Pilot Metropolitan Review

In the world of fountain pens, there are a few rock stars. There’s timeless classics like the Parker 51, mid priced fantasms like the Parker Sonnet, ubiquitous school pens like the Lamy Safari, and there are inexpensive heros like this pen, the Pilot Metropolitan. The Metropolitan exists in a world where the fountain pen is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and also increasingly a status item…I don’t really know where I’m going with this.

The Metropolitan is a new pen from Pilot (as in only a couple years old), and it’s been making waves. In the fountain pen community, people are talking about this pen as much as (if not more than) any other pen out there, and that’s for two reasons: it’s cheap, and it’s good. Not just cheap good, but real life normal good.

I bought this pen brand new for $15 from Todd “isellpens” Nussbaum (where I was mostly going to look for a Hero pen I wanted to buy (also, Phoenix represent!)) on a whim. That’s a nice feeling. And it’s bloody good. Let’s get into it.

Appearance: 9/10. As we can see above, this is a classic, inoffensive pen shape with classic, inoffensive pen accents. When closed, it has a nice little chrome metal ring around where the body and the cap meet. That’s nice. Then, right next to it, you have a little accent ring. It doesn’t look like much in the above photo because it isn’t much. In some pens, it’s just a slick shiny plastic section that contrasts with the brushed metal section of the rest of the pen. However, the Pilot isn’t just available in boring black.

My goodness. Look at those bad mothers. Image from Jetpens.

This pen comes in some cool colours! Silver, gold, black, white, and…purple. That one’s a little weird. Who would buy purple?

Well, you caught me. I bought the purple one.

Well, you caught me. I bought the purple one.

I’m not personally a fan of the leopard spots in the accent ring here, it’s a little too Kardashian, but the colour is very cool. I don’t have any pens like this, I normally go for a flighter look, and colours aren’t usually something that makes me happy since they are typically paired with pens that are plastic and ugly, or the colour is put in an assload of lacquer. This one still has some paint on it, but the metal is clearly felt underneath. Now, about that inset.

Oh, sorry, that’s the cover of Dollhouse, the book “written” by the Kardashians.

Let’s try that again.

As we can see here, the texture on the plastic ring is beveled. You can actually FEEL the leopard spots. It's very nice.

As we can see here, the texture on the plastic ring is beveled. You can actually FEEL the leopard spots. It’s very nice.

So, while I enjoy the colour far more than the inset, it’s well done enough that I don’t mind. It might be more attractive to some of the opposite gender. The nib, though, is attractive to anyone.

Normally, fountain pen nibs for these inexpensive fountain pens are wildly dull. Nothing going on, nothing to look at. And, if you’re trying to impress the guy across the table, he’s looking at that nib saying “what the hell?” so I like a little bit of celebration there. Here are a few examples of how to do it wrong.

Boring Lamy nib. This pen costs $25. This comes from a Lamy Safari, a pen I've had before. It was stunningly mediocre, borderline bad.

Boring Lamy nib. This pen costs $25. This comes from a Lamy Safari, a pen I’ve had before. It was stunningly mediocre, borderline bad. But, this nib is used on MANY of Lamy’s pens which cost much much more.

Boring Parker nib. This pen costs $40, and comes from an Urban. I have reviewed the Urban already. Great looks, meh pen.

Boring Parker nib. This pen costs $40, and comes from an Urban. I have reviewed the Urban already. Great looks, meh pen.

Boring Sheaffer nib. This pen costs $18. This comes from a VFM. I want to try this pen.

Boring Sheaffer nib. This pen costs $18. This comes from a VFM. I want to try this pen.

Now let’s take a look at one done right.

Here's the nib from the Metropolitan. It has those nice carrots next to the , which at this price, is pretty nice, AND it has some detail accentuating the lines of the nib.

Here’s the nib from the Metropolitan. It has those nice carrots next to the m, which at this price, is pretty nice, AND it has some detail accentuating the lines of the nib.

Yeah, they’re just little lines, but it adds a lot to a pen at this price point, especially when compared to the preceding examples I gave. Pilot is doing this in varying places all over the pen. Even the spartan clip, which seems unadorned, isn’t.

Here's the clip on the Metropolitan. Where they could have gone with just smooth metal, they added a few more lines to draw attention to the subtle design elements.

Here’s the clip on the Metropolitan. Where they could have gone with just smooth metal, they added a few more lines to draw attention to the subtle design elements.

In fact, just looking at that clip makes me think of a Chrysler Airflow. I think these guys, whether they know it or not, have stumbled upon to some slight bit of streamline moderne, evoking thoughts and design of the heyday of fountain pens.

Look, it’s like they turned the ball on the clip into a toaster! Okay, this is a bit of a push, but still.

This kind of stuff makes you feel just a little bit better about using a cheap pen: it’s well done, it’s got a unique but not loud colour, the nib is nice, and they don’t skimp on design.

Build Quality: 9/10. As stated in the previous section, the attention to detail with the aesthetic elements is without peer at this level of fountain pens. They textured the accent, they put lines on the clip, they made a good looking nib that performs well, and nothing is out of place. Stuff I didn’t get into there that does add to its good appearance are things like smoothness. If you read my Duke 961 review, you will know I hated the cap on that pen because it seemed unfinished. On the Metropolitan, it looks perfect. I don’t see any lines, and nothing’s unfinished.

Nifty little box. That background's totally not important: I was trying to practice a new way to write and improve my handwriting.

Nifty little box. That background’s totally not important: I was trying to practice a new way to write and improve my handwriting.

The pen comes in a nifty little box, which is saying something, since most pens at this price point come in a nifty little bag, or, if they come in a box, it’s like the Nemosine box.

