Pen Review: Hero 901

A special thanks to my father for allowing me to borrow this Hero 901 from his personal collection in order to put together this review.

  • Material: Metal (Brass, probably) / Lacquer
  • Nib: Steel “Genius Iridium Germany” Nib. No width marking.
  • Appointments: Gold-colored
  • Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter
  • Length (Capped): 144mm
  • Length (Uncapped): 122mm
  • Length (Posted): 167mm
  • Section Diameter: 9.5mm
  • Barrel Max Diameter: 12.7mm
  • Cap Max Diameter: 13.1mm
  • Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 50 g
  • Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 32g

Once upon a time, I found myself pretty enamored with the inexpensive Chinese pens I could find on Ebay. I liked the ability to get access to a large number of inexpensive pens, many of which wrote quite well for the price and looked (if perhaps not felt) very high-quality. In the last year or so, though, I’ve becomes less enamored of those inexpensive Chinese pens. Most of them are quite heavy, and my experience has been that they are, perhaps, not as solidly built as they appear. Nevertheless, for many folks–most of my family members included, the glut of inexpensive Chinese pens has fueled a true obsession with fountain pens. And this, I believe is a good thing.

Hero 901

The Hero 901 is one of the myriad inexpensive Chinese-made pens that have graced the slots in my father’s pen case. I believe this pen was gifted to him from another family member. It does not appear to be a knock-off of any pen design that I know, and despite that, still seems to have a nice bit of flair to it.  The metal-body is a combination of black lacquer and gold-colored metal. Along the top of the pen is a lovely Asian-style wave motif, which is offset by an interesting, almost corrugated, gold metal running around the majority of the cap. The gold-color clip is study, but slips out of the cap a bit when pulled on. It doesn’t feel as though the clip is in danger of coming lose, but it does feel a little slack.

The pen is a pop-top pen, with the cap being held on quite solidly, and a very solid “click” when you put the cap back on the pen.

This pen uses standard international cartridges and converters, and this pen did comes with a very inexpensive converter. I mentioned this in the video, but when i received the pen, the converter had fallen apart inside the pen and left a big, inky mess, so I swapped it out with one of the seemingly endless standard international converters I have floating around my house, and everything worked fine.

In the hand, the proportions of this pen feel just slightly “off” to me. It’s not enough to make using the pen unbearable, but it certainly lacks the precision balance you might be used to when using higher-end pens. The pen is a very heavy 50g when posted/capped. And paired with a lightweight, plastic section and a smaller, #5-sized nib, the pen doesn’t feel quite right in my hands. Fortunately, you can drop 18g from the weight simply by not posting the pen. At 122mm, I find the pen just long enough to use fairly comfortably without posting.

Where things started to get a little dicey for me, however, was in the nib.

Hero 901

The Hero 901 comes with a steel “IPG” nib that is entirely lacking a size marking. The nib is either a slightly wide fine or a slightly narrow medium. I hesitate to review the nib on this pen at all because, if you’ve used these Chinese pens before, you know the only thing you can rely on with these pens is the irregularity of their nibs. At such a low price point, quality control does not seem to be the highest priority. I have no doubt that some Hero 901s will come with wonderfully-writing nibs. Others (this one included) comes with poorly-writing nibs. It was also, upon my first inking of the pen, a right mess: dry & scratchy, and quite unenjoyable to use. Fortunately, the pen is inexpensive enough that the nib is an excellent candidate for learning to work on your own nibs. And, as a standard #5-sized nib, you should be able to replace it with a #5 nib from other manufacturers.  (My personal preference is the #5 nib from Franklin-Christoph.)

Upon examination, I discovered that the nib slit was so tight toward the tip of the nib that no ink could flow through. Also, the tines were quite out of alignment. I adjusted the nib slit using some brass shims, and pushed the tines back into alignment. Then I smoothed the whole thing with Micromesh. In the end, the pen wrote quite well for me, but it did take a little bit of work to get there.

