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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 – Poquitos Part 2 – Monteverde Ballpoint/Stylus and Fountain Pen

I had the regular Yafa brand Poquitos for quite some time before ever even hearing about the brand Monteverde, which is one of the many brands of “inexpensive” luxury pens that Yafa owns. Monteverde mainly has their own line of pens that could be completely separated from Yafa, but recently I discovered Monteverde was releasing a set of pens under the same name and similarly styled to the Yafa Poquito. This, of course, confused me, until I found out the companies’ relationship. The two Monteverde Poquitos have both similarities and differences when compared to the regular Yafa versions. Let’s take a look.

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First up is the fountain pen, which is styled very similarly to the original Poquito, but because it is a fountain pen, it is slightly larger, a little longer, and about twice as thick. The tip of the cap has the same “stylus” as on the smaller pens, and the clip is almost identical. The pen is also made of brass, but seems to be painted better, and Poquito is written right on the cap.

Being a fountain pen, it accepts cartridges (of the standard international variety), but there are no converters designed for it. Some small converters can be finagled into working, but none are advertised as doing so. The nib (which is only available in medium) and feed are relatively dry, but that is the case with many pens with similar nib and feed types (plastic, iridium point, German made) and many inks are designed to work well with this type of pen. The section is stainless steel (I think) and gets slick upon prolonged use. And the pen is too short to hold comfortably without posting. But the pen is still super small, and is absolutely ideal for taking quick notes provided one finds an ink that works well with it.

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In addition to their release of the fountain pen, Monteverde also released a new version of the regular ballpoint Poquito, called the Poquito Stylus (and funnily enough, they also released the Poquito Stylus XL which is almost the size of the Largo). The pen has the same writing and mechanism end as the Yafa Poquito (which is the only part that the Poquitos share). But on the other end, a touch-screen stylus of average size replaces the old hard “stylus” point, which was really useless. This new stylus works quite well, though it can be a bit broad at times. The clip design has also changed. It works just as well, and looks a little nicer, in my opinion, but is more likely to damage the item it is clipped onto. The ballpoint itself is identical to the older pen, with refills being the same.

Overall, the Monteverde versions of the Poquito pens are quite small, and quite functional. They haven’t really fixed any of the problems with the standard Yafa versions, but the added benefits of a fountain pen and stylus (for the people that like to use them) are great. All of the Poquitos are hardy little pens that serve well, and can go almost anywhere. The Monteverde versions just add a little more style and a little more usage variation.

 

Review – Pilot BP-S Medium

For quite some time, pen companies have been trying to come out with the “superior” ink. And many succeed in varying ways. Every ink has its benefits and faults. The Pilot BP-S (which I can only assume stands for “better pen” as it uses the “better” refill) claims to have a “revolutionary” ink (perhaps when it was first made) that is very smooth and writes the first time. But all my quotation marks just make me a skeptic. Let’s look at the pen.

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The body of the pen looks like a hyped-up Bic Cristal. It’s got a similar hexagonal shape, with a black end cap that screws off for easy refilling (with the Pilot better refills). The body is clear with a minor amount of information physically molded into it. It’s enough to tell you what you’re using. The grip is series of tiny ridges that lead all the way to the metal cone tip, and are surprisingly grippy compared to the rest of the pen. The refill in this model is medium, and it comes out a ways beyond the cone. The cap is nothing to write home about, though it does have a flat surface for easy removal, which is nice.

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On to the writing. I can tell you for a fact that no pen that isn’t liquid ink will write the first time every time, but this one comes close. It does take some pressure to start, usually, and a more constant pressure to continue writing than a regular ballpoint, but the overall experience is smoother. With the right amount of pressure, the ink comes out in a consistent line, and with a little let up, a serviceable one with a few gaps. Neither of these options are more strain on the hand than a regular ballpoint. The ink is black, most of the time. Sometimes it’s more of a cool dark grey. And that’s fine for any office setting, though not really for art. It is also smudge-resistant and water-resistant, like most ballpoints, so it will survive a spill as long as the paper does.

Overall it’s a good pen. Perhaps it was better comparatively when it was first introduced. It is nothing terribly special, but it is superior to standard ballpoint offerings from most major companies. Again, just slightly. If a ballpoint is the perfect writing or art utensil for you, but it just isn’t quite smooth enough, these are probably worth a look. They certainly don’t cross over into the realm of feeling or acting like another type of pen, which unfortunately tends to happen with these “smooth” inks.

Review – Kikkerland Retro Ballpoint and Stylus

A while ago, I reviewed the Bic Tech Ballpoint and Stylus pen. That was one of the first pen/stylus combinations I encountered that were actually purchasable for me (I live in the middle of nowhere). Recently another of the same type of pen was given to me: the Kikkerland Retro Ballpoint and Stylus. And I like these types of pens, so let’s see how this one preforms.

