I’ve gone on about how much I don’t like Jinhao pens a lot. My 250 is scratchy, my 500 leaks, my 1200 skips, my X450 is dry, skips and is a hard starter. So I got the 599 from isellpens in the same shipment as the Metropolitan. I couldn’t tell you why I thought that was a good idea.
It turns out, though, that it was. The pen is easily the best writing Jinhao I have ever had, though that’s not saying much as a rock with some blood on it could produce a better and more consistent line than those, but it’s more than that. This is as good of a writer as any of my non American cheap pens with only a single exception. The Herlitz pen I mentioned in that Duke 961 review. We’re going to give that one more time. First, we’ll chat about Jinhao.
Not much is definitively known about Jinhao here in the west, other than they’re a Chinese brand, currently based in Shanghai. They’re fairly new, only a few decades old, and they have a reputation for excellent build quality at cheap prices, which I have not experienced. That said, the parent company of Jinhao manufactures Baoer pens, which I have had much more luck with in the past.
Anyway, let’s get into the review.
I hate how Lamy Safaris look. I just absolutely hate em. They are ugly shaped, they are aesthetically on par with a lacquered frozen dog turd, and are so unfathomably loud and cheap looking, I can’t not judge a person I see using them.
Eugh. I’m talking about the Lamy Safari because the Jinhao 599 is a Safari copy. There are a few other Safari copies out there, like the Hero summer colours pen, but this is the only one I bothered to get.
Okay, yes. This still looks, fundamentally, like a Lamy Safari. But, it’s slightly better. The nib looks more normal, the clip is a little bit different, and has a different mounting mechanism. Regardless of these things, it’s still ugly as sin. This is like a 1979 Escort completely rusted out and looking like it’s hours away from destruction, but the owner painted the hood.
Regardless, it is still a little bit better than the normal Safari.
For those of you who have never owned a Safari, and good for you, it has an interesting shape. The cap is circular, but the back part of the pen’s body has two parallel sides, like they were cut out of the circle. This is actually a useful design feature to keep the pen from rolling, and it keeps the pen from looking like it cost $ .10.
The nib section is triangular on the top of a Lamy Safari with a round portion underneath it, preventing a person from comfortably using the pen inverted, but who does that anyway? In this feature, actually, the Jinhao departs…slightly. The Safari section is like a 60 degree angle where one side of the triangle is a curve. This pen is more like a circle with two flat sides cut out at 60 degrees from one another. Examine the above picture. I guess what I’m trying to say is that on the Jinhao the finger hold spots are a bit smaller.
On to that nib, then!
The nib is an okay looking nib with little flourishes around the outside, but nothing particularly special going on here. But, at least it’s not just a square with some tines at the end, like the Lamy nib.
This may be a good time to bring up the fact that I have a specific variant of the 599, the all plastic one. There are also aluminum ones that look like the Lamy Al-Star and have a Lamy-esque nib to match. You can see that variant, which is also the most widely reviewed one, on isellpens.
That nib is…all right. It actually reminds me of the $3 Pilot Varsity pens.
The rest of the pen is pretty ugly. The semi triangular grip section, the loud colours, the everything. It’s really bad. The pen looks like it costs 50 cents (which is more than ten), and the design was terrible. You can see the converter’s edge in the ink preview window. Who thought that was a good idea?
By the way, I normally wouldn’t bring up the converter until later, but Jinhao has made a special one just for this pan, and I think it’s actually really remarkable.
It’s very very similar to the Lamy converter. It has the same shape as the barrel of the pen, flat on two sides and round on two sizes, with one part of it showing the Jinhao name. This is very close to the Lamy converter.
So that’s actually nice. The design of the thing you will never see. If we go back to the 79 Escort analogy, now you’ve put in leather seats. Except leather seats are functional. This converter is extremely difficult to use, borderline sisyphean, but I’ll get into that later.
So, yeah, I’m trashing the looks of the pen, but if you buy into, and like, the Safari looks, you will like the looks of this pen. I don’t know how you can write if you’re blind, but you’ll like it. They are very similar.
Build Quality: 5/10.
This finish looks absolutely terrible.
