Review of Bic Cristal Stylus.


Another item sent over from Bic and Shoplet is the Cristal Stylus. I was extremely excited for this one, since the Cristal is probably my favorite pen these days. I had seen these for sale in Europe for a while, but getting one sent over to the USA was prohibitively expensive.

I like the design of this pen. A lot. It looks like a Bic (classic) updated to work in a contemporary workflow (digital). Bic did a good job, and I hope this pen becomes widely available. Plus, on the green front, I know a good number of folks who use their styluses seldom enough that they got lost and replaced regularly. Pulling double-duty as a pen, this tool remains useful for an entire work session.


Writing-wise, you get what you expect from a Bic Cristal. It’s not terribly smooth, but it’s less prone to smearing and globbing than the super-smooth ballpoint variety. I like the inherent neatness of the a regular ballpoint pen. While I have only seen these in black, you could possbily switch out the guts of another Cristal. I plan to hack my second into an Easy Glide blue pen.


The stylus works as well as any that I have tried. Admittedly, I have trouble getting a stylus to work better than my finger, but the length of this one is an advantage. On the occasions when I do go after a stylus, I am attempting to get to my phone’s screen from a small distance, to keep whatever is on my hands off of the screen – such as while I am cooking or hiking and have dirty hands. The thin and long form-factor of this pen give the stylus a little more advantage than shorter, wider ones – for my applications at least.

I hope the introduction of this pen, like the very fine Atlantis Exact, heralds that Bic might expand their North American offerings to include some of the more fun stuff they sell in Europe.

Review of Bic Atlantis Exact and Comfort.


Shoplet and Bic sent a nice package of stationery along, and I was giddy like my toddler when Thomas the Train is sighted. I know that Bic gets little-to-no respect in the Stationery Blogger World, but they make my favorite pen, and most of the products from them that I have tried have performed as well as can be expected, if not better. I suspect that two things are at work in the No-Respect-For-Bic-Phenomenon:

1) Bic makes a lot of ballpoint pens.

2) A lot of folks hate ballpoint pens.

I enjoy a good ballpoint pen myself. I learned to write with pencils and with the PaperMate Write Bros. in the 1980s. My handwriting often looks better with the resistance of a ballpoint pen. Plus, these tools gave me a great callous I have never quite gotten rid of. It’s a good place to store space stick pins.

The Bic Atlantis has been around for a while. We had a few packs in our house over the last decade. I usually thought: meh. The writing was Okay, and the pen was reasonably comfortable to hold. But it not a pretty pen.

Enter the new designs I saw around back-to-school season this year. The Comfort features smooth ink, to rival newer formulations from other manufacturers. The Exact sports a needle tip, not something we generally find in the United States on our ballpoint pens. The barrels are mostly cylindrical, save for the area around the clip, where the pen gets slightly wider, to accommodate for the click mechanism, I assume. There is a pleasantly heavy metal cone at the business end of the pen, and the plastic body is covered in a grippy material. It is firm and not too tacky; so it neither squishes, not collects dust.


The clip is plastic and extremely tight. It feels like it would take considerable effort to break it, but it’s tight enough to make removing it from a shirt pocket a little more difficult than it ought to be. On the other hand, if you like a tight clip so that your pen will definitely not fall out of your pocket on its own, this might be right up your alley.

The click mechanism feels solid, and I like the touch of the clear plastic. No complaints here.

The insides are where these two pens differ. The Comfort is a medium pen, while the Exact is fine, even perhaps ultra-fine.


The Comfort pens that Bic sent are black. The ink is dark, much darker than we usually find from Bic. It flows smoothly, though I don’t feel like I am losing control of this pen, as I experience with the Jetstream. Neither does the tip constantly need wiping, like the Inkjoy 700. This is a nice pen, one that would surprise a lot of people when they see the brand.

Bic sent the Exact in blue. The ink is akin to the recent Bic Cristal pens in color. It’s a bright blue, with nice contrast. The laydown is smooth for such a narrow point. To be sure, this is a needle-tipped pen. I have been having fun drawing with this pen in my pocket notebooks. One cannot get quite the line variation with this pen that one can get with a regular ballpoint pen, but that is because the ink comes out very darkly with minimal effort (and the same is true of the Comfort).

