On a recent trip to Seoul Korea my wife brought me back this little gem, the Korean made MonAmi 153 Neo fountain pen. MonAmi is a well established Korean pen company producing mechanical pencils and ballpoints. Up until now I believe the only fountain pen they offered was a lower end Olika model that go for around $6 USD. The 153 Neo fountain pen is a new addition and is a much higher end pen. By higher end, they go for about $25 to $45 USD depending where you get it which puts it in the Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari, Kaweco Sport, TWSBI ECO and GO, Faber Castell Basic territory of affordable fountain pens.
It’s a cartridge converter pen with a remarkably nice writing steel nib that is smooth and puts down a generous consistent ink flow. While there are many pens in the sub $50 range in the market, I think the writing quality of the nib on this pen redeems itself as one definitely worth checking out. The body of the pen is made of good quality plastic that does not feel cheap nor flimsy. The overall fit and finish of the pen is of high quality for a pen in its price range, on par with the Faber Castells and Lamys.
I suspect the nib is out sourced to Jowo as it has a very similar resemblance to the steel Faber Castell nibs provided by Jowo found on the FC Basic and up to the Ambition models. When I compare it to my FC Ambition nib, it has similar dimensions without a breathing hole, and is only very slightly shorter. I’d say writing quality is on par with the Faber Castell steel nibs which are arguably some of the best writing steel nibs on the market. The nib has some basic scroll work and engraved MonAmi with the nib width. It is a real pleasant writer, and wrote perfectly out of the box with a generous wet ink flow and smooth feel. It has a little give, and the Fine nib on mine has slightly wider down strokes than horizontal strokes which I like giving a very subtle stubbish character. The nib brings out shading in inks nicely. The nib is the very best part of this pen, and I think distinguishes itself from the other pens in its price range.
Ergonomics and design:
The 153 Neo is hexagonal in shape along the length of the cap and barrel. The clip is a little Lamy Safary-ish and functions well for a clip, as the ski slope shape easily slides the pen securely in a shirt pocket.
The long black section is hexagonal at the top where it screws into the barrel, but rounds out towards the nib. This ensures the hexagonal cap always aligns with the hexagonal barrel, and the section threads, when it is screwed into the barrel tightens to a stop in perfect alignment with the hexagonal barrel. It’s these kinds of fine attention to detail that really makes this pen shine. The section is sufficiently long enough that you can place your fingers lower down on the round part of the section if you don’t like the hexagonal edges, or you can hold it further up the section if you like the hexagonal gripping orientation. The girth of the pen, from the narrowest point near the nib to the widest point at the barrel, is comparable to the TWSBI ECO and Lamy 2000 as depicted in the side by side comparison photos. The plastic of the black section has a little bit of a texture compared to the barrel, to aid in the gripping and eliminates any slipperiness. The only down side for some might be with the sharp step down at the point where the section meets the barrel, but the section is very long on this pen, so I think for most people the step down will not be of any concern or even noticeable.
Although the barrel is long enough that I don’t have a need to post the cap, the cap posts in the hexagonal lip at the end of the barrel very securely should you want to post it so you don’t misplace the cap. Since the cap is fairly light relative to the rest of the pen, posting it does not throw off the balance at all I find. The cap when posted does not protrude at all and just extends the lines of the pen in one uniform piece which also looks very nice. A great clean thoughtful design. The cap closes with a solid click and stays on securely, and so far I have not experienced any nib dry out issues so the cap forms a good seal. On top of the cap is an attractive metallic finial with the symbol 153 to denote the model number of the pen.
The weight of the pen is about that of the Lamy Safari and Pelikan M200.
The 153 Neo comes in 5 available colors, white, gray, Aqua Fresh light blue, Indigo dark blue, and Tangelo orange. On my Tangelo orange pen, the bright orange plastic material that makes up the cap and barrel is glossy and exudes a quality look and feel which is very attractive. The converter fits into the section very securely, and the threads of the section that screw into the barrel are large and screw in with a nice solid feel. Every part of the pen feels solid, precise and well made.
Packaging and accessories:
The converter is supplied with the pen along with 2 extra cartridges in a pretty nice black card board pen box with a magnetic closure flap. For a pen in this price range, the packaging is quite good I’d say.
The converter looks to be an international converter with MonAmi logo printed on it, and it holds a decent amount of ink given a lot of ink also collects in the long section of the pen. Assuming the standard international converter itself holds approx. 0.7 ml, there is an additional 0.7 ml of ink held in the section, so you get around 1.5 ml of ink reservoir total when using the converter. The pen goes a long way with one fill of the converter if the ink is sucked up through the nib. The converter does not exhibit any issues with air pockets forming, providing a reliable and consistent ink delivery.
I highly recommend this pen for its pleasant and reliable writing performance, and quality fit and finish, especially at its price range. A lot of thought and attention to detail went into the design of this pen that give it that added value. The nib is the very best part of this pen, and I think distinguishes itself from the other pens in its price range.
From left to right: Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari, MonAmi 153, TWSBI ECO, Pelikan M200
MonAmi 153 Neo, fine steel nib. Ink = Montblanc Lucky Orange
The finial has the 153 symbol to denote the model number of the pen, MonAmi 153 Neo
Edited Oct 8 2018:
Here are some photos I found online that more accurately represents the color of these pens. My photos turned out a little redder than it should be.
Edited by max dog, 09 October 2018 - 06:08.