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.
One year ago, Vanness Pens and Retro 51 collaborated to create the first “Artist Series” Tornado, designed by Joey Feldman, and it remains one of my favorite pens for its unique barrel design. Whenever artists are brought into the world of stationery, interesting and one-of-a-kind products are almost always produced. So when Vanness tapped California artist Bioworkz (Ben Kwok) to create the second “Artist Series” Tornado, I was excited and ultimately blown away by the result.
This edition’s barrel design features a trio of flying owls in a style that is reminiscent of henna body art, and two color schemes of the artwork were created as options for purchase: one blue/red, the other orange/turquoise. Overall, these may be the most beautifully designed Retro 51 Tornados I’ve seen. Additionally, the design is ever-so-slightly raised on the barrel, creating a texture that feels good to hold.
Aside from the difference in the art’s color scheme, there are few other differences between the two versions. The blue/red version comes with dark gray metal accents, whereas the orange/turquoise’s metal accents are a made to look weathered. The inset disc at the top of the twist mechanism also differs in color between the two versions, and the blue/red version comes with a signed and numbered print – hence why it costs an extra $20. The pens themselves are also individually numbered, and a total of 500 pens were produced (250 of each color scheme).
So far, the Retro 51 Tornado Artist Series has been great. Besides that, there’s not much more to say, except that I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.
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.
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.
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.
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.