It seems as though the Jinhao x450 has exploded in popularity, rising from eBay obscurity to be featured as a mainstream "entry level" pen option sold by Goulet Pens, xFountainpens, etc. SBRE Brown, for those of you who follow his podcast, even mentioned the x450 as one of his "top fountain pens" (speaking strictly as a price/value proposition). Intrigued, I placed an order on eBay for one in the deep red enamel color. I believe I paid $.99 and $5.00 shipping. Even if this turned out to be a dud, I figured, I was only out $6 shipped.
The x450 is a heavy pen. It's enamel/lacquer coated brass, which makes this pen so heavy that you could probably use it as a weapon. Holding it in your hand and looking at it, the build quality is decent overall, and great for $6. After a couple days of use, however, it was easy to pick out some flaws.
The chip in the lacquer, pictured above, is a pretty big irritant to me. I know I only paid $6, and the seller promptly refunded my money when I sent them a picture and requested a refund (they didn't even make me mail the $6 pen back to China, which is not really all that surprising). I am, however, "mildly" OCD and seeing this chip staring me in the face whenever I carry this pen around with me is bothersome. Since this pen was effectively free, I considered buying another one and using this one as a knockaround, but there were some other build quality issues preventing me from spending even $6 more.
By biggest criticism of this pen--and the one that keeps it from being considered a great entry level pen on par with the Metropolitan and even the Safari, is the cap. The cap on my pen is a friction fit, snap-on/off cap that opens and closes with a nice, satisfying "pop," but rotates and rattles terribly when closed. It gives one the impression that the cap will fall off at any moment, though this has not happened yet. The photo above shows that the cap is held on by a plastic internal cap that does not inspire confidence as to its durability. Despite the nice torpedo shape of the pen, the cap does not post firmly.
The stock nib that the Jinhao came with was a nice gold plated medium. I had no issues with the nib. It would call it a true western Medium, it wasn't too dry, and the feed performed well. Where people might have an issue is with the grip section, which has a semi-triangular "finger guide," for lack of a better term. How I grip a pen corresponds to how this section was designed, so it did not create any issues for me. Then again, I don't have any issues with the triangular grips on Safaris, so YMMV.
That said, given that the pen was free, and because I was in the mood to do some experimenting, I ordered a few of Goulet Pens stock #6 nibs, which are on sold as being compatible with the x450 and the x750 models. I fitted this pen with the 1.1mm stub, and this nib alone is the reason why I still use this pen occasionally.
The Goulet nib performs well. I believe I paid $15 for this nib, which raises the price of the pen to about $21. Given the QC issues with my specific Jinhao, this is still too much money. I would, however, offer a plug for the Jinhao x750, another pen I purchased on eBay that did not have any of the aforementioned build quality issues, and feels much more sturdy (review forthcoming). Whether this represents true differences between these two models or simply variances in the quality of individual pens, I can't say. Goulet Pens is selling both Jinhao models for $9.90, so if you want to pay a bit more, you will get a quality control guarantee given the Goulets' exceptional customer service. If I had paid $3 more by purchasing from Goulet, I probably could have exchanged pens due to the chipped lacquer/cap problem.
I didn't do a formal handwritten review of this pen. The Goulet Nibs look like JoWo nibs sourced by Brian Gray of Edison Pens, but I could be wrong on this. They perform very well. The tines came perfectly aligned, with adequate space between them for ink flow. Any issues I have experienced with this nib has been the result of the Jinhao feed, which sometimes has issues keeping up with the stub nib if I write fast. Otherwise, this pen is more than usable. It's a basic cartridge converter pen, which comes with a generic converter that is a bit on the small side, in terms of ink capacity.
Overall, "Mehhh." This pen is fine, and I don't feel as though I wasted money on it. I use it occasionally, and the upgraded nib makes for a pleasant writing experience. But I have nicer pens that I like to look at more, and the chip in the lacquer and the rattling cap annoy me. I far prefer the Jinhao x750. In the future, I will likely purchase another x750 to outfit with my Goulet Stub (I have a Goulet XF on my current x750) and pass this pen on to someone else.
Below please find a gallery of some additional shots of the pen in the hand and posted/unposted.