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The style of the pen is “retro” and it comes in three color combinations, two of which I wouldn’t consider using, while I think the third, red and grey, looks quite nice. The pen is fairly torpedo shaped, with both ends tapering down and the widest point being in the center, where there is a small center ring that divides the two body colors and metal sections. There is an almost unusably tight clip that says Kikkerland near the top, followed by a small ring with the smallish stylus point on top. Beyond that, there is no information or other markings on the pen. The paint is plain and smooth, slick enough that it almost slides out of the hand at times, but durable.

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The mechanism is a twist one. It is quite smooth, almost too smooth, as pushing too hard on the pen may reverse the action. The default refill is a Cross type in medium, I’d likely buy Cross refills myself. The pen writes rather smoothly and has little in the way of startup problems, but a bit in the way of blobbing problems. It is good for short notes, but for longer writing likes to smudge and blob. It is, like most ballpoint inks, fairly water resistant.

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Flipping the pen around gets you to the stylus which is a bit smaller and more precise than the Bic one mentioned earlier. It is still slightly mushy and I think these smaller styluses need work before I will thoroughly enjoy using one, but this is the most responsive one I’ve tried. Again, there are a few problems, but I have no difficulties using this to operate my phone, and carrying it around to jot down ideas in Adobe Ideas.

Overall, the pen is on par and the stylus is slightly above-average. I’d make sure the colors and styles work for you before getting it, and replace the cartridge with a Cross refill. After that, it should easily serve well. The metal in the body is sturdy and the paint resists chipping, though it does chip near the tip. It isn’t the greatest pen ever, and it won’t last forever, but it is certainly better than much of the competition for not a bad price.

Review – Bic Atlantis Ballpoint and 0.7mm Pencil

Bic is one of the most prominent manufacturers of cheap pens and pencils (and other necessary cheap plastic things). They have several lines of pens and pencils, some as expensive as a dime and some a bit more. The Bic Atlantis is a set of pencils and pens in various colors, which happen to be called the same thing. Today I’ll be taking a look at the Blue ballpoint and the 0.7mm mechanical pencil.

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Despite sharing a name, the pen and pencil don’t share bodies. They do have similar styling that can be described in the same way, with the pencil being slightly thicker and a bit longer. Starting from the tip, there is a small cone, metal on the pencil, plastic on the pen. This is followed by a thin, hard rubber grip which is all right, but might as well not be there, in my opinion. Within the grip it is a clear plastic wave in the pen, while the wave is impressed into the grip of the pencil. The barrel is relatively smooth and has all necessary information. Neither have a way to twist open the barrel, but around the clip both can be opened and the insides removed (the pen is glued). Above that is the clip, which is quite different on each. The pen is a very firm, stiff piece of metal, while the pencil is much more loose and is wrapped over into the plastic body. On the top is a clicking mechanism. The pen is surprisingly quiet and unsatisfying. You’d never know it clicked if you closed your eyes, but it works well. The pencil has an eraser and a cap on it, the eraser can be removed to allow the pencil to be refilled, and the clicking works well. So both are quite different, but they are similar enough to be in the same category.

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The pen gives a very fine line, which is quite smooth. However like most “smooth” ballpoints it tends to blob often and pick up paper fibers. The color is also, like most ballpoints, quite waterproof, meaning it won’t run without being completely and utterly soaked. The pens can technically be refilled, but they aren’t supposed to be. The pencil is standard 0.7 and HB, meaning it is smooth but not too smooth. They also have a retractable metal tip to prevent the inside of pockets and bags from being torn, and there is a spring which prevents the lead from breaking due to excessive pressure. I honestly think that HB (#2) is a bit too soft, but for most writing and sketching purposes it does quite well.

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Overall the Bic Atlantis set is very lopsided. The pen is standard fare and not really worth much. It doesn’t do anything better than anything else in the price range, though they are quite cheap. The pencils are twice as expensive, at least, but are much more worth it. They come with extra lead and erasers, and the spring and cover mechanisms for saving the eraser and lead are almost unique for the price. It’s a great little thing that I quite enjoy using. And it might become a sketching mainstay.

Review – Pilot Easytouch Pro

While not necessarily an art supply, the Pilot EasyTouch Pro claims to use a hybrid ink formula to make a smooth writing, quick drying, waterproof ink, which sounds super handy. Let’s see what it’s all about.

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First the body of the pen features a “modern design”. The tip is a metal cone similar to most click pens. The grip is nicely tapered and flares out at the end. The barrel is fairly straight, but with a little engraving and minimal information. The clip is simple, and tight, with a “modern design”. At the end is a click button and a strange cutoff design. The click mechanism works well but has a grating sound.

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The ink itself is a slightly dark black, but really more of a grey. The tip is medium and there are no options. It does flow quite easily, with very little pressure on the paper. It isn’t as smooth as a fountain pen, or even a gel pen. It does offer some line variation when one presses harder, and it becomes considerably blacker when one does so. It dries fairly fast, though not the fastest. All of this is quite nice until at some points when one is writing (especially when one has just started) a large blob of ink spills out of the point and bleeds though the paper. This is not really unusual for a ballpoint, but the amount and the bleed through make it quite a problem. It’a not really a problem when writing, but a problem when doing anything else.

