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  1. I'm writing this at a very early stage of ownership (about a week), but that's because I may be giving it away soon. For Information: Bought: September 2013, amazon.co.uk(marketplace) for £3.50 inc. p&p (just for reference, I'm not trying to promote amazon) – that's about $5.60/€4.20, at time of writing. On the amazon site, it's just listed as “Schneider Fountain Pen with groovy decoration” - I worked out what model I had bought by going onto www.schneiderpen.de/en. Availability: This is not an easy pen to get hold of on the net, and I've certainly never seen it in shops. Googling, I found a couple of sites (including amazon) in the UK and a few in India that sell it (the Indian sites only sell them in packs of 2-4) plus one Dutch site (for only €1.80!), (I got to the Dutch site via www.schneiderpen.de/en) . A Bit of a Burble: I think I've developed a touch of unaccustomed optimism (I'm usually an unremitting cynic) after buying three extremely decent (new or, at least, recently discontinued NOS) fountain pens in the space of a month for just under £5 each. Then I did that fatal thing... went onto amazon and took notice of their recommendations (anyone who saw my last review may be spotting a slight pattern here). So I blithely went on a cheap pen spending spree, ending up buying this pen, a Bic Easy Click (with a “Hello Kitty” print – oh, dear!) and an ONLINE College set (which has both fountain pen and ink roller-ball sections (and a keyring – ooh!) and another... interesting print) – each for less than £4.00 – I can't resist a bargain and I really have no will power! As it turned out, two of the three had folded steel nibs , and this is one of them. Hmm... I've never had a nib of this type that was even passable before, but shockingly, this one, more or less, is. Only passable, though, it won't win awards for “buttery” smoothness, but for once, I wouldn't have too many qualms about a nib of this type putting off a fountain pen newbie for life. In my experience, that's relatively impressive! For a while now, I've thought that the Platinum Preppy was unparalleled in this price bracket (that's the ultra-extra cheapies, the ones around £3.00) but this pen may have undermined that idea. The Preppy undoubtedly has the better nib but, otherwise, this pen outdoes the Preppy in almost every way. This is very much a school pen (as are all the Schneiders, I guess) and it has been made to be such, so it is an impressively robust package for the money. I've seen several threads that ask about getting a cheap fountain pen for a very young child – this one might be an option if they are likely to break or lose said pen within a month or so – even as inexpensive as it is, I suspect it would survive a reasonable amount of punishment. Only... maybe don't get it in this particular design for a really little one, unless you want him/her to grow up with a bit of a bondage fetish... Appearance/Design: First off here's 2 links to the product page on the Schneider site - http://www.schneiderpen.de/en/products/catalog/subpage/show/fountain-pens-2_voice-135.html & http://www.schneiderpen.de/en/products/catalog/subpage/show/fountain-pens-2_easy-52.html. So why two links? Because, as far as I can tell, the Schneider Easy is exactly the same as the Voice, other than in minor cosmetic ways – so unless someone tells me different, the vast majority of the review can be taken as being for both pens. If I'm wrong, then I'm sorry, perhaps someone may be able to correct me. Here's my pen: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7412/10037281704_996f426692_b.jpg Schneider Voice by Geordielass78, on Flickr OK, so the pattern may not be to everyone's taste, but it's subdued enough not to bother me. You may have different feelings on the subject. To be fair, for £3.99, I could have got it with the swirly gold-on-black pattern (see the first Schneider link) from the same seller – I went for the cheaper one because I didn't dislike it - I think the other design might be more generally acceptable (?), but I also think that this one could be a good choice for a cheap school pen for a teen-aged boy, for instance. The design of this pen is very functional (most of the Schneider pens seem to have a utilitarian simplicity that I like) and the chain design could be seen as reinforcing this by giving it a complimentary industrial feel. It has a straight (patterned) barrel with a plain black end-cap, which has a nice asymmetrical curve to it. The pattern is some sort of hard coating, rather than printed directly onto the barrel, which you can see because there's a “seam” that runs down the back of the barrel – the pattern almost matches up across the seam, but just not quite: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7296/10037323355_a829afdbd4_b.jpg