Nemosine box, courtesy of savingbirds on FPN: I couldn’t be bothered to take a shot of the few I have. The box is a thin paper box that opens on one end like a spaghetti box.

The Metropolitan box, on the other hand, opens exactly like a spaghetti box doesn’t.

Oh, that's pleasant! There's even a faux satin thingy that the pen comes in.

Oh, that’s pleasant! There’s even a faux satin thingy that the pen comes in.

Once you take the pen out of the box, though, you can feel its heft. It’s not heavy, it’s actually about 29 grams, which I consider the perfect middle of the road weight for a fountain pen, even if I tend to like them a little heavier. Excellent. It’s also a great middle of the road size when compared to other pens, at about five and a half inches in length.

Here we have a Pilot Metropolitan at the bottom leaning on a little Clairfontaine notepad, with a Parker Latitude above it, a Duke 209 above that, and a Jinhao 599 above that. And words on a sheet of paper beneath them all.

Here we have a Pilot Metropolitan at the bottom leaning on a little Clairfontaine notepad, with a Parker Latitude above it, a Duke 209 above that, and a Jinhao 599 above that. And words on a sheet of paper beneath them all.

Because of this, it’s easy to hold, and pleasant to write with. However, once you take the cap off and start writing, there may be the single build quality issue of the pen, which is more like a design issue.

The Pilot Metropolitan with the cap posted. Now, make sure you don't do this, or you hate freedom. But, look at the huge step down from the body of the pen to the nib section, and its relative slimness compared to the size of the pen.

The Pilot Metropolitan with the cap posted. Now, make sure you don’t cap YOUR pen, or you hate freedom.
But, look at the huge step down from the body of the pen to the nib section, and its relative slimness compared to the size of the pen.

The problem isn’t with the cap itself, no, the friction fit cap is very nice to use. It’s easy to pull off, and easy to put on. Some pens, like my Baoer 388, require you to hunker down and assume a position before pulling the cap off, and even some of my Parkers require you at least downshift to second in order to get the cap off. On this one, it just comes off. That’s nice. No thinking about it at all. This is how a cap should be.

But, like I said, that’s not the problem. The problem exists with the lip after the section. It’s so big, it’s almost impossible to be comfortable if you hold then pen farther back than the average person. It’s not finished roughly, it’s just goddamn huge. No problem, you think, I don’t hold my pen that far back. But, the section tapers to a small enough area that it may be uncomfortable for some of you. Not Starwalker thin, mind you, but still plenty thin enough to get other reviewers all upset. I am not one of those reviewers. It works fine for me, and I wear XXXL gloves, so that’s saying something.

I don’t think it’s a major problem. At this price, you don’t expect metal threads in the nib section and you don’t get them…kind of. If we take a look at the pen all unscrewed…

The Metropolitan taken apart and junk. And a quarter.

The Metropolitan taken apart and junk. And a quarter.

… even though we can see the plastic threads on the section, the body’s threads are, in fact, metal, just like the body. We can also see that that massive lip is actually WITHIN the body piece of the pen. WHY? This, to me, indicated that perhaps the nib and feed were actually designed for another pen and it was simply transplanted onto this one for cost saving measures. I mean, they have to cut costs somewhere, right? This leads me into

Refilling and Maintenance: 6/10. The pen has the same feed as a few of the other Pilot pens, which means it can take those nibs, and they’re cheap. Indeed, the Pilot Plumix can be purchased for like $9 and its nib can be put on here. Therefore, you have a choice of a medium italic, a medium, and a fine. That’s not bad, and they’re not expensive. But, it’s not good.

You know what else isn’t good? That converter. It’s proprietary, and so are the cartridges. They also don’t come a dime a dozen at Staples, either. They’re pretty expensive. But, considering the pen comes with an aerometric converter, it’s no skin off my nose. A few people have had bad things to say about the ink sac, and I understand why. I don’t like the ones in many Chinese pens or old Parkers as it requires the finger strength of the end boss in Super Smash Bros.

The intended user of a Parker 51

But, on this pen, it’s actually a very good design and a very easy converter to use. It has the ink sac placed in the center of the converter, with two metal bars on either side that move in a clamping/scissoring motion to compress the sac from two ends. The sac is larger than the normal reservoir in converters, so to me, this is a benefit. To other reviewers, it’s the worst thing in the world. Shout out to Pen Habit on Youtube.

But, since the cartridges are hard to find for a person who’s not going to be buying these things on eBay and the nib selection is small and hacky, this isn’t a win in this category.

Performance: 9/10. Zero surprises when writing with this pen. It’s just the right amount of smooth and the right amount of feedback. In my food smoothness scale, this pen is a peanut butter jelly sandwich that you left out for a few hours so the bread is a little bit crusty. You can feel it when you bite into it, but the people you invite around to hear you crunch into the sandwich because of how stale it is will sit disappointed as it’s not an audibly crunchy sandwich yet. Or, like, an Oreo you didn’t let sit in the milk long enough. Yeah, that’s it.

Where was I? Oh, right. This is a smooth writing pen with a medium line. Take a look here.

Some lines and comparisons with other pens. Top to bottom: Parker Latitude with an M nib, the Monteverde Impressa with a B nib, the Duke 209 with an M nib, a Frontier with an M nib, the Metropolitan with the M nib, and the Frontier with the B nib that I like so much.

Some lines and comparisons with other pens. Top to bottom: Parker Latitude with an M nib (I know the Latitude line always looks bold. Trust me, I’ll deal with it in the Latitude review), the Monteverde Impressa with a B nib, the Duke 209 with an M nib, a Frontier with an M nib, the Metropolitan with the M nib, and the Frontier with the B nib that I like so much.

