Parker IM Review

I had two of these pens, one of which I paid $8 for, the other one I just sold to a friend for the same price. I made out poorer, because the pen I got I don’t think is as attractive, but, on the other hand, it writes with a medium line, which is quite a bit nicer than writing with a fine line that I had on the black gold trim pen. So, I’m pretty familiar with the pen. In my Parker Urban review, I suggested this pen instead of it, which I maintain still. If you want an intro to Parker pens, I still suggest a Parker Frontier, or 45, but this is a solid second choice.

Appearance: 7/10.

I’m flip flopping on this thing. On a gold/black trim, it looks okay. In most others, it doesn’t. Like the one I have, for example.

Eugh!

I’ll be honest: I don’t know anything about design. I’m sure the cross etchings there on the cap are supposed to look like something else, or at least evoke some kind of past design style. Whatever that design style is, it’s objectively hideous. I think maybe only Catalan Modernism is uglier.

What a hack Gaudi was.

So, the Designe Uglée cap is a little off-putting, but the rest of the pen is okay, right? Yes. It is okay. There is nothing to not like about it, because it has, functionally, no design at all.

Whoever designed this pen must have been told “Make a pen for the most boring man in the world.” But then, when he did it, they realized they needed something extra, then told some intern to make the cap to try to breathe some life in it. Unfortunately, the cap has SARS.

Now, it sounds like I’m insulting the pen’s design. This is because I am. However, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Like I said, it’s okay. There are nice things to it. For example, it wasn’t designed with a ruler. It’s thicker in the middle and only slightly tapered on the ends. Compare to a Parker 45 to see a more aggressive taper, or a Vector to see some more aggressive rulering.

I'm switching up those quarters, dude. Look at that!

A Parker 45. I’m switching up those quarters, dude. Look at that!

And that metal grip section is pretty nice. Fun texture and look to it. It’s like the reverse of what Parker does normally…except on the Vector. Now this actually makes sense. The design is actually an evolution of the Vector. For real! Once upon a time, there was a pen called the Vector.

Twins!

As you can see, this pen looks very much like the IM I bought for $8. Except, somehow the chiseled metal cap looks a little better. And, actually, the section isn’t a nice brushed metal, but more of a shiny chrome. Despite the incredible and obvious similarities between these pens, however, there was a stopgap. This was called the Parker Vector XL.

If the Vector and the IM had a child, and the child joined a Las Vegas based percussion performance group, this would be it.

So here we’re seeing the brushed section come in, and the start of the cap on the cap, but we still have a Vector style no feathered clip, this one not inherited from the Parker Arrow, but a new design entirely. The IM, in a few markets, was referred to by another name: the Vector Mk. 2. This is kind of weird, since I’m about 80% sure Parker still sells the Vector, though I might be wrong. In 2009, Parker dumped a lot of their models to focus on only a few, like the Urban and the IM, though those are functionally the same and inhabit the same price point. We lost the Latitude, 45, 100 and the Frontier for this, Parker? Come on.

Anyway, like I was saying, this pen is as inoffensive as it gets, so nothing actually wrong with it, and the section is nice.

The IM section and nib. Actually the best looking part of this pen, and it's not close, either. This is the Rock N Rye of the Faygo variety pack.

The IM section and nib. Actually the best looking part of this pen, and it’s not close, either. This is the Rock N Rye of the Faygo variety pack that is this pen.

For those familiar with Parker Flighters, you’ll notice that the brushing on this metal section of the pen is extremely coarse. The flighters are often sandblasted in addition to being brushed, but it’s still very fine. If your eyes were closed and your buddy asked you to feel the barrel of his pen, and you trust this guy (cause it’s a suspicious request for a person), you would just feel metal in a flighter pen. However, if he asked you to grab his nib section (heh), then you’d absolutely feel the texture on this. That’s how significant it is, and it looks it. I’ll go into it more in the build quality section.

