Uni Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen and Pencil – Purple

15 04 2014
Someone hand me some failing tests, that red is just itching to give out a big glowing F minus minus

Someone hand me some failing tests, that red is just itching to give out a big glowing F minus minus to some poor sap not smart enough to be using a Jetstream

What’s better that a Jetstream? Several Jetstreams rolled into one. Thank you to JetPens for providing this sample!

It comes it several colors, but obviously dark purple is the superior choice

It comes it several colors, but obviously dark purple is the superior choice

The body is simple and professional, with tasteful silver accents. The markings to denote refill colors are unobtrusive—quite appreciable, as multipens are ever in danger of looking like rainbow vomit with their many-colored plungers.

I like how the pencil is referred to as "0.5mm SHARP"...it makes a mechanical pencil sound so much more dangerous and exciting

I like how the pencil is referred to as “0.5mm SHARP”…it makes a mechanical pencil sound so much more dangerous and exciting

The sticker on the body was easily removable and left no residue. Coupled with the subtle branding imprinted on the clip, you’ve got a pen that looks good and keeps distractions low key.

Things I was not expecting to find in here: metal. Things that all of in here consists of: metal.

Things I was not expecting to find in here: metal. Things that all of in here consists of: metal.

The pen itself is nicely balanced, with the majority of its light weight focused lower, in the grip. The grip section is metal, with a nice grippy rubber on top (though it would be PHENOMENAL to have the grip be Alpha Gel instead, that would probably make the pen unbearably wide, and would collect more debris than this grip does). The upper half is mostly plastic (excepting the clip), and the overall composition of the pen makes it pretty comfortable for a longer writing session.

In the event of a graphite emergency, break the snap seal located on the top of your multi pen and apply eraser directly to the emergency

In the event of a graphite emergency, break the snap seal located on the top of your multi pen and apply eraser directly to the emergency

Normally I’m not a fan of easily-lost caps covering uselessly tiny erasers, but this cap hold surprisingly firm to the pen. It’s not going to get lost unless you set it down and forget to put it back on. The eraser itself isn’t much to speak of—more of an emergency provision. The pencil component is deployed by pressing down on the clip, and lead is advanced by pressing the deployed clip down again. It’s a wise design choice, providing a larger plunger for easy use of the pencil while concealing it design-wise in the clip. The only improvement I’d like to see here is for Uni to find a way to shrink the Kuru Toga mechanism into the size of a multi pen refill. A multi pen made of Jetstreams and a Kuru Toga would be unstoppable.

If you need more colors than this, be sure to give yourself a stern lecture about how back in my day we didn't have any newfangled ink colors. Pens were also used uphill both ways. In the snow.

If you need more colors than this, be sure to give yourself a stern lecture about how back in my day we didn’t have any newfangled ink colors. Pens were also used uphill both ways. In the snow.

I’ve had some problems recently with certain Jetstream color models not living up to the Jetstream name—consider this pen redemption. All colors perform smooth and vibrant, as a Jetstream should. The 0.5mm provides crisp lines that glide onto the page with almost no pressure whatsoever. The barrel is a bit wide, as almost all multipens are, but it’s not unwieldy—only if you really prefer a slim pen will it be something that might bother you. And, after handwriting out this whole review, the side of my hand is clean. This is the Jetstream I know and love.

If someone at Uni isn't feverishly working right now on adapting the Kuru Toga mechanism for multi pen use, then they don't know good money

If someone at Uni isn’t feverishly working right now on adapting the Kuru Toga mechanism for multi pen use, then they don’t know good money

If you use red, blue, green, and black ballpoints on a regular basis, you’ve got to give one of these a try. I’m thinking especially professionals and students in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, plus anyone who needs to mark up papers, or just likes having access to all the traditional pen colors at once. The refills are smooth, the mechanisms solid, and the pen looks good. Classic Jetstream goodness!

Uni Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen and Pencil – Purple at JetPens

Zebra Prefill 3 Color Multi Pen

29 01 2014
In honor of the fast-approaching Valentine's Day, this scan has decided it wants its magenta-purple ink to appear pink instead. I give up

In honor of the fast-approaching Valentine’s Day, this scan has decided it wants its magenta-purple ink to appear pink instead. I give up

These names for multi pens get unwieldy. This is technically the Zebra Prefill 3 Color Multi Pen – Light Blue Body Component / 0.3mm Mechanical Pencil Component / 0.4mm Sarasa Gel Ink Components – Black and Purple. There, that’s everything.

In the world of budget-priced, customizable multi pens, there’s no perfection—only some pretty good options. The Prefill (‘preferred’ + ‘refill’) is Zebra’s pretty good option.

Simple and clean. Like that song. This will now be the soundtrack for the Zebra Prefill.

Simple and clean. Like that song. This will now be the soundtrack for the Zebra Prefill.

