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.
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.
As Amazon.com has become more and more successful, they’ve also been the target of more and more criticism, and the AmazonBasics line of products (Amazon’s “house brand“) is no exception. But whether we’re talking about batteries, power cables, kitchenware, or whatever, I’ve had good experiences with AmazonBasics as a consumer. So, when I saw that Amazon started selling their own retractable gel pens, I had to give them a shot.
Currently, Amazon doesn’t offer many options with these pens. They come in two colors, black or blue, and two sizes, 0.7mm or 0.5mm. The price fluctuates, but they seem to hover around the $6 mark for a pack of 12, which is pretty good for a “premium plastic” style gel pen. For comparison, the Pilot G2 (the most popular pen in this category) is usually double that price.
Since the AmazonBasics gel so much less expensive than its competitors, I’d expected a sharp decrease in quality, but everything has worked well for me over the last month that I’ve been using these pens. They write clean with low smearing, the ink is dark, and the grip section is comfortable to hold. I’ve had no issues with ink leaking, the knock hasn’t jammed, and the plastic clip has so far resisted snapping off.
So, if you’ve not sworn off Amazon after one or more of the company’s controversies, then I have to recommend this pen on its price point alone. It’s not my favorite “premium plastic” gel, but I’ll be happy to keep a box of these in my desk for anyone that comes along asking to borrow a pen. But if you dislike or Amazon, or if the price ever rises, then check out the Zebra Sarasa – it is uncannily similar.
The Poketo Linework gel pen has one great thing going for it: it looks pretty cool. This retractable pen comes in 5 different designs that each have a distinct architectural look to them. And the “B+W Patterns” design – the one that I picked for myself – reminds me of a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper costume.
The Linework has a thick barrel, making reasonably comfortable to hold, and the gel ink is fairly dark with a low smear. The refill itself is generic (the only marking reads “375-217”), and no ball size is listed anywhere – though, to my eye, it seems to be 0.5mm. But, oddly, Poketo’s website says the pen is refillable with a Zebra Styluspen LV, which is a 1.0mm ballpoint refill.
None of this really matters much, however, because the pen is made so cheaply that it isn’t worth purchasing. The barrel is entirely plastic, the clip is flimsy (mine broke off the first day I used it), the refill is small, and, in the pen I have, it’s also slightly leaky. If this were a 50 cent pen, I might understand, but Poketo is currently selling these for $4 each (or $18 for all five designs).
Cool designs or not, these pens just aren’t worth that price for the little value and use that you’ll get out of them.
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).
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.