I hope that the arrival of this pen could signal that Bic might bring some other fine point pens to the United States. I own only two or three Cristal pens in fine that I bought on eBay, and they are fantastic writers. I would be a very happy little blogger if they brought the Cristal fine to the States.

These new Atlantis variations are great pens and are easy to find to boot. If you like a smooth ballpoint pen that doesn’t smear or take control of your hand, these are the pens for you — doubly so if you are looking for some needle-point action.

Sharpie 2014 Review.


Shoplet sent over a package of goodies, which includes:

Sharpie Premium Pen

Sharpie Neon permanent markers

Sharpie Metallic permanent markers


I have to admit that I have owned a Stainless Steel Sharpie Pen before, from about 2012. I loved the pen. It was a more stylish version of the smooth Sharpie Pen that I already enjoyed, with a nice grip to boot. However, there were two things I didn’t like and which explain how it’s sat wherever it is in my house for two years. First, the refills were nearly impossible to find, especially online. Second, the cap didn’t post securely. Both of these issues have been resolved, however, unless my cold medicine is making my brain a little foggy. Refills are easy to find, and I swear that Sharpie replaced the plastic liner of the cap. It does not slide down as far onto the end of the body when you post it. It stays put now! The printing on every steel Sharpie Pen I have ever seen has gaps in the logo’s “ink.” But it does not come off easily, either. And I tried, just to get a “naked” Sharpie Pen. Believe me.Especially for the price, this is a great pen.



The neon markers are a mixed bag to me. The yellow looks like a highlighter and is useless on paper. The green and blue do not really look neon at all, especially on paper, though I definitely like the hues. The pink is a good 80s pink. But the star is the orange. It’s the brightest marker I own, and it “shines” on paper and on non-porous surfaces. If you’re one of those folks who likes every Sharpie color, this is a good set. Someone in my house, ahem, is eyeing my pack up for when I’m finished reviewing them. But she’s not getting the orange one.


The metallic makers are great, and I think Sharpie has quietly improved upon something else here. For one, the cap is different, lacking a pocket clip and sporting extra logo action. I’m not sure what the ink in these markers is made of, but it feels oily, in a good way. The marks showed up shiny and opaque on all surfaces I tried them on. I had a silver one back in 2006, for touching up the paint on a silver bike (since wrecked). It worked well, but the new version is definitely smoother and thicker on slick surfaces. These markers would be serious trouble in the hands of bored teenagers, since they show up on everything.


Thanks for Shoplet for the review pack and the cool sunglasses that I half-decorated already. I am trying to decide whether or not to let the nearly-four-year-old loose on them with these markers.

Review of Zebra Z-Mulsion EX 1.0.


(This post originally appeared on my person blog a few months ago.)

I haven’t been doing much in the way of pen reviews lately (ever?), but I am lucky enough to be counted as a Shoplet reviewer, thanks to Pencil Revolution. Along with a cool mechanical pencil I was asked to review, we have the Zebra Z-Mulsion EX, Zebra’s new ink system.


The pen itself is very attractive. The barrel is light and has a nice width at the business end. The waist is slightly tapered, and the grip is well-placed. The grip itself is made of a matte material that is not as…sticky as some pen/pencil grips I’ve encountered. If pocket lint and paper dust getting stuck to your pens drives you nuts (like me), you are in luck. Truly, this grip functions as a GRIP, not a semi-cushion, as some pens. I am glad for this. Increasingly thick and soft cushions leave me feeling like I am not in control of the pen in my hand.

The click mechanism is nice, but the cap rattles around when the point is extended. The cap itself is attractive and matches the clip. The clip is very very stiff; I could clip it to the thin cover of a notebook and know it wasn’t going anywhere. For such a light pen, it might be overkill, but I didn’t put the pen into any favorite shirts to get anything stuck. I like what I assume is the Z-Mulsion logo on the clip.

