Review: Muji Smooth Writing, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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Since Muji has only a handful of retail locations in the United States, I make sure to visit whenever I’m in proximity to one. So when I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, I hit up their SoHo location and picked up a few fresh Muji pens, including this $1.50 gel. If you know Muji, then you’re probably familiar with the company’s “no-brand” products. Unlike your BIC Cristals and Pilot G2s, this pen doesn’t really have a name, but it’s simply referred to as a “Smooth Writing Gel Pen.”  Though there’s a little bit more to it than that.

Unlike the standard Muji gel pen I sometimes see in the wild, this pen is retractable and has a handy spring-loaded clip. It has a good, dark gel ink that doesn’t smear too much, and as the name suggests, it is a smooth writer. It is also a reliable writer, so you wont be bothered by ink that skips out. If you’ve ever used a Zebra Sarasa Clip, this pen will feel very familiar (in fact, it’s likely that Zebra clandestinely produces this pen for Muji).

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My only complaint with Muji’s Smooth Writing pen is that I don’t really like the grip section – the rubber grip has an odd “pencil eraser” feel to it. Though, admittedly, this doesn’t bother me so much as to make me stop using the pen.

If you’re going to be at a Muji store any time soon, then maybe grab one or two of these on your way to the check-out. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a decent gel pen with a spring loaded clip, then it’ll probably be easier to find a Zebra Sarasa Clip instead. You’ll hardly notice the difference anyway.

 

Review: Zebra Sarasa Grand, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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It seems that when a gel pen reaches a certain threshold of populairty, it inevitably gets a metallic upgrade: Pentel created an “alloy” version of their Energel, Pilot turned their blockbuster G-2 into the G-2 Limited, and now Zebra has made a “Grand” version of their Sarasa. The barrel of the Sarasa Grand is made of brass, and, as you’d expect, it’s a hefty pen. It is bottom-heavy in particular, so it only takes a light touch to get the ink flowing.

Additionally, the Sarasa Grand has a spring-hinged clip that allows it to clip to thicker notebooks, and doing so more securely.  Perceptive readers might note that Zebra makes another version of the Sarasa with a spring-hinged clip called, obviously, the Sarasa Clip. But the clip isn’t the only similarity between the two pens. Both the Sarasa Grand and the Sarsa Clip include the “Zebra JF” refill, whereas the standard Sarasa uses the “Zebra JLV” refill. The “JF” refill is darker and smoother than the “JLV” refill, so including it with the Sarasa Grand was a good choice by Zebra.

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The barrel comes in four colors: black, navy, pink, or (my choice) gold. There’s also a great accent on top of the knock (a little plastic jewel), and a window underneath the clip that is supposed to allow for a view of the refill’s ink level. However, the view is so limited that we’ll just have to call it a decorative window. Additionally, there are grooves on the grip section that do a good job of increasing friction, which will help to prevent your fingers from slipping while writing.

Generally I really like the Sarasa Grand, though that comes with one major caveat: the lever of the spring-hinged clip extends way too far above the barrel. It sounds like a small complaint, but this lever gets in the way whenever I try to click the pen. Similarly, if you ever click your pen upside-down on a desk, it’s not possible here – the clip blocks you.

If this sounds like a silly complaint, then definitely get yourself a Sarasa Grand. Everything else about this pen is good. But for me, this clip issue is annoying – not enough to make me hate this pen, but enough that it’ll probably end up collecting dust in a pen cup.

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Review: Foray Stylemark, Porous Point, 0.5mm

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Ever since the Sharpie Pen began to grow in popularity, it seems like porous point pens have eaten up more and more shelf space. This, honestly, comes as no surprise to me; porous points, even the super cheap ones, tend to write very crisp and clean lines. They make handwriting noticeably nicer and neater.

The Foray Stylemark is definitely among the better porous points out on the market. It has a plastic barrel and cap, but comes with a sturdy clip and a rubber grip. It looks nice, but it’s nothing flashy. Still, it’s a step up from its competitors, which often have short caps, crummy clips, and no grip section to speak of.

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In fact, I think I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Stylemark has ousted the BIC Intensity to become my new favorite porous point pen. The only issue: Foray is an Office Depot house brand. So you’re unlikely to find it outside of that company’s stores. But if you are a fan of porous point pens then it might be worth making the trip.

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Review: Sunacme Classical Press, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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I’ve used many pens in the past that are nearly identical to the Sunacme Classical Press. It’s a pen that falls into a category I refer to as “premium plastic.” These premium plastic pens typically have clear bodies, black trim, use gel ink, and run in the $1-$2 price range. Think Pilot G-2, the BIC Gelocity, or the Zebra Sarasa. You’ll find no shortage of premium plastic pens at any convenience store, drug store, or big box store. In fact, I have plenty of these premium plastic pens floating around my apartment, but I was still driven to pick up a pack of these Classical Press pens because their slick, curvy design caught my eye.

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Besides aesthetics, the Classic press has a comfortable, rubbery grip, and gel ink that produces a respectably dark, low-smear line. Unfortunately, this is all undercut by the fact that the refill skips out much, much to frequently. When using a classic press, a scratch pad and patience for re-writing letters/words are both must-haves. I had initially hoped it was just one bad refill – a dud – but all the pens in the 18-pack I bought have this same problem.

At 60 cents per pen, the Classical Press was significantly less expensive than most other premium plastics, but it’s still not worth it for what is ultimately a frustrating writing experience. If you want a nice gel pen in the 1 or 2 dollar range, you’re better off just sticking with the Pilot G-2 or, even better, a uni-ball Signo 207. Just be sure to steer clear of the Classical Press – a slick design is no substitute for a poor refill.

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Review: Pilot Couleur, Ballpoint, 0.5mm


At just over 3.5″ in length and weighing less than one-third of an ounce, the Pilot Couleur is certainly a tiny fellow. But tiny can also mean mighty – the Couleur is a durable pen with metal trim, a solid clip, and vigorous clicker. It is also wrapped in a matte finish that gives the barrel a nice texture.

As the pen’s name (sort-of) indicates, there are a bunch of color options available for the barrel, but the Couleur only includes a black ballpoint refill. The ink flows out sharp and smooth, though it’s not particularly dark. The refill is slightly above average on the whole, but nowhere near Pilot’s own Acroball ink.

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Due to its size, the Couleur probably shouldn’t be used for tasks that require a lot of writing. It just isn’t comfortable for anything longer than a sentence. Rather, it would work best as a datebook companion or an ‘everyday carry’ pen, as it will easily slip inside a pocket or purse.

Overall, it’s a reliable little pen that can definitely take some abuse.