Review: Zebra 301A, Ballpoint, 0.7mm

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There isn’t much I can say about the Zebra 301A that I havent already said about the Zebra F-301. The only difference between the two is that the 301A has an aluminum barrel in place of the F-301’s stainless steel barrel. Other than that, the grip, the ink refill, the clip, and the retracting mechanism are all exactly the same.

I had expected aluminum to make for a lighter pen, but the weight seems to be about even with the stainless steel F-301. And while the 301A barrel is ever-so-slightly thicker (which makes it ever-so-slightly more comfortable to hold), it’s hardly a noteworthy difference. Neither pen offers a particularly comfortable writing experience.

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On the bright side, the 301A comes in four decorative barrel colors not available for the F-301: blue, maroon, grey, and gold. The maroon, in particular, looks great, and for this reason alone, I’d be more likely to grab a 301A if it were sitting side-by-side with an F-301. Still, I wouldn’t go out of my way for either pen, but if you’re already a fan of the F-301, it might be worth your while to check out the Zebra 301A.

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Review: Zebra Sarasa, Gel Pen, 0.5mm

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The Zebra Sarasa, like the BIC Velocity Gel and the Pilot G-2, is a gel ink pen with a clear barrel and black trim. It’s a style of pen which I call “premium plastic,” a very standard (and somewhat boring) design found on most store shelves. It is, however, still an upgrade from the average pen found in the office supply closet.

Sarasa, G-2, and Velocity Gel

The Sarasa is a nice pen overall. It smears only a little, writes consistently, has a comfortable grip, and a rich dark ink. At the end of the day, it’s a pen that will get the job done.

Still, the Sarasa just isn’t a pen that stands out along side a sea of similar options. There’s really no reason to go out of your way to get one. And if you find it on a store shelf next to a Pilot G-2, then you might as well pick out whichever one is cheaper.

Zebra Sarasa Review

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Review: Zebra F-301 Compact, Ballpoint Pen, 0.7mm

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At a measly 5-inches, nobody could criticize the original Zebra F-301 for being a large pen. But in case you find yourself in a situation where every inch counts, Zebra has produced the F-301 Compact, a version measuring only 3.75 inches. The Compact retains the original aesthetic of stainless steel and hard, black plastic, but it otherwise feels like a much different pen.

To achieve this extra-small size, Zebra has created a rather clever design which uses the standard 0.7mm F-301 ballpoint refills, but replaces the original retracting mechanism with a cap. When the cap is on, the pen can be stowed in its 3.75-inch form, but when the cap is posted to the end of the pen, it creates a 5-inch writing instrument. It’s certainly a small, durable design, but it’s unfortunately much more uncomfortable to write with – and comfort wasn’t the F-301’s strong suit to begin with.

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Really, don’t plan on using the F-301 Compact for anything more than jotting down a few notes here and there. The cap posts to the end of the pen loosely, so it tends to twist and slide while writing, and though the extra-large clip is very sturdy, it really just gets in the way. If, on the other hand, you decide to write with the cap off to the side, you’ll find that the pen is too small and unbalanced.

Such a small pen is a neat idea, and I’m sure there are some situations where it might be useful. Most of the time, however, it isn’t worth using such an uncomfortable pen. Instead, either stick with the original F-301 or try a Tombow Airpress for a much more comfortable writing experience.

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Colors Review: Zebra F-301 Assorted (Blue, Red, and Green)

(note: this is a review of the Zebra F-301 color pack; click here for the full review of the Zebra F-301)

The Zebra F-301 is a very utilitarian pen, and so it’s no surprise that the only colors offered are pretty standard: black, blue, red, and green. The colors aren’t exactly eye-popping, and the lack of variety isn’t great for an artist. But if you already use and enjoy an F-301, these other colors might come in handy for taking notes or marking up papers.

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Each color pen has trim matching the inside ink, and though I like the black trim against the stainless steel, I feel that the other colors make the F-301 look a little cheaper. I’d be happy with a more subtle color indicator, perhaps only the print on the barrel and the color on the top of the knock/clicker.

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All in all, not a bad set of pens if you’re already happy with your standard black Zebra F-301.

Review: Zebra F-301, Ballpoint Pen, 0.7mm

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There was a time when the Zebra F-301 was my every-day pen, and having returned to it, I remember why I liked it so much. The steel barrel with the black, plastic trim looks cool. The balance and weight is perfect for its size. And the retracting click mechanism feels substantial and solid. Yes, I’m certainly fond of the F-301, but much like speaking with an old girlfriend, I also remember why I’ve moved on.

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The F-301 is a ballpoint pen, and as such it requires a firm hand to write with. This attribute, combined with its relatively thin and short barrel, makes the F-301 very difficult to write with at any length. It’s great for jotting down quick little notes, but be prepared for hand cramps after more than a full page.

The F-301 is a durable pen, and it will keep well if you want to throw it in your bag, backpack, or car. The fact that it’s slim makes it a great pocket-pen too. But if you plan on writing more than a couple sentences at a time, you’ll want to look for something more comfortable to hold.

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