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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Parker 51 VS. Hero 616 Jumbo. An extensive comparison...

So, here is going to be a comparison of two pens. Some people say these pens cannot be compared because of the huge price difference. I'm not of that opinion. I like both of these pens and they are very, very similar. Being so similar I thought I'd do a head on comparison and really nail down the differences and similarities between them.

Here goes:

Note: Remember to just click on the pictures for a super-sized view of them!

Parker 51 VS. Hero 616 Jumbo.

I'll start out by talking just a bit about each pen.

Paker 51 - This pen has become legend among collectors as "the best pen in the world". Now, in some respects it certainly is not the best pen in the world. When people say that they refer to the fact that the Parker 51 is such a timeless and well built pen. It lasts, it's extremely sturdy, it still looks modern even though the design is over 50 years old. Most of all it's one of the most reliable pens ever made. Specifically the Aerometric model which I'll be using in the review. The Vac-Fills are also great but the Aeros are prctically indestructible.

Hero 616 Jumbo - This pen is, in the simplest sense, a Chinese knock-off of a real Parker 51. However, this pen does sport some good qualities which the 51 does not. As a pen it's very actually nice and when compared to a real 51 it can hold its own...

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So, lets jump right in with size, weight, dimensions, etc.

Parker 51 - 5 1/2" or 14cm capped - 5" or 12.7cm uncapped -  6 15/16" or 15.1cm posted - 2 1/2" or 6.3cm cap length

Hero 616 - 5 9/16" or 14.2cm capped - 5 1/16" or 12.9cm uncapped - 5 7/8" or 14.9cm posted - 2 9/16" or 6.5cm cap length

I don't have a scale on hand but the 51 weighs almost twice as much as the 616. See the materials section for more information on this...

So, both pens are very close in dimensions the 616 being a tiny bit larger. Both pens are a very good size for me and feel comfortable in hand. One thing you will notice in the pictures below is that the 616's hood is much longer than the 51's. The 51 has a longer barrel, shorter hood. The 616 has a shorter barrel, longer hood. Measurments as follows:

51 - 1 1/2" or 4cm hood length - 3 3/8" or 8.6cm barrel length
616 - 1 7/8" or 4.7cm hood length - 3 1/8" or 7.8cm barrel length

Here are both pens. The 616 is the red pen. The 51 is the black pen. keep that in mind throughout the review.

51's a bit longer posted...

Notice the large section on the 616. Same length total but larger section. This makes the barrel smaller which makes the filler smaller too...


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Appearance and Design

Both pens look good though in my opinion the 51 is definitely a better looing pen. Especially if ou get one with a GF cap. To be fair to the 616  decided to use a simpler 51, just black with a steel cap.

Both pens are simple, understated and somewhat modern looking. At a distance, they can easily be mistaken for a ballpoint. Sometimes thi sis nice and other times not so much. If you're trying to not get noticed by carying a fountain pen tan a 51 or 616 is a good choice. If you want people to see that gorgeous open nib then a 51 or 616 is notyour best bet. I like the hooded design, others hate it. Many people grow to like it because they like the way the pen works so much.

Here are both pens, 616 in Red and Parker in Black. Very nice looking they are!

You can see the jewels in this picture. the 616 has a machined aluminum jewel as opposed to the 51's plastic jewel.

Here's a small design difference. The 616 has a very interesting clutch ring. It s transparent in between the two metal washers. The 51 clutch ring is all metal and a little thicker as you can see.


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Materials or Fit & Finish

Here I'll talk about the materials used in each pen. 51's differ from pen to pen in things such as cap material i.e. - gold, lustraloy, steel, etc.

Parker 51 - This pen has much beter materials than those of the 616. The plastic is thick and durable, the cap s much thicker too. Caps are usually steel, lustraloy, or gold filled. All of these are built very well and last for a very long time. The thicker plastic and steel cap make the 51 much heavier than the 616. The 51 is considered to be a light pen on its own...

Here 616 - This pen on the other hand has very inferior plastic. That's not to say it doesn't get the job done. On its own it stands very well but whe ncompared with a real 51 it is lakcing. The cap is really what's lacking. It's machined aluminum and is very lgihtweight. I can forsee the 616's cap getting dinged up very easily due to how thin it is. Because of the thin plastic and aluminum cap the 616 is a very lightweight pen.

