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Zebra V-301


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#1 kurazaybo

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 21:56

I live in Mexico and got both a V 301 fountain pen and a R 301 liquid
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.

*********

Posted Image



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
nib.

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.

Dimensions are:
width: exactly 1 cm at the barrel
length:
capped: 13.3 cm
unposted: 12.5 cm
posted: 14.8 cm


4 - Nib and Performance (2/10)

Posted Image

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.

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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.

Posted Image


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?

Posted Image


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.


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Edited by kurazaybo, 18 February 2011 - 16:37.


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#2 Silvermink

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 22:05

Bummer. I've been thinking of picking up one of these but haven't checked here yet - if I can't find it I'll probably buzz Office Depot while I'm in Puerto Vallarta this April anyway.
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#3 Mech_Pencil

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 22:56

This was a great review - thanks for the heads up

Thorough and informative! Impressive!

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#4 lovemy51

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Posted 18 February 2011 - 00:05

first review, eh? goodness, that was great!!!! :thumbup:

i want one of these... one that writes!! :embarrassed_smile:

i keep editing to add... does anyone know when they'll be available here in the US? i do wanna pick one up and can't seem to find them any where in the net.

Edited by lovemy51, 18 February 2011 - 06:40.


#5 kurazaybo

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 04:21

Thanks everybody for the positive comments. I saw a lot of interest in this pen and tried to cover as much as I could.

@silvermink I really wouldn't bother, this pen is not even particularly attractive. But if you come to Mexico try to take the Universal Carioca and the Maped Freewriter with you. They have childish looks but are very good writers. Both are sold in Office Depot (though not in every location, go for the "flashgip" stores, located on the most important neighborhoods/avenues of the city). Also look for anything from Sabonis, that brand is having a lot of distribution and marketing right now in stationery stores. I have two and both have exceeded my expectations for their price range.

There is a brand called Tsunami which I have been unable to get information about. You can get them at *fine* gift/novelty shops (the kind that sells pen sets, victorinox products and expensive flashlights). They are not expensive but very nice pens.

(Edited to add information about the Tsunami pens.)

Edited by kurazaybo, 19 February 2011 - 06:07.


#6 Black Rose

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 04:36

does anyone know when they'll be available here in the US? i do wanna pick one up and can't seem to find them any where in the net.

According to a tweet from Zebra US, it is supposed to be available late spring at Walgreens.
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#7 lovemy51

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 06:06

does anyone know when they'll be available here in the US? i do wanna pick one up and can't seem to find them any where in the net.

According to a tweet from Zebra US, it is supposed to be available late spring at Walgreens.


many thx for the info!

#8 Silvermink

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Posted 19 February 2011 - 06:10

@silvermink I really wouldn't bother, this pen is not event particularly atractive. But if you come to Mexico try to take the Universal Carioca and the Maped Freewriter with you. They have childish looks but are very good writers. Both are sold in Office Depot (though not in every location, go for the "flashgip" stores, located on the most important neighborhoods/avenues of the city). Also look for anything from Sabonis, that brand is having a lot of distribution and marketing right now in stationery stores. I have two and both have exceeded my expectations for their price range.

There is a brand called Tsunami which I habe been unable to get information about. You can get them at *fine* gift/novelty shops (the kind that sells pen sets, victorinox products and expensive flashlights). They are not expensive but very nice pens.


Cool, thanks for the recommendations. When I was in Vallarta in 2008 I ended up with an Inoxcrom pocket pen, a Bic Xpen, and a Bic Turn and Up.
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#9 Aristarco

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 00:45

I bought a Zebra R-301 in an Office Depot near my job at Xalapa, Veracruz. I was about to buy the fountain pen but the nib looked suspicious to me. It was a hunch, I guess. Besides, I thought a cartridge roller was a lot more interesting since I'd never seen one before.


Ink is black and had to tap the roller a bit (with the cap on) for it to flow to the tip, but since then the flow is consistent and writing does not skip.

I'll try the fountain pen to see if what you found means a faulty design or an isolated case.

Excellent review!

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#10 Silvermink

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 01:02

I got a V-301 from an Office Depot in Puerto Vallarta and it seems to be a pretty decent writer. Also ended up with a Maped Freewriter, a Universal Carioca, and a few Inoxcroms and Tycons. The ones I've tried so far have all written quite nicely.
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#11 79spitfire

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 03:11

Jet pens is showing this pen in their online store, and I grabbed one off ebay, so they are available now. I hope your poor experience is just a one off.

