Review – Pilot Opt (.5mm)

It’s always surprising how many innovations there can be for something as (seemingly) old, tried, and true as a mechanical pencil. The Pilot Opt is a fairy traditional and comfortably chunky mechanical pencil save for its unique advance mechanism. While a standard click-mechanism is available and quite usable (and necessary for retracting), there is also a sliding weight inside that allows the pencil to be shaken to advance the lead. But is this shake advance mechanism (that I don’t fully understand) a real improvement over the standard, or just a gimmick?

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The body of the pencil is fatter than the average mechanical pencil and relatively torpedo-shaped, with the thickest part being around two-thirds of the way toward the front and tapering down from there. Forward of this hump there is a (removable) rubber grip section and a metal cone, attached to which is a smaller metal cone that serves as a lead pipe. As far as I can tell, the farthest this pencil can be taken down by the user is removing these two bits, which gets you nowhere. Behind the grip section is a clear piece of plastic with a colored checker pattern (which is black, trying to mimic a “carbon fiber” look. Other syles come in other colors) below this, you can see the black tube containing the advance mechanism. Behind that is a correspondingly colored opaque plastic bit that contains just enough printed information about the pen and holds the attached spring-clip on a pivot. At the very end of the pencil is a(nother) correspondingly colored translucent plastic eraser cover, under which is a small white eraser that can be removed to access the lead tube.

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The lead and eraser are what you would expect from Pilot: that is, quite serviceable. The lead is a fine .5 and the one included feels like an HB. It’s a medium hardness and quite smooth, nothing to write home about but nothing wrong. The eraser gets the job done but like many mechanical pencil erasers is entirely too small (in my opinion). This is offset slightly by it not being they type that disappears easily. The push click mechanism is usable and gets thing done, but is a little underwhelming. And the clip is great, being smooth enough to not damage items but strong enough to hold on firmly, while the spring mechanism makes it easier to use and harder to break. But obviously the main attraction is the shake advance mechanism, which works as advertised. A good shake will advance enough lead for one to be able to write, though it might take two to get to a length most people are comfortable with. The advance per “shake” is comparable to the advance per “click” with minor length differences depending on some ethereal power (likely gravity and the external forces you apply). And the weight inside needs to reach both extremes in a short period of time with some force in order to advance the lead, this means that accidental advancement is a rare occurrence, but when intentionally done can be a surprisingly subtle gesture (though it’s still violent enough that people might give you strange looks). I haven’t had it advance in my bag, yet it’s always done so easily when I was using it.

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Without its gimmick this is still a solid pencil, though one could argue that its ¥200 (≈$1.75) price tag isn’t worth it without the shake advance (the same for its increased US price of $3.00-3.50) but even then it’s right on the line for the quality (though I wouldn’t get it without the mechanism because of its thickness). But with the mechanism it becomes a fascinating and usable utensil. The grip is comfortable, if wide, the lead and eraser are of quality, the clip is a step up, and the mechanisms work wonderfully. If you’ve been looking for a more convenient advance mechanism and other options like side advance aren’t doing it for you this is certainly something to look at. And while I probably wouldn’t have bought one for myself (it was a gift from my brother when he went to Japan), and indeed I won’t be keeping it in my daily use pencil bag, I had a fun time with it all throughout my testing.

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.