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.



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.

Pilot B2P Bottle to Pen Gel Ink Pen – 0.7 mm – Blue Ink

13 09 2013
Now I just need a bottle made out of recycled pens and the cycle will be complete

Now I just need a bottle made out of recycled pens and the cycle will be complete

I’ve had this pen for a while, resting first in a general all-purpose “To Review” drawer, and then, around when I moved, I promoted it to the smaller, elite “Cool-Looking Pens to Review” drawer. And there it sat in all my laziness until an inquisitive nudge made me realize I still hadn’t reviewed this pen.

Warning: do not fill B2P with water. Results will not be satisfactory.

Warning: do not fill B2P with water. Results will not be satisfactory.

I like the look of it. The nigh-gimmicky plastic-bottle-reproduction body works for me, right down to the bottle label. It’s cute, it’s clever. I appreciate the feel-goodery of a product containing 89% recycled content. This is an all-around improvement over the standard G2.

Needs a tiny nutrition facts table.

Needs a tiny nutrition facts table.

But I find the hard plastic body uncomfortable to write with for any significant stretch. If you write like a normal human being, with a tripod grip, it’s likely this won’t be such a problem for you. But if you write like me, with the ungainly grip of a ridge-browed troglodyte, you may find this pen uncomfortable.

I wonder if there's a significant difference in blue vs. black Pilot G2 ink performance. Maybe my problem all along is I've been using black, when the acceptably mediocre champion is blue.

I wonder if there’s a significant difference in blue vs. black Pilot G2 ink performance. Maybe my problem all along is I’ve been using black, when the acceptably mediocre champion is blue.

Quality control, in my experience with the Pilot G2 refills, is the pen equivalent of playing Russian Roulette with a gun that’s 80% loaded full of writing-killing, poor performance bullets. Maybe I’m just a particularly unlucky punk. But in this pen-stance, the G2 refill has thus far written without any major hair-pulling problems. Nothing phenomenal, nothing atrocious. In keeping with the Be Green branding, the pen is easily refillable with any size or color G2 refill you happen to fancy (I would suggest the 0.38mm refill, as it is the only G2 that has not consistently brought me despair).

The multi-packs should come in a reused plastic water bottle, full of B2Ps. Genius. Pilot, you may now shower me with your moneydollars for this marketing gold.

The multi-packs should come in a reused plastic water bottle, full of B2Ps. Genius. Pilot, you may now shower me with your moneydollars for this marketing gold.

It may not be entirely comfortable for me, but I like the direction this B2P takes the G2. It’s a thoughtful design, both aesthetically and environmentally.

You can find these pens in box stores, at JetPens, and on Amazon.

Pentel RSVP Ballpoint Pen Fine Point – Black Ink and Blue Ink

2 05 2012


Back before I discovered such things as JetPens, good paper, and super-smooth ballpoint pens, I was utterly addicted to the Pentel RSVP and never left the house without my Moleskine and at least one Pentel RSVP in my pocket.


The RSVP is the signature pen I think of when I think of the name “Pentel”. When they went on sale I would buy them by the dozen. I’m still finding Pentel RSVPs in nearly every drawer I open.

Nothing fancy, but who needs fancy when these babies would go on sale five for a dollar?

The design is straightforward, yet appealing. I was always particularly fond of the fine point, because it had silver lettering on the barrel (looks nice, no?) These pens were durable, yet replaceable, and fun to chew on (don’t worry, I don’t chew on pens anymore).

This end needs some work

You may notice I keep slipping into the past tense when talking about the RSVP, and here’s why: writing quality. This pen has fallen out of my favor due to constant ink issues. My old Moleskines are filled with blobs and smears. A serious writing session would leave the side of my hand riddled with ink.

There’s even a big ink smear on the nose cone. What a mess.