The pen doesn’t skip, even while I was writing a five page letter today, and it has no line variation, either. This thing’s as unchanging as an interstate in Nebraska. To some, this may mean that the pen has no “soul.” To me, the soul is in the neato colour I got. The writing is very good. It’s not perfect, but it’s really good.

It strikes me as I write this that when a pen is a good writer, there’s not much to say, but I can go on for hours about a bad one. Huh.

Value: 10/10. It’s $15, and that’s cheap…but it’s not as cheap as some of those Chinese pens out there that write pretty well. The extra value is added beyond the $7 of a good Chinese pen when you look at all the attention to detail and the almost robotic stability of the line. This is it, man.

Conclusion: 9.1/10. The pen performs really well, it looks good (in my colour), it’s built well, it’s well detailed, it’s not hard to refill, and it’s cheap. There are just a few niggling issues that keep this pen from being a perfect one.

 

Here’s some bad writing.

metrosampleMy god, this was a long review.

Duke 961 review

 

I was really tired when I wrote this review and when I wrote the writing sample. My god. I mean, even right now it’s 6 AM. What am I doing up? This is silly. Oh well. I bought the 961 pen from Teri at Peyton Street Pens. PSP’s one of the good ones. If at all possible, you should totally buy stuff from there. I just got another pen from there today! Some kind of school pen they sell in train stations in Germany.

Aren’t they adorable?

The added benefit is that it comes with an eradicator stick, so I don’t have to buy them from Todd at isellpens and pay $3 in shipping. Where was I?

Oh right, the Duke 961. I like me some Duke pens. They’re a Chinese manufacturer of fountain pens that claim they have an R&D department in Germany. I don’t know if this is true, but some of the reports from their higher priced ($60 or so) pens are very good, so I might believe it. Despite this, even their cheaper pens are the best of the Chinese cheap pens, in my opinion, in almost every regard. I have a love affair with the Duke 209, yet to be reviewed, for example. This Duke, however, is not my favourite.

By the way, remember how I said that that Baoer pen was the best performing Chinese pen I owned? It’s kind of true true, but it got lucky, and it’s only because sometimes the Dukes can be temperamental, whereas the Baoer will take anything I throw at it. Anyway, let’s get into the review a little bit.

Performance: 7/10. The pen writes smooth, when it writes. It’s not like the Urban I complained about earlier which skips. I mean, when the 961 is writing, it keeps writing. But, it’s stupidly easy to clog and dries out quickly. This is mostly not a problem if you use the pen every day. But, if you keep it in a pen case filled with Diamine Oxblood to use on special occasions, don’t expect this bad lad to start up. Like, ever. But, once it starts up, no skipping.

It hits a medium-fine line, which is nice. A very inoffensive line, nothing worth noting there. I can write with the pen for only a little while because it’s painfully small. 😦

We've got some lines from some pens. Looks like the Nemosine Singularity with a B nib on the bottom, some other pen I forgot above that, a Duke 209, the 961 I'm reviewing, and the pen I hold all other pens up to, the Parker Frontier with the broad nib, made in America. WOO!

We’ve got some lines from some pens. Looks like the Nemosine Singularity with a B nib on the bottom, some other pen I forgot above that, a Duke 209, the 961 I’m reviewing, and the pen I hold all other pens up to, the Parker Frontier with the broad nib, made in America. WOO!

Appearance: 7/10. My favourite part about this pen’s appearance is its nib. It’s got pretty pictures on it, and it’s small, just like the pen. And the feed that feeds it (heh) is small, too. Adorable! The thing isn’t stamped with the clarity and definition of a western manufacturer, but let’s be honest: who looks that closely? I sure as hell don’t. In fact, if you open the pen and shove the cap in your pocket, it’s a good looking pen.

Dude, click this for a MASSIVE version of the picture. It's pretty intense. But, you see those flowery things all over the nib? Isn't that nice? It makes it look like a pretty high end pen if it didn't say IRIDIUM POINT GERMANY on it. But, you're not going to be impressing a pen expert with this thing anyway, you're looking to impress the guy across the table. And he thinks it's cool.

Dude, click this for a MASSIVE version of the picture. It’s pretty intense. But, you see those flowery things all over the nib? Isn’t that nice? It makes it look like a pretty high end pen if it didn’t say IRIDIUM POINT GERMANY on it. But, you’re not going to be impressing a pen expert with this thing anyway, you’re looking to impress the guy across the table. And he thinks it’s cool.

So we can see here that it’s got great looks to the layman. Until the layman sees the cap. Holy jeebus. That is not even Pilot Varsity level quality there. The edge of the cap sharpens to a point with no barrier or edging, and is unlined and unpainted inside. You can see it clearly in the above photo.

Now, when I first saw that, I thought I was making too big a deal out of it when it was so jarring to me, since it’s such a little thing. But then I looked at some of my other pens.

Here we've got a 25 cent piece, the Duke cap, a cap from a Nemosine Fission, a cap from a Duke 960 Crane pen, an Impressa cap, and a Baoer 79 Starwalker cap. What do all the ones on the right have in common? They don't suck.

Here we’ve got a 25 cent piece, the Duke cap, a cap from a Nemosine Fission, a cap from a Duke 960 Crane pen, an Impressa cap, and a Baoer 79 Starwalker cap. What do all the ones on the right have in common? They don’t suck.

