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.

Review: Spiffy Lab Carbon Fiber G2 Pen, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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Originally crowdfunded on Kickstarter to the tune of $23,181, the Carbon Fiber G2 Pen by Spiffy Lab is a monster. Its long, rotund barrel reminds me of a Maglite, and its machined-aluminum and carbon fiber body makes it look like something that ought to be stored in a tool bench. On seeing it, I was enamored, and I didn’t think twice before throwing $25 at the Kickstarter campaign so that I could secure a pen for myself.

When I received the pen a while later, I quickly discovered that the Carbon Fiber G2 Pen isn’t really an item I can use on an everyday basis. I should have known better; it’s really too large to comfortably fit in a pocket. Moreover, the cap screws on and off, requiring three full, squeaky rotations. And to make things a little more difficult, the cap doesn’t post to the end of the pen, and the clip juts out much too far for most practical purposes – though you can remove it with a hex wrench if you’d be okay with no clip at all.

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On the positive side, I find the thick barrel fairly comfortable to write with, and I especially like the carbon fiber texture. If there’s one lesson I take away from this pen, it’s that carbon fiber should be used more often. And given its size, it weighs less than you might expect, though anyone with smaller hands might still have some trouble. Also, as indicated by the pen’s name, it includes a 0.5mm Pilot G-2 refill, which shouldn’t dry out if left uncapped for an extended period of time. However, the refill included with my pen seems to be a dud – it skips in and out a lot. Luckily, G-2 refills are easy to replace, as they are available nearly everywhere, in many sizes and colors.

While the Carbon Fiber G2 Pen probably isn’t sensible for most situations, I still like it. Though, honestly, I probably wont get much use from it. But for those that might be interested in this gargantuan pen, it looks like you can still order one through the Spiffy Lab website for $55. That’s a markup from the Kickstarter campaign, but it will at least feel like you’re getting something substantial for the money.

Review: TUL Retractable, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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If you find yourself doing some back-to-school shopping at Office Depot, OfficeMax, or any subsidiary thereof, then you’ll probably spot some of the company’s TUL brand of pens. There’s actually a whole TUL family, which includes ballpoints, rollerballs, and mechanical pencils. But, of course, I was drawn to the TUL retractable gel pen – it has a needle point, a 0.5mm tip, and is exactly the sort of pen I typically like for daily use.

The look of the pen is right on. The black and gray fade on the barrel looks pretty cool, and the TUL logo right in the middle is simple and bold. I even like the demonstrator-ish look of the knock and the plastic, black accent on the clip. Although, in hand it feels a little cheaper than it looks. The aforementioned clip seems a bit flimsy, and the rubber grip could use a little extra cushion.

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In terms of performance, the TUL retractable is good but not great. Its gel ink is dark and smooth with minimal smearing, though I had some issue with ink flow consistency. It sometimes fluctuated between finer and heavier lines, but this happened to only be an occasional problem.

Overall, it doesn’t fall on the top of the “retractable gel pen” heap alongside my favorites (e.g. the Energel Deluxe RTX and the uni-ball Signo 207), but I do like it nonetheless  If these go on sale after the back-to-school shopping season, then I might just have to pick up a couple more packs.

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