Comparing standard office pens (the kind corporations tend to order), I’d take the RSVP any day, blobs and all, over a Pilot G2 or a Bic stick. But this isn’t a go-to pen for me. Even Pentel’s own Vicuna ink is much smoother, darker, and less blobby; put that ink in the RSVP body, and you’d have quite the top-notch office pen. I daresay it could even put up a fair fight against a Jetstream, especially if such a RSVP-Vicuna hybrid clocked in at a cheaper price.

All aboard the nostalgia express

If you’re ordering for your office and Jetstreams aren’t an option, then go for the RSVP. Otherwise, they’re not worth getting more of (unless you’re feeling particularly nostalgic), and you should probably find some underprivileged youths to give the ones you’ve already got.

Pentel RSVP Ballpoint Pens at JetPens

Also found just about anywhere pens are sold

Pilot Prera Clear Body Fountain Pen – Plumix Medium Italic Flat Nib – Translucent Blue Accent

18 04 2012

This nib's work should look very familiar

Now, this is a story all about how my pen got flipped, turned upside-down—and then it fell on the nib, which turned out to be a stroke of hidden luck—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Don't look at one of these in person unless you want to buy it...because you'll want to buy it.

Simplistic, but in a most beautiful way. I love every bit of the design, from the little rows of dots around the cap to the delicate curve of the clip. It’s lightweight, but the plastic excuse me, acrylic feels appropriately well-made and durable.

And the way the cap closes sealed the deal. Also the pen. But mostly the deal.

This might very well be the most satisfying capping mechanism I have encountered in a pen. Slides on, then snaps neatly into place. There’ve got to be small magnets involved, the way it gently gives a little pull at the very end as you slide it on—subtle, but utterly, unreasonably satisfying. The cap stays solidly in place (hence why I’m certain it’s magnets miracles magnets), but paradoxically is easy to uncap with even one hand. Let me reiterate: this is my current top pick for best cap.

Not miniature, but it is delightfully petite

It’s small enough to look nice clipped on a small notebook, slipped into a jeans pocket (not as nice as a Kaweco Liliput, but not every pen can be a luxurious choking hazard), or even tossed unobtrusively in your coat pocket, but it’s not so small as to inhibit its useability or be considered a mini pen. I have no problem using it unposted, but people with bigger hands will probably want to post the cap.

Now, about that nib

Tell me what you see above this sentence. If you answered, a really terrible performance from a nib on a pretty pricey pen, then you would be correct! I must have tried nearly half a dozen inks on the F nib it came with. It vexed me to no end. I’ve learned how to use fountain pens and Japanese fine nibs at this point, so it wasn’t me. It was undeniably the nib. And on one of my repeated trips to flush out the pen to try a different ink during a break at work, invisible forces (possibly known as gravity) slapped the pen right out of my hand (not even the whole pen, mind you, just the assembly of nib, feed, grip, converter) and caused it to land nib-first on the hard tile floor.

See how bowed the nearest tine is? And this is AFTER having a professional try to make it better.

It made the writing…kind of better? But not better enough. That’s when it clicked—this feed is exactly the same as the Pilot Plumix feed, and this nib is exactly the same line of “Pilot Superior Quality” found on the Plumix. Could this possibly be the answer I was looking for?


The Plumix italic nib fit like a dream, and wrote as smooth as a professional ice-skater on a freshly Zamboni’d ice rink. That metaphor may be a little ham-fisted, but I’m not (anymore) and I can actually use an italic nib now in a way that isn’t embarrassing to the entire tradition of handwriting. Add the round grip (as opposed to the Plumix’s molded pliers-style grip) to the mix, a dash of the always quick-drying Lamy blue ink, and I daresay my handwriting even passes as being moderately attractive. You don’t see it? Maybe you’re not squinting hard enough.

