“Over the counter” review: Zebra F-301 RT Ballpoint In Blue

 IMG_2397This is the first in what will likely be a series of reviews of “over the counter” pens, i.e. those you can find in just about any shop that has a stationery section. The subtitle of this blog is, after all, “Adventures in the world of pens and penury” — I want to devote some screen time to products that are easily accessible.

So: the neat thing about this pen is that it is made out of steel, which gives it a pleasant feel in the hand and the promise of durability while being extremely slim-lined. The steel barrel and slim profile are what caught my eye initially. It is a retractable tip ballpoint with a .7mm line. I got the blue version, because I have plenty of black ballpoints lying around! And the ink is indeed a very nice royal blue. It’s refillable with Zebra’s F-type refills.

IMG_2401Its stainless steel barrel is very well-made, as is the firm clip, which seems to be attached very securely to the barrel with this plastic piece. Additionally, the click mechanism is wonderfully firm and not too springy, which reduces the temptation to endlessly fiddle with it.

IMG_2404However, the grip leaves something to be desired: billed as “non-slip,” it’s made out of ridged hard plastic that has not been smoothed down at the ends, so you can feel a sharp edge where it meets the steel barrel. Not exactly comfortable.

IMG_2402Furthermore, while it’s a good-looking pen, its performance is mediocre. The ink is like any other cheap ballpoint ink I’ve used: skippy and uneven. The line, while agreeably fine, is unreliable. It doesn’t smear as easily as, say, a cheap Bic pen, but considering I paid as much for these two pens as I would for a bag of fifteen Bics, that is small consolation for my wallet. While the pen’s body is very well engineered, I don’t like spending $2.50 on a pen that writes poorly. 

IMG_2398Final verdict: probably great if you don’t run a pen blog.

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