Full review here, full review + pictures at my blog.
Dollar is a Pakistani brand. From offerings on eBay, it looks like the 717i is their most popular model. I bought a variety 10-pack of the demonstrator version for less than $25. The variety part refers to the colors–the section, cap jewel and piston rod can be black, blue, or maroon plastic. Aside from that and the silvertone clip and cap band, everything is clear plastic.
This isn’t a very designed pen, and I like that. The blind cap is rounded. The cap is flat at the top. Every part seems to be designed to the lowest common denominator. The cap jewel has a dollar sign on it, which I find to be kind of adorable.
The piston isn’t too stiff, but I wouldn’t call it smooth. I can see that there’s silicone grease in there, though. I over-loosened the piston knob on one of these once, and a tiny bit of ink got behind the piston, but no more has joined it. One cool feature of the piston is that the blind cap and the piston know aren’t one and the same–you have to remove the blind cap completely to get at the knob. That means you’re never going to accidentally unscrew the piston, and that you can leave the piston half unscrewed and reattach the blind cap if you want. I tend to unscrew the piston to force the last few drops of a fill into the feed, and this lets me do that without looking like my pen is partially disassembled.
The cap posts pretty securely–if you twist it, you can sometimes unscrew the blind cap. But since that has no effect on the piston knob, again: no danger of ink spurting everywhere.
Unscrewing the cap jewel allows you to remove the clip, if you want. They don’t fit together all that well–maybe the place where the construction seems cheapest. I mean, this is a cheap pen and it feels like it, but mostly it just feels manufactured to a price point, and here it feels like it’s less good than it’s supposed to be. And–well, the pen is sturdy enough for regular use, but you’ll probably want to avoid dropping it. One of mine has a cosmetic crack in the blind cap from dropping it.
Things found elsewhere on the internet tell me the ink capacity is about 1.4 ml, which is plenty for me, considering that I enjoy changing inks often. I’ve also found that it’s easier to get a complete fill with this pen than other piston-fillers I have–screw in the piston once and the ink cavity fills up with just a tiny air bubble.
The nib is, in my opinion, the ugliest part of the pen–the one place where simplicity comes across as lack of effort instead of elegant practicality. The shoulders are bent pretty sharply away from the top, not unlike on a LAMY Safari. The nib is marked with a dollar sign logo and “IRIDIUM POINT.” There’s no breather hole, which I suspect may be the reason tiny drops of ink can spray out when I unscrew the piston.
Quality control is a bit of an issue here. I’ve tried about half the pens in my 10-pack, and some have been much smoother than others, They’ve all had a sweet spot, but on a couple it was very small. On average, though, they’re smooth, on the wet side, and on the fine side of a European medium.
I know part of it is just that I continue to marvel at the price, but I like these pens so much–I keep meaning to ink up other pens and ending up refilling one of these instead. I kind of want to give one to everyone I know.