Jinhao made me very curious with one of its latest fountain pen in the lineup. I had to have the pen just because of its nib. It is a bit unconventional for a basic pen to come with an interesting nib, and on top of that, the Chinese nibs usually have nothing special to them, just the same plane Fine or Extra Fine nibs. This pen is special not because it breaks the XF / F tradition, but because of its size. The pen that caught my eye is the Jinhao X159. The X159 comes with a number #8 nib, which is quite big compared to more conservative sized nibs. A "normal" size for a nib is 5 or 6, so this is 2 numbers bigger. It is not easy to judge the size based on this information but, there is a noticeable difference when you pick the pen up.
So with my eye on the interesting offering from Jinhao it was time to embark with patience, as I ordered the pen off Aliexpress.
Jinhao X159 is a sibling of the older model Jinhao 159. I can't compare the two as I don't have the 159. But the main difference is that the 159 has a regular nib size and a metal body while the X159 is made out of plastic and has a big nib.
I have seen some reviews of the X159 prior to buying it, and in general people focused very much on its appearance, with clickbait titles like: "Montblanc replacement", "Better than a Montblanc??", etc. The pen is a "copy" of the Montblanc 149 to the millimeter.
This was not what made me buy the pen, but the unusual nib that came with it. I was very curious how a number 8 nib feels to write with. If you are interested in the pen and my experience using it for a little bit over a month, just jump and the review part, and skip how I ramble about the world...
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First thing I have to point out: clickbait titles promoted everywhere, in every domain, and by everyone. Many who reviewd this pen have made this pen a Montblanc nemesis. Why would a fountain pen which costs $6 replace a Montblanc? Just because it "copied" it's design?(coming back to this part in a minute). Foremost, the Montblanc's are more a status thing than anything else. You buy one because celebrities, presidents, kings and queens have used them over these years. And that makes them desirable. Because they are expensive, not everyone can afford one, so this brings the exclusivity to the table (the same thing with brands like Rolex or any other brand that is focused on finer things in life). Nobody will buy a Jinhao, a Wing Sung or something else along these lines instead of a real Montblanc, just because they look the same...(I have to clarify that Jinhao is not dishonest about the pen, it doesn't have the Montblanc's logo, and Jinhao is present on the clip, they look the same in general appearance, the pen is NOT A FAKE). So why start a review with something like this. I could write much more about this, but it is more than enough.
My second point is about how Jinhao "copied" the design of the Montblanc 149. The pen is a cigar shape, which is considered by everyone a classic. The design is nothing innovative, and several other brands have products similar fountain pens in size and looks. Sailor King of Pens, Pilot Custom, etc. Aren't those copies?
There are so many original designs until the water starts to get murky, and you see influences here and there, and after many inspirations and many years it is hard to tell which design is the legit one and which is the copy. If Jinhao had made the pen a few millimeters thinner or thicker, shorter or longer, would it still be a copy?
Not to start my third point on how fountain pen producers (like Kaweco but not exclusive) rest on the laurels of designs that are decades old, without innovating and coming with new products on the market.
First thing that I notice was the size. The pen is large in every dimension. It is a long and thick pen (horizontally challenged).
What surprised me, even more than the size, was its appearance. I find this cigar shaped look a bit boring and dated, also I am not a fan of gold trim. I usually go for the silver trim if available. But this particular pen was a big surprise right from the moment I took it out of the bag. It surprised me that it came in one piece with so little protection, and how beautiful it looks. I ordered the X159 in blue. I didn't want another boring black pen, but I wasn't feeling too ambitious to buy an orange one.
There are 2 variants of the pen. The original model came only in black with silver trim, and the successors came in a multitude of colors with gold trim and nib. The difference from the information available is the number of turns to take the cap off. Original 3, second iteration 2.
The blue resin in person looks unbelievable. It is a dark blue that in the right light looks splendid, from teal, navy blue and in dimmer light it looks black. The gold trim compliments the color very well. I am very pleased with what arrived.
