Appearance & Design: 9/10
I am rating this in relation to the price, not in contrast to all the other pens out there. The black resin with gold accents is appealing to the eye, the shape is elegant, the clip is attractive, proportions are good. There is nothing unpleasant about it at all. The three gold bands with Aurora Italy are a very nice touch and add a very nice visual weight to the overall design along with the gold bands at either end.
Construction & Quality: 9/10
Again, for the money, this is a well made pen. The cap fits nicely, it feels like a good grade of resin, not overly lightweight, not cheap or flimsy. There is a very faint seam on both sides, but only on the section, so it is not visible when capped, and not really noticeable when uncapped. The cap snaps firmly and holds well. The threads in the barrel are machined with a fair amount of precision - it takes 9 twists to remove the section.
Weight & Dimensions: 8/10
I have relatively big hands - 8 inches from wrist to end of middle finger, but when posted this pen is a dream to handle. The cap posts firmly (though it will turn) and the balance is nice. However, when uncapped it is very light and not as pleasant to write with; it begs for the cap to make it whole. A person with small hands may have a completely different experience and enjoy it uncapped, but with my large hands I need it capped.
Nib & Performance: 8/10, with flashes of 10/10.
This is an XF steel nib, with the other choices being F, M and B. The feed is not ribbed on the underside and stays very dry, which is nice. There is a small bit of flex, but I am not a flex writer.
As others have mentioned, Aurora nibs have some tooth, and this one is the first toothy pen I've owned. At first I didn't think I'd like it, but it does not scratch or catch, even on cheap paper; it just has friction, and it's louder than other nibs. I first inked it with Iroshizuku Yama Budo, which is a fairly lubricated ink, and it put down a generous line in spite of the friction. Then I inked it with Waterman Florida Blue, and the line seemed half the width of the Yama Budo. But here is where I got the flashes of 10 - I found the friction did not slow down my writing, and I can write pretty fast. It never skipped, never seemed dry, it was simply precise. I found myself saying out loud: hey, this is nice! After the normal wet flows of most inks on wider nibs, this crisp line was really pleasing, and I became quite fond of the touch of this nib on good paper. Sometimes I am aware of the noise of the nib, but the writing experience is constantly enjoyable.
Filling System & maintenance:8/10
This comes with a cartridge and a converter which looks well made, but feels kind of lightweight and, at least the first time, was rather stiff compared to my Lamy Z24 converter. I have not used the cartridge, instead installing the converter, which fits very well and fills easily. I didn't seem to have as much trouble getting it to fill most of the cartridge on the first try as I do with Lamy or Pelikan. Maybe I just got lucky, or maybe this is designed well. Because of the lack of ribs on the feed, it cleans nicely.
For a small pen it holds a decent amount of ink. Cleanup is quick, especially using the bulb syringe trick.
Cost vs. Value: 10/10
I have no reservations at all giving this a perfect score in the cost/value category. I got it from new Goldspot.com, which is $25 below the stated MSRP, and I easily got my $99 worth with this pen. Richards Pens has it for $75, but not in XF. I still feel like I got a great value...it's that nice.
This is my first Aurora pen. I own a 1950's Pelikan 400, a current M800, a few Lamys and this pen, yet this is the first one that has inspired me to write a review. I'm quite pleased with it overall, and I don't know of a better value in this price range. I like how it looks, the balance, the feel, and I enjoy writing with it...a lot. There's a certain quality that I can't quite put to words, a personality if you will. Maybe it's the surprise at getting a good value in a low priced pen, or the unusual and intriguing nib feel. Or maybe it is just mystisk, as Elling would say.
Edited by RBC, 14 August 2011 - 05:58.