Review – Hot Concepts Illumix 4 in 1 Stylus

Every once in a while you run into a gimmicky, cheap product that’s still a bit of fun. For instance, I wanted a laser pointer (for me and my cat) and was in Walmart one day. On that day I found the “Hot Concepts Illumix 4 in 1 Stylus”. It’s a funky little pen with a light, laser, and touch-screen stylus. And it’s only a couple bucks! Let’s see how it works:

The light is really just a white LED that’s stuck in the end of the pen. There’s no focus, so it dissipates rather quickly. You could get an idea about the shape of a small room, find a key, or perhaps locate something stuck behind some furniture, but that’s about it. Nothing far away can be seen, and nothing in great detail. But it still works alright. Interestingly enough, both the light and laser can be turned on at the same time. The laser is dimmed significantly by this, but the light seems unaffected.


The laser pointer works fine. It’s one of the standard cheap ones that can be found almost anywhere. It will hurt your eyes, but isn’t very bright on anything else. It isn’t very well focused and will spread out over long distances. But inside a regular sized room, it is very functional as both a people and cat toy.


The stylus works with modern touch screens, and it’s fine. It’s so easy to make a stylus that works with these screens now it’s unremarkable. It’s a bit cheaper than the norm and seems like it might wear out, but I’d say the worst thing about it is that you have to watch out and not hit the buttons and blind yourself when using it.

Finally, the pen part. It works, actually quite well. The tip is very fine, but despite that, it writes quite smoothly with little pressure. The inks a standard, almost-black ballpoint ink that’s water-resistant. The cartridge can’t be replaced as far as I can tell, though the batteries can be. So when you run out of ink you’re out and just left with the other features. That would seem to indicate the pen is not a primary function. The sleeve with the stylus has to be removed to access the pen, and this is not held on very well. It slips and can come off with a bit of a shake. There’s also nowhere to put the sleeve when using the pen, meaning it’s a two-handed operation.

A couple of other things: the clip works well, there’s a warning under the laser but otherwise no information printed on the pen, and the white smooth color with “chrome” trim looks nice, but not very professional, and it’s quite slippery.

Overall, every action it performs is done passably, but not well. It’s a fun device to mess around with or have if you want any or all of the 4 uses, but won’t use any of them that much. The batteries don’t last that long, the ink cartridge is small and not replaceable, and the overall tolerances aren’t very tight. The metal construction is nice, but the product seems to be made with disposability in mind. It’s fun, and good for the money. Just don’t expect much out of it.

Review – Papermate Eagle

All pen companies have a simple, cheap round pen. Bic has the round Stic, Staples has its… pen, and Paper:mate has its Eagle. And it’s the Eagle I’ll be looking at today.


The body of the Eagle is nothing spectacular.  It’s simply a semi-transparent cylinder which tapers down slightly just after the section to a tip/refill insert that can technically be removed, but which shouldn’t be because replacing it would be as expensive as replacing the pen. The cap is a standard friction fitting affair, which covers the tip so ink doesn’t get everywhere, and has a clip that’ll keep it in your pocket for a little bit, though I wouldn’t trust it. The information printed on the side of the barrel is minimal but works.


The writing is surprisingly smooth for a ballpoint, at least for the red one I’m using. I guess they’re just getting better over the years. The ink is the same color as in the Paper:mate Write Bros pens. It’s fairly dark and unaggressive as far as reds go. And it’s waterproof almost instantly, though I wouldn’t wager on it being fade resistant. Writing comfort is minimal, as one still has to push down a considerable amount when compared to liquid or gel pens, and there is no grip other than the plastic of the barrel. But it’s still quite tolerable and causes no excess discomfort when writing.

Overall it’s a fine office pen.  It works, and it’s cheap. It’s sturdy and fairly reliable. Is it great? No. But they’re fine for what they are, and virtually indistinguishable from similar Bic pens. If you lose a lot of pens, or need to get some for students or coworkers, these should do just fine.

Review – Monteverde Ceramic Gel Refill

Some companies are iconic. Some companies have existed for years and have made a lasting impact on all of the products in their market today. Parker is one of these companies. And when my Parker Jotter ran out of ink, and I was trying to find a refill, this became apparent. Because while there aren’t many Parker brand click pen refills to be found in the world (it can be done, and much easier than some other things, but still…) it is quite easy to find a refill that will fit into a Parker pen. In fact, it’s more common to find pens that fit such refills than it is to find a genuine Parker pen now. Monteverde is one such company that makes both refills and pens of the Parker type, and I’ll be looking at the Ceramic Gel refill from them today.


The body of the refill itself fits perfectly into any Parker-type pen with ease. Printed on the cartridge is enough information to help you buy another and then some.

The ink is a jet black. It takes some time to dry completely, though, and even when it is dry enough to turn the page the ink isn’t completely dry. It sparkles for some time until it fades to a nice black with little to no shading, which I like in a black.

When dry the ink is very water-resistant, with only minimal feathering. Writing is quite smooth, though I chose the fine-tipped version, which is very finicky about the angle at which it is held and will skip if it is even slightly out of alignment. The tip can also upon occasion require a stroke before the ink flows. After this, there are no flow problems to mention.

It’s just a good refill that does what one would expect it to. It performs well, and its smoothness is quite nice. Really, though, the feel is so close to many other gel pen refills that it comes down to a matter of trying most of them and selecting a favorite.

Review – Rhodia 3×4.75(5) Staple Bound Pocket Notebook

Pocket notebooks are something that, it seems to me, are becoming more of a “thing” again. Whether or not it was just me being unable to find them early in the 2000s, or them not existing in large quantities at the time, I don’t know. Still, I seem to find newer, and possibly better, pocket notebooks all the time, like the Rhodia 3×5 48-page 80g notebook I stumbled across at my local bookstore.


The color of my notebook is black (it can be orange), with orange lettering printed on, making it look like the Rhodia premium pads, but it contains regular, stark white, 80g Rhodia paper. My particular book is a graph ruling in a light purple that is customary for the brand. I quite like it, but prefer a light blue for graphs. The 3×5″ size makes the book small and convenient to put in any pocket. Being a half-inch shorter on either side to a field notes book, I was surprised at the places this book could go that the latter couldn’t. The 48 pages are quite sufficient for making lists, a few sketches, or even a few stories, and about the right length to prevent the destruction of the book by the time it is completed.


The cover quality is nice. It is thicker than the paper without being cumbersome, and seems tear- and crease-resistant, though I wouldn’t push it. The ink used to print the logo and info on the back is much more heavy-duty than what is used on the pads and holds up without smearing, chipping, or fading for quite some time. The staple binding is a weakness in some cases, being a bending point, but overall causes little damage since the size is so small. And the paper is typical wonderful Rhodia. It is thick and smooth, taking everything from pencils to fountain pens with no problem. It is an absolute pleasure to write on, though with some liquid inks taking time to dry, one has to be careful. If they are looking for speed, a non-liquid pen should be looked into, but even ballpoints feel great on the paper. Bleed-through and feathering are minimal. Show-through is unfortunately common, and tearing is unlikely but possible if the book is going out on an adventure.

Overall, these little notebooks are a great addition to the pocket notebook collection. They are heavy lifters for their size, and the black ones are fairly covert and classic looking. And, of course, they all but disappear in a pocket. A great little book to look into especially if you think Field Notes are just slightly too large.