The body is hard plastic, and comes in a range of colors and patters (you can get a 3 component body or a 4 component body). Like the original Uni Style Fit, we’ve got a see-through grip to easily identify which components are loaded. Advantage over the original Style Fit: lead advances when a pencil component is deployed by pressing down on the top knock button. Disadvantage: the Prefill has no eraser (also, the Style Fit fixed that problem in another body). That’s right: no eraser; not on top, useless and tiny but still existent, nor as an optional in-body component, like the glorious Hi-Tec-C Coleto line.

Help me I'm still listening to the song. Hold me, Zebra Prefill, whatever lies beyond this morning....

Help me I’m still listening to the song. Hold me, Zebra Prefill, whatever lies beyond this morning….

Biggest thing going for the Zebra Prefill is probably this clip. Cribbed from their Sarasa Push Clip, Airfit Jell, and Surari 4C multi pen, its hinged clips pinch right on my heartstrings. Love a hinged clip.



A lack of eraser is a serious negative if the Prefill ever hopes to be a strong multipencil, buuuut among the Prefill, Style Fit, and Coleto systems, the Prefill is the only one with three size options (0.3mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm) for the mechanical pencil. The Coleto has 0.3mm and 0.5mm, and the Style Fit only has 0.5mm for its pencil component. It all depends on what your priorities might be in building an affordable multipencil.

Fine, I give up. Whatever. It's pink.

Fine, I give up. Whatever. It’s pink now.

If you’re a Zebra fan (think Sarasa gels and Surari super smooth ballpoints), then the Prefill is a good way to bring your loves together in one body, with some caveats. First, there’s only one size option listed for your various gel pen colors (0.4mm) and one size option for your ballpoints (0.5mm)—though the 0.7mm Surari ballpoint refill from my Surari 4C fits in the Prefill, making that 2 ballpoint size options. Second, it seems like individual Sarasa Pens write better than the components in the multi pen. Sometimes a little sacrifice is in order when you want compact convenience. But it’s like there are these times when the gel ball tip feels a little odd while writing…not so consistently nor terrible as to render the pen totally annoyingly unusable, but know that this may come up for you, and you may not like it.

Here's where an eraser would go...IF THE PREFILL HAD ONE.

Here’s where an eraser would go…IF THE PREFILL HAD ONE.

Zebra may be a little late to the low-end game, with not as many gel size options, but the Prefill is a comfortable start. I don’t think it’s enough to unseat the Style Fit or the Coleto, but it should at least pique the interest of Zebra’s Sarasa and Surari fans.

Zebra Prefill Multi Pen System at JetPens

Bic Duo – Ballpoint Pen and Highlighter

17 01 2014
Do not be deceived by the scan---the highlighter color is the ordinary screaming fluorescent yellow of most common highlighters

Do not be deceived by the scan—the highlighter color is the ordinary screaming fluorescent yellow of most common highlighters

My local pen store carried these for a while, and though I don’t normally make a habit of buying BICs, this was enough of an oddity to be worth throwing down a couple bucks.

You can see the highlighter lifeblood pulsing beneath the pearlescent skin. Is it alive?

You can see the highlighter lifeblood pulsing beneath the pearlescent skin. Is it alive?

The matte black/pearlescent mix body, with this streamlined flare-out to a wider curved cap…it’s a surprisingly attractive combination for a cheap pen.

Pretty, but hard plastic. Advantage: no debris! Disadvantage: ow, hard plastic.

Pretty, but hard plastic. Advantage: no debris! Disadvantage: ow, hard plastic.

The matching grip looks nice with the securely posted cap up top, but the hard plastic won’t be doing your hands any favors in the comfort department. This is not a marathoner pen—it’s a study pen. Here’s why:

Look at that live twist action!!

Look at that live twist action!!

Twist the grip, and you deploy a hollowed-out, fully functional highlighter around and past the fixed ballpoint tip. The highlighter sort-of clicks securely in place. The ballpoint pen, though far from the best, performs well enough (a little slow, not jet-black, but no skipping or blobbing). This is the perfect pen to go with a pdf printout of some material that you’re supposed to read for class—make little notes in the margins, highlight the important bits—just you and some pieces of paper and the Bic Duo out on the quad.

Maybe Bic Duo will ask you out to that sweet mixer you've been hearing about

Maybe Bic Duo will ask you out to that sweet mixer you’ve been hearing about

The Bic Duo isn’t perfect, but it is unique and useful. Finding one might be a bit tricky, but if the price is good (as in, NOT the $45 for a 6 pack offer on Amazon), I’d say grab one.

Bic Duo Product Page

Mini Review: Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 5 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Black

23 12 2011

Old body, new body, and my bathroom counter.

Can’t go mentioning the sleek new 3-component Mystar Meister without also acknowledging the slightly cheaper (in all senses of the word) 5-component body. In my undoubtedly never-ending quest for the Perfect Multipencil, the Mystar Meister is an upgrade from my first multipencil/my first Style-Fit body.