The other pens are smoothed on the edge, are painted inside, or have a plastic cap within that keeps you from looking at that ugly interior sheet metal they bought from the lowest bidder. The Nemosine Fission costs $30 and the Impressa costs $40, sure, but the 960 is the same price and the Baoer 79 cost me $3.19 on eBay including shipping. If they can do it, why can’t Duke do it on their other pen? Maybe dump some of the cheap “DUKE” engraving on the clip like on the 960 and put a little effort into making the pen not look like I did it in my basement. Anyway…

Build Quality: 5/10. At this price, it’s mediocre. The clip works, the pen doesn’t fall apart, but there’re little things that will remind you of cheapness. For example, the nib metal is so thin that it’ll get bent by a strong fart at 3 yards and won’t go back to its original shape. And, somehow, every single time you go to open the pen the barrel is a half turn off from being tight onto the section. And that’s in addition to the rough cap. And the pen is stupid tiny. It’s nigh on unusable for a large hand without posting, and I don’t post because I’m a good person. But, it’s all metal and it has a weight roughly equal to the larger Parker Frontier, with metal threads! Even though those threads don’t keep the pen closed.

Here we have...gosh, this thumbnail is small. Well, on top it's a Parker Frontier, followed by that one Hero I use a lot, then a Baoer 79, then the Duke 960, then...oh wait...THAT'S the Hero I use a lot. Whatever. Then the Duke in question leaning on that intrusive quarter. It's very small.

Here we have…gosh, this thumbnail is small. Well, on top it’s a Parker Frontier, followed by that one Hero I use a lot, then a Baoer 79, then the Duke 960, then…oh wait…THAT’S the Hero I use a lot. Whatever. Then the Duke in question leaning on that intrusive quarter. It’s very small.

The pen in its natural habitat: unscrewed.

The pen in its natural habitat: unscrewed.

Refilling and Maintenance: 7/10. It’s got a hole for an international converter/cartridge but a weird ass nib and a weird ass feed. Boom. 7/10.

Value: 6/10. It’s a meh pen at $12. It would be great at $8. I know $4 doesn’t seem like much, but imagine if a Parker Sonnet started at $150 instead of $100. It’s a whole different ballgame there. I just feel like the pen tried to upmarket itself from a cheaper pen, like a 209, but went classy in all the wrong spots.

Conclusion: 5/10. Still not an average. Ain’t nothing special about this pen. Get the 960 or a Parker Vector for this price.

 

Here’s some terrible writing.

dukesample

Parker Urban Review

The pen. Look at that curvy mofo.

I got this pen for Christmas as part of a kit. It was neat! I got the matte black gold trim version as shown here, but it also was available in a few other colours and trims. Here’s what the Parker webpage has.

Look at those prices, by the way. HOLY MOLY. Remember, this is a pen whose functional parts are directly from a $10 pen.

Look at those prices, by the way. HOLY MOLY. Remember, this is a pen whose functional parts are directly from a $10 pen.

I’ll admit, those prices are high, but boy howdy is that a swell looking pen. Once the Chinese companies steal this design, I’m definitely going to buy a few of those. I hope they do, at least. And look at that one on the right, using the blue/gold contrast.

Gold/blue contrast. Google it.

These are some good looking pens, I’ll tell you. Yes, you have eyes. But, my taste is at least twice as good as yours, so you must admit, I am objectively correct in that these are good looking pens. Some of the best looking. Ever. All right, I’ll try to be more objective. Anyway, this is one of Parker’s new pens, slotting in above the IM and below the Sonnet. For more (outdated) information on Parker pens, you should totally hit up Parkerpens.net. It’s a great site. Anyway, onto the quick review.

Performance: 6/10. Yeah, the worst comes first. Those kind of rhyme. That’s neat. Anyway, this pen, you might think, is a Parker. Of COURSE it has some problems performing. To you, I say FEH. I have quite a few Parkers and this is the only one that has issues. What are its issues? It’s a hard starter and it skips. These may seem minor to you, and other reviewers also consider these things minor, but let’s be honest: for $40, you could buy FOUR HUNDRED ballpoints from the dollar store. And you know what? They’re probably not going to be hard starters. Under zero circumstances should we as pen buyers tolerate any skipping of any kind, either. The pen has ONE JOB. TO WRITE. If it skips, then it’s failing at its job. If it skips once, it’s failed.

Of course, this isn’t that unlike real life. If the pen is flaky, but really good when you get it to work, then some things can be looked over. Yeah, the lawn mowing service may have run over your cat, but boy is that lawn looking nice, eh? The HOA best manicured yard awards don’t just get thrown around willy nilly. You can get a new cat, but best yard from 2009 to 2011 is forever. Besides, Fluffy always peed on the carpet anyway, and she chewed up that coaxial cable. She basically had it coming.

In much the same way, even though every five lines you’ll have to rewrite a letter or two with this pen, the interim moments are very nice. The pen is smoother than a sloppy joe, but not quite as smooth as butter yet. In the world of food smoothness, that’s pretty good. A little bit smoother than a hard boiled egg sandwich on wheat, BUT, not quite as smooth as a hard boiled egg sandwich with thinly cut slices on white. I think the analogy is pretty clear. What were we talking about? Oh shit, yeah.

Pens. Anyway, the line this guy writes is ostensibly a medium, but it’s a pretty broad medium. As was seen in the Eight Horses review, this writes a line a little bit wider than a broad Monteverde nib, but definitely not as broad as a Frontier broad. It’s also built well enough that I have written pages and pages of notes at a time and there has been zero cramping or fatigue in my hands. This pen eats up the pages. RIP in peace Clairefontaine notebook.

The Urban with a few buddies, as labelled. Those S things that everyone does in these reviews. Is that to show line variation in angle of the writing? I don't really know. I did em anyway.

The Urban with a few buddies, as labelled. Those S things that everyone does in these reviews. Is that to show line variation in angle of the writing? I don’t really know. I did ’em anyway.

Appearance: 8/10. Despite me thinking that this is one of the hippest looking pens to come out of Parker, some have called this pen girly. Those people are wrong. This pen looks awesome. However, it doesn’t get a ten for two reasons.

