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.

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4 thoughts on “Pilot Metropolitan Review

  1. Well, the _pen_ isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world (I got a dud), but I do dislike that filling system! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Parker IM Review | Funkmon on pens.

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