After I took up fountain-penning as a hobby (I used to just use the things before this year), I started seeing this fountain pen for R$ 29 (about 8 US Dollars) on big-box stationary stores. So I bought one!
Maped is a French company that makes almost everything related to school and art that I can think of. From that maker, I've got pencil sharpeners, scissors with weird blades, pliable rulers... but didn't even know they made fountain pens.
(The back of the package says it’s made, unsurprisingly, in China.)
As you might expect for R$ 29, it's not the greatest of pens (as a comparison, Lamy Safaris will cost ya R$ 130 in Brazil) but I was surprised by the quality product I got for my buck.
It's very light (16 g / 10 g uncapped), especially because it doesn't post, although its barrel is long enough for that not to be a problem for the largest of hands (135 mm in length, uncapped). The nib has a tiny little bit of flexibility (not unlike what you might experience with a Pilot MR) and you'll feel a lot of feedback; almost too much in fact. I wouldn't say the nib is scratchy, but the feedback is enough for me not to want this pen as my everyday writer. Using Lamy Red ink, it kept up with my most intense scribblings without skipping. Also, I forgot it uncapped for almost five minutes and it wrote right away. There’s no indication of nib size, but the line is clearly an European fine, which means it's a hair thicker than what I get with my Pilot MR medium.
The pen is almost completely made of that kind of plastic that you find in little kids' toys. The section has a rubber cover that's rather comfortable, but has indentations for a three-finger "classic" grip, which you might not care for if you don't hold pens that way. The finger depressions are very slight, though, so they won't bother you too much.
There's no disassembling, so cleaning it up before changing ink colors might be a little bit of a hassle. I think using a thin syringe to squirt water though the section is a feasible method, but I haven't tested it yet.
The Maped Reload Premium only accepts short int'l cartridges. Here's where I think it was conceived for children, because the filling mechanism is very cool: you slide the silvery lip back until it clicks and the cartridge ejects! You just need to put a new cartridge in the opening and slide the lip forward; it'll adjust and attach the cartridge by itself. There's also a "secret compartment" in the end of the barrel for storing a spare cartridge. You won't be able to see the ink level unless you partially eject the cartridge, but it won't make a mess if you do it nib up.
You should be careful when uncapping the pen, because the cap is held very tightly in place and you’ll risk opening the silvery lip a little bit depending on how you hold the barrel when uncapping. (I don’t think you’ll eject the cartridge by mistake though, as the ejecting mechanism is also kinda tough.) There’s no way to uncap the pen one-handed because, again, the cap is fastened pretty securely. The clip, on the other hand, is rather springy and will hold anywhere; it has an extra curvy piece of material on the underside to avoid snagging. I’m not sure if the clip if made of very cheap metal or just plastic painted silver.
The Maped Reload Premium comes in a blister pack with three blue cartridges (one is hidden in the "secret compartment") and a cute cloth sleeve for carrying the pen around. I haven't used any of the original cartridges as I had an empty one that I filled with Lamy Red, which I judged to be a fitting ink for this pen Here in Brazil, I can find it in dark cobalt with pink details and pink sleeve or charcoal-black with yellow-orange details and black sleeve. The cobalt-and-pink version has spirals and butterflies on the silvery lip of the barrel, while the black-and-orange has a wavy/fiery thing instead.
All in all, it’s a fun pen to have around and use occasionally or present a kid in your life who’s a tad too interested in your fountain pen collection. I’ll leave mine inked with a some color I don’t use very often (Lamy Red) and use this fountain pen for jutting down margin notes on scientific articles.