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#12 Black Rose

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 03:19

Jet pens is showing this pen in their online store, and I grabbed one off ebay, so they are available now. I hope your poor experience is just a one off.

Do a search on the net for V-301 reviews. You will find most, if not all, of the reviews are bad.

Great idea, poor implementation.
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#13 carlosjaviercontreras

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 06:39

Thanks for such a nicely done first review Kurazaybo.

Some of your photos reminded me of my long lost Parker Vector "flighter". Mine was made out of a thick walled steel, the heavy Vectors they produced at the beginning, with a buttery smooth medium nib. Back then, I used to complain about the shading it produced with Parker Blue-Black cartridges.

How about a review of the Vector?

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#14 penrivers

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 07:32

Well, tomorrow I will check office depot in Monclova and next week in Piedras Negras, maybe just with the initial inmersion in water with amonia it all be well. the Universal Carioca Neon is a good pen for 2 dollars and... its from Italy¡ what do you think?. Greetings.

#15 penrivers

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 07:36

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#16 penrivers

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Posted 26 April 2011 - 07:39

what amazes me is that those cheap cariocas and varsytis carry excepcional blue inks and I dont know where to get them because they are no name inks.

#17 kurazaybo

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 18:17

@Aristarco yup, I got the roller before the fountain pen back in december, it's end of april and ink flow has not deteriorated, even after several weeks of no use at all. It is a really nice and trusty pen, one of my favorites of the year. However I noticed the black ink tends to bleed badly to the other side of the page, even in papers where I don't usually have this problem (even with fountain pens). It would be very nice to have a finer point version of the R301.

@Silvermink interesting, some of those are not sold here in San Luis Potosi. I highly recommend the Maped Freewriter!

@carlosjaviercontreras the vectors are good, though I have fond memories of the Parker 25 they replaced. I am actually preparing a short review of the Vector and several other pens: the 25, the 45, 51 and the sheaffer calligraphy set. Just give me time haha!!

@penrivers got the Carioca on your recommendation, it is indeed quite nice. However I am more fond of the Maped Freewriter for some reason (even though I am not entirely convinced by the design and color of any of the two). It's true what you say about the inks, I got a really good black ink cart in a no brand pen I got for less than a dollar. Nowhere in the pen or package says where they were made.

#18 rjbull

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 21:31

I thought a cartridge roller was a lot more interesting since I'd never seen one before.


Kaweco and Visconti both make them - see Cult Pens, http://www.cultpens.com/ Cult Pens tell me that Schneider also make them, though they don't carry stock at present.

#19 79spitfire

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 05:55

Jet pens is showing this pen in their online store, and I grabbed one off ebay, so they are available now. I hope your poor experience is just a one off.

Do a search on the net for V-301 reviews. You will find most, if not all, of the reviews are bad.

Great idea, poor implementation.


Mine showed up today, and I can say for certain...

This pen stinks. It's everything the OP stated, minus some. The cap doesn't post neatly, it "rattles" on the pen when in use. An inexpensive metal FP has real potential for me, as I work in a shop, and if you could write with this thing it would work out great, but it won't. I tried flushing it with water, then water and soap, then water, and no help, so I decided that perhaps the feed wasn't flowing enough, so I pulled the fibre wick out, well it's wetter for the two or three words you can write before it quits and you have to shake it again. I at this point decided it might be the ink, so I emptied a cart and filled it with Noodler's bullet proof black (nice flowing ink in every pen I've used it in, until now.. :gaah: ) and no change. It seems to me their is no venting happening ie, the pen is developing a negative pressure and causing the flow to stop, instead of letting air into the ink supply to replace the used ink :hmm1: I may try hacking the feed, as sending it back to Zebra is out of the question (due to the fact that I "modded" the feed by pulling the fibre wick out)

Very disappointed, Zebra, you can do better!

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#20 Black Rose

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 06:17

Very disappointed, Zebra, you can do better!

Yep, pretty much sums it up.

I've been using Zebra products since they brought out the M-301 pencils many moons ago and have a lot of Zebra product on my home and office desks.

As I noted in my blog review, I have a hard time believing this pen passed QC testing.
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