adjustment it can be an enjoyable writing experience.
A close up of the nib of the Hero 711.Filling System/Maintenance
This is always my least favorite part of a review for these types of pens. It’s a cartridge converter pen. It comes with a converter, which works. The pen can be flushed with the converter or a bulb filler, which also works. Not much else to say here. Moving on…Cost
For the excellent build quality of their high-end pen, a 10k nib, and a nicely made box/carrying case, the folks at Hero charge an immense, wait for it… $16. That’s it. $16. For a new, gold nibbed pen, this is an immense bargain. Yes, there are vintage 45’s for cheaper if you shop around, and yes, the pen didn’t technically work at first, but it is a bargain regardless. If you don’t mind using micromesh a little bit (and that’s even if my pen wasn’t an unfortunate mistake that doesn’t represent the norm), the pen is a good, gold nib on a well-built pen for under $20!
The Hero 711 posted.Would I recommend the pen?
Only if you have small hands. Despite the build quality, despite the (now) excellent gold nib, the pen will likely not get much use from me. I have rather large hands, as I mentioned before, and the Hero is uncomfortable for me to use for long periods of time. I have lent the pen to people with smaller hands, however, who found the pen very comfortable. So, if you have small hands and a bit of micromesh, then yes, I would absolutely recommend this pen. There is excellent build quality and once tuned the nib really is enjoyable. It has been low-maintenance, the converter it comes with works well, and it is durable enough to take around town and cheap enough to not be an immense tragedy if lost. This pen did have some problems, but ultimately I think it was more than worth the price I paid for it. The higher end Hero’s really can be nice pens at bargain prices, and we shouldn’t let the low quality of their cheaper cousins delegitimatize them.