The new body might be the teensiest bit thicker than the old body, or I might be the teensiest bit hallucinating; it's hard to tell.

I didn’t get any new components to go in the new body, because why would I need two fully-loaded multipencils at the same time (/why would I need to spend an extra quantity of money exceeding $10)? So this will just be about the body. The Mystar Meister has a matte finish to its plastic body (as opposed to smudgy-fingerprint-showing slick plastic), a tapered end with streamlined plungers (as opposed to airplane wings), a metal clip on a plastic plunger (as opposed to an all plastic clip that could break at any moment), and an eraser with easy-to-lose cap (as opposed to no eraser whatsoever). I like these improvements, for the most part, but there are still some problems with the Mystar Meister’s overall design.

You don't need to know what components you're using, right?

The tiny window is a slight problem. All the labels, on the gel pens especially, are at the bottom, now hidden by the grip. The only thing I can see on this 0.28mm Black Gel component is the beginning of a label that says ” .24 BLACK” (what happened to 0.28??) and the only thing I can see when that component is deployed is “CK”…. ink components need to be labeled with all Style Fit bodies in mind, not just the original model.

At least I could relabel the pencil components myself.

Remodeling the plungers, however, was a good move. Looks much nicer/less like a rocket ship.

No one is ready for take-off now

Much of the improvement in this model is geared toward making the Style Fit a better multipencil. The old model body, while technically multipencil capable, was a pain in the thumb when you needed to advance lead. You had to press down on the little airplane wings, which were not exactly optimized for the task. And the old model body had no eraser.

Let me quote my first Style Fit review: "I think I’d rather have no eraser at all than be saddled with a uselessly small eraser beneath a tiny, easily lost plastic eraser cap." ...... it's like they listened...to half of what I was saying.

I still much prefer the Hi-Tec-C Coleto eraser component. I’m glad to see an eraser on the Style Fit…but I doubt I’ll use that dinky thing very much.

Finally, I want to mention the biggest improvement/problem in the new Style Fit:

Forget doofy wings; we can go back to advancing mechanical pencil lead in the way our ancestors intended.

Deploy pencil you want to use. Push down on the top. Lead advances. EXCELLENT….at least conceptually. In practice, I have frequently (not always, but enough to be very annoying) had the component I was trying to advance lead on spring back up into undeployment whenever I clicked the top to advance lead. The lead advanced, the component retreated. NOT EXCELLENT.

The design is a much better—and most importantly, more aesthetically pleasing—way to advance lead (PILOT I HOPE YOU ARE TAKING NOTES). But Uni needs to work out whatever design bug is causing this frequent retraction problem. I don’t know what condition causes it (I am sitting here right now trying to replicate the problem on command, but the multipencil refuses to obey, as if to say “I can change! Please don’t tell the world about my one major design flaw! I swear I won’t do it again!….until after you’ve posted your review”)…and that unpredictability makes it all the more annoying.

I can be a good multipencil! A good multipencil like you wanted!

It’s an improvement, yes, but it still has a ways to go. If you’re looking for a good multipencil without outrageously flaring wings, I’d just load up the Mystar Meister 3-component metal body. No eraser, true, but I haven’t had any problem with components waywardly retracting in that model. And it looks all kinds of snazzy.

 Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 5 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Black – at JetPens

Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 3 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Brown

14 12 2011

I was going for "autumn" but it seems I achieved "Halloween"

I’ve been waiting for this pen body to exist ever since the first Style Fit model rolled onto my radar. Lo, I asked for a nicer body around the $15 price point, and I have received.

It's like they read my mind. Or my blog. Or really, just came to the conclusion that any sane individual would: Style Fit is awesome, needs more bodies.

The Style Fit Mystar/Meister (which is it? Jetpens says “Mystar,” which sounds demure and twinkly; the stickers on the pen say “Meister,” which sounds like Burgermeister Meisterburger, and the only thing to do at that point is just accept that Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town) is made of lovely, shiny metal that looks like Serious Modern Business but isn’t heavy to hold. Deploying the components has been changed from plunger-deploy to twist-deploy, making the pen look much more neat and normal.

Mystar/Meister spelled here simply as: <>

Plus there’s a sturdy metal clip now.  I’m very happy with this model; you can have a Jetstream and a Signo DX in one sharp looking pen ….AT THE SAME TIME! The only thing missing is a Kuru Toga component (if only such were possible); that alone would make the Style Fit an instrument of utter perfection.

Now you know the difference between daylight white balance and incandescent white balance on my camera when sitting by a window inside a cafe while drinking an Irish coffee. So glad we cleared up that mystery.