Final Verdict: This is a nice pen. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but feels very solidly made. (Much moreso than pens from other Chinese brands I’ve tried.) Once the nib was adjusted to put out a decent amount of ink, and the tines were aligned, it wrote well too. If you’re just getting started in pens, this may not be the best pen to get you started. But if you’re interested in learning how to adjust your nibs, purchasing the 901 may give you something to work on, and quite a nice writing experience when you’re done. I’d give it a tentative recommendation for folks who like heavy pens, but a slightly narrow grip. And, of course, anyone who doesn’t mind a little bit of bling.

  • Patrick

    Great video. I am a Chinese and I like Chinese pens a lot. I got a few Chinese fountain pens after watching your videos and love them.

    About the nib, I noticed the tongs seem to be misaligned from one of the close ups. The left tong seems higher that the right, which is consistent with the crazy scratchiness when the nib moves from right to left.
    I don’t have any Hero pens at the moment. I used their pens when I was a kid. I know it’s a reputable brand in China. My own guess will be that the nib alignment issue is caused by shipping or mishandling from previous owner(s), (no offense, pens are made to be used and occasionally abused after all).

    Can’t wait to see your video on how to fix this pen. I use and fix my Jinhao pens and nibs constantly. Would love to see how others fix a issue like this.

    • That, indeed, was one of the problems. 🙂 I have a Hero 9315 that I love, and I replaced the nib with a Franklin-Christoph #5 nib, and it’s one of my favorite writers now. The first video about how to adjust the pen (it’s a 3-video series) should come out on Saturday.

  • Robert Hancy

    Excellent and honest review, thank you Matt. I have been quite curious lately of the Chinese pens and have ordered a few of them. It’s hard not to when they cost less than a latte with shipping included. Up until yesterday I was thoroughly impressed. I received a rather handsome one with a metal eagle head atop of it and just can get the darn thing to lay down a line longer than an inch. I also received two Lamy Safari pens – that, of course, weren’t marketed as Lamy Safari. When compared to their $30 look-a-likes, I can’t see any difference (even the nib say’s Lamy), but they may be extremely good knock-off. Saying that however, hard starts and skipping on both. I’m a big fan of Lamy – and I can’t believe that if these two were “real” they’d behave like this. Anyway – I’ll continue to buy the Chinese pens because they are cheap, they mostly work, are designed nicely, and occasionally have good engineering. 🙂 Thanks again for the review!

  • Dave P

    The best word you could come up to describe the top of the pen was “nifty”? Just kidding Matt – another great review. Thank you.

  • Jesse Ray

    I do like that fan medallion on top, too, and the waves! Hmm, now you make me want to buy some Edelstein Jade. It looks lovely!

  • Ted

    that out-sized smooth feed bugs me aesthetically. But great review. Thanks.

  • Does anyone know how to use the ink cartridge? I find myself having a hard time getting this pen to work with the ink cartridges that came with it. Does anyone know of how to install the ink cartridge properly or where I can go to a tutorial?

    • It should work with any standard international cartridges. You need to push the cartridge on (with a fair bit of force) until the feed punctures the cartridge. It can take a while for the ink to flow, so sometimes I squeeze the cartridge a little bit to prime the feed. But if you’ve got the cartridge in place (puncture) and the ink still isn’t flowing, it could be a problem with the nib and feed. You may also want to try it with a converter and bottled ink to see if that will resolve the issue.

  • this is great thanks for all the info i’ll have to watch the video later

    • the black part around the base where the nib hits the pen broke….:-( should I just buy a new one

  • Quill

    I just bought this pen but I can’t get any ink to come through it at all. Any ideas on what the problem might be? It’s kind of frustrating. I’ve tried different ways of making it work but nothing’s happening

    • That’s, unfortunately, one of the risks of these extremely inexpensive pens. Your best bet is to completely disassemble it, check all the parts, do a nib adjustment, clean it thoroughly, and try a different converter. But there are literally dozens of possible reasons why it wouldn’t write. You’ll just have to experiment until you find the right one. And even then, it may not ever write well.