Fit & Finish gets me talking of quality control aspects for each design. The Parker is by far a superior made pen. I'll talk a little more aobut this in the materials section but here I'll talk about the QC of the 51 VS. 616.

From afar both pens look very nice but it's only when one examines them up close that one begins to really notice the flaws i nthe 616's design. Things like: cheaply stamped clips, offset/crooked jewels, sharp edges on metal pieces, machining marks, unfinished pieces, etc. These are the kind of problems the 616 has. The 51 has none of these. It is superbly finshed and made in every aspect.

An example of the poor QC on the Hero. The 51 filler is on top and the 616 filler on the bottom. You can't really tell it in the picture but the edges of the opening in the 616's filler is very sharp and unfinished. Not very comfortable to press...

Here is another lack of QC in the 616. As you can see, the hole on the 616 (left pen) is rough and gouged from where the machine drilled it.

As can be seen here,  the left cap, belonging to the 616, has a much sharper lip than the 51 cap (to the right).



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Filling System

Both pens use the same filling system the 616 being a copy of the 51. For a cheap pen the 616 has a very nice filling system. It functions just as well as my 51's filling system. The only gripe I have with the 616's filler is the sharp edges we talked about in quality control.

Parker 51 - We are spekaing of Aerometric fillers today as I don't think the 616 is comparable to a Vac 51. The 51 uses a very well designed Aerometric filling system. This system was design over 50 years ago and still is one of the best out there. It is said to be leak proof in flight which my 51 certainly is. The 51 utilizes a plastic sac instead of a latex one. Though you can't see it in the pictures, the 51 sac is actually clear. Over the years it's been stianed black with ink but originally they were clear. The filler is operated by pressing the ribbed bar down 4 times while the pen point is in ink.

Hero 616 - Copying off of the 51's filling system makes this inexpensive pen have a very nice filling system for the price. The filler unit operation is the exact same on the 616 as it is on the 51. The filler is just a tad smaller in size. I havn't done a capacity test but someday I might. I also have not tested the 616 filling system in flight. I'm sure it would work just as well as the 51 though.

Here are the Aerometric filling units of each pen. The 51's is definitely larger in size and capacity.


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Nibs

So, everything aside the most important hing about a pen is its nib. Mainly, the way it writes. I'll say right up front that both of tese pens are great writers. Both have ups and downs.

Parker 51 - First thing of not is it has a gold nib. Some people say gold nibs are better than steel. I've had no such experience. I enjoy my steel nib pens sometimes more than my gold nib ones. Still, gold is pretty to look at and is a status symbol of sorts. The 51 nib is what is known as a nail. Meaning it's a very hard nib with absolutely no flex at all. This is due to the tubular shape of it and te hood which prevents it from moving around. Now, in my case, the 51 has a uge advantage over the 616's nib. My 51 has a BB stub retip. I will not factor this in but instead talk about factory 51 nibs. The original fine nib I had on this pen was nice. Not great, not buttery smooth but nice. It wrote a fine line with 5/10 wetness aand it never complained. Parker nibs usually are good. I have yet to come across a bad one yet though I' msure they're out there.

Hero 616 - This pen can be both good or bad with the nibs. This is due to the lacing QC in the Chinese factories that produce these. If you have some knowledge of nib tweaking as I do then these 616's can be transformed into great writers! The fine nib on this 616 writes just as well as the factory nib on my 51 and it exhibits a softness to it instead of the nail hardness of the 51 nib. For the price these pens can be had for they are truly excellent writers. This nis is, just like the 51 nib, iridium tipped and will last for many years.

All in all both are great writers but the Hero wins out because of price.

Nibs of each pen. Both are excellent writer! Feed design is a little different on the 616 (right pen). Thinner and flatter than the 51 (left pen).


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Pricing

Here's where the 616 really shines! in terms of value for dollar the 616 cannot be beat and totally smokes the 51.

Parker 51 pricing - This wuld be a fair price for a good condition pen, i.e. - not mint, but certainly not user grade. Nothing fancy like GF caps or rare colors. $85.00. 51 prices can go way up form thier but you can easily snag one for that price. Once you get into rare colors, DJ models, and factory stub nibs the price can up to $450.00 and beyond.

