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  1. Full disclosure up-front: I received these pens for free, from Kevin of JustWrite Pens. He’d unexpectedly received a consignment of these pens from one of his suppliers, and wasn’t sure what to make of them. I’d mentioned I was trying to get my kids into fountain pens, so he asked me to have a look at them, to see what my kids thought of them – and let him know if I thought they were marketable. I wasn’t asked to review the pens – but figure they’re not going to be at the top of anyone else’s list of priorities… So I figured I’d do my best to make an honest assessment of them. I’m not going to try and score this pen – that would be to do it a disservice. It is what it is – a cheap plastic pen, aimed as a starter pen for children, and is NOT likely to appeal as an Everyday carry pen for anyone over the age of 12 – but for all that, an extremely smooth writer that will surprise and impress on that score, if not on any other! ______________________________________________________________________ Appearance & Design – Cheap and Cheesy – with cutesy cartoon designs This pen presents clearly for what it is – a ‘cutesy' pen, that will look best in the hands of a young child (or tucked away in a 'Hello Kitty' pen case - remember those?). The pen comes in four different pastel colours (pink, purple, yellow and pale blue) – each colour adorned with a different cartoon animal. What the four colours have in common, though, are a whole lot of Chinese characters I can’t read… and a couple of saying in English which, unfortunately, I CAN read… but that make little sense. “I’m… Happy Every Day”? OK, that one’s straightforward enough – but emblazoned boldly on the packaging, and in somewhat smaller text on the pen, is the enigmatic couplet, ‘Sweet dreams come true, Good tuck is only for you”! http://i.imgur.com/qciPsey.jpg Construction & Quality – Well put together – but very cheap plastic There are a few things that are surprisingly good about this pen: the nib (which I’ll come to), a comfortable grip, a barrel that has no holes or gaps (eyedropper conversion anyone?)… and an inner cap that should keep the nib from drying out. The cap 'snaps' on and off, and posts snugly on the rear of the pen - but be careful not to post too firmly! The pen is big enough to write without posting (especially in a child’s hand), but the cap fits comfortably onto the end of the pen without affecting its balance. http://i.imgur.com/W5oit71.jpg http://i.imgur.com/pc5Ki0T.jpg The pen’s biggest downfall, potentially, is the cheap plastic used in its construction. My son has already managed to crack the cap of his (blue) pen - though it was easy enough to repair with clear sticky tape (and, thankfully, not too unsightly!). Obviously, this is an occupational hazard with any pen made of plastic – but I’d have been happier if the clear pen that the bulk of the cap is made from were less brittle. On the upside… this is a cheap (almost throwaway) pen – so not too many tears if something DOES break! Weight & Dimensions – Designed for children, but fits comfortably in an adult hand. Weighing in at roughly 10g, the Hero 358 pen is 138mm capped, 119mm uncapped, and 152mm posted. The pen barrel is 11mm in diameter - which steps down to a grip section with a 10mm diameter. Not too large for a child's hand - but fairly comfortable for an adult to use. … Nib & Performance – A REALLY smooth writer This really was the most unexpected thing about the Hero 358 for me – clasp the pen, hold your eyes and just write… and you could be excused for thinking this was a much higher-end pen (apart from the feel of cheap plastic - but you get my drift!). The cheap (Pilot Varsity/VPen-like) steel nib just glides across the page, laying a consistent fine-to-medium line. The build quality of this pen, let’s be honest, is inferior to the Pilot Varsity and the Platinum Preppy – both of which I’m more than happy with – but IMHO the nib on this pen is (marginally) better than both of them. http://i.imgur.com/B2l1ipG.jpg[Going clockwise, from bottom left: Hero 358, Sellner Marchtrenk, Jinhao 599, and Pilot VPen] A careful inspection of the pen reveals that this operates on a wick feed – much like the Pilot Varsity. At first, I thought this might be a deal-breaker – but after some months’ experience writing with these pens (and others that use a similar system), I’m becoming persuaded that this helps to explain their consistent moderate flow. And yes, you can wash out one ink colour and swap in another – I had to soak the nib and feed for a while between inks, but the new ink flowed through without troubles… Filling System & Maintenance – Proprietary Cartridges only – though there ARE some workarounds The Hero 358 comes with four fairly generous-sized cartridges, which easily snap in to the pen. The ink in these pens is a rich, dark black that borders on blue-black – though a little prone to spread on the paper, and to show through on cheaper paper. [The pen is a straight medium with the Hero dark blue ink, but closer to a Fine with the other inks I’ve trialled.] http://i.imgur.com/HDv1neY.jpg Close inspection revealed, somewhat to my disappointment at first, that the cartridges are a proprietary design. The ‘aperture’ of the cartridge is of similar diameter to a Parker cartridge – but the barrel of the pen is far too short to accommodate a standard Parker cartridge or cartridge converter. That said, if you’re not a fan of the ink that comes with these pens (or if your pen outlasts the four cartridges that come with it) there are a couple of workarounds. For starters, the cartridges are made of sturdy plastic – they could easily be flushed and refilled multiple times with the ink of your choice. If that sounds too much like hard work… I’ve found that with a bit of ‘encouragement’ a standard international cartridge CAN be fitted into these pens, and work well. http://i.imgur.com/inZ9mJD.jpg Cost & Value –A Cheap, Semi-Disposable Pen at a Competitive Price Make no mistake, this is a cheap pen – but available at a very cheap price and, as I say, it’s really smooth writer. This is NOT a pen you’d take to work (unless you’re a preschool teacher?!) – but I happily write with them at home, and more importantly, so do my kids. Conclusion The Hero 358 ‘Schedule Note’ is not the world’s greatest pen – and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But for the low price, it writes amazingly well. If you’re wanting a fun-looking ‘starter-pen’ that'll give your kids a good first-up experience with fountain pens - and that you won’t get too upset over if you lose or break it… this is certainly worth a look.

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