The three components I chose to load the Meisterburger up with are an 0.38mm brown-black gel ink component, an 0.7mm black ballpoint ink component, and an 0.38mm golden yellow gel ink component. As I mentioned before, the gel ink is the same as that found in the Signo line, and the ballpoint ink is Jetstream ballpoint ink.

I had my Style Fit customized with an extra-dimensional portal so I could include a fourth component.

For curiosity’s sake, I swapped in one of my pencil components to see how it works in the Burgermeister. Much more comfortable than the plungers on my old Style Fit model. You just push the top down when the pencil is deployed, and the lead advances. It’s exceedingly satisfying, and unlike the previous model, doesn’t make my thumb feel like it’s going to slowly transform into a bloody stump.

Hey, the components are helpfully labeled! Hey, wait, this isn't actually helpful.

Brace yourselves for my only complaint. Though the component refills are labeled with size on a background of easy to discern color, you can’t see any of that through the window on the Mystar. They were designed for the see-through grip of the first model. It would be nice if labeling could continue up the barrel so that the little window is actually useful; the coloring on the tubes fades out right where the window starts, and there’s no indication whatsoever of tip size. But that’s a minor annoyance in light of the overall improvement that this model offers! Good job, Uni-ball.

The pen:

Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 3 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Brown at JetPens

The components seen here:

Uni-ball Style Fit Ballpoint Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.7 mm – Black at JetPens

Uni-ball Style Fit Gel Ink Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.38 mm – Brown Black at JetPens

Uni-ball Style Fit Gel Ink Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.38 mm – Golden Yellow at JetPens

Pentel Vicuna Super Smooth 2 Color 0.7 mm Ballpoint Multi Pen + 0.5 mm Pencil – Sky Blue Body

29 07 2011

I think if it had a highlighter too, you'd have everything you need for school in terms of writing instruments.

I think this is the last sample from the recent batch of goodies JetPens sent me. Poor thing got overshadowed by my excitement over the Jetstream alpha gel grip and the new Pilot Petit series.

Sky blue is a great color, just not as exciting as electric purple or epileptic orange.

The body’s comfortably sized, not too thick (a typical problem for some multi pens). Light plastic, smooth rubber grip. The rubber in the grip is NOT made of the typical debris-magnet material, meaning I need not worry about recklessly throwing the Vicuña into bags, pockets, sandboxes, etc. The grip has small, recessed ridges (ravines?) for better traction. I don’t have traction problems when using pens, so I can’t speak to how effective this design is.

Something is missing here

The plungers work well, no complaints. But what do you not see on the end of this thing? AN ERASER. I thought it was pen law that every multi-pen with a mandatory pencil component had to provide an eraser or face heavy fines from the Council of Regulatory Administration of Pens. Maybe no eraser is better than an insultingly dinky eraser, but I think I would have appreciated at least a token effort in the eraser department.

The weapons at your disposal

The black ballpoint was suitably smooth, but I had problems with the red. You can see up there how there’s red ink gunk caked around the rollerball. There’s clearly something not going right there, and the result is that the red was far too often being reluctant to put ink on the page. A smooth ballpoint should have no skipping; it should certainly not have so much that it’s a noticeable problem. I don’t know if the problems I had with the red ballpoint were a fluke, or a common problem.

I do not recommend writing with the barrel off.

They weren’t very good serious doodle pen components; you can see in the writing sample how streaky and icky thin, light lines often looked. Not a problem that came up in writing (except for the aforementioned red problems). The mechanical pencil performed its task as a mechanical pencil should, and I noticed nothing to complain about.

I do like how they've got the name underneath the translucent grip. Nicely done.

Is this the best smooth-ballpoint-and-mechanical-pencil multipen? Probably not—the competition in the smooth ballpoint category is fierce, and I think the Zebra Surari multi pen has the lockdown as best in the lower price tier. But I don’t think you’d be disappointed in picking one of these up. It’s thin, light, pleasing to the eyes, and if it weren’t for that red ink component and lack of eraser, I’d recommend it without any caveats.


Thanks again to JetPens! :)

Pentel Vicuna Super Smooth 2 Color 0.7 mm Ballpoint Multi Pen + 0.5 mm Pencil – Sky Blue Body at JetPens

Pentel Sliccies Kira 3 Color Gel Ink Multi Pen – Pen Body – Green with Lime Green, Milk Blue, & Golden Orange 0.3mm Gel Ink Cartridges

28 05 2011

I do not know why, but I cannot fully, accurately represent the golden orange color. It baffles me. Neither photos nor scans seem to quite capture it. All I can say is that you'll just have to buy it for yourself, because it is a fun color.

The final freebie from the generous giftstravaganza JetPens sent my way! :) Thanks again to Brad and JetPens!


This has got to be the slimmest multi-pen barrel I've ever gripped

I think if you were to capture a fairy godmother, melt her down, and pour the screaming magic into a pen barrel mold, you’d get the Sliccies Kira 3 Color barrel design.