The printing on the pen, however, is a little much. Zebra usually succeeds keeping their branding understated, if you ask me. It’s often so understated that it takes a minute to find at all, such as the case with the F-701, which is only branded on the clip.DSCN1288

What is special about this pen is the ink, somewhere between a gel/roller and a ballpoint. This pen will draw inevitable comparisons to the Jetstream and the Inkjoy. First, it’s not going to unseat the Jetstream, which has always felt more like a rollerball than a ballpoint to me. I always assumed that folks who are fans like the rollerballness of the Jetstream that comes with the convenience of a ballpoint. Like the Inkjoy, the Z-Mulsion feels like a ballpoint, albeit a very inky and smooth ballpoint.
Unfortunately, it glops like the Inkjoy. This various from little rivulets of ink that float between one ended letter/word and the next to outright blots of ink. But! I still use Inkjoys, glopping and all. And I feel the same about this pen. The Z-Mulsion might glop and smear (it takes a while to dry), but it also writes very very smoothly, with a vibrant blue that is a very deep shade. I imagine that this pen/ink combination could go a long way to reducing writing fatigue in meetings and seminars. For jotting on the go, a pen which requires minimal effort to make marks with and which won’t made the mess that often accompanies gel pens and fountain pens (and some rollers) is a very happy find.DSCN1295

And I am happy to report that this pen is not a write-off just because the ink globs a bit. It’s comfortable, attractive and writes smoothly. In fact, I wonder if a finer point size might have less glopping; this is a 1.0mm point, after all. While I try to find some finer sizes (and other colors!), you might do well to pick up one of these pens to go with your pocket notebook, if nothing else.

[Disclaimer: This pen came free, in a review pack from Zebra, via Shoplet.]

Big Pilot Pen Review.

Pilot and the good folks at Shoplet sent a nice box of pens and markers from Pilot pen for review recently. Some I’ve tried and loved, and the Frixion gear has been on my list. The apex is the huge pack of Pilot Be Green Dry Erase Markers, eco-friendly markers from the beloved BeGreen line!
First, the tried and true, the Pilot G2 Gel Roller Ball Pen. I have used these pens somewhat consistently since fall 1998. They always write. The colors are vivid; and the black is BLACK. They are comfortable to use. They are easy to find and not expensive to replace. I love them. I have heard calls to change the design of the body, but why? They are the #1 selling gel pen in the USA for a reason. The black review pen was as black and smooth as a G2 ever was. It was stolen in short order, by someone who said that I have “enough” gel pens (!). Certainly, the G2 isn’t perfect. A little liquid goes a long way toward a huge mess, and the black takes quite a while to dry. Still, I think it’s a good trade.

Next, I’d only recently come across Pilot’s latest US offering of the B2P (Bottle To Pen) line, the Pilot B2P Recycled Ballpoint Pen. The ink is as nice as Pilot’s ink always is, and the pen itself is very comfy to hold. It’s solid, with an unobtrusive grip, and the blue tint makes it feel less like it used to be a water bottle and more like a simply attractive pen. To add to its GREEN credentials (and Pilot ought to make this connection for folks), the pen is made in the USA, i.e., uses less energy to get to your pen cup. Also, as an aside, this pen led me to seek the other colors, which, I am happy to report, are equally nice.
I’ve been wanting to try some of the erasable gel pens in the Frixion line, and Pilot sent over a Pilot FriXion Point Erasable Gel Pen. Writing with it feels like writing with any other gel pen, albeit with a little less vibrant pigment. But this pen is erasable! Heat, produced by friction, makes the ink disappear somehow. The friction is created by means of a little plastic (?) round doohicky on the non-business-end of the pen.
Now, I’m a pencil fan also. And I have never really understood the allure of erasable ink. It seems to have all the faults of a pencil (smeary, impermanent, faint) and all the faults of a terrible pen (skips, too much pressure required) all rolled into one stick. The Frixion rights very very well, though, with a good dry time, no smearing and a nice smoothness. So, I thought, let’s try it on some crosswords. No go. The Frixion’s erasures are a balance between keeping the ink on the paper and not requiring ten minutes to erase it — and also completion of erasures. What I mean is that the Frixion erases as completely as the best pencil eraser can. But it requires way more rubbing, and way more time, than pencil erasers. As a result, the newsprint of many crosswords is no match for the “eraser” on the Frixion since it takes so long to erase. In normal situations, the erasing is fine, not marring the paper at all. And the ink is gone, long gone. I’m super impressed, really.
The Pilot Frixion Lite Erasable Highlighter feels just like any other highlighter to me, but I can erase it! Granted, I was unable to make paper look like I’d never pigmented it with fluorescent ink. However, it did erase better than anything else, even good highlighting pencils, whose wax doesn’t actually erase as well as graphite pencil. It’s a great tool, and I expect my better half to steal mine before this review is published.
Now, I don’t pretend to have a lot of experience with dry-erase markers. This is because I hate them. They dry out. Their felt points spread out. And I’ve never understood why companies don’t just make them all more broadly-tipped so as to be seen from afar. I suppose it could be that the points would spread out and dry out even more quickly. Then, because these danged things don’t last very long, they get tossed, and they are made of virgin plastic. They seem wasteful, and I’ve always stuck with “china markers” — grease pencils.
But these Pilot Be Green Dry Erase Markers are different for a number of reasons. The tips are BROAD and firm, and they are not prone to drying out. Also, the pens themselves are made of recycled plastic, and you can refill them a few times — REFILL a marker! These markers have changed my opinion of dry-erase markers, to be sure. Next time I have a need for sharing on a wipe-off board, it will be with these markers, not soft grease pencils.
My opinions of erasable pens and dry-erase markers have both been changed as a result of this nice review package. Thanks again to the fine folks at Shoplet and Pilot!

