Review: BIC Round Stic, Ballpoint, 0.8mm


For better or worse, I’ve probably used the BIC Round Stic more than any other pen. It’s usually the pen you’re handed to sign checks at restaurants, the pen you’ll find in office supply cabinets, and the pen your friend is likely to have knocking around in her purse or pocket. And the reason for the Round Stic’s wild success is no mystery; these pens are incredibly inexpensive.

About as close to a “dime-a-dozen” pen that you can get.

Really, I’ve seen sixty-count boxes of Round Stic pens on sale for under five dollars, which is less than 10 cents per pen. This is why the BIC Round Stic is the darling of office managers around the country. But how well do these pens actually function?

Well, the ink smears a little, and it feels somewhat sluggish on paper. The thin, plastic barrel is uncomfortable to write with for longer periods of time. It also looks and feels cheap and flimsy. But what can you really expect from a ten-cent pen? At this price-point, nobody is buying these pens for the quality. Still, they manage to get the job done.


Nib Novice, Part 1 – The Pilot VPen

Fountain pens, frankly, are intimidating. For someone like me who’s never used one, they seem a bit finicky and archaic. Learning to become a fountain pen user seems almost like learning to drive stick or learning how to ferment homemade vinegar. There are fervent advocates for all these practices, but to an outsider, they seem like they might be more trouble than they’re worth. So why bother?

Type “why use a fountain pen?” into Google, and you’ll be met with a host of reasons listed on various websites and blogs.  Unfortunately, most of these reasons just don’t speak to me. For example, a blog at oPENions describes how fountain pens can be great for left-handed writers, but I’m not a lefty. A blog at Writer’s Bloc does a great job of explaining how fountain pens are good for people with weak wrists, carpel tunnel, or hand-cramping issues, but none of these are problems for me. A post at Goulet Pens even mentions that fountain pens can save you money in the long run, though if this were a major concern, it would be cheaper for me just to swipe ballpoints from bank lobbies.

For me, there’s only one reason that makes sense. All of those blogs touch on it in one way or another, but I think blogger Ed Jelly puts it best: “Maybe it’s the inner pen geek speaking, but I find it fascinating that there are several parts and either a steel or gold piece of pointed metal that deliver ink to page. Capillary action draws ink from the internal reservoir through a feed to regulate the flow, all the way to the tip of the pen… Different pens have different filling systems and clear pens (called ‘demonstrators’) let you see all the inner workings. Tell me that isn’t more interesting than your standard ballpoint?!” In other words, fountain pens are just kind of neat.

So, in order to learn about fountain pens and decided for myself whether they’re worth the trouble, I’m starting this new series of posts to explore them. Because fountain pens come in a wide range of varieties – different types of nibs, ink refill systems, barrel materials, etc –  I intend to look at a broad spectrum. And I’m beginning with the simplest fountain pen on the market, the Pilot VPen.

At $2.60, the Vpen is also probably the cheapest fountain pen you’ll find on the market, and it definitely looks the part. Its body is light and made of plastic, It’s non-refillable, and entirely disposable. Still, it was fun to use, and surprisingly smooth.

Of course, nobody would consider this a great pen. The ink flow skips in and out occasionally, and it bleeds through paper fairly easily. A decent gel pen beats it any day, but it nevertheless has me looking forward to trying another fountain pen. And perhaps next time I’ll spend  few more dollars.

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Review: Jot Roller-Tip, Rollerball Pen, 0.5mm


Though it serves little other purpose, the Jot Roller-Tip rollerball is a good example of why people should care, at least a little, about purchasing a decent pen. After all, it’s the sort of pen that typically doesn’t warrant a second thought. It is very inexpensive, it looks nice enough, and it even has a relatively fine, 0.5mm tip . But even for the dollar or two I paid for a 3-pack, these pens are really just a waste of money.

The Jot Roller-Tip is probably one of the more inconsistent pens I’ve ever written with. Thick lines, thin lines, or no lines, you never know what you’re going to get when you put this pen to paper. It’s scratchy and rough to write with, the clip is flimsy, and the plastic end of the barrel even pops off when it clearly shouldn’t. Throw this pen in a backpack or purse at your own peril.

Uh… I don’t think that’s supposed to just pop off like that.

On the positive side, the ink is quick-drying and, though it lacks a soft-grip section, it’s certainly comfortable enough for most uses. Still, it’s not enough to make a difference. The bottom line is that the Jot Roller-Tip is just not worth your money – no matter how little they’ll charge.


Review: BIC Intensity, Porous Point, 0.5mm


To date, one of my favorite pens has been the Sharpie Pen. It’s relatively inexpensive, comfortable to write with, and it has a porous point tip that delivers crisp, clear lines. Every other porous point pen has had to measure up to the Sharpie Pen, and many, like the Sakura Pigma Micron and the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, have come very close. But for one reason or another, I always go back to the Sharpie Pen.

And then there was the BIC Intensity.


It’s not that the BIC Intensity is much different from the sharpie Pen. In fact, it’s very similar in most ways. The length and thickness are about the same, they are both fully disposable, and they both contain a nice-quality ink (perhaps the Sharpie Pen’s ink is even a bit darker). But the Intensity edges out the Sharpie Pen for one reason; it has a more durable build.

Holding the two pens together, it’s easy to see and feel. The BIC Intensity has a thicker cap with a metal clip. The plastic construction seems harder, and it feels ever-so-slightly heavier. All of this makes the Intensity better for throwing in a pocket, backpack, or bag – perhaps only slightly, but enough to make a noticeable difference.

I still like the Sharpie Pen, and I have no doubt that I’ll continue to use and recommend it. However, it’s the BIC Intensity that I’ll reach for first.


Extra Links

  • Rhonda Eudaly’s review points out that the porous tip will break down over time. Though, that’s true for all of these porous point pens.
  • A review at Well Appointed Desk shows off some of the colors. Also, she has a paragraph at the end about why you might choose the Intensity over the Sakura Pigma Micron or Sharpie Pen, but overall she says the performance is very comparable.
  • My favorite line from the Pen Addict review: “Overall, there aren’t any standout negatives, which is a rarity coming from Bic.”


Review: SKB Roller Tip, Rollerball Ink, 0.5mm


It might just be the large Asain characters splayed across its barrel, but I really enjoy using the SKB Roller Tip rollerball pen. After all, it’s difficult to point to anything that makes it stand out. It’s not a particularly durable or fancy pen – the body is mostly plastic with a cheap-ish cap –  but I can say that the Roller Tip is definitely a solid performer.

The SKB Roller Tip lays down consistent lines, has a rich black ink, and is moderately comfortable to hold. The ink does smears some, though not excessively for a rollerball pen. Overall, it might be the best disposable rollerball pen I’ve reviewed so far. It’s better than the uni-ball Air or the BIC Triumph 537R for sure, but it’s not as if the SKB Roller Tip blows those pens out of the water.


As with SKBs other products (e.g. the Soft Ink SB-1000, the Click Ball, and the V6), you’ll need to find the Roller Tip online if you want to purchase it in the U.S. And it might be even be worth hunting down. Just be sure not to expect anything beyond what it is; a good disposable pen.