The four component model will feature a slot for a 0.3mm retractable magic wand

I mean that in a good way, of course; it’s shiny, it’s metallic, it has diamond-shaped sparkles. And I love the color—way more of a blue-green than a green, much to my delight.

The material the barrel is made of, however, concerns me. It’s a very hard plastic, and it’s already begun to crack on the upper barrel, at the join where the two parts of the barrel screw together. I have had this pen for about two weeks now? And it’s been living the easy life in pen cases and soft pockets of bags.

See those two black lines on the upper right? Those are cracks, and there are two more like that on the opposite side.

There’s a lot on both sides of the scale for this pen barrel. One the one hand, it’s actually thick enough to qualify as a pen, instead of a shish kebab skewer. This was one of my biggest complaints with the regular Slicci pen.

Suitable neither for skewering meat nor cushioning your fingers in comfort. At least it has ridges, like a potato chip, and thickness, like me after I eat too many potato chips.

A bit of colored plastic on the end of the component fits into the plastic window to indicate which color is where. Here we have the harder to see Milk Blue.

I like the method of displaying which component is where; the little plastic window is subtle but informative, and allows the smooth little plungers to maintain a uniform, clear appearance. Unfortunately, when the plunger is deployed, you can no longer see any of the little colored bit. You have to use process of elimination by looking at the other two (or you have to write) to know which color you have out.

The plungers are smooth and comfortable. They click firmly, and I have had no problems switching between plungers. Only once, I’ve had one of the components come unsnapped from the plunger; I have no idea why, and it was very confusing at the time. I can offer neither advice nor explanation, only anecdotal report. Otherwise, I’m quite happy with the plungers.

On the other hand, what in the world are those little square cut-outs on the barrel FOR??? I have no idea.

On to writing.

One day, in one of these pictures, the ink on the little rollerball will look like a face, and it will be the happiest day ever. Just you wait.

I’m ambivalent, overall, on the 0.3mm multi pen Slicci. Something just never quite felt right, though I can’t exactly put my finger on what. I definitely got some wonky performance from the milk blue component. The components always felt stable in the pen, but there was something weird feeling, seemed like it was in the tip, perhaps the rollerball, that made things feel a little unstable. The problem wasn’t consistent, but it was frequent enough to be off-putting. I also think that, in the Slicci line, the 0.3mm is a little too scratchy for me. I often felt like the pen was right on the fence—almost too scratchy, but then it would behave smoothly enough for a while, then it would seem a bit on the scratchy side again. At the very least, the writing experience didn’t have a consistent feel. That’s my biggest problem here; I can’t get a feel for how the pen behaves because its behavior just isn’t consistent—it’s a pen with unpredictable mood swings.

I will say that I never had problems with skipping or ink flow, nor issues of smudging or ink pick-up. The ink, I think, is good, but the tip size is not for me. The colors, like the other Sliccies I’ve had, are bright and vibrant.

I’d like to try some 0.4mm ink components in this barrel before I nix the Sliccies multi-line entirely. If the 0.4mm performs well, then the next step is for Pentel to offer slightly higher-end barrels, like something that won’t crack within a week or two of use. The design is otherwise decent, but needs to be made with better, more durable materials. I think the best thing the Slicci line has going for it is the breadth of rich and vibrant ink colors it offers (all of which, sadly, are not available for the multi-pen. Dear Pentel: I would please like a dark purple 0.4mm Slicci multi pen component for Penmas! Thank you); now it just needs a decent body around it.

I know the camera is focused on the tip, but the best part of this pen is what's left behind when you ditch the metal tip, the pen body, and all the other bits that make the ink conveniently usable.

Thanks again, JetPens! :)

Pentel Sliccies Kira 3 Color Gel Ink Multi Pen – Pen Body – Green at JetPens
Pentel Sliccies Gel Ink Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.3 mm – Golden Orange at JetPens
Pentel Sliccies Gel Ink Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.3 mm – Lime Green at JetPens
Pentel Sliccies Gel Ink Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.3 mm – Milk Blue at JetPens

Zebra Surari 4 Color Emulsion Ink Multi Pen – 0.7 mm – Blue Green body

19 05 2011

These doodles started off on a downhill incline, and only progressed with even greater velocity in that initial direction as I continued.

Number 3 in the gift basket of penly delight from JetPens (for which I continue to give many thanks :D ), we have the Zebra Surari 4 Color Emulsion Ink Multi Pen. I own, but have not yet given much pen time to, a Zebra Surari emulsion ink pen in both 0.5mm and 1.0mm—this is no fault of the Surari, merely a reflection of the combined phenomena of “I probably have too many pens” and “the Jetstream has already won my heart.” But let’s see if we can’t get a little penfidelity going.

Sadly, I do not actually have 4 Zebra Surari 4C Multi Pens.