Schneider Voice Seam by Geordielass78, on Flickr This is a serious close up, you shouldn't imagine that it's this noticeable, in reality. The cap is also plain black in the same material as the barrel, while the clip is a matt silver to match the patterning and the top of it has the same asymmetrical curve as the bottom of the barrel. Those two “mirroring” curves are the sort of thoughtful and attractive little design detail I would never have expected in a pen of this price, which impresses me. The curve on the lid continues down into an oversized clip (oversized clips seem to be a design feature of most Schneider pens – this one isn't as big as most, though) – its a very functional clip design, but as with any plastic clip, trying to overstress it by clipping it to anything thicker than, say, a pocket is at you own risk. The barrel and lid are very smooth, with a touch of sheen – almost glossy. The plastics on the ends of both are more matt and are equally pleasant to handle. The section is the best part of the design (especially for a school pen) as it is rubberised and shaped to encourage a “correct” grip. It isn't “handed” but, I believe, it should work equally well for both “righties” and “lefties”. I use a standard right-handed hold and I find it extremely comfortable – especially as it's one of the widest sections on the pens I own. It's worth pointing out that a few years ago I tripped and fell (I was at the gym, on a treadmill, so it was a fairly nasty and excruciatingly embarrassing fall ) and broke the first two fingers on my right hand, just at the lower joints. Ever since, any pen can leave me with stiffness and aching fingers after 15-20 minutes (some sooner), but this one is very comfortable – it doesn't completely alleviate the problem, but it helps. It's worth noting that this is quite a big pen, and the section is in proportion with that, so it's a far better choice for adult hands than a lot of school pens. If he can live with the pattern, I'm thinking about passing this pen on to my Dad to try, as he's finding writing increasingly uncomfortable due to arthritis in his upper finger joints – I may try out a bit of nib smoothing before I do that – but more on that under Nib Performance. The nib is silver-coloured and is, proportionally, probably a bit wider than average (it's a bit short and fat, in other words). It has a breather hole and some attractive detailing, making it a pleasant-looking nib - I have to admit to being surprised at the decoration on such a cheap nib. Its silver-colour matches the design on this pen – in reality it is “reinforced steel” - whatever that means. This is the best I can do with my little point and click camera to give a vague idea of the detailing: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3734/10037314354_218f11ccf6_b.jpg Schneider Voice Nib by Geordielass78, on Flickr How does it score? I like the design, as I said, you can call it functional, utilitarian, industrial, but you couldn't call it edgy, or funky, (or groovy, no matter what the description says - that's WAY too Austin Powers, anyway) even though something like that was intended, with that pattern. However, give me functionality over funky any day of the week! As a child's school pen, I would certainly choose the Edge's colours over these Voice ones – assuming both were available to me – they weren't at the time. Oh, yes, I'm supposed to be giving it a score... hmm... you certainly can't score a £3.50 pen using the same criteria as a £350 or a £35 pen. So actually, I'm going to say that, for the cost, this pen looks good (the only slight negatives are that print and the barrel “seam”) and has some truly great design features (the section, especially). What's not to like? 9/10 Construction/Quality: After looking at the Schneider site, it appears that they have five (very finely) graduated “ranks” of school fountain pen up to the “posh” school pen/workaday office pen that is the ID. This is the second level – still very cheap, but not something that could be treated almost as a disposable (in my opinion). I don't say that that's what their lowest tier pen is, but it lacks some of the features (the main one being the ergonomic grip section) that this pen has. In terms of quality, this pen was a very pleasant surprise. Yes it is all plastic, but that plastic doesn't feel terribly cheap, it feels very solidly build and it's clearly made to survive a year or two of being rattled around in a school bag. I'm pretty certain it would do that too. Having just typed those words, I felt a bit experimental, so I threw my pen on the (carpeted) floor and stood on the barrel (OK, in bare feet, but still, I'm what is euphemistically known as a “big girl”) and it has taken no harm – so I imagine it could be