Review: Sharpie S-Gel, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

The popularity of The Sharpie Pen brought with it a lot of hot competition. Pens like the BIC Intensity and the Foray Stylemark began to encroach on Sharpie’s shelf space, so it was inevitable that Sharpie was going to fight back. And here it is, the S-Gel, a pen destined to take a slice from the lucrative gel pen market-share (they’re looking at you, G-2).

The S-Gel is currently available in three tip sizes: bold (1.0mm), medium (0.7mm), and fine (0.5mm). Medium seems to be the default size you’ll find in most places, but I decided to order a box of the fine tipped version online. They ended up costing a little over $1 per pen, but it ended up being a good choice, as the ink in this size never seemed too thick or runny.

Overall, Sharpie did a good job with these pens. The black ink is dark, and it fills a space very well with little-to-no bleeding or smearing. It’s smooth, and it feels good to hold. The grip section is firm and rubbery, and, though the entire body of the pen is made of plastic, the whole thing, including the clip, is quite sturdy. The black and silver color scheme looks good, or, at least, better than most of its “premium plasticcompetitors, in my opinion.

But the S-Gel is similar enough in function to many other gel pens you’ll find in the market that I can’t exactly recommend it over other favorites like the Pentel Energel or Zebra Sarasa Clip. So unless you find the S-Gel on sale or you just happen to really like that Sharpie logo across the barrel, you won’t be missing out by letting these pass you by. That said, I always appreciate when stationery companies decide to try new things, so I hope we continue to see more from Sharpie.

Review: Lamy Pico, Ballpoint, Medium Point

If you dig through this blog, you will probably notice that my experience with Lamy pens have been good and bad and good and bad. But, no matter what happens, I keep coming back because Lamy has a knack for producing some of the most interesting and unique pen designs around. The Lamy Pico typifies this, and, luckily, it manages to be one of Lamy’s better efforts.

The Pico is an expandable pocket pen. All closed up, it measures a mere 3.75” in length, but press down the end to eject the tip and the barrel expands to a full 5”. On paper that might not seem like much, but it feels a bit magical as it transforms from something that can fit in your fist to a normal, nicely balanced pen.

The Pico’s body is constructed of metal but is coated in a smooth enamel-ish material that, in typical Lamy fashion, is available to buy in a bunch of color coatings. My lovely wife bought me the white version as a Christmas gift last year, and it has a very minimalist and clean look. Admittedly, in its closed-up form, it somewhat resembles a tampon applicator.

One small (but important) detail is the small, gray nub on the side of the barrel. One reason it’s there is to display Lamy’s logo, but it’s primary function is to act as a roll-stopper. One of my pet peeves is a perfectly round pen that will simply roll off your desk when you set it down. Most pens have clips to prevent this, bit since the Pico is clip-less, Lamy has smartly included this little protrusion that does a decent job of roll-prevention.

I really only have one point of criticism: the refill. The pico uses a proprietary Lamy M22 ballpoint refill, and though I don’t like the concept of proprietary refills, I understand that they may have needed something special for this pen’s size. My real problem is that the refill just isn’t all that good.

It’s not a bad refill either. It’s moderately smooth and should last for quite a while, but it skipped out enough to be annoying. I suppose I just think that for a pen that usually retails for $30-$40, it should have something much better.

Still, I think this is a great pocket pen. The retracting mechanism is fun to use, and it has a high build quality. I definitely recommend it.

Review: Inc. Optimus, Porous Point, Fine

As a longtime fan of porous point pens, I’m happy to see more and more of them in stores. I found this pen, the Optimus by Inc., in a two-pack at a dollar store, sitting beside another porous point pen, the Promarx UltraFine. And, though I’ve had issues with Inc. pens in the past, I’ve got to say that the company has done a pretty good job here.

For an average price of 50 cents per pen, the Optimus is fairly inexpensive compared to name brand porous points. It comes with a hard plastic body and no “grip” section to really speak of, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice metal clip. Since most porous point pens come with cheapo clips, this is a touch that I really like. The pen itself is durable enough, and the tip has continued to produce a crisp line after two weeks of continuous use.

When it comes right down to it, this is a great pen for the money. Without any specified tip size (it just says “fine point”) it won’t replace any of the fancier fine liners, and anyone familiar with a pen like the BIC Intensity won’t see anything special or new here. But if you’re looking to cut costs from your porous point pen budget, the Optimus is a good way to go without sacrificing quality.

Review: Promarx UltraFine, Porous Point, 0.5mm

Despite the name, it’s not an advertisement of Marxism.

Promarx is a pen brand owned by the California-based Kittrich Corporation, which produces a lot of household and office products that are sold in big box stores all over the country. The local Dollar Tree is where I found these UltraFine porous point pens, which came in a 3-pack for – you guessed it – one dollar.

As expected, the Promarx doesn’t exactly provide a premium experience. It has a fully plastic body with a cheap clip, which easily bends out of shape. The black and gray design is plain and boring, but it gets the job done. The ink is dark and fills in areas well. The line it puts down isn’t as crisp as more premium porous points, but it’s definitely adequate for daily use.

For roughly 34 cents per pen, the Promarx UltraFine is a pretty good deal. More mainstream brands that make porous points, like Sharpie or BIC, often sell them for 3 times the price. This makes Promarx UltraFine a good budget buy.

Looking Ahead to 2020

I think it’s fair to say that 2019, for me, was crazy busy. Here are a few of my yearly highlights: I ran the Chicago Marathon, traveled to Thailand, built a computer, got obsessed with Apex Legends, and, last but not least, I got married! I had an amazing year, but it unfortunately didn’t leave me with a lot of time to dedicate to this blog.

Still, I managed to pump out 19 posts. which included a book review, a couple of off-topic blogs, and even a pencil review. My most popular post of the year was a review of the IKEA Fullfölja from back in January 2018. That’s a good pen, but as for my 2019 Pen of the Year, I have to go with a recent purchase, the Lamy Safari Ballpoint, which just has a great design.

For 2020, as usual, I have a few goals:

  1. Publish at least 20 posts. Among them, I’d like to do another off-topic blog because I have a lot of fun writing those, and I’d like to complete another book review or two as well.
  2. Post an increase in page views. I was down again this year by 15%, and I think I can do better.
  3. Do something for charity with this blog. This is something I’ve been meaning to do every year, but it always manages to get away from me.

Fortunately, life will continue to be busy for me. I’ll be traveling a lot this year (for my honeymoon, for a destination wedding, and I’ll also be headed to Berlin to run the marathon). And we can’t forget that there will be another U.S. Presidential Election in 2020, which I’m sure will be exciting (in ways good and bad).

I’m also looking forward to the Tokyo Summer Olympics, as well as the new James Bond movie set to be released in April, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the new Bill & Ted movie. Oh, and I’m totally going to get one of those Playstation 5s when they come out.

This upcoming year has the potential to be a great one, and I wish the best to you all for 2020!