I want to say this jumped onto my wishlist when it was a hot new arrival, but I don’t remember. What I do know is that it appealed to my current obsession with blue/green/turquoise colors and my love of Zebra’s hinged pen clip. Also, I wanted to be able to try out several emulsion ink colors, but I’m too lazy to go through the rigmarole of wishlisting/buying four separate pens. I couldn’t ask for more.

The combination clip/black ink plunger strikes quite a strange profile.

The body of the pen is a great color. The only thing I might change there is make the white plastic of the clip hinge something more unobtrusive, like the like the darker-colored blue-green plastic above the grip, and make the odd metallic-periwinkle-lavender color used to pick out words on the clip be anything but that color. Just kidding, I think a plain silver, successfully used elsewhere on the barrel, would look much better here. I wouldn’t want to introduce a new and unrelated color on the clip; it would be visually incongruent.

I really like the silver ring in the middle of the barrel; it’s a nice accent, and it kind of goes along with the elements immediately above it: the rings formed by the plastic where the top of the barrel screws onto the bottom, and the silver springs of each pen component beneath the translucent blue-green plastic.

I love when the functional components of a product create an appealing design

They look cute and cozy now, but they know to keep their distance when the barrel's on and it's time to write.

In the hand, the Surari multi pen is light but big; wider than the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me 4 component body, but about the same weight. The grip is just a hard bit of matte rubber; I have spoiled myself into preferring extensively squishy/fancy/soft/ergonomic grips lately, so I find this grip a bit hard; its only function is to not be slick. Since the barrel is a bit bigger than most, I found my normal grip radius had me gripping too hard, but it was something I could adjust to, with practice. In spite of being mostly plastic, the body does feel well put together; nothing feels loose, nothing seems to rattle.

Right off the bat, one thing this pen excels at is the plungers. I’ve had several multi pens (Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Uni Style Fit) where components would get caught on one another or stuck in some way when switching from one component to another. Not always, but enough that it would be a notable pain. I have not once had any of the Surari plungers/components get stuck so far. Switching from one component to another always sends the last component up and leads the new one out without problem. This means that I can idly click through the plungers without having my mindless rhythm interrupted by something getting caught.

And let’s not forget that hinged clip.

It has the astounding hinge radius of an alligator with its jaw partially wired shut.

You can’t use the hinge when that plunger is deployed, and it doesn’t open super-wide, but you can still clip it onto a decent amount of stuff. Far better than a non-hinged clip.

So how does it write? Well, quite well. The components themselves are very sturdy when deployed. It really is like having four pens in one body, instead of having one pen with four shaky and schizophrenic personalities. For drawing, the 0.7mm was just too thick for the small scale of doodling I like to work on, but I’m not really imagining this pen so much as a drawing-focused pen. It’s really a little writing workhorse, especially for people who like to color-code notes, who have to grade papers, or who can’t stand to write with the same color for more than two minutes at a time.

Good things come in fours, like pen components, and ninja turtles of a teenaged persuasion.

And the smoothness? I must say I’m quite impressed with the emulsion ink. The colors are all very bright and vibrant. All four inks are buttery-buttery smooth, I daresay on par with the Jetstream. The ink does have a tendency to leave little blobs in the writing occasionally, and especially in the drawing (which is very detrimental to small-scale sketches). I’ll have to compare it to the 0.5mm to see if this is a function of tip size, or a product of this particular ink. But in most of the writing, no blobbing is evident and the lines look nice and crisp. I had no smudge problems when writing, though I did get a little ink on the side of my hand, it never came from smearing anything, and it never ended up redistributed elsewhere on the page.

To get four colors in a Jetstream multi-pen, you have to pay almost 3 times as much. Now, I love me some Jetstreams, but this Surari is an exceptionally smooth-writing ballpoint pen, even if it weren’t at such a good price. And the Surari multi pen is cheaper than buying 4 individual Surari ink pens. I’d be thrilled to see 0.5mm refill options for the Surari multi pen, but for now, this is a great bargain for a great pen. Also, the ink smells nice, like ballpoint ink should. Odorless is boring. I love the scent of a bunch of ballpoint ink on a page. But then again, I’m weird.

Thanks again to JetPens for this sample! :)

Zebra Surari 4 Color Emulsion Ink Multi Pen – 0.7 mm – Blue Green body at JetPens

Mini Review: Playing Favorites

27 03 2011

For some reason, I decided to go through my pens, and for every brand where I owned two or more products, decide which product of that brand was my favorite. First, let’s meet the contestants. For brands where I only owned two products, I put both in the picture here, except for Tombow–I forgot to put my Apro Airpress in this picture. IT IS TOO LATE TO FIX THIS NOW.

Disclaimer: I am tired. But I am doing this mini-review anyway.

Here are your contestants. From left to right: Tombow, Kuretake, Platinum, A. G. Spalding, Tachikawa, Sharpie, Zebra, Pilot, Uni-ball, Pentel, and Sailor.

