Pilot G2 0.38mm vs. Uni-ball Signo 207 Ultra Micro

24 09 2013
It's like an arcade game, with less quarters

It’s like an arcade game, with less quarters

There’s a big, wide world of micro-tipped pens out there, but when it comes to what’s available in physical American stores, choices are limited. So it’s high time for a showdown between the two most commonly available retractable micro tip pens: the Pilot G2 0.38mm and the Uni-ball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (in blue).

Imagine the sound of two pens clicking aggressively at each other. That is the soundtrack to this review

Imagine the sound of two pens clicking aggressively at each other. That is the soundtrack to this review

I’ve laid out my thoughts before on the design of both of these pens. Comparing the two is like trying to determine the winner in a noodle-armed slap fight. No one really wins, and we all feel a bit silly.

Are these really both 0.38mm? They don't look the same size.

Are these really both 0.38mm? They don’t look the same size.

What it really comes down to here is writing. The Signo 207 has lighter ink, and it appears to write thinner than the Pilot G2 by an almost microscopic factor. But the Uni-ball Signo 207 is occasionally plagued by some odd feeling at the tip when writing, something I can’t properly put into words. It’s not scratchy, it’s not like there’s any problem with the flow of ink, but there’s something, some slight something, that is at times getting in the way of 100% smooth writing.

And the Signo does a lot of this. See those near-railroads?

And the Signo does a lot of this. See those near-railroads?

The Pilot G2 isn’t exactly perfect either. It isn’t scratchy, but it feels ever so slightly slower when writing compared to the Uni-ball, like some kind of microresistance is involved—but the performance is more consistent, both in terms of the feel and the quality of the lines being laid down. The vertical line of my Ts with the Uni Signo 207 betrays an occasional tendency to deposit less ink in the middle than the sides of the line. The Pilot G2 does it too, but less often.

This has the makings of an excellent family crest. I'll get the castle fixed up and have it printed up on some flags and armaments.

This has the makings of an excellent family crest. I’ll get the castle fixed up and have it printed up on some flags and armaments.

If the Uni Signo 207 could get itself together and always write without that weird feeling to it, then in spite of its annoying grip it would be the clear winner. Both of the pens I’m using for this comparison I’ll admit are a few years old, brought back into use for this review, so even if age has brought the performance down it should have done so equally, because I got these pens around the same time.

For its consistency in performance, I declare the Pilot G2 0.38mm the winner of this fight.





Uni-ball Signo 207 Battle – Blue Ink

19 09 2013
Do not believe the faint refrains of advertising media; bolder is NOT better

Do not believe the faint refrains of advertising media; bolder is NOT better

First, a disclaimer: I only bought the bold (1.0mm) and micro (0.5mm) Uni Signo 207 gel pens new, because I already had a regular/medium (0.7mm) and an ultra micro (0.38mm) in blue in my horde. As much as I love wasting money, I decided to cheapskate it this time and so, if any incorrect conclusions are drawn because half of these pens aren’t brand-spanking-new, I apologize. Please lodge any complaints with Uni-ball, since in spite of my undying love for their Jetstream, they have not yet seen fit to shower me with freebies.

The most straightforward, boring picture of the lot. My apologies.

The most straightforward, boring picture of the lot. My apologies.

Overall, the Signo 207s are virtually identical except for two overt things: the iconic clip—

You'd be able to recognize that clip even on your grandmother's old black-and-white notebook-sized television

You’d be able to recognize that clip even on your grandmother’s old black-and-white suitcase-sized television

And the color of the labels printed on the clip and the barrel.

 Why pretty silver for the big bad 0.7 and 1.0mm pens? Why the slightly less attractive gold for the more lovely-writing 0.38mm and 0.5mm?

Why pretty silver for the big bad 0.7 and 1.0mm pens? Why the slightly less attractive gold for the more lovely-writing 0.38mm and 0.5mm?

As far as the design goes, I’m keen on everything except the grip. It’s not a mind-bendingly beautiful look, but it doesn’t need to be. They look slick, and they make the pen cup they’re in look put together. Professional yet disposable (though they are refillable, most casual pen users will likely toss them once they’re empty). My big beef is with the grip. I do not like all the little raised ovals.

Little ovals of sheer annoyance

Little ovals of sheer annoyance

It has been well established that I simply cannot learn the ideal tripod grip. I constantly revert to my ill-advised multi-finger ergonomically-challenged grasping. The little ovals get pressed into the base of my thumb, which gets annoying over time. The Premier 207 body with its Alpha Gel grip doesn’t have this problem, but this isn’t a review of that pen.