The first is the lack of flighter. THIS IS A PARKER. I REQUIRE A GOLD TRIM STAINLESS STEEL PEN. I have some pretty low end Parkers that are still flighters. I mean, the 45 was, the Latitude was, the Inflection was, the Frontier was. For serial, dude. I love them things. I feel like they might be throwing away a little bit of money not putting that option in for this pen.

It's best to look at this through a mirror, lest you be turned to stone. Okay, it's not Medusa bad, but it's definitely 2001 Lexus SC430 bad.

It’s best to look at this through a mirror, lest you be turned to stone.
Okay, it’s not Medusa bad, but it’s definitely 2001 Lexus SC430 bad.

The second is that clip. I hate that clip. I also hate the Latitude and Inflection clips, but less so. What is this crap? That no longer looks like an arrow. The fletching must be farther out than the shaft. Here, it’s a smooth transition: a nice curved line. Don’t give me that crap. The fletching should be easily distinguishable in silhouette. I know these are minor quibbles, but Parker has screwed itself by being so fabulously well designed in the past that such a major departure from that is annoying to me. I don’t know. I might be crazy.

But those lines make up for these problems I have and keep the score high. You know what this pen reminds me of? Christina Hendricks.

Exactly the same.

Exactly the same.

You may notice that most of the pictures have the top off if you google it. The pen, I mean. You sicko. The pen’s press pictures have the top off and posted on the back. It does look better that way, I’ll admit. But, I don’t think it works well posted: too top heavy. That is another reason the appearance is only an eight and not a ten.

Build Quality: 8/10. The pen’s solid. Rock solid. A good rock, like granite, or basalt. Not slate or shale. That stuff breaks like it’s going out of style. You drop shale onto your floor, you’re going to be sweeping up Devonian age dust off your linoleum for the next five weeks. I actually have dropped this pen from my pen cupboard, about six feet up, and guess what? It’s still fine.

It’s also in that sweet spot for weight, at about 30 grams. Probably ten of that is in the cap, but still. When not posted, the pen is perfectly balanced, which is nice. The converter (a slide converter) sits in there snugly, and so do the cartridges, which I often refill for their extremely generous size. The problems arise in the grip section, which feels like cheap plastic, and the threads on the body, which also appear to be plastic. At this price point, especially when skimping on the nib, we should expect some more metal in the important parts of the pen, or at least a nice rubberized grip section, like a Parker Reflex, which is half the price. Come on, Parker.

The section in question. Surprisingly comfortable, but only in the way that occasionally you get a good folding chair at an outdoor social gathering.

The section in question. Surprisingly comfortable, but only in the way that occasionally you get a good folding chair at an outdoor social gathering.

My tastes are varied and colourful.  From top to bottom we have these: a Hero 68, a Duke 209, a Jinhao X450, some Chinese pen I bought cause it looks like a Sonnet for $1 (It's an unwieldy name, to be sure. They should rebrand that), the Urban about which this review was written, and a quarter from the nineteen seventies.

My tastes are varied and colourful.
From top to bottom we have these: a Hero 68, a Duke 209, a Jinhao X450, some Chinese pen I bought cause it looks like a Sonnet for $1 (It’s an unwieldy name, to be sure. They should rebrand that), the Urban about which this review was written, and a quarter from the nineteen seventies.

Refilling and Maintenance: 6/10. Parker supplies a converter with the pen, and one can buy Parker cartridges and bottled Quink at virtually any office supply store around. It’s not hard at all to find them. Because of this, I’ll say that refilling is pretty good. The cartridges are huge, too, so that’s nice. You can go a long time without putting in a new one, even using this pen exclusively. However, due to the small nib, it’s very difficult to take the feed out, and you can’t replace it or the nib but with other Parker nib sections. Since most people don’t bother doing this, I’m going to say that this is still on the good side of middle of the road. No concern here at all, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Look at the size of the Parker cartridges! This isn't Parker ink, either. I filled it up with Hero ink with a blunt syringe. Not bad. Works well. Don't need to change ink for weeks.

Look at the size of the Parker cartridges! This isn’t Parker ink, either. I filled it up with Hero ink with a blunt syringe. Not bad. Works well. Don’t need to change ink for weeks. Ask me about my vacation clothes washing strategy later.

Value: 4/10. You know how I said worst was first before? I totally lied. This is the worst. The pen costs $40, but it’s only about at the level of a Sheaffer VFM, which is $18. Or, in fact, the Parker IM, which hangs around a more reasonable $20 in stores. These are basically the same pen, but where the IM is more…straight. I guess.

Same pen inside, but the carpet matches the drapes outside. And it’s half the price.

Conclusion: 6.1/10. Great pen, but twice the price it should be. Other pens at the same level but cheaper: Nemosine Fission. Sheaffer VFM. Pilot Metropolitan. Or, if you want a Parker, get the IM. I would recommend that every time over the Urban.

So is there a situation I would recommend the Urban?

Yes. If you really like Christina Hendricks.

urbansample

Baoer 507 Eight Horses Review

The Baoer 507 Eight Horses pen. Guess how many horses are on the metal body. That’s right! Six.

I got this pen for like $2 because I got lucky in an eBay auction. I have other Baoer pens, but this is one of the best. I got lucky in the nib as well. Some of them can arrive damaged and not work right, or some of them can be scratchy. The quality control is abysmal. But, like I said, I got lucky here.

You may be noticing the Chinese writing on this pen and wonder what that’s about with a company name like Baoer. Well, Baoer is a Chinese company. You wouldn’t know it otherwise, but they do something few western companies do: they stamp their name on a lot of stuff, not just the nib or in a subtle way in the back like on a Parker. This bad boy has Baoer and their logo printed twice in a big ass gold ring at the top of the cap, AND on the nib. Subtle! I’ve had the pen for a while and have been using it for a backup when my beloved Frontier runs out of ink at school due to me being poor at managing that type of stuff. People stare at this mother, or I’d use it a bit more.