Ultimate unstoppable combination pen for most excellent and presentable handwriting

So, after a few character-building hiccups, I now have a highly ideal pen. It’s stood up well, so far, through at least half a year’s worth of casual-use daily abuse, and it’s still going strong.
Pilot Prera Clear Body Fountain Pen – Fine Nib – Translucent Blue Accent at JetPens

Pilot Plumix Fountain Pen – Medium Italic Flat Nib at JetPens

Lamy Blue Ink at JetPens

Pilot Vanishing Point Yellow Body Broad Nib Fountain Pen

27 03 2012

For some reason, my scanner and Photoshop colluded in a conspiracy to make this ink look much more bright blue than it looks in reality. I was powerless to stop their scheme.

It ain’t easy being left-handed.

I resisted the Pilot Vanishing Point for quite some time. Every time I’d pop in the local pen store, I’d always scribble with the Vanishing Point kept on display, and every time I’d leave without one. Didn’t like the look. Didn’t like the clip. But here we are. I blame the particular shade of warm yellow, because as soon as I held it and saw it up close, I had to have it (once payday rolled around). Here’s a tip for whoever’s in charge of these things at Pilot: the fight would have been over months earlier if I’d been pitted against a turquoise Vanishing Point. Special edition color perhaps? Think about it.

CLICK (that sound you hear is a thousand ballpoint click pens weeping in the presence of their god)

I don’t know what to say about the general aesthetic design of the pen. It gives me feelings; I just can’t quite understand what they are. It’s simple. I like simple. I like this pen, but at the same time there’s some nagging thing; I wish I could say more but something about this design doesn’t visually balance perfectly, and I can’t put my finger on what I’m even going on about. Let’s just focus on the yellow: this is a warm and wonderful yellow. Nice weight, though not as heavy as the Lamy Dialog 3 (that will, I promise, be a review for another day). Feels solid and well built.


What’s the big deal about this pen? It’s retractable. “So is this,” comes the inevitable reply from your average non-fountain-pen-person, as they whip out some cringeworthy retractable offering. “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND,” you are legally required to shout, as you knock their plastic abomination from their hands into the depths of a conveniently-located nearby furnace, “THIS IS A FOUNTAIN PEN AND IT IS RETRACTABLE.” It makes a big difference, being able to click (and it is a mighty click), write something, click, and throw the pen back down without having to worry about it drying out, while still being able to use a fountain pen. This means I can use a fountain pen at work, where emergency situations require that, if you’re jotting something down, you have to jot it down NOW and keep moving. You don’t have time to unscrew caps, to make sure they’ve been put back on properly and whatnot. “Why don’t you just NOT use a fountain pen in those kinds of situations?” you may wonder. Look, buster, if we followed that kind of thinking, we’d still be living in trees, eating termites off sticks, and covered in hair.


If you’re right-handed, I’m pretty confident you’ll have no problems whatsoever with the writing of the Vanishing Point. You are free to skip ahead to the next picture. If you’re left-handed, like me, it would greatly behoove you to extensively test this pen out in a store before you buy it. I’ve been trying just about every writing angle and grip combination I can conceive of, but short of learning to write mirrored right-to-left across the page, à la Leonardo da Vinci, I am unable to figure out how to get an ideal and consistent performance out of this pen (as is abundantly obvious in the writing sample above). Of course, as I’m typing this up I’m also scribbling phrases with the pen, and it’s being unusually well behaved right now. I don’t know if there’s some kind of breaking-in phase that I’m having to endure here or what. I’ll have to return to this pen in a later update, perhaps in a few months, and see where things stand. Hoping it’s a phase, and that I won’t have to shell out extra buckos to get the nib ground.

Normally I am a fan of miniatures, but the line of absurdity has to be drawn somewhere

Clips and nibs do not belong on the same end of the pen together. They belong on opposite ends, the way Thoth intended. But then on pens like this and the Lamy Dialog 3, you’d have the nibs pointed down in pockets, just tempting fate to leak onto shirts and all over pockets. So onto the nib end it goes. The clip gets uncomfortably in the way of my natural grip. But my natural grip is wrong, HARRUMPH, and the clip is just ever-so-perfectly situated for the heavenly-ordained ideal tripod pliers grip.

