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I’m really pleased to be able to provide a review on this pen – it was not on my radar, I hadn’t even heard of the company that manufactures it, until Kevin from www.JustWrite.com.au sent it through to me to do a review. To be honest, Kevin didn’t have particularly high expectations either – x-pen, a fairly new Israel-based company (est.2003), are better known for their ballpoint and rollerball pens – but I’ve been really impressed with its performance. It’s not a perfect pen – I’ll try to outline my quibbles fairly in the review – but for AU$45 (plus postage), I think it’s pretty good value for money. ______________________________________________________________________ 1. Appearance & Design (9/10) – An attractive ‘windowpane check’ design, with plenty of chrome highlights Let me take a step back for a moment, from the pen to its packaging. Cheapskate that I am, most of the pens I’ve been buying in recent times are cheaper Indian or Chinese pens, that arrive in a simple plastic sleeve – unless I want to pay extra for a generic box. With this pen, the packaging comes as part of the deal. The box itself is enclosed in a matte-black sleeve, with the word ‘x-pen®’ emblazoned on its lid in large silver writing. The same logo appears on the lid of the box also – but in addition to the large silver logo, the box is literally covered in recurring diagonal lines of glossy black text against the matte-black base colour. http://i.imgur.com/vF6EcpB.jpg The inside of the box lid is lined with white satin – with the x-pen® logo again prominent – while the floor of the box is a white felt material. Included with the pen is a single international ink cartridge – but no converter (grrr! – more on that later)… and a card assuring the buyer that ‘All of our x-pen® writing instruments are life time guaranteed against mechanical failure [etc]’ – which is always nice to know! http://i.imgur.com/SQPWrlp.jpg Now to the pen itself: The basic design of the pen is simple but elegant (am I overusing that phrase?): constructed entirely of metal, the main body of the pen is coated with some kind of (anodised?) matte-black finish, which in turn is overlaid with horizontal and vertical gridlines to produce what the manufacturers aptly describe as a ‘windowpane check’ – large, rectangular squares that run the length of the pen. The pen lid clicks securely to the grip section, and can easily be rotated to ensure the lines line up. The manufacturers have provided a larger ‘window’ on the pen cap to allow for the owner’s name to be engraved – personally, I find the break in the pattern a bit of a turn-off ,but that’s only a minor quibble. The top 18mm of the cap and the bottom 15mm of the barrel are chrome coated, and appear to be manufactured separately. The clip seems relatively sturdy – not at all springy, but clips without difficulty onto a shirt pocket and holds on fairly firmly. http://i.imgur.com/n3IxFsi.jpghttp://i.imgur.com/Pqmk1XS.jpg The one possible deal-breaker for some – though I had no issue with it personally – is the chrome grip section. I found it quite comfortable to hold, and the ‘step’ up to the barrel was not at all sharp or unpleasant – but I can imagine the grip becoming a little ‘slippery when wet’. http://i.imgur.com/8CwCSB3.jpg 2. Construction & Quality (9/10) – Seems a very well-made pen I was really impressed with the build quality of this pen. It seems very sturdy, though the balance of the pen is somewhat weighted toward the back. The cap is designed to post on the rear of the pen, which back-weights the pen even further – but again, I didn’t find it at all uncomfortable to write, either way. http://i.imgur.com/N5FFfY8.jpg If I wanted to quibble about anything at all, it would be that there’s a very slight gap between the matte-black portion of the pen cap and the chrome portion that tops it off – the latter has a marginally smaller diameter – but this really is very minor. I haven’t had the pen long enough to ascertain whether the ‘windowpane’ finish – either the lines or the underlying black finish – is likely to chip away… But it certainly doesn’t look like a cheap ‘paint job’, so here’s hoping! 3. Weight & Dimensions (9/10) – A mid-sized pen in almost every way! In keeping with its metal construction, the pen is not lightweight – weighing it at 27.6g capped, or 20.9g uncapped. The Silhouette measures 134mm capped, 119mm uncapped, and a whopping 160mm posted – but because it’s fairly slender (~11mm diameter) it doesn’t feel unwieldy to write either way. The grip section tapers from 10mm near the ‘step-up’ to the barrel, down to 8mm near the nib – I tend to hold it towards the step, and find that pretty comfortable. 4. Nib & Performance (9/10) – A surprisingly pleasant experience to write with The nib was the biggest surprise for me: stamped with some simple scroll work and the ominous words ‘Iridium Point’, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed – but I really was! There is only the one nib option in the x-pen range right now – a stainless steel, iridium-tipped ‘medium’, or so their website claims – but I found it laid down a reasonably fine line. That’s my preference anyway, so I wasn’t disappointed with that. http://i.imgur.com/P2uuA9N.jpg http://i.imgur.com/ETeujib.jpg According to an article in the October 2013 publication of the ‘Pen World’ magazine (which you can find on their website), the fountain pen feeds and nibs are “produced in-house [in Israel?], with the iridium-tipped steel nibs undergoing a twenty-five step production process” – and though the nib looks pretty generic, it was beautifully smooth with a generous (but not excessive) flow of ink, right out of the box. Not a hint of scratchiness – just enough ‘feedback’ from the page to know that I was writing. I really didn’t want to put the pen down! http://i.imgur.com/Mn1u1OP.jpg 5. Filling System & Maintenance (6/10) – Nothing but a lousy cartridge provided! I really like this pen, so I wish I could be more generous here – but for $35 I think x-pen could afford to provide a cartridge converter. I don’t need a large ink capacity in a pen to keep me happy – so a cartridge / converter system won’t automatically get a points deduction from me (I reckon 8/10 is fair!) – but it browns me off a bit when companies try to save costs by throwing in a lousy short standard international cartridge and leaving it at that. For goodness’ sake, Jinhao and Baoer provide a cheap but functional cartridge converter with their $5-15 pens – surely it’s not too much to ask of x-pen?! That said, any standard international converter seems to fit (for which I’ll probably add a “+1” before adding up the final score), so I chucked in a cheap Chinese one filled with Pelikan Royal Blue ink and went for my life – no flow issues, no hassles, just a great writing experience. 6. Cost & Value (9/10) – Not quite a budget priced pen, but really worth the outlay I’ll admit, I’m at a slight disadvantage here: I didn’t pay for this pen, and don’t know if I’d have been willing to shell out AU$45 for it if I’d seen it on the JustWrite website. But having had the opportunity to ‘play’ with it, I have to say I’m really impressed. I would certainly consider buying it as a gift to give away – as long as the intended recipient shares my taste in finer nibs. 7. Conclusion (Final score [sUM/6]: 8.6667) Recognising that my scoring system is highly subjective, I want to reiterate that this was a pen I really enjoyed writing with – and look forward to keeping in regular rotation. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but boy did it deliver. The only thing that prevented it from getting a higher score was the fact that I had to supply my own cartridge converter – and maybe that’s an unreasonable expectation on my part? If you’re not a fan of chrome grip sections – or if you prefer a broader nib – this won’t be the pen for you. For anyone else, I’d say go for it, and give the Silhouette a try. For a lower-midrange price, the nib on this pen punches well above its weight.