Let’s do the quick review.

Performance: 9/10. This pen never leaks, never skips, and is a smooth writer. It’s easily the best performing Chinese pen I own. Yes, that includes Jinhaos, you weirdos who are such big fans of those pens. You know, I have never had a Jinhao work for me very well. They are all hard starters, are too dry, and skip all the time. Those pens suck. Anyway, this one’s great. I’ve literally never had it skip. It writes a great medium fine line that is usable almost anywhere, even for me, someone who really likes big fat…wet…juicy…mmm… Er…right. Even for me, someone who prefers a broad nibbed pen.

While writing with the pen, I haven’t gotten cramped or anything, despite what I would call a subpar grip section. It’s not subpar in size or design, just feel. It feels like the cheapest possible grip section they could have done. Possibly even cheaper than a flat plastic thing. The ribbing is atrocious. I can’t quite explain it. Despite this, the pen is extremely well balanced and adjusted. I don’t post this pen, because I’m not a blithering idiot.

 

Some lines written by the 507 with a few comparisons.

Some lines written by the 507 with a few comparisons. Yes, that’s an Impressa with a bold line leaving a thinner line than a Parker with an M. I can’t explain it either.

Appearance: 8/10. It gets really high marks for basically looking like a Pelikan M200, but with a much cooler body of the pen. The details on the picture are superb, and also fun to look at. That’s also not plastic, either. That’s metal. What kind of metal, I don’t know, but golly it’s definitely metal. Mine is silver, but it also comes in copper and gold colours, both of which are very pleasant to look at. When other people see the pen and ask to take a look at it, they hold it and examine it much longer than my other pens because there’s so much to look at on this one. However, despite the fact that there is a lot to look at on this pen, because it’s just embossed on the metal with no additional colours, it doesn’t look as gaudy as it might, nor indeed as busy and noisy as it might look otherwise. This pen is perfectly usable in a business meeting while still maintaining a lot of personality.

Da pen. Can you see how we might mistake it for an M200?

Da pen. Can you see how we might mistake it for an M200?

What about now?

The only part that breaks down is when you look at the smaller parts of the pen. The clip looks nice, as an inverted Pelikan M200 clip, but the band at the top with the brand name is tacky and really is different from the rest of the pen. That sucks. Also, the ribbed plastic grip section is made out of terrible and cheap plastic that doesn’t look like anything in particular, and feels as cheap as it looks. Furthermore, the gold touches around the grip have corroded and now look like they have been dipped in a pile of poop and left to sit there for a while. I don’t take very good care of this pen, so there is a chance that it’s just ink from the pen getting on the gold and ruining it. But, then, why wouldn’t it do that on the nib? Probably because the nib is actually gold plated and the other pieces of metal are just coloured gold. I can’t really explain it, so I won’t try.

Nice looking cap, until you hit the big BAOER and that weird logo. No, you can't rip it off. I've tried.

Nice looking cap, until you hit the big BAOER and that weird logo. No, you can’t rip it off. I’ve tried.

That nib, on the other hand, is pretty attractive. Many gold plated two toned nibs have a lot of decoration on them, but the Baoer nib just has the name and maintains the line theme they have going on from the grip section and the clip in the non gold part. Pretty decent.

Here we can see the otherwise good looking nib, the terrible grip, and also the gold plating crap that's come over. It seriously looks like I dripped toilet bowl cleaner on a yellow piece of paper. Terrible.

Here we can see the otherwise good looking nib, the terrible grip, and also the gold plating crap that’s come over. It seriously looks like I dripped toilet bowl cleaner on a yellow piece of paper. Terrible.

Build Quality: 8/10. Despite that crap with the gold plating flaking off, the rest of the pen is built extremely well. It weighs about 30 grams, in line with almost metal pens of this size. It’s also about the same size as the rest of them, too. I must keep returning to that crappy plastic grip, though. Man, that takes it down a point. And, the easily removed gold in the grip area, too. That’s rough. But, there’s a chance that it’s just because I don’t take very good care of a pen I paid $2 for.

Here we can see our 507 with, from left to right, a Baoer 388, a Parker Frontier, a Jinhao 1200, itself, and a Monteverde Impressa, a pen I'm totally all over.

Here we can see our 507 with, from left to right, a Baoer 388, a Parker Frontier, a Jinhao 1200, itself, and a Monteverde Impressa, a pen I’m totally all over.

Refilling and maintenance: 7/10. This pen has international cartridge support and comes with a converter that’s actually really good. But, this is just standard at this point. It’s hard to get the nib and feed out of the pen, and, while the nib appears that it might be a #5, and therefore kind of easily replaceable, it’s not ideal. But, I wouldn’t replace it anyway.

Here's the pen unscrewed, so you can see the converter and whatnot. Yes. I am the guy who will leave the sticker on the screw part of his converter. There is a chance that that sticker will never come off. It's already lost most of its adhesive properties. My dad leaves the plastic film on his phones and his computers...for YEARS. I took his Samsung Galaxy S 3 out of its case to fix something, and let him know it was still on the SCREEN. What the hell, man.

Here’s the pen unscrewed, so you can see the converter and whatnot. Yes. I am the guy who will leave the sticker on the screw part of his converter. There is a chance that that sticker will never come off. It’s already lost most of its adhesive properties.
My dad leaves the plastic film on his phones and his computers…for years. I took his Samsung Galaxy S 3 out of its case to fix something, and let him know it was still on the screen. What the hell, man.

Value: 9/10. Yeah, I paid $2 for it, but they seem to run closer to $7 on eBay. Now, while that’s cheap for western pen companies, it is somewhere in the middle of the road for Chinese pens. As such, the finish isn’t very good, and you can kind of feel the cheapness somehow, even compared to other Chinese pens. But, if you ignore that, and focus on the big things, like its performance and weight, the pen’s actually a pretty good value.

