Side-by-side Multi-Pen Review

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A couple days ago I received an email from someone asking for advice on multi-point pens. I posted that question here on The Gadgeteer so that other people could weigh in with their suggestions. Harold M. Goldner saw that post and did one better. He wrote a comparison review and asked me to post it here. So without further ado…

SIDE-BY-SIDE REVIEW OF MULTI-POINT PEN STYLI COMBINATIONS

By:    Harold M. Goldner

Since my first organizer (a Sharp series organizer) and through the present (using a Palm Treo 755p), I have been obsessive about my writing implements.  I am rarely happy with the ‘bundled’ stylus each device has, although they’ll do in a pinch.  I am also very particular about what pens I use because I am a lawyer and am writing incessantly when not using a keyboard.

I also prefer pens with a soft grip which are a little broader than a standard pen.  For instance, I have put a rubber grip on an old Cross pen I have, finding the bare metal uncomfortable before long.

What follows is a side-by-side comparison of the multi-pens I have and do use from day to day.  I own each of these and have spent anywhere from weeks to years using them (and have even replaced some multiple times).  They are reviewed in the order of my preference.  Of course, this is a highly subjective matter, so your own choices may and could very well vary from mine.

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Click thumbnail to see full sized image

My favorite over-all is without question the Stylus+ 2-way.  It contains a pen and a stylus in a sleek stainless steel barrel with rubber grip cushion.  The nib is engaged with a sharp twist one way for the pen and the other for the stylus.  The styling is clean and understated, with a matte finish and chrome clip, and the workmanship so sturdy, that it is easily my multi-pen of choice.  If I am going anywhere and only take one pen (…and I typically have a second pen with me), this is the one I’ll take.  The pen is refillable, and the web site has 4 different colors available, plus highlighter tips.  The Stylus+ 2-way is only $4.99 plus shipping and handling at  Stylusplus.com.    For the money it is the best multi-purpose pen out there.

Almost as good, and maybe even a better choice if more than 2 nibs are required, is Fisher’s Multi-Action Space Pen which has a black pen point, red pen point, 0.7 mm pencil and stylus all rolled into a pen only slightly larger than the Stylus+ unit.  The action is triggered by push button, depending upon which side of the pen is upright (there are small indicators near the top), and the point is withdrawn with a button near the clip.  The pen is a sleek grey metal with a cushioned grip.  I do occasionally use this one when taking only one pen with me.  It is considerably more expensive, at $35.00 list although it can be found less expensive at sites like   http://www.styluscentral.com.  In addition, it can be personalized with up to 3 lines at $1.50/line.  One thing I do not like about it is that the button releasing the nib is a little easy to hit just using the pen, and for this reason I cannot rate it as highly as the Stylus+. (Note that this is not the same multi-point Fisher pen reviewed on Gadgeteer in April of 2001).

Another solid two-point pen is the Pilot Dr Grip 1+1.  This pen is noticeably thicker than the previous two, and uses a slide action to produce either the pen point or the stylus point.  The pen is refillable with Dr Grip refills in whatever colors are available for Dr Grip, and has a plastic body.  This is a rugged pen and can be used where one might not want to get a stainless steel pen wet or messy.  I have found, however, that the mechanisms can and do fail, and I am now on my third such pen.  It is inexpensive at $9.99, and available in office supply stores and online at  Stylisource.com.

Staying with plastic body multi-pens, we next move to the Bic e.3, which is a unibody plastic pen, pencil and stylus.  Solid plastic, available in multiple colors, with a rubber cushion grip, it takes Dr Grip refills as well, and has an eraser with a clear removable cap.  The action is via twist.  The pen is available at many office retailers, on Bic’s website and even on ebay coming in at around $6.00.  Note that this pen was reviewed on the Gadgeteer back in December of 2000.  One negative, since the clip is part of the pen’s plastic body, if that snaps (and I have seen that happen), you have a clipless pen, or worse, a pen with a sharp point on one side.

Also evaluated was the Staples Quatrex which, while inexpensive at $4.39 is also the lightweight of the crowd.  Providing two pen-points which can be populated with 2 ink colors and/or a highlighter, a stylus and a 0.7 mm pencil, the pen also uses the gravity push-button mechanism of the Fisher space pen, however the hardware is far less robust, and I found the pencil falling out of its slot and gumming up the works.  The barrel is partially cushioned with rubber bumps near the nibs.

Finally, in a slightly different vein is the Hewlett Packard Infiniter 4in1 Laser Pointer / Stylus / Pen / LED flashlight.  This pen offers a pen and stylus, but also an LED flashlight as well as a laser pointer.  It is available for  $24.95 at  Markertek.com.  I have also seen it at MicroCenter retail stores.  It is solid black plastic with no grip cushion.   It has a decent weight in the hand, and the laser pointer does work.

