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Quick Facts:
Pen Type Gel pen
Point Size(s) Ultra Fine, Extra Fine(.5mm), Fine (.7mm) and Bold
Water-resistant No – regardless of what some office supply sites may claim
Ink Color 14 – Black, Blue, Red, Green, Purple, Pink, Turquoise, Burgundy, Orange, Hunter Green, Navy Blue, Periwinkle, Lime, Carmel
Capped/Retractable Retractable
Clip Yes
Approx Price ~$2 for 1 pen. $16 for 8 color pack
Review:

I’ve been refusing to get/use G2’s since I first saw it from a coworker in the office many years ago — because they are so tacky looking. They look quite clean at first, but the clear barrel showing off the yellow/orange gel(?) at the end of the refill just looks yucky, and golden color label on the clip just looks cheesy. I just can’t picture using it. At the time, I was using “Zebra Sarasa Gel Retractable” and “Uniball Signo 207” which are both more elegant looking to me.

It wasn’t until recently that I took a second look at the G2s again. Everywhere I turn, everyone seems to be using it. Even people who are normally not picky about pens claim to like it a lot. I needed to know what they are so drawn to. So I decided to take the plunge and get one. I was at the store and saw the standard package of “1 black, 1 blue, 1 red” pens and “2 black” pens. Looking at them, I remember all the reasons the G2 did not appeal to me. As I was walking away, I noticed the package of “turquoise, purple, and pink”. I wasn’t very fond of the pink, but the turquoise looked very interesting and purple is always a good color to test (I have a theory that purple ink is the most difficult to get right based on experiences of the many purple pens that died unexpectedly on me).

Anyway, back to the review of the G2…

The grip of the pen is pretty awesome – one of the things I was suspicious about regarding the grip was the shape. There’s a slight concavity followed by a slight bump. I’ve had some bad experiences previously with pens that don’t have a straight shape grip that did not fit the fingers/hand properly – sliding/slipping in wrong direction, etc. But the G2 does not have that problem. Now that I think about it some more, it’s actually a very smart design. Usually people with smaller hands want smaller grip and they tend to hold the pen closer to the tip. Whereas people with bigger hand would want a bigger grip and hold the pen higher. By creating this increasing barrel size as you get farther from the tip, it satisfies a much wider audience than that of a straight grip. And the genius is that it tilts back out really near the tip creating a cradle for the fingers and added extra horizontal grooves to increase friction.

The flow of ink is pretty smooth and consistent – on the better end for a gel pen. The weight and balance of the pen is good. It’s a bit heavier than the zebra sarasa – which I like. It gives it a more substantial feel (i.e. less cheap). But then again, I’m comparing a new g2 with old sarasa, so may be it’s the weight of the gel ink. Hmm, let me just remove the ink and redo the test in my hand. Ok, so correction, the 2 pens are about the same weight without the ink (never realize how heavy the gel ink was). Btw, an interesting design note, the screw on the G2 is in the middle of the barrel instead of the more common placement – at the tip of the pen. This is a great design decision – making it much easier to screw on/off (because of larger surface area to hold on to) than its other retractable competitors.

Overall, G2 is a good, solid, well balanced pen. But at the same time, it is also one of the more commonly seen pens in the office. So if you don’t want to look like everyone else, or just want to add a little bit of spark or personality, get one in a unusual color that you like. I am currently in love with turquoise. (And I still hate the black and blue ones – probably for the wrong reasons, but I don’t care!!) Looking forward to trying hunter green some day.

Rating: 17/20
Nib/Ink flow 4/5 (consistent, smooth for fine point – I’m reserving the last point for when I try the other point sizes)
Design/Looks 3/5 (depends on color – for me at least)
Grip/Balance/Weight 5/5 (superb grip, great balance, good weight with full ink)
Construction 5/5 (well made, very sturdy, especially like the the screw in middle of barrel)
Official Site:

http://www.pilotpen.us/products/gel/#anchor_g2

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Quick Facts:
Pen Type Marker pen
Point Size(s) Extra Fine Razor — (estimated 0.3mm)
Water-resistant No
Ink Color 5 – Black, Blue, Red, Green, Purple?
Capped/Retractable Capped
Clip Yes
Approx Price $1 – 1.60 for 1 pen
Review:

Uni-ball Vision Elite has been my defacto pen for quite some time now. However, I recently have a new boss who magically turn my usually 5-task-per-day list into 30 (from what i still can’t tell is lack of planning or overwhelming number of “brilliant” new ideas from him). The first thing I did was change from college-rule paper to something finer. (Don’t ask me where/how i get something finer than college rule — i have my ways…) Then I noticed issues writing at that size with my Vision Elite.

