Review – Bic 4 Color Original Pen

For as much as they are almost “looked down” upon in the world of writing implements, and for as cheap a product as they are, Bic pens are very sturdy and reliable line-making machines, with newer ink formulations making them smoother than any pen in the price range seems to deserve to be. Their simple and effective designs have endured the tests of time, making the Cristal ubiquitous, and others, like the 4 color pen, an oddity many have toyed with and some people swear by. Is combining 4 pens into one really necessary? Probably not. But does it have convenient uses for those who still write thing down? Let’s take a look.

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The body of the pen is quite simple, with a retro vibe that probably comes from the design being relatively unchanged from its introduction decades ago. The main barrel is a light blue (or orange for the fine version) cylinder making up 2/3 of the length that begins to taper as it gets closer to the writing end. On top of this is a black band, which connects to the white top. This top section has a very “angular” molded-in plastic clip, a lanyard hole/rotary telephone dialer on top (rather intrusively), and 4 slots in which 4 plungers of different colors sit. When one of the plungers is depressed, a pen tip of a corresponding color pokes out of the front. Unscrewing the blue portion reveals that the mechanism here is quite simple: the 4 ink tubes (with tips) are situated equally distanced from each other inside the barrel. When one pushes the plunger, an ink tube is moved forward and bent via the barrel taper to come out the hole in the center, and a catch holds the plunger down until depressing another one causes it to spring back up. Unfortunately, the way things are constructed, the ink tubes are not replaceable, so if you run out, you’re stuck. The only other thing on the body is the Bic logo and “made in France” molded into the side of the white upper portion. It’s nice that it won’t rub off, but it doesn’t give you very much information to go on.

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The performance is decent. The inks are quite smooth for a ballpoint, and don’t cramp the hand too much, but there is more blobbing than I would like and some of the lesser-used colors (like green) often have startup problems from dried ink on the tip. Despite being a shiny plastic, the pen holds well in the hand. Being a bit larger than your average pen to accommodate 4 ink tubes, it has more surface area to hold on to and it isn’t slippery. It might not fit in some smaller pencil holders, though. I’ve taken a look at the more common Bic colors before, and they aren’t changed here. All are a bit more wimpy than I would like, especially the green, followed by the red, but they go down well and are recognizable while having the standard ballpoint advantages like being water-fast. The clip is pretty bad if you ask me, having almost no flex, but it will probably do its job.

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For art, this pen probably isn’t worth considering unless you’re challenging yourself. But for those that like stay organized with different colors in their planners, need a red pen and don’t want to keep track of 2 pens, or don’t want to run out of ink on the fly, this is a pretty good option. It’s got a nice retro feel if you’re into that sort of thing (understanding that it’s a little unprofessional) and even through it’s disposable, the materials are quality enough it won’t fall apart on you. For someone like me, who carries around 4 pens in 4 colors this might be a lifesaver. It’s not the end-all pen, but it’s a nice office-weight pen, designed to be inexpensive and get things done, which it does quite well at.

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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.