I proceeded to make drawings with the winning favorite of each brand, in an order that is completely incongruent with the picture above.

First up: Kuretake. Your winner:

The waterbrush wins! The waterbrush also is incapable of making art by itself. We are all very saddened by this.

Next, Tombow. Like I said, I forgot the Apro Airpress, but don’t worry; it wouldn’t have won anyway.

The Tombow Fudenosuke twin tip brush pen wins! This is the pen I used for my first hourly comics day. Its performance on that day earns it this coveted winning spot.

Platinum was a category of little contest–between the fountain pen and the sign marker, in spite of a broken cap, the fountain pen takes home the victory.

If only your plastic weren't so brittle, Platinum Preppy, you'd win other contests of my heart, instead of merely beating out a marker pen that I have no use for.

Tachikawa featured a battle between two different colors of the same style of scratchy, paper-fiber clogging and collecting fountain pen, and the far superior comic dip pen nib and holder. Sorry, frustrating fountain pens, crow quill wins every time.

I also enjoy how this reminds me of a baseball bat. (Ink used is Noodler's Bulletproof black)

In spite of being the most thick-writing “fine” nib fountain pen I’ve ever marked a page with, the delightful style of the A. G. Spalding mini fountain pen gives is a leg up over its mini-ballpoint brother. Ink used is a Rotring cartridge, because the one it came with was even worse, even wetter. Dear A. G. Spalding: THIS IS NOT A FINE NIB PEN. Please stop living in denial.

What a suave and adorable little fountain pen! It has some problems, but nothing that sheer adorableness can't overcome. This is also the working principle behind cats.

Sharpie has put a lot of effort into its products, especially in their willingness to innovate in the past few years. What I’m saying is, blah blah blah I like the Sharpie pen, and though I prefer the grip on the retractable pen, it worries me too much that I’m going to accidentally deploy the pen in my bag. So, the Sharpie Pen with Grip takes the Sharpie category.

Around this point, you may notice that my desire for some much-needed rest started to creep into my drawings.

I think we already knew that the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip 0.3mm blue-black gel pen was going to take the Zebra Cup. None of my other Zebra products even made it to the competition picture, because they were not competition.

I'm excusing this poorly drawn nonsense due to having done some decent doodles on the actual review of this pen.

I own three types of Sailor fountain pen, and yet, the cheapest remains my all-time favorite. In fact, it may be my favorite pen out of all pens. Every time I make a JetPens order, I try to remember to throw another one of these pens into the order, because they have allegedly been discontinued, and one day there will be no more. I’ve tried refilling one of my Sailor Ink-Bars so far (with much mess), but the ink I used (Noodler’s Bulletproof black) just isn’t the same and doesn’t dry as fast. :( Sailor, why would you cancel my favorite pen? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Sailor Ink-Bar, you are the winningest winner of everything that has ever won my heart.

Now we get to the final three categories–also some of the biggest three sources of pens in America. For each brand, I had trouble deciding which writing utensil within each of these final three categories would be declared my favorite.

The Pilot semi-finals: Pilot Plumix italic nib fountain pen, Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me 4 component multi pen (3 mechanical pencil components, 1 eraser), and the Pilot Fineliner

It was a tough call, but ultimately this Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me multi pencil won the day with its stylish body, complement of pencils, and onboard eraser.

Not winning: my attention span for this task

Uni-ball also had a trifecta of star products. The decision, again, was quite difficult.


In the end, my love of the smoothest, butteriest ballpoint pen just edged out the wonderment I hold toward the Kuru Toga. But only just.

So rich and smooth and creamy and delicious.

Good things allegedly come in threes. Three great pen companies, each with three great contenders for favorite product…that makes nine. So that adage is a useless lie.

The Pentel semi-final was dominated by art products: the Tradio Pulaman "fountain" pen, the Jolt (with Pentel's Stein blue lead), and the Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy

Due to my continuing lack of mastery of the Pocket Brush Pen (my fault entirely), the win ended up going to the much easier to master (or at least seem competent with) Tradio Pulaman.

Unfortunately, by this point, I could only draw something weird.

And there you have it. Favorites (as of the time of this writing) have been declared! Many pens came very close, and really, just about every one of the pens I own is pretty terrific (except for the Sharpie Liquid Pencil–but that is a review for another day). Let’s have a round of applause for all our contestants, and an extra round of applause for the actual winners. Yay!

Your winners! Also pictured, your losers! And my cold coffee! And my breakfast plate! Hooray!

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto 5 Color Multi Pen – Pen Body – Clear Black with ERASER (& other stuff)

23 03 2011

Gaze into the eye. Ignore the other terrible drawing. You see only the eye.

So the title was going to get all kinds of unruly; here’s your full title: Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto 5 Color Multi Pen – Pen Body – Clear Black with Three 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil Components, 0.5mm Black Multi Pen Ink Cartridge, and ERASER COMPONENT.