So i thought to myself, what pen can produce (ridiculously) thin, precise and consistent lines? Why, it’s Pilot Razor Point! There are a number of reasons I don’t use it as my primary pen – its line lacks character (too consistent), gets scratchy after a while (the point “dies”), only 5 colors. But if there’s one thing it can do, and do very very well — it’s to provide (ridiculously) thin, precise and consistent lines 😀

Always wonder what the difference between this and Pilot Razor Point II is. As far as i can tell, the point/ink flow is same. Only the shape (and avail ink color) is different. The latter looks more cooperate-y. The “original”(?) looks kinda 70’s — which is part of the charm in my book anyway.

Rating: 15/20
Nib/Ink flow 4/5 (ink flow is very consistent, a bit scratchy toward later of pen life)
Design/Looks 4/5 (looks a bit 70’s?? which could be a charming, retro thing.. the black body is fine.. the other colors can look a bit tacky)
Grip/Balance/Weight 3/5 (grip is same material as rest of pen, balance and weight is fine w/o the cap)
Construction 4/5 (well made, not refillable though — i don’t think)
Official Site:

http://www.pilotpen.us/products/markerpens/

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Quick Facts:
Pen Type Gel pen
Point Size(s) Fine (0.5mm), Medium (0.7mm), Bold (1.0mm)
Water-resistant No
Ink Color 10 – Black, Blue, Navy, Red, Cobalt, Mahogany, Forest (dark green), Lime (light green), Orange, Fuchsia
Capped/Retractable Retractable
Clip Yes
Approx Price $1.50 for 1 pen. $10-15 for 10 color pack
Review:

Zebra Sarasa Gel Retractable is a retractable gel pen that comes in 3 point. I have tested bold in the store and use medium point at home/office. I have not seen fine point in any stores so far.

The pen grip and clip color matches that of its ink. The main barrel is clear, so you can easily see the ink left. The dark color pens look like any other old pen – nothing distinct. The light color pens (lime, orange, fuchsia) look “fun” – which could be good or bad depending on your place of work. The red pen is just plain ugly.

The grip of the pen is very good. The rubber-like material gives it just enough grip. The shape of the grip is parallel to the barrel (no curves) which is a good, natural shape for my hand. The grip is slightly larger than the barrel, and is a very good size. (A larger grip would feel awkward to the hand).

The weight of the pen feels good. The balance of the pen is also good. (I’ll get a tiny scale one of these days to get an objective read of the weight. With a good grip, the weight and balance usually “feels” right anyway.)

The medium point that I use produces pretty consistent lines. The ink flow for medium point is good. The particular ink they use is rather “sticky”. looptop.gif (Think of ketchup instead of liquid.) What I’m saying is that nearly-overlapping lines “stick” together making corners “darker” which could make it look inconsistent.

I have never had a pen leak or pre-mature dry out thus far. It is water-based, so it’s not water resistant (as claimed and in my own test). The company also claims the pen is acid-free (which I will have to take at their word as I have no clue how to test that) and of archival quality.

Mahogany is a pretty unique pen color that I haven’t seen in other brands (which makes it a welcoming addition). Forest ink is too dark. It’s difficult to distinguish it from Black ink. (The whole point of using different colors to distinguish the different markings by them.)

Great grip and consistent ink flow makes this a good pen. Add being retractable to that and you have a great pen for moving environments (such as the subway). Color variety is probably one of the best I’ve seen.

Rating: 16/20
Nib/Ink flow 4/5 (good ink flow, ink is stickier than I like)
Design/Looks 3/5 (decent-to-cute looking depending on color)
Grip/Balance/Weight 4/5 (pretty good grip and balance)
Construction 5/5 (well made, should stand up to some wear and tear)
Official Site:

http://www.zebrapen.com/gel-sarasa.html

Uni-ball Vision Elite

Quick Facts:
Pen Type Roller pen
Point Size(s) Micro (0.5mm), Bold (0.8mm)
Water-resistant Yes
Ink Color 8 – Black, Blue, Blue/Black (basically dark blue), Red, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink (looks more like magenta)
Capped/Retractable Capped
Clip Yes
Approx Price $2.50 for 1 pen. $20 for 8 color pack
Review:

Uni-ball Vision Elite is a roller pen that comes 2 point sizes (micro / bold) and 8 colors. I tried bold and was not a big fan (mostly because I prefer fine points). I have been using the micro point for the past 2 years in black and blue. I used all 8 colors in the last year.