Conclusion: 8.7/10. Not an average. The pen is really good, and really cheap. But it’s not remarkable in any particular way. Hence, I feel like giving this guy an 8.7. Yeah. What’re you going to do?

Here’s some terrible writing.

horsessample

uni-ball Vision Micro Black Review

The uni-ball Vision Micro. The only rollerball pen I like because it’s not very good.

I’ve never liked rollerball pens, but I DO like them more than ballpoints. That sounds like some kind of pen snob opinion, but it’s pretty true. There’s something about ballpoints that I just don’t like. I guess it’s the ink, since that’s the primary differentiator between rollerballs and ballpoint pens. There is one I like, however, and it’s this one. I first encountered these as an adult in the physics lab of my college. The lab tech was big into the pens with the micro points, and I would often ask him to borrow one, and I’d always make a point to return them since they were better than the standard pen fare. This is one rollerball I don’t mind, and it may be because it’s not good as a rollerball. Let’s get into it.

Performance: 5/10. The pen is scratchy and uneven. It feels like you’re writing through sand, or with a scratchy felt tip, if you’ve ever written with one of those before. Bad for a rollerball, but fun for me, as it keeps me feeling the paper and from straying too far off the letter I was intending to write. This may be a product of the fact that I have the micro version with the tiny (.5 mm) tip.

The aforementioned tiny tip of the pen,

The aforementioned tiny tip of the pen. Here we can also see a minor problem I have with the pen, the slick, uncomfortable grip section.

The Vision's line, plus a few other rollerball pens I have sitting around.

The Vision’s line, plus a few other rollerball pens I have sitting around. As we can see, it’s skinny, and slightly skippy.

Appearance: 7/10. Interestingly, this pen looks good because it looks like itself. Non pen people know this pen because, in its ubiquity, they have written with it once or twice and remember that it was a swell pen to write with. It may be their only experience with rollerballs. Hence, they are quick to recognize it as a good pen. But, barring that, it’s pretty generic. The point looks normal, the pen is a dull grey and made of plastic. Nothing to really see here. But, the clip is so spartan as to become pretty.

The pen with a quarter. Why's the quarter there? I didn't take it out of the background. As it happens, it propped up the pen, too, so it was a win win.

The pen with a quarter. Why’s the quarter there? I didn’t take it out of the background. As it happens, it propped up the pen, too, so it was a win win. But look at that clip. Straight as an arrow with zero flourishes. Now that is cool.

Build quality: 6/10 It’s about the same size as other disposable rollerball pens, and feels about the same. I’ve never had one of these things break on me. However, the grip section is just transparent plastic, forgoing the rubberized grip on many other $1 priced rollerball and gel pens. However, it’s just all plastic, and while it feels good, it doesn’t match up with, say, even a cheap plastic Zebra that looks worse.

Some other pens for comparison. A Frontier rollerball demonstrator, a uni-ball Signo, the Vision, and a Pilot Precise, from top to bottom. We can see the understated good looks here.

Some other pens for comparison. A Frontier rollerball demonstrator, a uni-ball Signo, the Vision, and a Pilot Precise, from top to bottom. We can see the understated good looks here. And that clip. Nice.

Refilling and maintenance: 5/10. You can’t refill it. Why do I give it a 5/10? Because it’s cheap, and it’ll last you a long ass time. Throw it out and buy a new one. It’s a rollerball: they all end up feeling the same.

Value: 9/10. It’s cheap. It works well. Comes in multiple colours.

Overall: 7/10. Not an average. This pen is pretty good. It’s cheap, writes just scratchy enough for me to like it, and it is known for its spartan good looks.

Here’s some terrible writing.

visionsample

Monteverde Impressa review

Impressa in gun metal red.

This is a groovy pen. The Monteverde Impressa is one of the coolest designs to come out in a sea of derivative designs made only to look like pens of the past. Monteverde is one of the only pen companies trying anything different. And this is really good. They actually have three colours of the pen, but I only have the gunmetal colour. Here are a few of the others.

Impressa in black and rose gold.

Impressa in pearl silver and blue.

Impressa in boring. I mean, er black and chrome.

I was initially attracted to that sweet rose gold pen, but then I took a look at my current pen collection, and it’s basically all black and gold or silver and gold on the flighters. I could use something different. So, I went with the gunmetal thing. Really nice.

I actually got a gift card for Amazon from my dad to buy this pen as a birthday present! Swell! Unfortunately, it was an Amazon card (he doesn’t know it’s not a good place for pen stuff), but luckily, one of everyone’s favourite pen stores, Pen Chalet, is a seller on Amazon, so I was still able to get it, and at a decent price.

Quick review:

Performance: 8/10. To quote myself, right now,

Damn good. -Funkmon

Minor skipping, but mostly due to the cartridge. When the cartridge isn’t in and I’m using the converter, it writes great. A smooth writer with enough feedback to let you know you’re not sliding along on greased butter, but one that doesn’t have much appreciable friction. The broad nib is slightly thin for a broad, but it’s still a little bigger than a medium. In the writing sample’s second page, I drew a few lines with different pens so you can see the line width. It’s not wet, but not dry, so that’s good enough for me, even though I like fat wet lines.

impressaline

Left to right: Jinhao X450 Knox B nib, Jinhao 1200 Knox B nib, Hero 9029 F nib, Parker Frontier B nib, Nemosine Singularity B nib, Parker Frontier M nib, ANOTHER Frontier with a B nib, and the Impressa. With a B nib.

