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Stationery Adventures: Hybrid Ink Ballpoint Pens, A Comparison & Some Thoughts

By bailaoragaditana · May 11, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

For as long as I can remember - or, okay, at least since midway through middle school, when I stopped writing everything with metallic purple Gelly Rolls - I have been on a quest to find the perfect black ballpoint pen. Don't suggest gel pens, or heaven forbid, liquid. Blegh! I am irrationally attached to ballpoints, for reasons I can't seem to articulate. I have tried everything: Bics, Papermates, RSVPs, and Xtends. I even engaged in a several-year relationship with the Pilot Dr. Grip Center of Gravity, but this past summer, that all came crashing down when I discovered The Pen Addict. There, I read of a magical pen called the Jetstream, and its enchantingly smooth, streak-free dark-black ink... and I wondered if it might be The One.

You know, my personal Prince Charming in pen form, my príncipe azul, whatever you want to call it. (Except I totally want the prince from Beauty & the Beast, because he has an awesome library, and probably some fabulous writing instruments to go along with.)

Seriously, who wouldn't want that library? I wouldn't even care if he turned back into the handsome prince.

Ahem. Anyway.

So I ordered one (alright, several - I need all the colors, okay?) from JetPens, and what do you know, it was true love the first time pen hit paper!

And then I discovered the Pilot Acroball. And then the Zebra Surari came out. And just recently, the Pentel Vicuña. All with similar hybrid oil-based ink formulas. Apparently, my taste in pens is a little like my taste in men: when I find something I like, I want to try out every other similar variation.* The problem is, of course, that I now have a collection of nearly-identical pens in 3 different colors. So I thought I might do something useful with my stash, and compare them for comparison's sake.

Left to right: Uni-Ball Jetstreams, Pilot Acroballs, Zebra Suraris, and Pentel Vicuñas, all with .7mm points, and in standard black, blue, and red.

And a quick writing sample, on a Maruman Report Pad with 6mm lines. (Click for lots of zooming action.)

Of the four, the only one of these pens I could happily do without is the Pentel Vicuña: the lines it produces are noticeably wider than the other .7mm lines; the ink is prone to globbing (this is worst in the blue - just look at the "n" in "incitáis" - but also characteristic of the black); and the red ink, while it has the best actual writing performance, tends visibly towards being a pink-red, which I don't like at all. ("Eew, pink!!" I sound like the eight-year-old tomboy I once was, for the six months I had a hissyfit and decided to hate skating. I got over that, but I cannot get over pink-red ink, or makeup.) Plus the hard plastic body and ridge-y grip feel kind of cheap and are less than comfortable for anything more than dashing off a quick grocery list.

The other three are pretty much equally good in my eyes: the Acroball wins the most comfortable barrel/grip design; the Jetstream wins just by a hair in the smoothness contest, and it has the best black ink; and the Surari's ink colors are just precisely how I would design them - it has the darkest, most saturated red, and a perfect blue (the Acroball's blue ink is a shade or two too light for my personal liking, and the Jetstream blue is one too dark, plus it's slightly thicker/more flowy than the other colors). I keep all three in my regular rotation, using Jetstreams and Acroballs for lecture notes and the library, and the Suraris mostly stay clipped onto the notebook that I use for learning Euskara (Basque). The Vicuñas stay in my pen drawer, far from the light of day, and from my fingers. I might accidentally leave them in a common room or something one of these days...

Anyway, the conclusion is that the Jetstream was not The One, in the end, but it's definitely one of The Ones. I have several other styles of Jetstream body, as well, but that didn't sway me, in the end. I'm tempted to say that my Jetstream multi-pen (four colors! swoon!) is actually definitively The One, but there's now a Surari multi-pen which I need to evaluate in order to be able to make that call. But I'm still waiting for the Surari to get to me (why yes, I did in fact order more goodies from JetPens, is there a problem? I use them way more frequently than most of my makeup collection, anyway...) so the duel for my heart will have to wait a few weeks.

In the meantime, I hope this comparison is at least somewhat useful; comments, thoughts, and rotten tomatoes are all welcome, and thanks for reading!


*(On that note: don't worry, I will be reviving my pictorially-enhanced musings on beautiful Spanish men soon!)

posted by

I love it! I also love the quote from Sor Juana - she has been an area of fascination for me. I wrote several papers devoted to her for various courses! :)

posted by

Hee! That's awesome! I'm not much of a Golden Ageist - my work focuses mainly on the mid-to-late 13th century - but I've always loved Sor Juana for her ability to kick ass, take names, and be just as ridiculously complex as the male writers of the era. My best friend who did my course wrote extensively about her, so I got to hear interesting things from time to time. What sort of things did you focus on?

(Er, not to derail from the pens, but hey, it's my blog, right?)

posted by

My first paper devoted to her was a biographical one. She is so fascinating!! We had read her Respuesta a Sor Filotea in a class and I was captivated. She was so intelligent and capable - much more so, IMO than the men surrounding her. Later on, I focused on her agreement to "penance" and her seeming abandonment of a literary life. A good biography of her is the one by Octavio Paz - have you read it?

posted by

"Sor Juana o las trampas de la fe"! Not only have I read and loved it, I may have bought a copy for one of my BFFs for Christmas once. (She studied Sor Juana for her finals, and had to write some exam essay about mathematics and Sor Juana's poetry... oof.) She really is such a fascinating and remarkable character, and as someone who studies medieval women, I'm sometimes a little jealous of the Golden Age scholars for having a primary source as amazing as she is!

posted by

The issue of penance and abandoning literature sounds really interesting, though!

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Bobbi Brown

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All of the makeup I feature here is stuff I have bought myself or played with, or that has been given to me by friends and family as gifts (perhaps occasionally stuff that belongs to my friends, as well). I'm not a professional makeup artist, I've never worked for any companies that sell makeup, I have no connections to cosmetic companies, other than the standard relationship between junkie and dealer, and all opinions expressed in my posts are my own. Should a company, someday in the future, want to give me money or products, I'll be the first to say so, in nice big bold letters. I'll also let you know if I win products, as from the Sugar giveaways. Otherwise, you can safely assume it's all the result of my incurable addiction to beauty products.