ink roller ball in the local Office Depot. I contacted Zebra about the
roller because it is not listed on their website and they told me it
has not yet been introduced, so I guess they are making them available
at different times in different regions.
This is my first review, I'll try to give an overview of the V 301 but
will be referencing the Parker Vector and the Zebra R-301 rollerball
(and maybe the Zebra H-301 highlighter) because of the similarities.
Edit: just corrected one detail: I said Parker Frontier instead of Parker Vector.
1 - First Impressions (6/10)
These pens come in a blister with two cartridges each. The roller had
them both in black ink, the fountain pen came with a blue and a black one.
The package is a simple blister and I've heard it may be different in
other parts of the world. The pen has good looks and transmits a solid
(if light) feeling. It is made of brushed steel with plastic inserts.
I have a couple of complaints about the package: it is of the hard to
open kind, plastic on both sides (no cardboard on the back and a
plastic bubble at the front). Also it is not very easy to tell it is a
fountain pen, even with the small picture of the nib that is displayed. If you have a
V-301 fountain pen next to a R-301 rollerball, both in their packages,
it it's hard to tell them apart. Actually at my local office depot
both the V 301 and R 301 were displayed as rollerballs. I really think
the blister should display them uncapped and guess more than one
person at my local office depot thought they were getting a fine point
rollerball only to find a medium point fountain pen instead.
The V-301 gives a solid to very good first impression once unpackaged.
2 - Appearance and Design (8/10)
I think this qualifies as a school pen. Build quality is, for the most
part, better than any F 301 and I think the R 301 rollerball is the
best product in the 301 family. These are very light and decently made pens. Except for the caps. The barrel and
construction look and behave like they will survive a fair amount of
use and for the price I do not think you can get a better quality
steel barrel. There is a little hole at the center of the top plastic
insert in the barrel. I would love to see a revised version of the cap
or (one can dream, right?) the pens released in the 701 family.
Now abaut the cap... When the pen is closed the cap fits tighly and
has enough resistance to turn. But when the pens are posted, it has a
slight play, it does not come off easily but it moves frome side to
side and turns around, out of control. Gives a shaky feeling while
writing that I do not welcome. I purchased two of these pens, on the
first one the clip came off the cap very easily by accident. Thinking
I had got a defective cap I did not consider it relevant but the same
happened with the second pen. Seems to be an issue on the V-301
fountain pens because the R-301 rollerball has the very same cap and
the clip stays in place. I wonder what is going on with those clips
and caps, but to me it is a serious oversight. When I got mine out of
the blister and pushed the clip of the cap to open it and check the
nib, it did not open, the cap stayed in place and the clip fell down.
I do not understand it, I can do the same with the rollerball again
and again with no problem.
The grip/section is not very gripy but it is wider and more
comfortable than the emblematic F-301 ballpoint. It provides the right
amount of traction. I think the section needs too many turns in order
to screw it to the barrel, but in exchange it gives the feeling of a
very firm and secure attachment. The pen feels well made although
shallow and very light and, though it works well, I would like it to
have the ribbed section of the grip extend a little more towards the
The barrel is labeled "V-301" and "FP" in the color of the plastic
inserts, mine is black but according to Zebra's website a blue version
will be available. I have no doubt it is possible to interpret "FP"
as either "Fine Point" or "Fountain Pen". These labels come off with
use and scratches and in a short time of daily use they will have faded completely.
In brief, the pen looks good and feels good enough. Just do not think about the cap.
3 - Weight and Dimensions (8/10)
Very light, at 16 grams it is even lighter than some fountain pens
that are completely made of plastic. It feels good and balanced in the hand but is slightly top heavy when unposted and even more when posted.
width: exactly 1 cm at the barrel
capped: 13.3 cm
unposted: 12.5 cm
posted: 14.8 cm
4 - Nib and Performance (2/10)
The nib is a medium point only, made of mirror-finish stainless steel,
very small and curved. Quite reminiscent of the Parker Vector,
actually. Performance of the nib is good: nimble, precise and leaves a
nice and slightly watery line. Sliding the nib on paper produces a low
sound which I had not heard on other fountain pens. It is not
annoying, just different. Perhaps it has something to do with the
shape and rigidity of the nib and the shallowness of the barrel.
Performance of the pen, however (and I am very disappointed to report
this), is not good at all. I had a very difficult time trying to get
ink to flow when starting the first V-301 and the situation did not
improve after several hours. I tried squeezing the cartridge and
shaking the pen as a thermometer but nothing worked. I left the
nib-grip part in water for the night and that seemed to work to a
certain extent but it still took several strokes to get some ink on
the paper and, just when I thought it was working, ink stopped
flowing. On a second pen I tried a different approach, removing the
cartridge and dipping the tip of the nib inside. This worked better
but again the flow does not feel right. I am still unable to write a
full page of text without skipping here and there and the line gets
drier and clearer, as can be seen in my full page writing sample.
This pen has a wick feed.
Writing with the V-301 is comfortable, the sound of the nib and the
lightness are not obstacles. The nib slides smoothly, overall a nice
experience. The blue ink I tried is good, it has a medium blue color,
not too dark and not too bright, looks better and more vivid in person
than in the photos. Letting a paper napkin soak some ink revealed a
slight purple-ish tone, which I really liked.
Performance is nice... when the pen actually writes, which is like 1/3th of the time.
Please ignore what the written sample says, it is not true. Use it just to judge the performance of the pen.
5 - Filling System (7/10)
Proprietary ink cartridges, the same shape and size so you can put
fountain pen ink in the roller and viceversa. However the boxes of
cartridges are clearly labeled to be used either by the roller or the
fountain pen. The cartridges themselves have no label. I cannot be
sure if the inks are different but I would not be surprised to find
it's the exact same ink. The cartridge seems to be Zebra's own size
and design, only compatible with their pens (and highlighters). Each
one holds more ink than the standard international cartridge and leave
some empty space in the end of the barrel, though it is not enough to
keep a fresh cartridge in there. The cartridges are wider and harder
than any other cartridge I have seen before and you can not easily
squeeze them in case you have ink flow problems.
I have not been able to get the H 301 highlighter but I would not be
surprised if any of the the cartridges are interchangeable between the
three products. Maybe you can use the highlighter as a marker if you
load it with black/blue ink?
One complaint I have about the ink package is that the color is not
displayed anywhere at all, not even on the box. At first I thougth
only black was available but I found a blister of what seems to be
blue. No way to be sure until loading one cartridge in the pen.
6 - Cost and Value (0/10)
Office Depot sells both the R 301 and the V 301 at the same price,
around USD $4.22 here in Mexico and the ink is not expensive at all:
it costs the same as a package of Inoxcrom international cartridges
and, considering the Zebra ones have bigger capacity, the total cost
of ink is lower.
The V-301 is not an expensive pen at all. It costs more than the Pilot
varsity but not by much.
I do not see any value in it since you cannot actually write with the V 301.
7 - Conclusion (6.8/10 <-- average, keep in my mind this pen is not usable for writing)
So it is a nice pen... if you can get ink flowing in it. And don't
even get me started with the cap and clip. This pen's wick
feed may be the cause of the absent performance. Pales in comparison to the pilot varsity, and could make switching colors problematic. But I do not think you are going to change colors very often because you are not going to be able to write with it.
So far it has not been a good pen and I cannot recommend it. Very disappointing.
Now some pictures. Please ignore what the written sample says.
Edited by kurazaybo, 18 February 2011 - 16:37.