You may also notice that I haven’t trashed the nib yet, despite me complaining about that exact same nib in the Pilot Metropolitan review, calling it boring. It was, on the Parker Urban, a pen that is anything but boring. Read my review on that to get my full opinion, plus a Christina Hendricks photo. Here, however, it fits. This is a smallish feeling pen though large for Parker, and the nib is small and skinny…and it somehow fits here. You get to see a bit more of it than you see in other pens fitted with this nib, too, like the Vector, the Urban, the Reflex, the Facet, the 88, the Esprit, the Beta, etc. It has some little grooves on it that look pretty good with this pen. So, the pen body itself ain’t so bad. A solid 9/10 there, because, again, there is nothing to dislike about the barrel and the section looks really good.

But the cap. My lord, the cap. This must be the ugliest thing ever put on a Parker pen.

Okay. Maybe not the ugliest. BUT BESIDES THE REFLEX PARALLELOGRAM CLIP, the ugliest thing on a Parker Pen.

Where do I start? The chrome fez? The tiny clip? The terrible lines? The fact that it looks like squidward?

Where do I start? The chrome fez? The tiny clip? The terrible lines? The fact that it looks like a depressed Squidward?

 

Told you.

Told you. Man, I have hit a low point. I just put three pictures in a row, one of them a Squidward painting I did on the toilet.

Now, when I say that, let’s get this straight: I don’t think Parkers are almost ever ugly. At worst, they’re not notable…except for a few exceptions. This is one of them. The cap isn’t THAT ugly, but it’s a solid 3/10. Some of the other IM caps aren’t so bad, but this is not one of those, so I’m reviewing this one. Quit yer bellyachin. I think the thing that annoys me the least on the cap is the fez.

That cap looks like it should be living in Cairo helping out Indiana Jones. I really REALLY do not like how they stuck a big chrome fez on the end of the cap of the pen. It makes it unbalanced if you are a person who posts your pens, and it makes it ugly for everyone else in the room who is silently judging you for that choice. Parker has done a lot of caps in its days, but this one might be the only one with a fez on it. As a small demonstration, here are a few Parker pens, none of which cost much more than this one.

Huh. Only one has a conehead.

Looking at this pile of Parkers, the cap cap looks less like a fez and more like Dan Aykroyd circa 1978. We have, top to bottom, a Vector, and Arrow, an Urban, a Frontier, a Reflex, the IM, and a 45.

Now, what I did on this thing was align the top of the clip with the left margin line on the paper. They don’t look aligned due to perspective, but trust me on this, they are. We can see that the IM cap sticks up way farther out than other Parker caps, and, annoyingly, the clip is much smaller.

It looks it too. When eyeballing the IM, I first though “What the hell is wrong with that clip? Why’s it so small?” It’s not just smaller in comparison to the cap than the other Parkers, it’s actually legitimately smaller as well. This pen is larger than every single pen pictured. Every single goddamn one of them. And it has the smallest clip. This doesn’t do well for it. It looks like it has a tiny little face on what would otherwise be a not entirely hideous pen.

“Hello. I’m tiny faced Mitt Romney. I’ll be your Parker IM for the evening.”

Can we look at that clip again, though?

Where do I start? The chrome fez? The tiny clip? The terrible lines? The fact that it looks like squidward?

Note the fletching on the arrow. Was it done with a butter knife by an arthritic toddler? It’s almost undefined. My $1 Chinese Sonnet look alike I have has a better clip than this. See my Parker Urban review for some pictures of that pen.

The work put into making this cap look well built is absolutely abysmal.

Build Quality: 7/10.

The pen isn’t actually built with bad stuff, it’s just built poorly. They spared every expense to make it seem like they spared no expense. To explain, I’ll continue with the cap.

So, we can see the fletching is not only indistinct, but it’s also uneven. Some of the feathers are longer than others, and the spacing and angle is screwed up. In addition to this, the lines accenting the cap look less like they were done with a butter knife by a toddler, so that’s good. They look more like they were done with a butter knife by an adult. Hint: this is still bad.

Man. Those...those are lines.

Man. Those…those are lines.

If we continue to look at the cap, we can see the Parker logo and the date code, both stamped with the same level of incompetence and/or apathy. The definition is so bad, it looks like what you’d see on a fake. Except I bought one of these from a reputable dealer before I got rid of it, and it was the same way. So there. This is real.