The pen is made entirely out of resin (plastic). Even though it is big, in hand it feels just right.
The top of the cap is nicely rounded and besides the esthetic purpose, it also holds the clip in place, fixed between the finial and the cap. The metal clip is strong, made out of rolled metal, nicely finished with no sharp edges. The cap also has a golden ring at the bottom, on which Jinhao and X159 is written. I am not fond of the font used, but the fact it is discrete makes it better, as you don't see it unless you are looking for it.
The opposite end of the pen is not finished so nicely as the cap. It has a gold ring on the barrel, with no other function beside esthetic. The barrel finishes with a rounded shape, but the injection molding is visible.
Also, the molds lines are visible on the barrel, although you really have to look for them.
The section tapers a bit a flares just above the nib. The threads are very smooth and shallow. They offer a comfortable hold. I keep my fingers on them as they are smooth enough for griping but offer good grip as well.
The pen can be capped, but for this one I think you are better off laying the cap on the table. The pen becomes huge and a bit top-heavy. The barrel is long enough for the pen to be used uncapped without any problems. I have to state that I usually prefer not to cap pens.
There is an o-ring at the end of the metal threads, with the purpose of preventing the barrel to be tighten too much, and cause cracks in the material. I will have to see how good it will work in the long run. So far the ring did it's job.
As most Jinhao pens, this one comes with a converter. The X159 takes international cartridges long and standard.
The pen is big and bold. It has a length of 15 cm
The nib is the star of the show, being a number #8 nib it dwarfs the regular fountain pens. The nib is a dual tone, gold and silver, and has a nice design, with Jinhao and F printed in the middle. The lines engraved on the nib don't match the dual tone very well, but it still is better than a plane silver look.
The pen writes really nicely out of the box, at least the one I've got. The ink flow is just right, even though a bit on the low side, like the majority of Chinese pens. The feed is interesting, very big matching the nib and it looks like it can hold a lot of ink. I haven't had any starvation issues or burps so far. The fins of the feed are very long and soft.
Even though the nib is large, it doesn't flex at all.
Reverse writing is possible but it is dry.
What I don't like about the X159
Even though the pen looks impressive, you can definitely see some corners cut. Take into account the pen is just 6$ so don't expect miracles from it. The injection molds are barely visible, but they are there.
Another thing that makes me raise an eyebrow are inner and outer threads on the barrel. The section is very thin in that place, and the material might crack from normal use, or if by mistake you over tight it. I always feel I am stepping on thin ice when I take off the barrel to ink it. I have the same felling with the Jinhao 992, so if you tested that one and are ok with its build, you will be very happy with this one as well.
Another small minus to the pen's construction are the caps on the section and cap. The cap has a little play side to side when screwed on, making some cracking sounds. Tightening the cap helps, but the risk of cracking increases.
I think the number of turns to take off the cap is related to this issue. In the first generation, Jinhao's X159 cap had 3 complete rotations to take off the cap, and they reduced it to just two and a quarter in the second generation. If the plastic and threads had been a higher quality, they could reduce the number of turns to one, just like they have on the Jinhao 992.
Another drawback that is true for all the Jinhao's tested is the converter. It is a plus the fountain pen comes with a converter at this price, but they don't work very well in my experience. I don't know why converters that are provided by Jinhao don't allow the ink to flow correctly. The surface tension is high, and pockets of air are formed inside that in the end starve the pen of ink. This never happens in a cartridge. It could be some residue from the manufacturing process that creates this. For me is not a big deal as I like cartridges more than converters, but it kinda makes the free converter not that useful. I will fiddle a little more with them to see if a good clean solves the problem, or adding an agitator is the only solution.
The last thing on my complaints list is the limited nib options. A medium or even a broad would better suit such a big pen. The pen comes with a F or XF nib, which is usually the case for most Chinese nibs.