(Disclosure: I did not get paid to write this review, but I did get this box of free pens. This review originally appeared on another blog I had a few months ago.)

Pentel EnerGel X.

Shoplet and Pentel recently sent out some excellent packs of EnerGel X goodies, including samples in all point sizes, the mechanical pencil and even a pack of all eight colors of the 07 size.
The 1.0 version is very smooth and lays down a seriously bold line. This point-size looks especially liquidy when wet (more on the unique ink below), though it’s dark and gel-ly when dry. While not as smooth as the 07 or 1.0 tips, the 05 needtle tip is a nice addition to the EngerGel X family, with a tight and crisp line that I really enjoyed.
My favorite point, not surprisingly, is the 07 EngerGel version. It seemed a little dry and not-quite-smooth at first, being used to the standard Pilot G2 or the Zebra Sarasa as I am. But now that I’ve gotten used to it, this pen has its own…texture when writing.

It feels like a smooth rollerball, or a gel pen with watery ink. Which is exactly what it is. From Pentel:

“An advanced blend of roller ball and gel ink make this pen exceptionally quick-drying. Provides smooth writing with no smears, smudges or globs of ink. Quick-drying formula is ideal for lefties.”

This ink certainly lives up to the ad copy. It dries almost as quickly as a liquid pen, and it’s proven to be a great pocket pen precisely for that reason. On the go, I can fill several pages in a pocket notebook in quick succession. With some gel pens (ahem), this leads to smearing and something akin to “ghosting”/graphite transfer, wherein ink gets transferred to the facing page via the pressure on the back of the page. While this is not unexpected from very wet ballpoint pens (bolder Space Pens, for instance), it drives me crazy with gel pens because the transferred lines are so dark. The EnerGel X leaves no such ghosting at all. It’s even water-resistant, which I found out when I was planning my garden this year with wet hands at the garden center.

But what about the pen which holds this pleasant ink?
The grip is seriously nice, combining a well-designed texture with a tacky material to produce a grip that does what it’s supposed to do (like write in your notebook with hands you didn’t know were wet).
The clip is tight and can leave marks on things it’s clipped to. But it won’t fall out of your pocket, which is what it’s for. The click mechanism is very solid and doesn’t rattle when the pen is used.
Best of all among the gel pens to which I assume it is to be compared (the Pilot G2 and the Zebra Sarasa), the plunger end screws on, rather than having the body join at the center. What this means is that the top isn’t merely pressed on. It doesn’t shimmy like the G2 or get unjoined like the Sarasa. It completes the look and feel of this solid pen.
What I don’t like, honestly, is the cheesy bit of graphics on the clip. The branding is understated, but it’s also just ugly. Certainly not enough to not want to use this pen (and my black 07 review pen is nearly spent, hint hint).

In fact, this have become my current go-to gel pen, and visitors have been eyeing my little stash enough that I think the numbers will shrink without me using them. I should also note that this pen is 85% recycled, something that Pentel spreads though the entire EnerGel line, as if it’s no big deal. However, given the non-recycled G2’s market share, this should come as a challenge to Pilot to catch up, not just with their BeGreen line, but with their mainstream line of pens also.