Appearance: 10/10. There ain’t no fountain pen that looks like this. As previously stated, Monteverde is playing with what we expect a fountain pen to look like, that is, a 1930s Cadillac in black. Most of the time this happens, we get some weird ass colours, which are fun, but you couldn’t take them to a business meeting and be taken seriously, and, even then, they still tend to look funny.

But, the Impressa is not like that. It is still very different from others, and is still passable as an adult pen. One of the most interesting design features is the fact that the cap is square. This is not just for aesthetics, either. In fact, it is exceedingly useful: the pen won’t roll down the table. And, since it only sloooooowly goes into the square, it holds, feels, and looks like a normal pen. But a cool one. In addition, something that doesn’t come across in the stock photos (mostly due to the nature of the lightboxes in which these photos are taken) is the finish on the pen. It’s stupid shiny. It’s almost a mirror finish…but not an annoying one. The subdued gunmetal grey keeps it from being like the back of a semi truck on a sunny day, and keeps it to a gentle just waxed Mercedes shininess.

And it comes in a cool box.

The Monteverde Impressa box. Inside is satin, outside faux green leather. Very nice.

The Monteverde Impressa box. Inside is satin, outside faux green leather. Very nice.

And the nib is cool.

That black nib sure is cool. Look at those mountains! A little heavy on the branding, though.

That black nib sure is cool. Look at those mountains! A little heavy on the branding, though.

This is a cool pen.

Build Quality: 10/10. This pen feels solid as a rock. The clip is spring loaded but feels like it would be at home clipping onto a 2×4, and the pen itself feels like if you needed to, you could affix it to either end of a snapped in half driveshaft and run your car with the thing. It weighs about 35 grams by my scale, and it feels great. A nice heft to it.

The cap is a friction fit cap that sits flush with the pen, but it only goes on with a whisper of an effort. I could get this cap onto the pen if the pen were across the room by sending out good vibes and a stern look. Despite this, the cap doesn’t fall off willy nilly like some of my Duke pens do. Monteverde has managed to thread that cap fixing needle. But, you’re thinking, it sits flush with the pen…what about that step down? Well, Monteverde has also managed to make that not so bad. I wear XXXL motorcycle gloves, so most pens are small, and on this one, I kind of write on the step. But, it’s not uncomfortable, and I don’t cramp up or anything. So that’s pretty good. Shaking the pen doesn’t produce any rattling either.

It’s almost the exact same size as a Jinhao x450, which is similar in the weight department as well. It is much heavier and larger than a Parker Frontier.

The Monteverde Impressa (top), next to a Jinhao X450, one of the closest pens I have to it in weight, and my Parker Frontier Demonstrator, my favourite pen.

The Monteverde Impressa (top), next to a Jinhao X450, one of the closest pens I have to it in weight, and my Parker Frontier Demonstrator, my favourite pen. The square cap sitting flush with the body of the pen can be easily seen here, and so too can its highly polished reflective finish. If the cylinder didn’t distort images so much, this pen could be used as a mirror.

Maintenance: 10/10. This pen takes international converters and cartridges. It came with two carts, one black and one blue (thank the lord), AND the converter. So, now we’re pretty much set with this thing. But, if I wanted to, I could use any of the other converters and cartridges I have with any ink I want!

What comes with the pen. The blue cart is in the pen right now.

What comes with the pen. The blue cart is in the pen right now.

I can use whatever I want! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I can use whatever I want! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

But, that’s not just it. This is a number 6 nib. That’s right! You can order some nibs from xfountainpens or Goulet and make this bad lad whatever you want it to be. To be fair, that black nib with the mountains on it is pretty fantastic, but it’s the options, man.

Value: 10/10. This one is hard. I didn’t know if it should be a nine or a ten. While yes, the other pens by the major manufacturers at this price point are pretty bad compared to the Impressa, if we take into account NOS discontinued pens, or some of the ones out of China, maybe it’s not that good. But, the fact is, if we look at the world’s worst pen, the Aventura, or an Al Star, or a Sheaffer 100 or an Urban or IM, or any other $40-$50 pen still extant, then this one is absolutely without match. It acts like a $100 pen. You cannot get a pen better than this for that money.

Overall (not an average): 9.7/10. This is a good pen. Not perfect, but really really good.

Some terrible writing:

impressareview1 impressareview2

 

Cross Aventura review.

aventura

 

This, of course, is the Cross Aventura. This is the worst pen ever made and sold widely. I’ll tell you my story.

So, about 2 weeks ago, I bought two Cross Aventuras from Staples because I found them for $15 in store. Mother of god. Never again. I wrote this out in fifteen minutes before I returned both of them for being the worst pens I’ve ever used of all time ever. I was desperately upset because I’d had Cross rollerballs before and they were very good. I knew Cross didn’t make no crap. Except for this pen. This pen is crap crap.

 TL;DR:

 Performance: 4/10. It only didn’t scratch if you write right to left, and skipped in the middle of words.

Appearance: 6/10. Looks good from far away. Only.

Build quality: 1/10. Abysmal. I felt like I was holding something at the level of a dollar store pen. I own some Hero pens that cost me less than $3 shipped from eBay. They put this pen to shame.

Refilling: 3/10. No possibility of converter. Technically, no converter works with it, though it can be modified to accept the green push converter.

Value: 3/10. It only cost me $13.50, but retail price I put it up against a close competitor, the Parker Urban, which is using a nib from a $10 pen. The Urban is not a great pen, but it blows this one out of the metaphorical water.

Conclusion: 1.7/10. Don’t buy it. No, that’s not an average. This pen is more than the sum of its parts. It’s drastically bad.

Now, for more detail.

Both of the abominations next to a Parker Urban pen, a pen close in price point.

A size comparison.

The pen in its natural habitat: about to be returned to the store. It came with black carts, and that’s it.