IT IS SO AMAZING UNLESS YOU ARE COLORBLIND OR FOR SOME REASON HAVE A BLACK AND WHITE COMPUTER MONITOR

IT IS SO AMAZING UNLESS YOU ARE COLORBLIND OR FOR SOME REASON HAVE A BLACK AND WHITE COMPUTER MONITOR

I almost forgot the secret bonus difference—like the G2s, it appears the tip of each different size of Signo 207 gets its own color.

Shout out to this nose cone design! Do like. Goes well with the clip.

Shout out to this nose cone design! Do like. Goes well with the clip.

So how do they all write? Doing my best to ignore the discomfort wrought unto me by these cursed little ovals, the ink flow on all these pens seems good. No problems with skipping or the pens not writing. Looking very closely, you can see a problem with uniformity of line.

Choo-choo all aboard the almost-railroading express

Choo-choo all aboard the almost-railroading express

The ink deposits thicker on the sides, thinner in the middle. It never gets to the point of full railroading, but it worries me.

Top: biggest vs. smallest. Bottom row: ultra micro vs.  micro, micro vs. medium, medium vs. bold

Top: smallest vs. biggest. Bottom row: ultra micro vs. micro, micro vs. medium, medium vs. bold

The ultra micro is thin and crisp, but there is an occasional odd feeling at the tip—it’s rare, but it’s there. It’s not scratchy…I don’t quite know how to put it. The micro strikes the right balance that the ultra micro falls just short of—the micro isn’t as thin, but there’s no weirdness to it when writing. It’s smooth, without having a large tip (which leads to messy-looking handwriting for yours truly). The 0.7 is smooth, but we’ve crossed the threshold—my handwriting doesn’t look as nice. And the bold? Now we’re totally off the rails. This pen requires DRY TIME, especially on smooth paper. And it looks SO. MESSY. No thanks.

I like Uni Signos, but the 207 isn’t my favorite in the Signo line. It doesn’t write as nicely as other models I’ve tried. But as far as the 207 goes, the 0.5mm micro Signo is the best of the bunch.

Available basically everywhere, including but not limited to office supply stores, corporate leviathans, select gas stations, the inside coat pocket of a shady individual hawking last minute back to school deals sometime in August, and multiple sources online.





Uni-ball Signo 207 BLX Retractable Gel Ink Pen – 0.7 mm – 4 of 5 Colors

28 05 2013
No brown-black, sorry!

No brown-black, sorry!

When you’ve got a good pen in your lineup, it’s important to keep the body fresh and modern (or at least keep it from being the pen design equivalent of padded shoulders (or fetid swamp water)). Or, more accurately, it’s important to me, maybe you, and probably absolutely no one else in the general market.

Any scrap of novelty in standard American pens is exciting to me.

Any scrap of novelty in standard American pens is exciting to me.

As soon as I saw these babies at my local office supply store, I snatched them up. I didn’t see brown-black, but red-black, green-black, blue-black, and purple-black were all there. Compared to the regular Signo 207, there are only a few major differences, biggest of all being the BLX clip is plastic instead of metal (presumably so it could be a stealthy matte black).

Yeah, that's definitely cool enough to be worth sacrificing structural integrity.

Yeah, that’s definitely cool enough to be worth sacrificing structural integrity.

I just find plastic clips inherently suspect, as I’m certain all they’re there for is to one day break off. And why isn’t the nose cone the same matte black? Why is it glossy black? Why isn’t everything matte black? Who decides these things?

The brooding Batmanesque colors of the Signo line

The brooding Batmanesque colors of the Signo line

I do like the body; no longer a translucent barrel, the BLX features a color fade to black that isn’t too tacky. The grip is the same as the standard Signo 207.

Now, when can we expect 0.5mm? 0.38mm? Approximately never?

Now, when can we expect 0.5mm? 0.38mm? Approximately never?

One of my biggest problems I’ve had happen when writing samples for reviews with some brands of gel pens is that the dry ink will somehow come off the page onto my hand and get redistributed back on the page. Pentel’s EnerGel line is a particular offender. I didn’t have any of that happen on this writing sample with the Signo 207. The writing is smooth and the colors are gorgeous (this purple-black is my new best friend). The ink is also allegedly resistant to check washing and other such grandiose claims you can find printed on the back of a standard blister pack. Not yet being of criminal mind, I’m not sure how one goes about attempting to wash checks (and I’m pretty sure that’s one of those google searches that gets you put on a watch list), so I can neither confirm nor deny this claim of the ink’s properties in that regard.

And they are technically refillable! (I’m not sure where one necessarily gets such refills though.) The refill size is comparable to the Jetstream retractable or the Zebra Sarasa retractable refills, so you could, for example, put this refill in the body of the Zebra Airfit Jell or the Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip, and have a fantastic hybrid fancy body Signo BLX.

You can find these pens in most big box stores, at my local office supply store (Office Supplies and More), and JetPens also carries them.





Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Ink Pen – 1.0 mm – Blue

26 01 2013
Feel the sparkles in your heart

Feel the sparkles in your heart

I’m no connoisseur when it comes to glittery gel ink pens—I may snag one as a novelty, but I don’t have my finger on the pulse of that movement like I did in the 6th grade. My knowledge of the quality of entrants in the field is lacking. That said, I do have a rather cat-chewed Sakura Gelly Roll gel pen in sparkle purple that I will use for comparison.

Pleasantly acceptable!

Pleasantly acceptable!

The body is nice, as far as these cheap things go. Sparkles in the body and cap—noticeable but not gaudy. Cap posts securely on both ends. Pen itself is theoretically easy to refill (who knows how easy refills will be to find, however).

Looks like a mess waiting to happen, though I assure you it isn't.

Looks like a mess waiting to happen, though I assure you it isn’t.

First, how the ink writes. I find it smoother than the Sakura Gelly Roll, and generally more consistent. If I’m gonna be taking some sparkly notes, on writing quality alone I favor the Uni Signo over the Gelly Roll.

Unless I'm writing on my hand, then the day goes to the Gelly  Roll

Unless I’m writing on my hand, then the day goes to the Gelly Roll

As far as personal preference goes, be advised that the Signo ink is more translucent and the Gelly Roll more opaque.

Let it shine

Let it shine!

There is a big flaw in the Signo that you have to be warned of, one that does not plague the Gelly Roll: the Uni Signo glitter ink smells like fish. Smells *powerfully* like fish. If you write with it long enough (read: at all), you’ll think you’ve been transported to an open air fish market. It is truly bizarre.

Perhaps I should have known, blue---> water---> ocean---> FISH.

Perhaps I should have known, blue—> water—> ocean—> FISH.

If you like fish, get this pen. If you want glittery and smooth writing, get this pen. If the mere thought of seafood turns your stomach, DO NOT get this pen.

 

Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Ink Pen – 1.0 mm – Blue at JetPens





Uni-ball Signo RT UM-138 Gel Ink Pen – 0.38 mm – Blue Black

24 05 2011

I had a lot of fun with the doodles. Always a good sign(o)

My fourth goody generously provided by JetPens :) I feel like I don’t even need to tell you guys how awesome the JetPens team is at this point; it is naturally assumed to be part of the very definition of JetPens; the phrase “awesome JetPens” is just redundant. But I’ll keep thanking them anyway. Another set of thanks to JetPens!

The Uni-ball Signo line was probably the first sub-0.5mm pen to work its way into my regular rotation of pen use about a year ago. The model was the Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm in brown-black and bordeaux-black, which, though enjoyable, was plagued with issues of ink blobbing. But the pen had otherwise endeared itself to me, and I put some other Signo models on my wishlist over the following months, unwilling to write this pen off.

Click!

What we have here is an ideal candidate for a perfect office pen. The design is pleasing but unobtrusive, with the entirety of the pen working together to broadcast the color it contains, including a blue tint on the translucent parts of the barrel. Nothing flashy, which is probably ideal for the stereotypical office setting, but no dead-fish design either; all of the Signo RT line has richly colored barrels that match the ink they contain. The only reason the blue-black may look less than bursting with vibrancy is because blue-black is inherently a more toned-down sort of color.

The plunger has a very sturdy clicking mechanism. I bet it would hold nicely if you needed to enlist your pen in weaponized, stab-like activities.

The grip is simple rubber with some slight, subtle curving to it; narrower toward the tip, thicker toward the back. The plunger has the nice, satisfying sort of click that every retractable pen should have. It’s a simple design, but absolutely suited to the task of inexpensive office pen.

I like a sturdy, conical-tipped microtip pen. Feels solid. Nothing to break or snap here.

The writing experience was much better than the Signo DX. I never had a single issue with ink blobs. I can write with a light touch and it’s just as dark as with a heavy hand—actually, it might even be a little darker. If you write with too much pressure, you get lightness and almost streaking in the middle of the line itself (look at the writing sample bigger; it’s very evident). Writing with a light hand is much smoother, and gives a more consistent line. In spite of the slight consistency of ink line problem with the heavy pressure writing style, I never had the pen not put down ink. No skipping, no smudging. The smoothness isn’t phenomenal, but for a pen that’s $1.50, it’s quite satisfactory. And it’s another fun little sketching pen; not an art object, which I don’t want in an office pen, but it can still hold its own when a boring meeting needs some doodles to flourish in the margins of notes.

I think the best place for this pen is within a multi-color array of microtip pens in a nice cup at your desk. It’ll do well for daily work needs (and every job, in my opinion, needs to have a cup of pens in multiple colors and tip sizes available at all times), but isn’t something you need to shed a tear over if a coworker wanders off with it. And since it’s retractable, there’s no cap to worry about losing. Exactly what an office pen needs.

