The Zebra F-701 is a stainless steel ballpoint, similar to the Zebra F-402 and based on Zebra’s popular F-301. And if you find Zebra’s numbering system as confusing as I do, here’s an easier way to think about it: the F-301 is the base-model (~$2 per pen) , the F-402 is the mid-grade (~$3 per pen), and the F-701 is Zebra’s premium pen (~$6 per pen). And while I believe the upgrade from F-301 to F-402 is definitely worth the money, the premium upgrade to the F-701 is less clear-cut.
While the F-701 is a much more substantial pen than the F-301, it’s about equal to the F-402 in terms of size and weight (though all three pens share the same mediocre ballpoint refill). What distinguishes the F-701 is its knurled, stainless steel grip, which looks nice, feels extremely durable, and is surprisingly comfortable. The F-402, on the other hand, has a soft, padded grip, which is a little more comfortable but will wear down over time.
There are two other, less substantial differences as well. First, the F-402 definitely has a thicker, sturdier clip. And, second, the F-701 has a plastic retracting mechanism that makes a quieter “click” noise. Both these differences, unfortunately, make the premium F-701 feel a little cheaper and less hardy.
Still, if you feel the need a tougher pen, then the F-701, with its all-stainless steel body, is still the clear winner of the group. However, at half the price, the F-402 is a better value for people who are less hard on their pens, such as those who do most of their writing at a desk. Meanwhile, you can probably skip the F-301 altogether.
- Zebra has a lot of pens in their “stainless steel” line. In case you haven’t kept up, here are my reviews for the F-301 Ultra, the F-301 Compact, the 301A, the V-301, the R-301, and the G-301.
- A review at Every Day Commentary sings the praises of the F-701 as a great “every day carry” pen, though he modified his a bit to replace the proprietary Zebra refill with a Fisher Space Pen refill.
- And if you want to try modifying the F-701, The Clicky Post has a good guide. It also uses parts from the F-402. I’ll have to try this some day.