Now, the thing is, this pen feels really nice, and you can tell it was made with good materials. For example, my pen weighs exactly one ounce. That was designed and engineered well, and is the perfect pen weight. It’s got very little plastic in it, too. The lacquer is top notch, and I don’t see any blemishes on the finish.

It actually reminds me very much of a Chinese pen. Those pens often use good materials, are nice and hefty, and are finished okay, but once you get down to brass tacks, are about as well made as a Play-Doh hamburger from your niece. The pen doesn’t have any made in France or UK markings on it, and Parker has opened a Chinese factory, so there’s a non zero probability that this is a Chinese pen.

Both the section AND the barrel have metal threads. Great materials here.

Both the section AND the barrel have metal threads. Great materials here.

But, even in the section with metal on metal threads, something of a quality rarely found in these pens, the crappiness of workmanship is seen. The threads on the section are wavy, rough, and uneven. I do not like it when my metal pen doesn’t screw in as well as a plastic Jinhao. That’s just silly.

If we continue going around the pen, we see a little more of the wildly variable build quality. The section does feel nice, and it is all metal. Here, the crappy part is actually a feature: because the brushed nature of the metal on the section is so rough, it actually keeps your fingers where they should be on the pen for however long they should be there. It doesn’t get slippery or anything. That was a happy accident. It’s also an easy wipe off for refilling.

Refilling and Maintenance: 7/10.

It’s nigh impossible to remove the nib. But they don’t have any aftermarket options, either, so who cares? The pen can be flushed easily using the included converter, and Parker carts are all over the place. This is not a hard pen to refill, which you’ll be doing a lot, because the pen is strangely a very fun writer.

Performance: 8/10.

The pen uses the same modified Vector nib as many of Parker's other cheap pens. This means problems.

The pen uses the same modified Vector nib as many of Parker’s other cheap pens. This normally means problems.

The pen skips sometimes. It is also loud. These are things that have ruined pens for me in the past…but somehow on this one it doesn’t matter much. The skipping is for maybe a half a letter per page, and the loudness doesn’t translate into scratchiness, but there is feedback. I don’t normally like any of this stuff…but on this pen, it’s great. The pen is not, objectively, a good writer, I don’t think, but it is somehow desperately fun to use. It is so fun, I brought it to school the other day to power through a few pages of notes, and then stayed up last night just writing in my notebook for fun. What the heck is wrong with me? I had even filled it with black ink, an ink I don’t like! If I were to go to my notebook right now, and pick up a pen to write with, it would actually be this stupid little pen I don’t want to like. GRAHH.

The line it writes is a standard medium.

Fine, B, B, M, M, M, from top. You know what my favourite kind of kitten is? Scottish fold munchkin cats. Here's some Youtube videos. You can thank me later.

F, B, B, M, M, M, from top. You know what my favourite kind of kitten is? Scottish fold munchkin cats. Here’s some Youtube videos. You can thank me later.

So, in the above picture, we can even see some of the skipping the pen does. It’s really not this pronounced normally. We can also see my Monteverde Impressa also skipped, and that rarely happens. I wonder if this paper is a little screwy? Regardless, like I said, the pen is objectively mediocre, but subjectively it is fantastic. I cannot explain it.

Value: 7/10.

The pen normally runs $19-20. Sometimes you can see them on places like Goulet Pens with special finishes for more money, but that’s out of the norm. Because of the fact that this pen is not terrible for that price, is fun to use, and looks all right from really far away, then I’m okay with that.

Conclusion: 7.2/10.

In a long line of 7s, this should come as no surprise. I posted in my Urban review that I would recommend this pen over the Urban every time for a new Parker, and I do. But…that’s only if you want a brand new Parker. There are much much better pens in this price range. The Pilot Metropolitan, some new old stock Frontiers or 45s, that Herlitz Tornado if you like plastic, and if you buy a Baoer 388 and replace its nib with a Knox nib, you can get out paying slightly less for a much better pen.

So, buy it if you want to have fun writing, or if you want a brand new Parker and don’t want to drop the dough for a Sonnet.

Here’s some terrible writing.

CAM00599 - Edited

 

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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