Fun fact: this nib will sometimes squeak on the paper when writing, like a little metal mousey

The nib really doesn’t seem to go along with the rest of the pen, but given that I didn’t buy this pen for the beauty pageant factor, I’ll let it slide. It does its job.

Why did I turn the nib unit around? It's a flippin' mystery

Once unscrewed, the nib unit slides right out. Very simple. Takes Pilot cartridges (for which it has that silver cover pictured….for inexplicable design reasons….given that no one sees it) or converter (comes with both, in a fancy leatherette jewelry-like box). Given that I find Pilot cartridges to be some of the easiest to refill, and that it comes with a cartridge and a converter, I’m not too bothered by the brand-specific cartridge requirement. This isn’t exactly an entry level pen. We’re beyond cartridge wars at this point. It doesn’t take a standard international cartridge? I don’t care.

This review, and all you need to know about the Pilot Vanishing Point, can be summed up in four words: WORKING RETRACTABLE FOUNTAIN PEN. That’s it. Everything else is minor details and quibbles. It’s not perfect, but it remains the only click retractable fountain pen. I’m not going to sit down and draft out  a copy of the Constitution with it, but for quick-jot notes, it’s by and far the best.

Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pens (including my wonderful yellow) at Goldspot Pens

BIC Disposable Fountain Pen

30 12 2011

Ubiquitous BIC ballpoints crowded out fountain pens from the market in the first place. Everything has come full circle, as the fountain pen prophecies foretold.

Rumors of the fabled existence of a new brand of disposable fountain pen first reached my nosy ears over a month ago. After several disappointing trips, I finally located said mythical product on the Staples shelves of my hometown.

Why buy one color when you can get AAALLL THREEEEE

Bic—known for its disposable lighters, razors, cell phones, and ballpoint pens—has entered the disposable fountain pen game.

The holes are for: a)target practice. b)aesthetics stringing several pens together festively, interspersed with berries and popcorn d)all of the above simultaneously

I like the look of the clip, but otherwise am not impressed by the design. It tries too hard. But I think it’s a requirement for all disposable fountain pens (except for the Sailor Ink Bar) to be ugly, so that you’re not tempted to keep and refill the pen. Which, I guess, makes pretty good business sense.

Towering majestically over the fruited plains of North America....wait does fruit grow in plains? I thought it grew in groves, or patches...

The hard plastic grip is not particularly comfortable. At all. I’m writing this review by hand prior to typing it up, and it’s starting to wear on me. Maybe it’s the hard ridge where the cap snaps on that’s being such a pain in the thumb. The Pilot Varsity, for all my complaints against it, barely has a ridge where its cap snaps on, making it a little easier to write with.

But for writing, it’s pretty good! I was pleasantly surprised—the ink doesn’t fuzz or feather out on most paper (unlike the Varsity), and it dries pretty quickly. The blue is my top pick—it’s almost a Lamy blue (the red is more of a pink, and the black feels off to me, but I’m all about this blue). None of the nibs were scratchy; they just have that nice tactile feel when writing. AND the ink doesn’t smell weird.

One more picture, because you've all been so good. You deserve it

My main concern with this pen is that eventually, I fear the cap will crack. It’s got a very strong hold when you snap the cap on…and the plastic feels like it might be the crack-prone kind….the only reason I’m so worried is because the cap on my Platinum Preppy cracked, wouldn’t stay on, and the pen dried out. Maybe the BIC plastic is thicker, perhaps not as brittle.

The grip is also a concern…it isn’t so much a problem if I’m mindful of how I’m holding the pen and make sure my thumb is above that ridge…but I probably won’t sit down and scribble out a novel with this pen. But it’s nice. It’s decent. And more importantly, it’s another option that’s bringing fountain pens to a mainstream audience. I don’t want to dream too big, but this is exciting! Think, we might have a re-normalization of the fountain pen! At the very least, I hope BIC will roll out more colors. Turquoise, please. Turquoise makes everything better.