Having recently fell for hooded pens, I decided to make a few purchases, including the Hero 616. However, I was very reluctant in buying anything as I was very cautious of the possibility of inconsistent manufacturing and the element of luck involved in these purchases.
While I was searching, I found this Jinhao 911 on Aliexpress on sale. The seller had no feedback or orders placed on this particular listing, but they otherwise had good feedback in general. For £1.40, I thought I'd take the chance.
The main reason I chose this over the very similar yet cheaper Hero 338 is because it comes as a C/C fill rather than the aerometric Hero pen. It also claimed to come with a converter, so if the listing was true, I was in for a treat. Another thought was that Jinhao, being well-known for producing some pens that are often praised, in comparison to Hero (granted, a much older company) which, in some lines (ahem, Hero 616, ahem) was infamous for inconsistent manufacturing and very low quality control.
I took the chance and placed an order for one pen and hoped I wouldn't be ripped off my penny change. A short while later, when the "sale" was over, the whole listing was removed. Aliexpress saves a snapshot of the listing when you place the order so I may still have some protection.
To my surprise, a while later, the pen did actually arrive, and if I am impressed at one thing at all, it is that I was not ripped off.
The pen came in a Chinese envelop that actually stated "pen" on it instead of just "gift" or "usb lead", which helped me recognise it and hide it from my wife for a while, until she eventually noticed an unfamiliar item on my table later on. The envelop had bubble wrap around the pen, which itself came in a suede pouch that it fits in. A nice first impression.
Out of the pouch, you will be surprised how nicely finished it is. The brushed metal finish from top to bottom is very nicely done, including the clip and the two conical ends: the jewel and the butt. In online images, the clip finish seemed better than that of the Hero, and reality did not disappoint.
On the cap, "Jinhao" is engraved in rectangular fonts, which is also very nice. The engraving is subtle, but there. It does not scream at you. On the topic of finish, I thought the engraving could be done slightly a tad better: the J had depth-jitters which, to my perfectionist eye, were noticeable, but perhaps only if I intend to look at the engraving.
On the other side of the cap, engraved is the number 911 in a different font. In my opinion, it would have been better sticking to the same rectangular aesthetic for the numbers as well
You want another pleasing surprise for this price point? The clip is spring-loaded. And it has good tension: it is strong, but not impossible to clip into your shirt, and if you do, it will hold there real tight.
The cap is friction fit so it just pulls out with no clicks, and without it, the pen has a uniform surface with no bumps, so you can hold it near the nib or as far away from it as you like.
Distentions of the pen are as follows:
length capped 141mm
length uncapped 125mm
length posted 156mm
wide at the widest point where the section meets the barrel 10.3mm
medial width near where I hold it 9mm
approximate weight with cap (inc.converter) 20g
approximate weight without cap (inc.converter) 12g
One of two things about the finish that did not strike me very positively was the threads of the barrel. They felt a bit... I don't know. Unfinished. I thought I wanted to grab a metal brush and rub them a little bit, but of course I did not do that. Mind you, this might only be a matter of "feel" not a matter of "fact".
On the barrel end, the threads are in fact made of plastic. This is done by using a kind of "insert" which is glued to the barrel. The insert only makes up the threads and does not extend all the way through the barrel, so forget eye-dropper-ing. The insides are metal.
Other than that, the exterior of the barrel is really nice and the jewel is well machined.
On the cap-end, the same can be said about the exterior. The clip is, as we said, nice looking, springy and secure. The jewel is well-machined and perfectly centered. Pleasure to the eye. Inside of the cap is what needs some highlights.
The cap is friction fit. It does not "click" or thread. Just push in, push out, on both sides of the pen. Inside of the cap there are four metal flaps that cause this friction to happen. Mind you, it is rather secure, this is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the possiblity of scratching your pen if you rotate it with the cap on. I am not sure whether the friction flaps have edges that will not scratch either the plastic section (oops, I said plastic), or the very nice brushed metal of the barrel when posted. This is something that we well have to leave for time to tell.
Deeper inside the cap, there is the inner white sealing cap which defintely touches the nib when the pen is capped. How do I know it touches? My pen was inked and I can see a dot of ink inside. The question remains: is it plastic or silicone? Does the pen merely touch, or pierce through, that thing? I do not know.
The second point I do not like about the finish of the pen is that inside the cap, behind the flaps, the cap was rather dirty/rusty. This can be easily seen if you are trying to see it but will not be seen to anyone watching you use the pen at all.
And now only the main part: the section. I said this before. This is plastic. The disappointing type. But is it really disappointing? Look at your price point again. It is nicely shiny, but feels like the type that is prone to cracking or scratching easily, so might just need some care. I noticed some micro scratchings on mine already out of the box, nothing that you will probably notice in everyday use, but I will have to keep an eye on it. There is however a very tiny small little ding near the front.
In the following photo, I shined a flash at it, so it looks a bit blue, but it is black. Some of the "scratches" have been made visible by the flash, and some of them are in fact just reflection from the table texture, so do not be very alarmed by this photo.
The pen came with an international converter. What more do you want? I put some Parker Quink in it. I was expecting, and hoping for, a really fine line, so which of my inks did I want to see that fine? I had the black Quink or the Diamine Turquoise, but I already have the latter in one of my "modded" Hero 616's, which is also black, hooded and fine. I need variation in my life.
Which leads us the very last and most important point of a fountain pen, and the question that probably everybody needs answering about any pen they could be buying any time in their life. What about the nib?
At the time of this review, I only had the Hero 616 to compare it with, which came in a variety of unfinished nibs, mostly scratchy, splayed, or extra-touching. Almost all of them needed adjustment and smoothing, so what do I expect of the Jinhao?
Visually, the nib seemed rather shiny, which is a very good sign. I tried it on paper without any ink, and I could see it was almost digging a trench in the paper almost with no pressure from my hand, but surprisingly, there was no scratch at all. This was also another very good sign. I know when you ink a nib it acts much smoother than when dry, so I inked the pen, and lo!
Straight out of the box and with no adjustment done to it at all, the nib is indeed very fine, and is also considerably smooth for its fineness. Way to go Jinhao, I commend this! It is also sufficiently wet. I like to write with no pressure at all, barely just touching the paper, and this nib/feed catch up really well to this.
One last question I like to investigate when I try a new pen is flow control. Sometimes, a pen acts a bit dryer or wetter than other times. I am still keeping an eye on this, but overall, at least with Parker Quink, I suggest this pen is considerably good and hard to believe that I was able to get it for £1.40 inc. postage. It is about double this price normally, so at about £2.80-£3.00 pounds, you will want to know you got a good bang for the buck. This is the same money you'd spend on a Jinhao fat pen (X750, X450 or 159, for example).I still think it is worth it for fine-nib and hooded nib lovers, especially if you like the flighter aesthetic, and the steel/black contrast.
Personally? I never felt I like the black/steel aesthetic, and if this was't so cheap I may not have got it but that was simply due to taste. Functionally, it is a good pen, so the rest is up to you to decide.