Tuesday, 26 August 2008

An update

Well, I moved last week for college to Arizona. I'll now have access to pens that aren't sold down there. I will be reviewing them soon, but without pictures (temporarily) since I'm stuck with a big DSLR and a camera phone that shoots like 100x100 or somehting like that, so while I get a better phone (which I should be ordering soon) or a small P&S, no pictures.

My current collection has
Pilot VBall RT
Pilot Precise V5
UB Vision Needle Fine
UB Vision Needle Micro
Pilot Precise V5RT
Sharpie | Pen

Recently added
UB Vision RT
Pilot Precise V5RT

And some marketing pens (hotels, banks and the Natl Guard)

I'll have some soon

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Uni-Ball Grip Roller

Another Uni-Ball. Again, I'm a Pilot and Uni-Ball guy, but Pilots aren't easily found here, so I use UB mostly.

UPC/EAN 4902778747001

This is a nice pen, the first and last one that I owned was back 5 or so years ago and if I recall correctly, they were different. They had a grey barrel, the cap was slightly different, and the color was indicated by a small cap in the cap and the grip too I believe.
I hadn't used a roller pen with a foam/felt reservoir (all were liquid ink stored in a tank) and they feel good, this is a bold/medium point, so glides really good on bond paper. It does exhibit some bleed, but for me it doesn't represent a problem, since I rarely write on both sides of the paper.

I don't know how long does the ink last, not much I guess, I've left the pen uncapped for hours, and I do recall leaving my old 247 completely dry.

Color availability isn't huge, black blue and red, and your choice of medium or fine point. The grip is a nice offering, I believe that none of the Visions are available with a grip (except for the Vision Exact if it's still made and maybe the Vision RT -Haven't seen one ever). What you do lose with the UB-247 is the ink window, so you can unexpectedly run out of ink, but that's pretty much normal with most pens that have a similar ink storage system.

I just found the old ones I'm talking about. I found in a Turkish website both models, and the old ones are called UB-145/147. Below are the UB-147 (0.7mm) ones. I was wrong on the grip, it's dark grey in all colors.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Pilot VBall Grip Extra Fine

Ok, so I'm finally reviewing something that's not Uniball. I got these V-Ball at a Target back in February, I was away from home, so I just tried them that night on a notebook provided by the hotel and found them quite scratchy, I first thought that I had wasted by money, but back home I tried them and found them to be nice. I never used them widely because I still had a large stock of G-2s for school use, but I've been using them more recently.

On Bond paper it doesn't feel scratchy at all, I have tried an Office Depot brand yellow pad (OD Mexico, so it might not be the same paper as the US one) and feels scratchy, not to mention the notepads provided by Fairfield Inn by Marriott, it feels like you're writing on sandpaper, but on bond paper it feels excellent. Of course, it doesn't glide like the Vision Elite 0.8mm, but it saves ink, and for being Extra Fine, they don't feel bad at all.

Pilots are still hard to find here, you can go to a particular store and maybe find 2 packs of V7s, a pack of Precise Grip and that's if you're lucky, and their parking sucks, so you rarely go there. Office Depot doesn't carry them, none of the supermarkets or drugstores do, and our local wholesale retailer, PriceSmart, only sells G-2s in a large pack (like 10 or 12 blacks, 3 blues and 1 red or something like that), so for Pilot I rely on my own imports or stuff that friends/family bring/send.

The grip on the VBall Grip is really comfortable, it's not just a simple piece of rubber, it does provide excellent traction and feeling, while it's not a gel grip like the one on the UB 207 Premier, it does an excellent job. This pen is available in 3 sizes, Extra Fine, Fine and Medium or Bold (not sure of the name), and you can identify them by the text on the barrel and the barrel colors (they become darker with the tip size, the thickest one get's a dark grey instead of white).

An interesting detail on the VBall Grip is that you can unscrew the ink cartrige (in the same way that you do with the UB Vision Elite), the difference is that I haven't really seen the cartridges for sale, so that could have been done just in case you need it in the future, to let you have your favorite tip size on your favorite barrel color, or to let you see how much ink you have left. I don't know, but it's an interesting detail.

About the packaging, I got mine in a black 3-pack, but I recall seeing a pack containing 2 blacks, 1 or 2 blues and 1 red, Pilot's traditional KRGB packaging (black, red, green, blue) (they should consider CMYK too) plus some stores appear to be carrying dozens, when I'm in the US I normally shop for writing instruments at Target or Walmart, so I'm quite unfamiliar with Staples/OfficeMax/Office Depot offerings (The multi-color pack I mentioned was seen at Office MAx, I was in a place that had an Office Max conveniently placed next to a Target, so it was really nice). I don't recall seeing numbers on the cardboard packaging, so you might have to do some research to find the size in mm (I think it's 0.5/0.7/0.9 or 1.0 but don't quote me on that).

For those who are interested, I'm using Doane Paper, www.doanepaper.com

Monday, 4 August 2008

Uni-Ball Boxy Micro

Ok, I promise, I'll show a different brand next time.

