Comparison – Pilot Varsity Old vs New

If you’re looking for a fountain pen but don’t want to purchase something expensive or something you have to fiddle with, then a disposable fountain pen might be the way for you to go. And If you’ve tried before with the most common disposable fountain pen, the Pilot Varsity, and are looking to get another one, you may have seen the slight changes they’ve made to the design. Are these changes that big a deal? Well, let’s find out.

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The Pilot Varsity has a simple cylindrical barrel and cap, with nice, simply rounded finials. Printed on the barrel is “Pilot Varsity” and a design, but no further information. Both pens have this printed on them. While the old design is straight lines on a tasteful silver with a tiny ink window, the newer version features a multi-tone diamond pattern with a worked in, barley visible, ink window. The cap has a cheap plastic clip with a ball on the end that does tolerably, but is far from the best. Just don’t turn yourself upside down with this pen in your pocket. Taking off the cap reveals the clear section and the plastic feed. One can see if there is ink in the feed, but not in the barrel except through quasi-ink-windows printed in the design. The feed is simple, and has a wick, which allows for better ink flow, but would not be ideal for cleaning (which you wouldn’t be doing anyway if you were just going to throw it away.)

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The nib at the end of the pen is again simple. It is stamped “Pilot <M>” (medium) and has no further ornamentation, not even a breather hole. It is stainless steel, and offers no flexibility in the tines. Now, one might think that since they’re both stamped medium, that both pens would have roughly the same line width; and this would strangely be wrong. At least on the example I have, the older Varsity has a line more akin to a fat medium, or a particularly skinny broad, while the newer example is more of a fat fine, or a sorta skinny medium. If this is indeed a purposeful change that was made, I’m guessing it was for the American market to prevent bleed-through on the extra-crappy paper here, which it does do. This size difference definitely doesn’t affect the nib performance, though. Both nibs are buttery smooth, have no startup issues, and write under no pressure. The ink is the standard Pilot black, and there is nothing different between the two pens that I can discern (and neither are at all waterproof).

So, which one should you get? Well, it really doesn’t matter. If you really want a fat medium nib disposable (well, kinda, you can look up how to refill it online) you can hunt down some of the old ones, which I personally like better due to purely aesthetic reasons. The new one is a bit more loud and silly, and a bit finer in line, but you’d be really hard-pressed to tell that unless you were looking like I was.

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