The Lamy Safari is 17 grams and 37 years of design excellence that’s been the beginner’s fountain pen of choice for almost all those years. Its design is one of the most strikingly simple yet modern in the pen world, yet it has proven to be as timeless as any of the classics. The Al-Star is its big brother. Made from aluminum instead of ABS plastic, the Al-Star weighs more and feels more solid in the hand, but is nearly identical to the Safari in every other way. They share the same nib, design, and internal functions. The Al-Star is a way to own the classic yet modern design in a sturdier and slightly heavier body, and it appeals to people who like the feeling of metal in their hand while writing. Each year, a unique color is released as a limited edition for both the Safari and the Al-Star. This year, the Al-Star came in Pacific Blue.
The Pacific Blue Al-Star Along with a Regular Blue Safari and a Dark Lilac Safari
Appearance and Design
The Pacific Blue color of this year’s Al-Star is striking and vibrant, yet light enough to not be overly flashy. The silver coloring of the nib and clip match well with the blue, creating a look of warm ocean waters. One factor of the design to be aware of, if you don’t already know, is that both Lamy Safaris and Al-Stars have a triangle grip, so they can be uncomfortable for some people to hold. For most, though, the grip is perfectly comfortable. As someone who enjoys having slightly unique pens, this limited edition is a truly gorgeous one, and in my opinion Lamy really nailed it with their color choice this year.
The Al-Star Alone
Construction and Quality
This is a solid pen. In preparation for writing this review I used this pen daily for a little over a month, and in the course of use I dropped it countless times on varying surfaces, none of them particularly soft. The pen has yet to get a scratch. (These were all with the cap on however; you may fare far worse if the pen is dropped nib first.) Safaris have a bit of a reputation for being indestructible, and the Al-Star is a Safari but stronger. If you get this pen, you won’t have to worry about breaking it. Additionally, the overall quality of the finish is excellent. Lamy’s quality control is famously excellent (every pen is tested with a bit of blue ink before being shipped) and their care is on display in their pens.
The Al-Star Deconstructed
Weight and Dimensions
If you’ve ever seen a Safari, it’s that but slightly heavier. As someone with large hands, it fits nicely posted in my hand while writing. I asked a friend with much smaller hands to test the pen as well, and she had no issues, although she did prefer the pen unposted. The pen posts easily, and I haven’t had any issues with scratching on the back of the pen from the cap, as I occasionally do on other pens.
Nib and Performance
So here’s the thing. It’s a steel nail. A very boring steel nail. But is boring so bad? The nib comes smooth straight from the box, and is incredibly reliable and consistent. In short, there’s nothing exciting going on but it’s a real work horse, and it’ll be smooth and ready to go from the get go. The nib sizes on these pens do tend to run broad, so if you aren’t used to Lamy nib sizes (or German sizes in general), I’d get one size smaller than you would usually buy.
A Writing Sample with the Al-Star
Filling System and Maintenance
The Al-Star is a Cartridge/Convertor pen. It fits proprietary Lamy cartridges or a Lamy convertor, which can be purchased for give or take five dollars from wherever you buy the pen. The accompanying ink for this Limited Edition, Lamy Pacific Blue, can be purchased in either cartridge or bottle form, and matches the color of the body of the pen nicely.
Cost and Value
An Al-Star will set you back just under $40. Is it worth it? That’s up to you. For the same cost, you could have a gold-nibbed Platinum PTL-5000a or most of a TWSBI Diamond 580, both definitively better, or at least more interesting, pens to write with. The Al-Stars price forces it to compete with pens outside the Safaris league when it’s essentially a Safari with fancy skin. For me, the pen was worth it for the color. As a big fan of limited edition Lamy’s, I loved the Pacific Blue. But if you aren’t that into the color, there are other, better options for the price.