This time I'm reviewing the Uni-Ball Boxy Fine, an interesting pen that isn't sold everywhere, seems like an Asia/ME/Pacific model that somehow found their way to certain stores here (a different drugstore than the one that normally supplies my needs). This pen is pretty much like the Vision and Vision Needle (and the Eye too), it's just different in the body paint and caps, the top cap (tip) is a Fusion cap but in black (it's also a normal Vision cap but with a different clip), which means the clip is plastic, translucent black, and the end cap is a Vision Needle cap (which happens to be the same as the Fusion cap, but in black). Just like the Vision, the Micro version has a darker shade of gray on the body and black caps, while the
Fine has grey caps and a lighter shade of gray on the body.

The barrel also has a product code "UB-150G", a Google search revealed that UB-150 is the normal Eye micro (not US version, it comes with color coded caps), which is also sold in Asia, and the UB-150G is the Boxy. Likewise, the UB-157 is the Eye fine and UB-157G is the Boxy fine.

This pen has been with me for only a week and hasn't seen much use, however, from my observations I can see that is just an Eye micro, feels the same, writes the same. It feels good, not too scratchy, but it depends on the type of paper, works good on normal bond paper, but on some notepads it does feel scratchy.

One thing is that I'd love to see this one looking more like the US market Vision / Vision Needle, I simply like the barrel paint/decal design more, but the caps look nicer on this one. There's also the problem that the clip is made of a plastic that doesn't look too durable.

I will review the fine one later

Uni-ball Signo Premier 207 0.7

My second review, another Uniball, this time a high end one.

The Premier is Uni-ball's high end gel pen, it comes in a size that's milimeters longer than the regular 207, it uses the same chrome tip and pocket clip. It is however, thicker, not a lot, but you do feel a difference. The main difference of the Premier is it's soft gel grip, it is a really comfortable grip, not just a rubber cylinder that increases traction, this soft gel grip squeezes depending on how much pressure you apply, and the grip area is thicker than the pen's body, but you can squeeze it to a much smaller diameter. I don't think I have seen a similar grip in pens other than Uni's Premier, Uni Japan (Mitsubishi Pencil Co.) α-gel and a pen marketed as Sensa, which I haven't seen in years.

This pen does come in a higer price, I can't remember exactly, but should be around the $6-7* tag, considerably higher than the regular 207, but once it runs out you can just add a new catridge. It sells in 3 body colo
rs, silver, gold and a weird shade of blue/purple (kinda resembles a color offered in the Ford Explorer back in the late 90s), mine is silver, and all come with a 0.7mm black cartridge. I don't know what's the current situation with them, they might be offered with the 0.7mm now, I think Jetpens sells the 0.5mm ones. But again, you can replace the cartridge with any that fits. This includes
-Uniball Signo cartridges, 0.38, 0.5, 0.7

-Zebra Sarasa cartridges, 0.4, 0.5, 0.7, 1.0
-Pentel Hybrid / Technica / Energel cartridges, 0.5, 0.7, 0.35 Needle, 0.50 needle, 0.70 needle

If you love needle point pens, the Pentel Hybrid Technica / Energel refill fits like a charm, it requires no modifications at all. I have no idea about the availability of such a refill, down here they only sell the normal refill, so I had to buy several Energels in order to harvest the refills for my 207.
It is also possible to swap nibs to get a needle point with 207 ink, or order 207ND cartridges from Europe, but that comes with a price tag.

Sticking to the original black 0.7 207 refill. This pen is really comfortable, it became my ally for the long chemistry summaries and other long pieces of work. It feels heavier than the 207, however, doesn't feel extremely heavy, a weight that becomes more noticeable with the Pilot G-2 Limited for example. I never tried this one in a school setting, since it's a nice pen that more than one would have wanted to steal, and I have the impression that the grip will attract dust and small particles, which give it a nasty feeling of being dirty, and is only cleanable with alcohol (this happens a lot with the Zebra Airfit pencil), something that would happen in minutes in my pocket.

It also seems to me that Uni-ball is marketing this as a pen that's more suited to a serious user who wants a good pen, one that looks serious but doesn't come with the price tag of a Montblanc, these people tend to have a pen that just gets refilled over and over again and is well cared for, instead of buy by the dozen marketing that is more suited to the regular Signo (or buy by the truckload like the Gelstick). In fact, I have only seen it packaged in single units and in some stores only. Its existence in Mexico is limited, perhaps none unless you buy them in the US and bring them down (such was my case back in February) and I haven't seen it in Panama.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one to have on my desk, but for everyday use I'd probably pick a regular 207 since I would be less worried about losing them or using them in dangerous places (labs for example). If my fears of it picking up dust and dirt are confirmed, I would completely confine this pen to desk use, since I store pens in the place that is more handy, whether that's my pocket, between the buttons of a polo, somewhere in my bag, etc. This one would make a good companion for a serious event (like a conference, Model UN, real UN important meetings, etc) since it looks good, professional and it's cheap (you are not immune to lose a pen in those cases so it's better to lose a Premier than a Montblanc)

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Uniball Signo Gelstick 0.7

So the first pen to come to the keyboard is the Uniball Signo Gelstick 0.7.