Many years ago, when third party vendors started making styluses to replace the supplied styli, it was possible to feel a slight difference between styli.  Certainly, if one is ‘writing’ on a dedicated input area, like the Graffiti areas on Zire’s and earlier Tungsten’s (as opposed to dynamic input areas), one stylus may feel differently than another, especially when compared to writing on paper.  I believe this is a result of the cover on the screen as opposed to the stylus itself.  I have always used a screen cover or used 3M removable tape on Graffiti areas, and have rarely noticed a significant difference between one stylus point or another.  The most important thing to me is how the writing implement feels in my hand while I am using it.

In this regard, I prefer a slightly heavier implement, and repeat my recommendation of the Stylus+ 2-way, then the Fisher Space Pen or the Dr Grip 1+1 as among the best choices out there.

Harold Goldner is a lawyer in Pennsylvania who focuses on human resources and employment issues.  He has been using a PDA since the mid 80’s.  His twitter ID is HumanRacehorses.

Posted in: Gear, Styluses

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Jonti December 26, 2008, 3:40 pm

    Hi, I agree about syli all being the same – well, except for the stylus refill that Stylus Central sold to be used in the Cross ball point. The writing ‘feel’ is very different and my favourite. They also sold a Pilot Pentopia that I have had since getting my first Palm Pilot 11 years ago. It is still in good working condition after all this time but I don’t like a point 5 pencil. I prefer a 7 or even 9. I keep the Pilot Pentopia in the pen pocket of what must now almost be a vintage Scott eVest jacket! They both still get an outing from time to time.

    1
  • MarkSLindsey December 26, 2008, 4:39 pm

    I never thought about pens in so much detail… it’s interesting how different these all are.

    2
  • otto28 December 26, 2008, 7:44 pm

    i enjoyed harold’s review!

    3
  • DerekNg December 26, 2008, 10:02 pm

    There used to be a Burberrys Sandringham pen which Julie reivewed years ago.

    I find that to be the best pen for the working executive. Classic and Professional looking. It has Black, Stylus and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil.

    Sadly, the pen is no longer in production.

    4
  • Julie December 26, 2008, 10:17 pm

    DerekNg:

    Here’s the review you mentioned:

    http://the-gadgeteer.com/2001/01/17/burberry_s_sandringham_multi_pen_review/

    Judie actually wrote that review. :) I still need to get all the author names fixed since our switch to Wordpress…

    5
  • Corey December 27, 2008, 2:13 am

    If you need more options then The Stylus + Multi 4 Action has Pen/Highlighter(Red)/Stylus/Mechanical Pencil. I love the machining and feel. The onlyu downsize is no Gel Refills which I would prefer.

    6
  • Jake December 27, 2008, 5:41 am

    am I correct in saying judie hughes :)

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  • Julie December 27, 2008, 10:16 am

    Jake:

    Judie Lipsett now :)

    8
  • Michael December 30, 2008, 2:33 pm

    Julie:
    Another pen that I have used for the past 5 years comes from Franklin Covey, called the Quad-Point. It is not cheap (49.95), but it is the only pen that I have used daily and hard for the past years. It is a 4 point (blue, red, black and pencil), but can be customized with a stylus point that is excellent. Again, not at all cheap, but given the amount I use it, drop it, step on it (I even drove the van over it!) and it still keeps going, I’ve gotten my money’s worth

    9
  • Danny December 30, 2008, 5:17 pm

    I use the Fisher Q-4 pen as shown in the picture. It is acutally the second one that I have purchased through the years. I have been that satisfied with its abilities. I have replaced the stylus point with a blue pen, which I use for original signatures.

    That being said, the weak point of the pens has been the rubberized grip. It quickly becomes loose and the more you use it, it stretches and becomes cumbersome to use. I fixed the problem on my second pen by super-gluing it to the metal of the pen after it first showed signs of loosening. It has worked great ever since. I’m surprised Fisher hasn’t fixed this problem themselves.

    10
  • AZ January 14, 2009, 6:36 pm

    My favorite multi-pen is the Pilot Pentopia: Metal construction, black-ink pen, mechanical pencil with a full-size pencil eraser under metal screw-top, orange stylus, click buttons.

    It works without fail with the dependable click buttons (luckily, no gravity feed system here); it looks professional and feels good.

    And, the cost is reasonable. $35 USD.

    I’ve used this exact model for years and wouldn’t go with anything else out there. Nothing seems to offer the same balance of everything I mentioned and the same ease of use and level of simple, effective, and consistent performance.

    http://www.amazon.com/PilotPen-Pentopia-T2300-P-screen-stylus/dp/B00063KQ00/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1231979019&sr=8-1

    11
  • Murdock January 20, 2009, 3:53 pm

    I have one much better:

    Executive Multipen

    12
  • Paul Trevino March 15, 2009, 11:01 pm

    This is a bit pricey but for someone that doesnt use pencil or highlighters this is the BEST pen ever!

    Here is the pen….
    http://www.lamy.com/eng/b2c/2000/401

    Replace one of the pen colors with this…
    http://www.pdapanache.com/products.asp?PID=INSSR

    Fantastic Quality and very professional….

    Enjoy!

    13

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