The micro point has a black body and the bold point has a white/silver-ish body. I think the black body looks quite handsome. The tip of the cap matches the ink color fairly accurately.

The clip on the cap is very sturdy and makes the pen a good candidate for your pocket or any fabric less than 3mm.

The barrel has a clear part that shows you how much ink is left. So if your pen won’t write and you don’t see ink in the barrel, then you know you don’t have to give the pen a second chance and just chuck it then. (Although, based on experience, pens given a second chance usually don’t deserve it 😦 )

The grip of the pen is fair. The grip is fine under normal use. But if your palms are sweating (during an exam, 2 hours of note taking, or just in a hot office), then it feels slippery. (Also not recommended for writing on mass transit like subway or bus since it’s slippery and has 2 parts (cap and body).)

The shape of the grip is parallel to the barrel (no curves) which I think is the most natural shape for fingers anyway. The grip is slightly smaller than the barrel to make space for the cap. (Personally, I would have preferred the grip and barrel to have the same diameter.) Both the grip and the barrel are a decent size (too small would be hard to hold on to and too big would feel awkward and difficult to control).

The pen is a little on the light side. It wouldn’t hurt to give it an extra 20% in weight. The balance of the pen is good without the cap. With the cap at the end, the end is heavier than the front. I need to apply more pressure to the nib when writing (which kills my control or tires my hand out). To avoid this problem, I simply leave the cap on my desk (which gets lost from time-to-time which is annoying).

When closed, the cap does hold on to the barrel tightly so you are unlikely to lose the cap whether you drop the pen to the floor or dump it in a backpack full of other items with rough edges. However, the cap does not hold on the end of the pen quite as well. If you have it at the end while writing and the pen fail to the ground, there’s a very good chance the cap will separate from the pen.

A minor issue is the barrel of the pen has a tendency to unscrew itself upon many capping and uncapping actions. You just have to tighten the screw again. I think it has to do with the material they use that just doesn’t screw too well.

The nib of the pen is sturdy, fine yet smooth. It doesn’t give you the feeling you are scratching the paper (like many extra fine point pens). It doesn’t create much friction that would slow you down (or tire your hand out). It has just the right resistance against the paper.

The ink flow is superb. A lot of the times, when the point is this fine, the ink flow becomes inconsistent. But not this pen. It always delivers a perfect ink flow. Not too much that it bleeds or creates ink blots. Not so little that the ink disappears from time to time.

I have never had a pen leak thus far. It claims to be fade and water resistant. I have not tested the fade resistance yet, but the water resistant part is quite true (once it dried). Depending on quality/absorbency of your paper (such as loose leaf), you might notice a bit of bleeding if you pause the nib on the paper.

Really minor thing: I find it difficult to differentiate between blue and blue/black. Statistically, over the last year, I have 2 blue/black ink pens that won’t write after a few weeks/months of use (while there is still ink visible in the barrel). I have not had this problem with the other colors (such as black, green, and blue which I use more often than blue/black).

Also, what they claim to be pink ink is really a magenta color (darker).

The smooth nib plus the consistently perfect ink flow is what makes this pen such a joy to write with! And the color variety definitely does not hurt. (Go to your local staples and try it. You will fall in love with it.)

Rating: 15/20
Nib/Ink flow 4/5 (flawless flow, ink might bleed a little on absorbent paper)
Design/Looks 4/5 (professional looking)
Grip/Balance/Weight 3/5 (a little slippery, a little on the light side, good balance w/o cap)
Construction 4/5 (body unscrews over time)
Official Site:

http://uniball-na.com/main.taf?p=2,3,1

Yasutomo Grip 500

Review:

Yes, I’m review a pencil in a pen blog. But the technical design of this mechanical pencil surpasses that of most pens and I just have to share it with the world.

The Yasutomo Grip 500 I own is green and uses 0.7mm lead. Before this, I only used 0.5mm lead. But when I saw it at the store, it looked so cool that I simply did not care that I have to buy a new set of lead for it.

