After my bad experience with the Inc R-2 rollerball pen, I wasn’t expecting much from the Inc Forma. After all, it does look like a cheap, ballpoint version of the Pilot G-2, and it’s primarily sold at The Dollar Tree. But after using it for bit, I was quickly and pleasantly surprised.
At $1 for a 3-pack, you’re definitely not getting a premium experience with the Forma. The pen is entirely made of plastic, the clip feels very flimsy, and the rubber grip is best described as “soft-ish.” But putting pen to paper, the ballpoint ink in this pen is surprisingly smooth. It doesn’t require much pressure to use, making it a decent writing experience.
On the negative side, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and there’s a small issue with blobbing and smearing. But, really, I don’t have any criticisms that are harsh given that it’s such an inexpensive pen. I’d prefer it over a cheaper BIC ballpoint any day.
Of course, I’d never suggest that anyone go out of their way to buy a pack. The Forma is not, by any means, a great pen. But if you happen to be in need of some cheap ballpoints while at a dollar store, then this is a fine choice.
If you’ve heard of the company Skilcraft, it’s probably for two reasons. First, it’s the manufacturer of the U.S. Government Pen, a low-cost, professional-looking ballpoint that also happens to be very reliable. And second, it’s held in high regard by the National Industries for the Blind for employing scores of blind workers in their manufacturing facilities. Skilcraft is a good company, and so I was interested in trying another of the their well-known pens, the stealthy-looking B3 Aviator multi-pen.
As the pen’s name makes obvious, the B3 Aviator is marketed towards pilots. It meets the FAA’s “FOD” requirements, and it has a matte black finish to prevent glare. The multi-pen has three components: a 1.0mm black ballpoint, a 1.0mm red ballpoint, and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. The midpoint of the barrel twists in either direction to eject and retract the three tips in turn, and the end-cap also screws off to reveal an eraser.
Oddly, the design and function of the B3 Aviator is pretty much identical to the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. So, it probably goes without saying that the problems I had with the Sharbo are the same problems I have with the Aviator. In particular, there’s no indication on the barrel for which tip is selected (you have to closely examine the tip to know if you’re about to write with black ink/red ink/pencil), and the cap that covers the eraser is a small piece that’s begging to be lost. For some reason, I also had some trouble getting the Aviator’s pencil lead to eject without breaking.
But, unlike the Sharbo, the Aviator feels a lot more substantial and durable – for about $18, you don’t feel like you’re getting ripped off. But that’s all that this pen really has going for it. The refills are fine, and it generally works okay. However, I still wouldn’t recommend this multi-pen – the design just isn’t very good.
Shopping at IKEA can actually be pretty fun. The size and layout of these stores essentially make it a day trip; one full of poor attempts to pronounce Swedish words, small arguments about kitchen decor, and tasty meatball lunches. As I cut through the stationery department on my most recent visit, I found stacks of gel pens with the name Fullfölja – I told you that this stuff is hard to pronounce – and grabbed a 3-pack without hesitation because, well, why not? Impulse buying is an IKEA staple.
As you’d expect from an IKEA design, the pen is simple and straightforward. It’s about 5.5-inches long with an all-black, rounded barrel and a short cap. There is no clip, and the pen is not refillable. For the tip, I couldn’t find any sizing information, but the pen produces a fairly thick line. So I’d wager that the tip size is about 1.0mm. With such a thick line, the ink does smear easily, but it also produces a satisfyingly dark, black ink.
I’ll admit that there’s no shortage of gel pens that, for a similar price, are better than the Fullfölja , but strangely, I like these pens a lot. The design of the pen captures the IKEA brand so perfectly that using one gives me a small hit of the fun/stressful rush you get while shopping at an IKEA. They remind me of the Baron Fig Squire, albeit a plastic version, which I don’t really mind losing if it happens to roll off my table at a coffee shop.
I’m certainly not going to encourage anybody to go out of their way to find these pens, and the prices I’ve found online are ridiculous. But if you happen across these during your next IKEA visit, you might as well toss a 3-pack in your bag for $2.50. I think they’re worth it.
In most aspects the BIC Bu3 Grip is a standard, if not slightly-below-average, ballpoint pen. The ink flow is on the sluggish side, it has a tendency to skip in and out while writing, and there’s more ink blobbing and smearing than one should expect from a $1 pen. On these points alone, I’d hesitate to recommend this pen to anyone, but there’s a little button on the side of the BU3 that pushes it into the “I’d never want to pick this pen up ever again” category.
The button, located near the clip, acts as a retracting mechanism. The tip still ejects by clicking a knock at the top of the pen, like you’d typically expect, but you can only retract the pen’s tip by pushing the button. Why? The Bu3’s packaging states that it’s “for added convenience,” but it really isn’t convenient at all. I’ve seen similar retracting mechanisms that actually do serve some purpose – the Pilot Down Force comes to mind – but the Bu3’s retracting mechanism is, at best, mildly annoying.
Really, I’m having trouble finding good things to say about this pen. The grip is somewhat comfortable, I guess, but that’s hardly redeemable. So, unless you have no other options, my suggestion is to just avoid the BIC Bu3 Grip.
While there’s a huge variety to Paper Mate’s line of Inkjoy pens, the Inkjoy 550RT is the only one which is “designed for fun.” At least, that’s according to Paper Mate’s marketing department. In reality, however, there’s nothing that’s exactly “fun” about the 550RT, but it still manages to be a decent, disposable ballpoint pen.
Really, the design of the Inkjoy 550RT is nice but also relatively plain. Each end of the barrel is covered with a rubbery grip that narrows towards the pen’s middle, creating a very subtle and relatively comfortable hourglass shape. It has faux-chrome accents, a sturdy clip, and a clicker that’s reliable, though not terribly robust.
The ballpoint ink is surprisingly smooth and smear-free, and it dries darker than what you’d find with a cheaper ballpoint. Although it’s not quite up there with the Pilot Acroball or uni-ball Jetstream, it’s still a worthwhile product if you’re looking to buy a handful of ballpoints for only a few bucks. Only, you should be sure that your expectation for “fun” isn’t set too high.