Review – Muji Hexa Ballpoint (.25mm Gel Pen)

My handwriting is very fine, and I always gravitate toward finer and finer tipped pens in my quest to jam as much information on the page as possible. But there is a limit to how small the tip of any given pen can be. Too thin a felt-tip will simply break, and ballpoints or Rapidograph-style pens will either not allow ink flow or damage paper. Thus, even pens on the smaller end of the possible scale are hard to come by (being more expensive and relatively user-specific when compared to more standard sizes), with .25 being about as thin as one can find. Muji, in its characteristic minimalist style, offers a gel pen in such a small size. Is it a worthwhile purchase?

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As with many Muji products, the pen is outwardly pretty simple. The hexagonal black body is a little larger in diameter than a pencil, and covered in a matte rubber that is only interrupted by two slits in the plastic near the front (for seeing the ink level) and a set of bumps with the slightest of step downs for posting in the back. After a brief clear plastic part, the metal cone in the front quickly brings us to a very fine protruding ink tube that’s about an eighth of an inch long. The clear plastic cap is also hexagonal, with an integrated clip and matching color insert that both covers the tip and displays the sizing information where it can be read easily from a pencil cup. Other than this, there are no markings on the item itself, as the label comes off, stripping you of all its information(in Japanese).

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Performance is good. The pen is comfortable to hold and stays firmly in one’s hand (though the material can make capping and uncapping a bit more “frictionful”). When put to paper, ink flows relatively smoothly. At this size of tip, it is impossible to eliminate all of the scratchiness, but a good job has been done of controlling it. Likewise, another problem at this thinness is that a pen will tend to skip more if at any angle other than perpendicular to the page, but this too has been mitigated. I’d still recommend you write as straight as possible, but it shouldn’t have too great an effect on the writing. I don’t have much information on the ink, but I can tell you that it dries quite quickly (I almost can’t get it to smudge) and it’s waterfast and alcohol resistant (it does bleed a little, but remains legible, which is good for writing and bad for stains). Its spread isn’t too bad either, laying out on the average page about the same thickness as a .25mm (01) technical fineliner (though, with my handwriting both seem very close to a .7 ballpoint).

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The pen’s a good one. It’s nice and sleek with a rugged body (I might be worried about the longevity of the cap. though) and a good writing feel. It’s slightly more expensive than a gel pen of comparable quality in the States (the price tag says ¥210, or about $2, but they sell it in the US for $3), but not enough to be out of their range. The tip is noticeably more fine than other ballpoints and gel pens you’ll find, but in my opinion almost awkwardly so (I’ve never been a fan of how gel pens look on the page {when written with my hand}), and there can be potential issues with the pen drying out. Still, if you’re looking for a functional and minimal super-thin writing pen (that isn’t as finicky or fragile as a technical pen) this is one to look at.

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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.

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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 – Zebra Sarasa Colors Black, Blue, Red, Navy, Mahogany

I’ve talked about the Zebra Sarasa before, and it’s an alright gel pen. The saving grace of many gel pens is that most come in a variety of colors at least partially unique to them, and the Sarasa is no exception there. Let’s take a look at a few of the colors.

The colors are always a bit off in the digital space

The colors are always a bit off in the digital space

First, Black. It’s a cool black that covers well. It works in an office setting and generally doesn’t get lighter even with minimal pressure. I’d say it’s black almost as soon as it gets on the page. The drying time is moderate and it’s water smudge-able.

Next, Blue.  The blue is quite dark, darker than most office-type blue colors. This makes it easier to read and more professional. It’s also natural looking, more like a deep sea-blue than an in-between blue that doesn’t really exist in nature. It’s the least smudge-prone of the bunch, but that won’t entirely stop it from lifting off the page.

Third, Red. It is a bland red, with no real pop to it. Though it is brighter than some of the competition, it isn’t really eye hurting. It’s quite noticeable and quite red but has no character — and no real flaws, either. It’s the color that fades the most when exposed to water.

Now, Navy.  Navy is a very deep, dark blue. It’s really almost black. You’d need a good light on to tell which one is which, though you could tell that black and navy are different colors with minimal light. It’s a wonderful dark color that is almost soothing and quite free flowing.

Finally (for this set), Mahogany.  It is really more like maroon. It’s a slightly purplish red which is also very dark and quite nice. It is much more noticeable than the navy, and still quite natural, giving an almost brown appearance from far away. It’s probably my favorite of the five, though the one with the fewest applications, and while you might get away with it at the office, it could be a hard sell. Unless you work for Texas A&M University.

That’s the five colors for this week. Next time I’ll be looking at the other five colors in the standard ten color pack.

Review – Pilot G-2 and G-2 Mini

There are some pens that everyone knows about, standby pens that we all recognize and know the performance of. These are pens that even pen snobs would use in a pinch. The Pilot G-2 and G-2 Mini perhaps are such pens. But do they really hold up to their reputation? Let’s take a look.

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I’m not sure I really need to describe one of the most well-known pens ever, but I’ll start at the click button. It is simple and elongated, and there is nothing really special about it. Below it is a small section of colored plastic where the clip attaches. The clip has the basic pen info on it, though not much. It does its job well. It might be a bit loose, though the absence of a catch on it makes replacing it in and retrieving it from a pocket much easier. Down from this is a smooth, transparent, circular barrel. There is nothing exciting here, but I should note that the only differences between the regular and the mini are the cartridge size and the length of this barrel here. All other aspects of the pens are identical, which means the mini is a bit thick for its size. After the barrel comes a fairly distinctive grip with a small recessed and grooved area where ones fingers go. The grip style is good but the rubber is slick, so the net effect for me is that the grip is unnecessary. Below that there is a small plastic cone that leads to the retractable point on the pen.

