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 “premiumplastic” competitors, 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.
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.
While visiting the Somjai stationery store in Thailand earlier this year, I only purchased two pens. The first was the uni-ball Laknock (you can read that review here), and the second was this, the Faber-Castell 1423 Ball Pen. At 10 Thai Baht (about $1 USD), it’s not an expensive or fancy pen, but what drew me to it was the Faber-Castell name, which is primarily known to me as a high quality pencil manufacturer. As it turns out, they do manufacture plenty of pens as well, and so I was looking forward to trying one out.
Well, the 1423 doesn’t scream “premium quality” with its looks. The design is simple, and its body is entirely plastic. Probably the first thing I noticed was that the cap secures and posts very tightly. But when I got to writing with it, the overall experience was pretty good. The ink goes down dark and smooth, and it produces a clean line. However, the ink is also quite wet and will smear if you don’t give it a few extra seconds to dry.
Oddly, the 1423 feels more like a liquid ink (rollerball) pen than a ballpoint, which traditionally use oil-based inks that don’t tend to smear very much. Regardless, I like this pen, and I’ll find some use for it. But I wouldn’t suggest going all the way to a Thai stationery store to get one. A pen like the Pilot Acroball will provide a similar writing experience.
I wasn’t planning to visit any stationery stores during a recent vacation to Thailand. But one afternoon, as temperatures in Chiang Mai rose to over 100ºF, we took shelter in the MAYA Shopping Center where I spotted a storefront loaded with the good stuff. The shop, I later learned, is a Thai chain called Somjai, which is full of all sorts of cool stationery and art supplies.
Unprepared and slightly overwhelmed, I didn’t end up buying much while I was there, but one item that caught my attention was this uni-ball Laknock ballpoint. I’ve reviewed a lot of uni-ball products on this blog, but I’ve never heard of the Laknock before. And, honestly, I kind of just liked the product’s name.
The Laknock is a retractable ballpoint, and it was priced at 30 Thai Baht (about $1 USD). It has a comfortable, rubbery grip and a body that is constructed with plastic. Overall, the look is very similar to your run-of-the-mill Pilot G-2. It seems to come in multiple tip sizes, but I went for the smallest one I could find at 0.5mm. For a ballpoint, this tip size feels very fine, though I do like it. However, like most ballpoints, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and I’ve experienced the occasional blobbing and smearing.
For a dollar, the Laknok is a nice ballpoint, but there’s nothing that really sets it apart from any other ballpoint you’d find for a dollar. It’s rather generic, and there’s little to say beyond that. So, if you find yourself at a stationery shop in Thailand, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up one of these ballpoints. But, otherwise, you’re not missing too much.
It must have been some combination of boredom and curiosity that led me to order this 5-pack of Classmate Octane gel pens (or, as it turned out, five 1-packs). The Classmate brand is entirely new to me, and I’m not sure that the company actually sells anything in the United States. But I did stumble across these Octane pens on eBay, and at a little over 50 cents per pen, I thought I’d roll the dice. Who knows? Maybe I’d discover the next great gel pen.
With it’s stealthy, black body and high-powered name, the Octane certainly seems cool on the surface. Other positives: it’s a smooth writer and produces a nice, dark ink, but the “Japanese Waterproof Ink,” as Classmate promotes it, does like to smear. And, as one might expect from the price, the all-plastic construction does feel a bit cheap. It has a flimsy clip, and the rubber grip section slides around.
Classmate, a subsidiary of the Indian conglomerate ITC Limited (formerly known as The Indian Tobacco Company), probably sells these pens for practically nothing in India. And if you live in that part of the world, it may be worth getting some of these pens for casual use. It is an adequate gel pen after all, but my verdict is that it’s not something worth importing from across the ocean.