So overall, this is not a drawing pen, but a writing pen, and not a long writing pen either, because of blobbing, but if one merely wants to sign a paper, or write one page it is quite a smooth-writing fine instrument.

Review – Papermate Inkjoy Green, Pink, Orange, and Light Blue

In a previous entry I looked at the more standard Papermate Inkjoy colors, now it’s time for the less standard colors, like light blue, pink, orange, and green.

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The light blue is a sky-colored blue. It is the hardest to read of any of the Inkjoy colors, though it is still fairly visible when not cluttered. It has a very natural feel and is very sky-like. It is very neutral anyway. It doesn’t look like a color that takes a stance, if that makes any sense. It’d make a nice color for both drawing and work.

Next pink, which thankfully isn’t a very aggressive pink. It’s definitely not hot, it’s more of a magenta color, but not quite. It is not a very natural color, though, as it doesn’t look like a rock or a flower. Might be good for a personal thing, or some corrections or something similar.

Third is orange, which I must say looks almost exactly like Pilot G-2 Orange, which I have previously reviewed. Subtle, but not very useful, perhaps flowers or the fruit, but it could be work-friendly, if you’re in a less formal office setting.

Finally green, which is a quite deep, more forest color. A very natural and neutral color. Again a fine informal office color, and a nice forest or swamp color. Though very limited in its natural colors. One of the least useful, but most usable, colors in the set.

Overall these four colors are unintrusive and subtle, with various office and home applications, but very little artistic applications save a few specific places.

Review – Bic Tech Ballpoint and Stylus

Well, sometimes now-a-days art isn’t always done on a physical medium. Tablets, smart phones, and touch-screen devices are becoming more prevalent these days and for artistic purposes your finger isn’t the most precise thing in the world. Fortunately, Bic has a solution for both mediums (maybe) the Bic Tech pen and stylus.

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The barrel of the pen is a fairly standard Bic barrel with a slightly grippy (grip) section, a hole for the ballpoint and a logo. Halfway up the pen is where things get interesting. The top half of the pen is a chrome-colored plastic which I personally don’t like but doesn’t look terrible. Just above another Bic logo in the center is the click mechanism, which is unique in its side mounting. The lever protrudes out to the side sightly, but not enough to really get caught or accidentally pulled. It has a slight curve to it, making it a great finger place and making for easy disengagement of the fingers or caught objects (again preventing accidental usage). I would say my only problem with it is it gets scratches from fingernails far too easily. The clip is absolutely nothing special, in fact it doesn’t even clip, it more just hangs on a pocket or something so that’s cheap. At the top is the stylus which I’ll talk about in just a second.

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The pen itself is nothing remarkable. It does appear to be smoother than a normal Bic ballpoint. But it is almost the exact same shade of unimpressive grey-black as every Bic pen.

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Now on to the stylus, which is the standard stylus end that has been popping up all over the place recently. It works. It is obviously not the most expensive or precise thing but it gets the job done. It is better than a finger, I can tell you that much. I can’t attest to the durability of such things, but I can say that it feels likely to break, though the pen isn’t expensive and by that time you’ve probably gotten your money’s worth out of it.

So what is the Bic Teach pen like overall? Mediocre. It does an alright job at being both a stylus and a pen, but does neither fantastically. But for the money it really shouldn’t. If you’re looking into the prospect of such a device or are on a very slim budget (or possibly don’t care) this might work for you, otherwise I’d suggest looking elsewhere.

Review – Zebra F-301 Ballpoint

Sometimes even the most pretentious artists or religious fountain pen users have to use a ballpoint pen. Now they could just use a ballpoint insert in a more expensive pen, but they might not want to do that. They also might not want to use a Bic ballpoint. So now we enter the level of not entirely expensive or cheap ballpoint pens. The first being the Zebra F-301 ballpoint pen.

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The pen is made of stainless steel with a round barrel with the model number on it. The (grip) section is a checkered plastic that is grippy and between comfortable and uncomfortable. It really does nothing for me. The cone near the tip is nothing spectacular. The clips is a simple stainless steel, with a plastic back and a metal button. The button does not lock down when depressed so it does shake when one is writing. Otherwise, the body is very study and light. Denting is hard; scratching is fairly easy, though.

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The point is very fine. It writes smoothly and the ink is standard ballpoint black. It is slightly grey and skippy unless one pushes down hard. It is not waterproof, but it doesn’t smudge after drying. I will say that the pen I have used is more prone to globs of ink off the tip than almost any other pen I’ve used.

So overall the additional expense of this pen (which isn’t very much, but still…) over a regular ballpoint is obviously its design. It will hold up better and is much more pleasant to hold than any other cheap ballpoint. The writing experience is about the same, which, to be fair, doesn’t get much better with the more expensive pens. It really is just a matter of taste and how much you want to spend on this one.