The barrel is made of translucent green (they make other colors too) plastic-y material that has a slight texture and grip. The grip part of it is made out of rubber (I think) and has a texture similar to a tire. The grip is wonderful !!! The rubber they use is comfortable and grips just the right amount. (I hate pens that stick to your fingers.) It’s perfectly parallel to the barrel of the pen (unlike some other pens that curve in or out) and almost the same size as the barrel.

(Small note: The barrel of my pencil is cracked where the screw is. I guess the material is not very strong. However, in everyday use (writing and refilling), there’s no reason to screw or unscrew that part of the pencil (besides curiosity), so I guess it’s fine.)

The clip is made out (what feels like) real metal (unlike some cheap plastic stuff some other pens use) and bends enough so you can actually clip it to something more than 2mm without thinking you are going to break it. I also find out recently, according to their site, that it’s less likely to poke holes in your pocket due to its retractable design (which I’ll talk about in more detail later).

The eraser is neatly hidden under a plastic cap painted to look like metal and is tiny, pink and hard. I never care for the hard erasers because they don’t erase well. You erase 2 letters, then it turns black. So I’m quite happy that they hide this eye sore under the cap. Anyway, in order to refill the lead, you have to (alternate is from tip of pencil – so not so good) remove the cap, then the eraser (plus its metal holder/clamp) to get to the inner barrel. If you actually use up the eraser, then you won’t have much to hold on to when attempting to remove it. So it’s best to not use the eraser. (Personally I prefer using a eraser not attached to my pencil, so this con isn’t really relevant to me.)

The coolest part of the pencil is the retractable “entire tip”. Most mechanical pencils either don’t retract their tip at all or only retract the front-most 1-3mm of the tip. But the Yasutomo Grip 500 retracts the entire tip – all 1.2cm of it (the part of the pencil that starts to curve into the very tip). What does this mean? According to Yasutomo’s site, it prevents poking holes in pockets. But I see something far more useful! Normally, when you finish writing, you retract the lead back into the very tip. Then depending on the design of the mechanical pencil, you might have to retract the very tip (1-3mm) into the pencil. With Grip 500, you simply retract the entire tip and don’t have to move the lead. “Why does it matter”, you ask. Well, let me tell you.

When you start using a (button/ratchet-based) mechanical pencil, you normally push the button (at the end or side depending on your pencil) 1, 2 or 3 times depending on how much your pencil advances the lead and how much you like the lead to stick out of the tip. Sometimes it doesn’t advance enough, sometimes it advances too much. You have to retract the lead and push the button until you get it just right. (Hmm, now that I think about it, it’s entirely possible that I’m the only person that anal about having the lead stick out the right length.) Anyway, with Grip 500, the next time you want to use the pencil, just push the tip out and the lead is where you last left it – at perfect writing length.

The lead advance mechanism is by push the end of the pencil. (Apparently, this is call a ratchet-based pencil according to wikipedia.) Each push produces a crisp sound as expected. The first push advances the entire tip (approx 1.2cm) of the pencil (as described above). The “entire tip” is metal-y and very sturdy. The “very tip” is also metal-y and parallel to the barrel of the pencil (which from what I understood distributes the force better to prevent lead breakage – I write rather lightly in general, so I’m not sure whether it really holds up to the more heavy handed people).

The retracting mechanism is controlled by the push of the clip. Yes, pretty cool 🙂 No more pushing the button and the lead against your desk to retract the lead (or in this case the tip). One push of the clip and there goes the tip. In theory, it seems possible for someone with a big hand to accidentally push the clip while writing. However, in practice, your hand simply do not push the pencil in that direction while writing.

Overall it is a good weight. Not too light that I’m afraid it’s going to flung out of my hand. Not too heavy to tire my hand out.

The balance of the pencil is good. It is a little heavier on the tip so the weight of the tip helps me push on the paper.

It is by far the best mechanical pencil I’ve ever had. Well balanced. Solid construction on the tip and grip. Beautiful translucent barrel and nice metallic touches. It’s a real shame they discontinued it.

Rating: 14/15
Tip/Ink flow N/A
Design/Looks 5/5 (cool looking, novel design)
Grip/Balance/Weight 5/5 (superb grip, great shape, perfect balance and weight)
Construction 4/5 (cracked barrel)
Official Site:

http://www.yasutomo.com/mechanical.htm