We can see seams and places it’s broken off from others, not sanded down. Yes, we’re paying $6 for a pen, but do you think uni-ball would allow this shoddy workmanship in any of their $.40 pens? I don’t. And it’s not just the plastic that’s terrible.
There are metal clips on dozens of pens that cost less than a dollar, and this one can’t be chromed correctly for six?
The top of the cap, too, isn’t so good. The plastic top, in which Hero has their logo and Lamy a cross, is, here, just a black plastic top. No problem with that. But, it looks like the hole in which it was stuck was cut by a homeless guy with a meat cleaver. It’s pretty rough.
And again, WHO THOUGHT SEEING THE CONVERTER IN THE INK WINDOW WAS A GOOD IDEA?
Because we have dropped off a good millimeter of resolution on this thing, it’s effectively like your gas gauge saying empty at a quarter tank. Yeah, at that point, you should refill it, but how much longer do you have? 5 miles? 50 miles? Can you run to the store? You won’t know.
So then you have to unscrew the stupid pen. Luckily, this part is okay. The threads were designed with a stop at the end so you can’t go past the cutout in the ink window to see the ink. Well designed. It’s not particularly pleasant to use, since it’s plastic on plastic, but what’re you going to do?
Other things that are all right are the cap and clip in function. The cap is friction fit and clicks in well and silently. It’s pretty strong, but not hard to close. The clip is stiff but with the low gradient and wide opening at the end, it can probably clip onto anything. If I needed a pen to clip onto a fish, this would be on my short list.
Something that’s actually good is its solidity. It’s made poorly, but it seems like the plastic quality isn’t lacking, despite its looks. It’s stiff. hard, and doesn’t feel like it’ll break. It’s also fabulously well balanced even if it’s posted. A very well done pen in that regard.
So, even though it looks terrible, it runs fine.
Refilling and Maintenance: 6/10.
I’ve kind of gotten a standard thing going for the reviews, and if a pen has an easily replaceable #6 nib, international converters and cartridges, it gets a ten. Just international converters and cartridges? 7/10. This one meets those criteria, but it has that special converter…so it’s worse.
Have you ever tried to twist in a wood screw with your hands? Then you’ve basically tried to use the Jinhao 599 converter. The special design keeps the user from being able to have a good grip on it, like any other converter anywhere. (Except for Lamy).
This wouldn’t be so bad, as it isn’t in Lamy’s converters, if the torque necessary to turn the thing could be provided by something less powerful than a two stroke at full throttle, like, say, the average person’s hand. The Jinhao converter was so annoying to use I am considering just putting in my cartridges. which is too bad since the pen writes like a gosh darn dream.
That’s right, on a Jinhao. One that I own, even! This pen performs better than my Baoer 507, any of my Dukes, and is even better than the Pilot Metropolitan. This pen writes like a $40 pen, easy. I am loving that thing. It writes a true medium line, unlike most of the medium fine lines that eastern pens tend to write.
And, this pen is smooth smooth smooth. It’s probably the smoothest M nibbed pen I own that isn’t a Parker. Except maybe that Herlitz. It’s sure as hell a much smoother writer than my formerly owned Safari, which was about as smooth as public restroom toilet paper, which I’m pretty sure is made of small shards of glass stuck into a 2 ply 6 gsm roll.
This one is just a pleasure to write with, though. It has never skipped and starts right up even when it’s been a day just sitting there. I did three pages with it today even, and that isn’t just due to the great ink delivery, it also has a lot to do with the design. As much as I hate the appearance of this pen and its build quality, it’s so light and well balanced with such an easy to use section it’s hard to not love writing with the pen.
The pen writes great for this price, but you pay for it with all the other crappy stuff about it. You’d need to get lucky on a Parker Beta for a pen that writes this well in this price range, but those nibs (the same as the Vector) are sketchy at best. For performance value, it’s second to none. For show off value, it’s worse than a Pentel rollerball. Ugh.
Yeah, I spent most of the review taking a dump on this fugly pen, but it writes so unbelievably well for so unbelievably cheap I cannot help but recommend that you buy it. It’s truly a great pen, and is going to go with me in my bag to be pulled out in dark rooms where nobody can see me using it.
Here’s some terrible writing.