The same day my mystery box came in, I got another package–one I was expecting. Pilot Pen was having a contest on twitter. I happened to be at a Cincinnati Cyclones game, where my daughter’s choir sang the national anthem (not that I was tweeting during my daughter singing the national anthem*). I entered, and won! Multitasking at its finest.
I’ve been a fan of Pilot pens the majority of my life, starting with the Better Ballpoint that occupied my pocket throughout high school and the Pilot Varisty which was among my first experiences with fountain pens. I’m also a huge fan of the Vanishing Point (which is also sold under their Namiki line), which should be the subject of another post. Pilot is an innovator in other areas, including their G2 gel ink, as well as the B2P, which uses recycled water bottles to form the housing for the refill.
Fountain pens use liquid-based inks, which as been used for millennia in dip pens. Ball point pens, starting in the Fourties, use an oil-based paste that lacked the vibrancy and smoothness of liquid ink, but was cheaper and more convenient. Rollerballs brought liquid ink to the ball tip, and gel inks improved this form. These offered the flexibility the ballpoint form offered, but did not last as long, or dry as quickly. I also find that the refills tended to be larger than ballpoint refills, or have a very short life (a D1 gel refill only lasted about six months; I’ve never had a D1 ballpoint run out of ink).
The Acroball is one of the new ball pens that use a hybrid ink. These inks are designed to provide the smoothness and vibrancy of a liquid or gel ink, while offering some of the benefits of a ballpoint. I have to say, on the paper, it definitely hits that mark. The two I was sent by Pilot have black ink, which is always an interesting color for me. For such a basic color, I’ve seen significant variation (more-so among fountain pen inks). Writing, it feels smooth like a good rollerball, and the ink does deliver on the vibrancy. Note the comparison to a variety of ball pens.
The ballpoints definitely have the duller appearance, and some of the roughness comes through. Truthfully, I couldn’t tell a significant difference between the gel, liquid (rollerball), and hybrid inks. I haven’t had a hybrid pen long enough to speak to their life, but I did do a “smudge test:” I made a dot, then immediately brushed my finger over it.
The rollerball and the fountain pen definitely had a smudge; the hybrid and ballpoint did. Obviously, had I given the liquid inks a chance to dry, they would compare more favorably, but that wasn’t the point of the test. The hybrid ink, at least in my initial impression, struck that middle ground between the ease of use ballpoints offer, and the nice appearance of a liquid or gel ink.
The ink is the impression left by the pen, but how does it write? With fountain pens, how it writes is the whole package: the part that touches the paper stays with the body. What you get is reliably known. Ball pens, on the other hand, are split in two the refill, which contains both the ink supply and the writing tip, and the body. As noted, the refill goes across the paper quite smoothly, comparing favorably to rollerballs.
The body, however dictates the balance of the pen in the hand, and the comfort of the grip. I confess, that I didn’t find the body of the Acroball anything to write home about. It has a rubberized section where it is gripped. Perhaps it is my taste, but I really didn’t care for that. The balance was OK for the type of pen. Aesthetically, I did like the white body with the colored accents. I think the engineering of the pen focused on the refill rather than the body. It is not bad, and I’m sure I’ll write with it.; it just does not compliment the writing experience promised by the refill.
Overall, I think the Acroball is a neat pen, and is a great introduction to hybrid ink. I definitely will look for it when refilling ball pens, and may look for options to use these refills that better suit my tastes. Definitely a cool pen!
*I was busy being a dorky dad, videoing my daughter (and her choir) sing.