I’d been collecting some Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Multi Pen(cil) components before in my quest for the perfect multi pencil, but previously I was unimpressed by the ink cartridges (also, negatively impressed on several occasions, but let’s stay positive), and the mechanical pencil components didn’t swing my opinion one way or another since the additional ink components couldn’t carry me away from my previous multi-pen(cil) love. The body options for the Pilot Hi-Tec-C multi pen, I admit, are much more extensive and much nicer than what’s available for the Uni-ball Style Fit (which has recently added a few bizarre polka dotted options in a misguided attempt to bring something interesting to the table), but the pencil components were close enough to identical that the presence of a Jetstream component kept my loyalty with the Style Fit. Not anymore.


Ladies, gentlemen, individuals not constricted by societally prescribed gender, THAT IS AN ERASER. It is an eraser, and it is coming out of that multi pencil. We have seen the promised land. Our hopes, prayers, and animal sacrifices have been answered.

The finest plastic that three dollars and seventy-five cents can buy

The addition of an eraser, in spite of a lack of a satisfying pen component, puts the Coleto multi pen line in front running for Best Multipencil. Let’s take it from the top.

or the tips. from the tips. whatever.

I decided to go with the 5 component body—I wanted 3 pencils, the eraser, and figured it might be worthwhile to throw a pen in the mix (it wasn’t).

Unlike the Style Fit, disassembling the Coleto mechanical pencil component was not an esoteric challenge of obscure pentuition—just pull the long silver tube away from the plastic. Ta-da.

In hindsight, it would have made aesthetic sense to put the pen component opposite the clip. TOO LATE FOR SENSIBILITY NOW

It doesn’t fall apart, but it comes apart as easily as I think a component should. The eraser comes already in the metal sleeve. I haven’t gone through it yet, but we’ll see how long the eraser lasts and how easy refilling ends up being. The ink component is totally discardable—ok, maybe I’m being too harsh, but for me it ranks far below the Signo DX style ink cartridge and the Jetstream cartridge. If I can find a way to shove one of those in here instead, I’ll do it. We will henceforth refrain from commentary on the lowly ink cartridge and my infinitesimally low opinion of it.

The components drop down into spring-loaded tubes, then the lid snaps shut on top, securing the components in place. It’s very easy to rearrange components, swap them in and out of different bodies, and devise new orderings to try to get around the aesthetic nightmare all those plastic wings create. Score one point for convenience.


I wish there were a better way to differentiate between mechanical pencil components than a bit of Sharpie, but it’s all I’ve got.

Even though the plastic wings look odd and unpleasant, they are kinder on the thumbs than the wings of the Style-Fit, and advancing the lead seems much easier. Switching between deployed components isn’t always as smooth as I’d like; it doesn’t seem like pushing down on a new component always automatically makes the other component pop back up, and I’ve occasionally had trouble getting the component to stay down after I first push it (but once it’s in place, I haven’t had one retract while in use). I haven’t had any problems with the lead slipping back into the barrel, or at least haven’t had any vague hallucinations of such being a problem (one of which had to be the issue I was having with the Style Fit mechanical pencil components).

I am especially pleased with the performance of the eraser—I wouldn’t use it to clear out big areas, but it’s perfect for fixing lines in a quick sketch. The only drawback is having to overcome the learned urge to flip the entire unit around when I want to erase something. Once I learn to not do that, I think use of this multi pencil will be even easier, since I won’t be wasting time flipping the unit constantly (we will assume I’m going to be making a lot of little mistakes).

This is how smooth and beautiful it's SUPPOSED to look

The only mark against this multi pencil set up is that all these pencil and eraser components rattle around for some reason. When I fill the barrel with all these colorful, sleek little pen components I don’t get the rattling. And the only mark against the five-body model in particular that I have is that, unless I want to put another pencil in, I have no need for 5 component slots. This particular 0.5 mm black pen had no redeeming features that made it worth keeping in the mix, and it detracted from the otherwise uniformly wonky visual set-up the pencils and eraser provided. I found the grips on the barrel unobtrusive but …useful? I don’t know; I don’t really tend to have a particular need for a grip, but for those of you that do, this model does have a grip where the Uni Style Fit does not.

In going for a pure multi pencil, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto line has everything I’ve been looking for: convenience, ease of use, comfort, nicer component bodies, and above all, AN ERASER. If you’ve been trying to put a bunch of pencils together in a single house of plastic, jump on the Coleto; it’s the best option I’ve seen so far.


It's coming for you, like a doofy-looking starfish in search of a hug.



Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto 5 Color Multi Pen – Pen Body – Clear Black at JetPens

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Multi Pen – 0.5 mm – Mechanical Pencil Component at JetPens

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Multi Pen – Eraser Component at JetPens


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