Mini Review – Zebra 1.6mm Bold (F-301)

The Zebra F-301 is my favorite pen. It might not be the best pen I’ve ever used, but it is sturdy, good-looking, and reliable. Recently I was grabbing some new ones and mistakenly picked up the Bold 1.6mm version. As some of my readers may know, I’m more of a fine-tip person, so I had to go back and get another set. But a broad tip still has its place. In many cases it can make the writing process smoother, prevent hand cramps, and make the final product more legible. So how well does this version work?

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The body is no different than the regular Zebra F-301 (save having “1.6mm” printed on the side) and it does not affect the function of the pen in that regard. The only real difference is the tip, which is considerably larger (being more than twice as big as the “fine” and half-again as big as the “medium”). The ink hasn’t been adjusted for the size, as becomes evident when the pen is left for a time and the tip dries. However, aside from minor startup problems resulting from that dry ink, the pen is remarkably smooth, especially if one has a firm hand.

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If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated with the small size or stiff writing of a standard ballpoint, but still want the general water-fastness and convenience of one, this might be the pen for you. It’s a thick-line (thicker than I personally like), smooth-writing pen in a solid shell.

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Review – Zebra M-301 Mechanical Pencil

The Zebra F-301 is one of my favorite and most hardy ballpoint pens. I’ve used one for a long time, and they have a good record for staying together. But Zebra has several other writing utensils in their “301” line, one being the still-very-popular M-301 Mechanical pencil. Is it as good as its counterpart? Let’s see.

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The body of the pencil is the same as the pen, starting with a sturdy stainless steel click button, and going to a black plastic clip “holder” for a stainless steel clip that does its job if one doesn’t get turned upside down and shaken. The barrel is also a nice, plain stainless steel with the pencil’s information printed on it. The grip section is plastic with a bit of “knurling” that provides some grip and is unintrusive. The real difference between the two bodies is that after the section the pencil has a black plastic taper with a metal pipe for the lead. Unscrewing this will reveal the lead and make it breakable but otherwise not change the operation.

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The push cap operates smoothly, and can be removed to reveal an eraser that does its job, though it has no replacements in the package. Removing the eraser reveals the lead feed, which thankfully does come with more than one lead in the standard version. The lead feeds well, and writes as smooth as one would expect a standard HB to. It is a bit hard, and brittle at times; unlike many pens there is no shock absorber, so keep the lead as short as possible. The pipe and the lack of a shock absorber do make this pencil much more like a drafting pencil than the standard mechanical pencils, and it would work in that scenario in a pinch (or perhaps a bit longer). And its rugged steel exterior make it great for taking anywhere. One would just have to worry about the pipe getting bent or tearing something.

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It’s a great pencil, really, and it lives up to the expectations of its ballpoint relative. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a tough little thing that gets the job done, and for an inexpensive price, considering the materials and drafting-friendly capability. If one can find refills, they will have a pencil they can take anywhere for a very long time, even if it’s not their main utensil.

Review – Zebra Sarasa Colors – Hunter, Fuchsia, Cobalt, Light Green, and Violet

After the first five colors in the ten-color pack of Zebra Sarasa pens, the colors get a bit less conventional and a bit more extreme. Let’s look at the Zebra colors Hunter, Fuchsia, Cobalt, Light Green, and Violet.

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First Hunter, which is a dark bluish-green, a bit more blue than usual hunter greens, which seem a bit warmer. The color is very deep, and in some places could easily be work-friendly. It is a very natural color and could easily fit an artist’s needs for a deep green. It lifts the most when exposed to water, but like the rest of the colors here, it doesn’t really budge to smear once it dries.

Next Fuchsia, which I’d call rose, but that’s just me. It sits on the fence for me between a deep pink and a light purple. I can’t really tell which it is. As far as either one goes, though, it is a very appealing color that, unlike other pinks or light purples, doesn’t hurt the eyes. It’s more of a flower color than anything else.

Third is Cobalt, which is a very grey blue, though I’m almost tempted to say it’s the other way around. It’s a dark and dim color that gives off a wintery feeling. Artists could find a use for it in many winter themes and its color is just subdued enough that it would likely be a good office companion and still let you stick out.

Fourth Light Green, which is almost lime. It hurts the eyes a little, but it isn’t terrible. I’ve certainly seen worse. It doesn’t look very natural, and it’s slightly hard to read. It might make a good color for marking mistakes, but otherwise its uses are limited.

And finally, Violet, which is bright and indisputably purple. It’s a flowery purple and that’s the only really natural parallel that I can think of. It also might not be work-appropriate because of its brightness. But it is superb in readability, not dark enough to blend in in low light, and not light enough to disappear on the paper. For casual writing, this one would be a keeper.

And that’s it for the ten pack of Zebra Sarasa Gel pens, I think they’re great little things, with an interesting color set in which some aren’t often seen, let alone this common. They’re nice inks, and I’d go for them if you like the pen.

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 – 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 – 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.