First of all, this pen is a bargain. Staples has them for $8.79* a dozen, vs $18.69* for the Signo RT and $21.99* for the Signo 207; in round numbers, this is 1/2 of the price of the RT and 1/3 of the 207. The 207's ink is safer for checking and those things, but if you don't have anything that is at risk, just like I do, the 207 ink is useless.
*Does not include taxes, fees or delivery costs.

It seems like Uniball uses only two gel inks, regular and 207 and the same nibs on all their pens (with the only difference in size of course), so you're paying half of the price of a regular Signo just because it doesn't have a rubber grip nor it's refillable (ok, if you have the skills you can refill it, but for the price it's easier to just shell out $8.79* and get a dozen of new ones).

I discovered these pens by accident about 2 years ago (I thought they were highliters, they looked like them) and loved them, the low price and high availability make them very good pens. Keep in mind that I live in a place where it can take months to restock a particular model of pen, but these are readily available in singles, single color duos, dual color duos and dual color trios. In addition, some stores carry the full color palette of it, and sky blue and pink seem to be well accepted among teenage girls (sky blue was the color of choice of my former chemistry teacher too).

Of the large quantities that I bought, I'm only left with two, the others have been left behind in the trash can, the pockets of my friends (and their trash cans eventually) and one was lost in an airplane (I think). I find them really comfortable, the small triangular grip makes them comfortable for writing during long periods of time (plus, the low price makes them good for writing a lot, since the price per meter is half the one of the Signo RT), and these ones can be left uncapped for long periods of time without drying out (I think that's common to all gel pens, I just never do that). It writes nice, 0.7mm is my favorite for gel pens, it's the right size, I once tried 1.0mm and it's too wide, and 0.5mm and below can feel scratchy sometimes, 0.7 is the ideal. The shade of blue closely resembles that of the semi-translucent body.

It is possible to split the pen in two, but because it's not refillable, there's no need to do so. In fact, the way the pen closes (it's not a screw-on) means that you'll probably end up with a lot of ink in your hands and fingers if you attempt to open it (pull the two pieces apart really hard).

If you're looking for a cheap pen to buy by the dozen or more to carry around to lend people or have them stolen from your desk, this is definitely a good option. They can't match the low price of a cheap ballpoint stic pen, but when compared to most gel pens, it's a cheap option, and cheap as in low price, not as in low quality.

A blog reader, ratan, commented that

I suspect Uniball gel pens use the same ink in all products. This table touts their ink properties in regards to check washing. I see the gel stick, gel grip and 207 line here, so maybe (maybe) the ink is all the same? Or at least it seems the inks are all acid-free, fade-proof and waterproof.

This is what they list

* Acid-free
* Fade- and Water-resistant ink
* Comfortable grip
* Helps prevent check washing except for the colors Pink and Orange


* Helps prevent check washing
* Comfortable textured grip
* Fade- and Water-resistant ink
* Acid-free

So it seems like most of their Gelstick colors use the 207 ink except for pink and orange (who would use neon pink to sign a check????). If this is the case, then the price difference is just for the body style, also, means that Uniball makes more profit by selling the 207 at a price higher than the regular Signo, even though the ink appears to be the same. But a discussion on this will come later, with the Signo RT discussion


So I'm another one that follows the steps of The Pen Addict (Flickr: dowdyism) and start my own pen blog.

I started collecting pens when I was in 1st grade or so (I taught myself to read and write before I started elementary school). Back in those days it was mostly Bic pens, all styles of them in black and blue, and I began to experiment different inks and brands when I was in 3rd grade. By then I had already started to collect hotel pens too, my dad traveled quite a lot, so I had pens from Mexico, the US, Brazil, Colombia, Spain and other places, and by the time I was 10 my collection was of around 200 pens. That collection is stored in my aunt's house, since I moved to another country and bringing my entire collection was impossible. I started a new one

Which I will also leave behind soon, I haven't counted them, but it's a large number, plus a bunch of pens that are scattered around. So now (I'm 18) my collection habits have expanded, and the possibility of buying via Jetpens and Amazon have increased.

Believe it or not, I'm in a place where 3 years ago you would buy pens at the drugstore, since there was no place with a large assortment, there was a small Office Depot-like store, but they only sold Pentel and Uni-Ball, they had the best assortment of the country, however, not what I was used to. The nice thing was that they sold pens mostly by the unit, so you could buy whatever you pleased in the quantities you pleased. Office Depot Mexico bought them in 2007 or so and things changed. They now sell things the Office Depot way, but their Pentel assortment is limited, and their Uniball and Pilot is none existent, so I'm back buying stuff at the drugstore.