Hero 616 - This is where the pen tuly shines. They are best found on ebay in my experience and can be bought here in a 10 pack of 3 different colors (red, green, and black) for the humble price of $14.00 shipped. Now that's a deal! Only $1.40 a pen! They can be bought individually but they are about $4.00 a pen then. I  would recommend getting a whole pack, keeping a few, and then giving the rest away as starter pens! These 616's are really a great value for dollar. Think about it, even if half the pens in the pack are bad you're still getting a great pen only $2.80 a piece! I've never heard of half a pack being bad. I have heard of having one or two duds in a pack of ten though...

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All in all these are both great pens and if I had to choose one I'd probably pick the 51. However, if you're wanting try out a real 51 but don't have the $$$ yet then buy a 616. They are excellent carry-around pens. I take mine places where I would never take my other pens...

Hope you'e enjoyed the review/comparison. Please, do me the huge favor of dropping a comment below. It helps keep me going on the blog!

Regards,
777 - Tyler Dahl

11 comments:

  1.  Well in my experience with the 616 it is completely opposite they always break

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  2. Really, that's a bummer. I have heard of some people with horrible experiences with the 616's. mine is great! Must just be the QC...

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

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  3. A superb review, Tyler, so thank you.  While I don't have the 616, I do have the Hero 100 and a Lanbitou 866.  The only reason I mention them is that, for a very reasonable price, each reintroduced me to the joys of writing with a fountain pen.  Mind you, I do have one or two other Chinese fountain pens that I don't care for but, as you pointed out, for the price, it is worth experimenting.

    I have a Parker 45, not a 51, but after reading your comparison review I'm awfully tempted to give the 616 a try.  Again, thanks for a very detailed and interesting comparison.

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  4. Glad you enjoyed the review Freddy! I had a lot of fun writing it! Yes, some of the Chinese pens can be great ways to get started with fountain pens. I'm thinking of getting a pack of Hero 616's and giving them away to relatives and friends. That's a good way to spread the infection of fountain pens...

    Indeed, you should give one of the 616's a try. For the price you have almost nothing to lose.

    Have fun!

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

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  5. You have to be careful with these Hero 51 knock-offs. I have seen several reports that some of the Hero pens for sale on ebaY, especially the ones that come in 10 packs etc., are fakes.

    Yes, that's right - fakes of fake Parker 51's; how appropriate. The reports I've seen not only come from pen dealers, but from end-users as well. So I think they are credible. The fake Hero pens are probably coming from India or Pakistan.

    Many report these Hero 51 copies are of very poor quality, thin plastic that cracks and metal that dents easily. Maybe those reports are due to the fake Heros - I don't know.

    I have never owned one of these Hero 51 copies, but I have owned more than my share of Chinese pens, Hero, Baoer, Jinhao (made by Hero?) etc. Some are OK, the majority have problems, often due to lousy bad converters and/or nibs.

    I have a new Baoer Blue Stripe that is refusing to behave - pulled the converter that came with it and replaced it with a Mont Blanc cartridge - voila, problem solved. I no longer buy cheap Chinese pens with fine nibs, they're often waaay too fine and scratchy for me, even after trying to tune them. Finding Chinese pens with medium nibs is difficult, and even then they're really a Western fine to M-fine.

    The Baoer Blue Stripe is a medium nib, writes like butter after working on the nib for a half hour. Wrote like Cr*p before I tuned it.

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  6. Yea, I heard about the copies of copies thing... Why someone would make a copy of a copy I don't know... It's beyond me.

    The Hero 616 is already cheap enough. They don't need an even less expensive alternative.

    Anyway, yea QC is always a mystery with these pens. Sometimes you win and other times you really lose.

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl

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  7.  Have taken a 616 and a 007 on 2 flights with no problems.  The 007 is basically a slimmer 616.

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  8. Thanks for the info! I didn't know that. That's also good to note, 616 doesn't leak in flight. Always a very handy feature!

    Regards,
    777 - Tyler Dahl 

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  9. I have a Hero and love it. I did give a pack away as starter pens for my class, because they were intrigued by my FPs.

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  10.  Great review! I have a few 51's and many 616 pens from Speerbob, so they are not fake. *lol* I love my 1947 Parker the best but the 616 is really fun to use as well ,and for the most part a very smooth pen.

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  11. I have a feeling that the Hero 616 that you have shown is not the real one. I have two 616s and the length of the hodded section is nearly identical to that of the 51 with the addition of the ink window. The section in the open you have shown is longer and is found on most other Heros.

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