I'll help you make intricate and detailed notes, figures, and margin doodles!

Thanks again to JetPens for providing me with this pen! :)

Uni-ball Signo RT UM-138 Gel Ink Pen – 0.38 mm – Blue Black at JetPens





Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen – White Ink

31 01 2011

First doodles, then writing

 

It’s like writing with powdered liquid angels. (By the way, the caption border of this thing keeps resizing…and if it’s still doing that while you’re reading this, know that I gave up on trying to fix it)

I ordered this pen because I like to pretend that I know what I’m doing with art supplies. There was no other reason. I had no need for it, no intended use even. It was once again the product of whimsy and foolishness (nature’s best intellectual combination, to be sure).

Each pen is made of 47% post-processed recycled angels, for a cleaner environment.

Overall, the pen has a nice, clean, bright sort of look to it. I feel like a white-ink pen should have a minimalist aesthetic going on, lest it risk looking pompously ostentatious. This pen has some ornamentation, but not too much.

But then we roll the pen over and it's nothing but ostentation. And by ostentation, I mean words...words I can't read.

I do think it’s weird that the barcode and all this…well, whatever is written here is printed directly onto the barrel instead of being printed on a sticker that could be peeled off. Sorta kills the minimalization I was hoping for.

The barrel of the pen is made of that same hard, crack-prone plastic I complained about with the Platinum Preppy fountain pen–and my pen is already showing cracks along the barrel, running through and perpendicular to the gold band. It hasn’t had any impact on functionality yet, it just makes the pen look a little battle-worn…but I’m not sure that’s the look I want for this kind of pen.

Oh my. This is dirty. This...this needs to be cleaned.

While the writing is smooth, it easily starts getting caked around the tip until it looks like you’ve been writing with sloppy milkshakes. Potentially related to this problem, it will sometimes take a few strokes to get the pen writing. Once it’s going, the pen is a smooth sailor, barring the occasional rollerball blanking stripe (or, whatever you call that phenomenon (which I originally typed as “penomenon” (someone please start a pen blog called Penomenon)) where the pen will fail to leave ink in the middle of the line). I did run into some smudging from the ink taking too long to dry, and the doodles I did on the black paper later left a LOT of post-dried ink smudge on the adjacent black cover.

STOP WRITING WITH THE HALF-AND-HALF THAT IS FOR COFFEE NOT LETTERS

It will remain this clean for one, maybe two lines of writing.

I haven’t had any smudging so far on the brown paper, so perhaps we’ll write that up as a paper issue–this pen can smudge, post-drying, on the right (wrong?) kinds of paper.

For a straight-up sketching tool, I found the pen unwieldy. It’s a broad gel pen, so I really should have seen this coming, but the last time I wrote in white was with easily manipulable white pencils. And by wrote, I mean drew.  There isn’t a wide berth for nuance here, unless you’re working on a larger scale than I did.

Now let’s not beat the pen up too badly (because, as I mentioned, it’s prone to cracking, and I don’t want my pens to have any mental breakdowns while on review). This is a nice, thick, opaque white ink we get to lay down here. Good enough to even be used for writing, which some weak-willed milksop white pens probably can’t do. If you want to write in white, then this pen will get you there.

SAI Outline brush & watercolor brushes, Kuretake small compact water brush, and this here white gel pen.

But I don’t think this pen was particularly designed for writing so much as being part of a supporting cast in a piece of artwork. With that in mind, let’s put it to the test on some really terrible artwork.

You can almost get the idea of how, in capable hands, this white gel pen might be applied judiciously toward bringing out highlights in a visually pleasing and subtle manner. On a “slapped together in less than ten minutes during my lunch break” manner, you just get this. The underlying color peeks through a little, and if that’s not your thing, then slap another layer of gel pen on there. I could see this becoming an indispensable art tool for me, after a few months or years practice so that I’d know what I’m doing.

But that isn’t the only artistic application of this versatile pen. You can also…

...give yourself a French manicure.

It’s not waterproof though, so get a really sturdy, chip-resistant clear polish top-coat to put over it. I used a really old, chip-enhancing clear polish top-coat to waste my time and render the entire nail production worthless after a few hours of using my hands. But it looked nice while it lasted, and the French pedicure, protected in socks and shoes, is still going strong.

I almost got the hang of making really good doodles with this pen

If you need a white pen because you’re one of those people who knows what to do with a white pen, but for some reason don’t have one, this is a good pen. Just watch out for rollerball streaking, and make sure you don’t drag your hand through the ink before it’s dry (or after it’s dry, if your hands are sweaty). And heck, if you’re not one of those people, but just want a white pen, it’ll be good for you, too. If you don’t want or need a white pen, do I really need to tell you not to buy it? Why are you trusted with money?

I think this pen and this notebook go well together. I think their relationship is going places.

Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen – White Ink at JetPens








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