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Now, I’ve talked about as many Pilot G-2 ink colors as I could get my hands on in the past, so I’m not going to cover that here, but I will go over the overall writing experience. The pens are gel pens and are quite a bit smoother that standard ball points, though the smoothest of ballpoints will almost rival the cheaper gel pens like the G-2. The G-2 has quite a bit of feedback, which is something I do like when writing. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t feel like you’re putting down any ink and instead just scratching the paper. There are generally no blobs unless you’re looking at the more outlandish colors, but on cheaper paper the ink absorbs very fast and will quickly create dots anywhere you decided to stop. Really, there are very few problems if one just sticks to standard black. All other colors do tend to have unique effects to them. Long drying time is a problem with all of them, I’m afraid.

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Overall I’d say the pen is still quite a good regular pen. Despite the many little flaws that it may have, it works, and it does the job of being a pen well. It isn’t the best pen, but it’s not very expensive and it’s far from the worst. It’s a pen everyone can use, but if you’re not a satisfied pen user and you’re looking for the best for you personally, you might want to try somewhere else.

Review – Pentel EnerGel X Retractable Gel Pen 0.5 Red

Some brands can have very confusing product lines. And in the world of writing instruments, Pentel is great with product and poor with names. Today I’ll be taking a look at the Pentel EnerGel X 0.5 Retractable pen in Red. This is not to be confused with any other pen in the EnerGel line, because they all have completely different bodies, though you’d likely be able to expect the same performance.

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There really isn’t much to say about the body of the pen: it’s a transparent cylinder. The grip kinda works, but it isn’t the best. It’s much more slippery than some other grips. The clip is a bit plastic-y but does its job, although I wouldn’t trust it too much. The click mechanism is nice, solid and loud, nothing wimpy about it. And, strangely enough, the pen unscrews from the top to refill and not around the section.

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The tip of the pen is quite thin. There is a cone, but it stops a ways from the actual point. Writing is quite smooth. Occasionally there is a skip but there are no burps or blobs. The line is quite consistent as well. The red color is quite bright, but manages to not be an eyesore. It isn’t really useful for anything but marking errors or as a distinguishing color, but it does look nice. It is water-resistant, but does smear (though it’s still readable) and I suspect that it would wash almost entirely off after major water exposure.

All in all, I’d say that this is a decent pen. They cost a bit more than similar gel pens, and the writing is a bit better. I’d say it’s definitely a step up writing-wise from a Pilot G-2 but a step down in ergonomics. It’s consistent and smooth line makes it a joy, and if that’s what you want I’d say give it a shot.

Review – Zebra Sarasa Gel Pen

Every pen brand has its own main gel pen model, and Zebra is no exception. The Zebra Sarasa is Zebra’s main gel pen, and likely their most-recognized pen behind their steel line. How do they hold up? Let’s see.

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The Sarasa starts with a very classic push button. Below that is a unique clip that holds tightly but is easy enough to get out of your pocket without a problem. Some information about the pen is printed on the clip, and nowhere else on the pen. The barrel is clear and round, down to the grip. The grip section is rubber and hard. It has a slight hourglass taper so that your fingers want to rest in the middle, and it’s harder for them to slip off. It also has several quite annoying stripes that don’t aid your grip, but instead simply make your fingers feel uncomfortable. After that is a transparent cone leading the the metal tip of the roller-ball. It’s a fairly simple and standard design, but effective.

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The ink goes on the paper nicely and smoothly. It is not particularly quick to dry and can smudge easily. It is advertised as archival quality and acid-free, which I believe but haven’t tested. And while it certainly isn’t water-proof, it is water resistant. The line is medium (0.7) and the black color is quite black, and a cold black, very nice. It does absorb a bit more into cheaper paper making it harder to write in a way that looks nice, but it does preform well.

Overall, the Zebra Sarasa is an alright pen. It works well, but not as well as some other brands. If you really don’t like the grip on the Pilot G-2, or the expense of some better gel pens, then you might want to try this one out. The pocket clip is notably better, but not so much better that it’s worth getting the rest of the pen. Fortunately, it does come in a variety of colors that some other brands might not have and may come in handy.

Review – Signo Angelic White

Some colors of pens are rare, and white even more so. So if you need to highlight something in your art or maybe need a white-out pen that isn’t a white out pen you can try the Uni-ball Signo Angelic white gel pen.

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Starting with the pen itself: the barrel is octagonal near the back and becomes a weird grip shape near the front, though it is quite comfortable. The cap has a plastic clip that works I guess and securely clicks into place on both the front and back of the pen. A metal cone holds the tip and cartridge in place and can be easily unscrewed for refilling.

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The ink is white. Though not as white as one might hope, being a gel ink it is slightly transparent, and on darker colors would require several coats to cover completely. That being said it highlights very well and is very visible on colored paper, though it looks a bit grey on black paper. The ball is also very fine, leading to a line that can be very faint sometimes.

So overall it is good at highlighting and some writing, but if you’re looking for a pen that can precisely cover marks and don’t have the patience to use multiple coats you might not want to look at the Uniball Signo Angelic White.