knocked onto the floor and then accidentally kicked a couple of metres across a classroom floor without smashing into smithereens. The material of the lid is a bit thinner (unlike some Schneiders the lid isn't oversized here, only the clip) and I could probably smash that by stepping on it, if it was on its own – so I'm not going to try. The barrel's all plastic, but in two parts, so while I was in experimental mode I filled it two thirds full of water and watched the water leak away between the main barrel and the end-cap – so this isn't an eyedropper candidate. As I said, the section is rubbery and shaped (partially flattened in three areas) to encourage a proper grip. Again it punches above its weight in terms of value for money; it feels great to me, but of course, we have the old (Lamy Safari-esque) problem that pens like this present for anyone who doesn't use a standard grip. The one very obvious place in which the quality of the pen falls down is the folded steel nib – I won't go into detail on performance here, but folded steel still has the reputation (usually correctly, in my opinion) of only being found on cheap and nasty pens. This pen is cheap but certainly isn't nasty, so to my mind it is a real shame that it isn't “iridium” tipped. I believe that the Vpen/Varsity has a properly tipped nib, (please correct me if I'm wrong), so if a “disposable” can, this pen certainly should have. One positive thing about the nib that I can mention is that the “reinforced steel” toughness may have a basis in fact. Pearl (the cat in my avatar pic) is great at running right in front of me and tripping me – she did that while I had the pen uncapped in my hand, doing a shopping list, a couple of days ago. I was stepping towards the fridge to check on something, she runs, I stumble, the pen flies out of my hand and hits the (hard) floor nib down – and no problems at all afterwards! Again, a pretty positive sign for a school pen! National stereotypes are generally invidious, but one of the positive ones is that German engineering is top-notch – this pen is a great example of how to engineer a cheap pen to feel much higher quality than the price suggests. The nib is the one flaw (even though it's one of the best folded steel examples I've come across). 8/10 Size and Weight: It's a light pen - about the same weight as a Parker Vector, but much larger. It's not huge, but it is (marginally) the biggest pen I own right now and definitely above average sized. Here are a few pictures that show it with a Platinum Preppy and a Parker Vector, for comparison: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7420/10037360876_c596ea7d2f_b.jpg Schneider Voice Comparison by Geordielass78, on Flickr It is pen with quite a large diameter, which, when added to the ergonomic section makes it very pleasant to hold and adds to its usability as a school pen. It's light enough to write either posted or unposted without feeling too much difference in weight, but, while it isn't impossibly large when using it posted, it's probably going to be better to use it unposted, for almost everyone. Lidless is certainly going to be better for the vast majority of school children. It's a great size, unposted, and only slightly unwieldy when posted – that may be more than slight if you are buying it for a small child, but they'll be fine if they just don't post the lid. It's also a light pen, which is much easier in many circumstances (especially for small children). 8/10 Nib Performance: In one sentence: Good for folded steel, but barely mediocre if you've ever used a half-decent nib! What helps it attain even mediocrity, I think, is that it has a wet feed and nib and it is on the broad side of medium, whatever Schneider may call it (they say medium). The wet feed/nib stops the nib being scratchy. Well, it doesn't exactly scratch but does give a lot of feedback. Personally I prefer smoothness and minimal feedback, but this isn't too bad – I can easily live with it. Actually, perhaps there is a touch of scratch there, as it does pick up the odd paper fibre from the page – if you look very closely you may be able to see the effects of that on the "caused" and the last “fundamentally” in the second quotation in this sample: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7359/10037309454_733e3383d4_b.jpg Schneider Voice Sample by Geordielass78, on Flickr As I said, definitely the broad side of medium – the ink's the royal blue washable cartridge that came with it. (Sorry, the printing isn't too bad, but the other's not fantastic, I know). I mentioned, that I was thinking about giving the pen to my Dad who is suffering from arthritis in his hands. I don't really think that the nib is quite good enough, so I'm going to spend a bit of time smoothing it off... As with the eyedropper testing, I'm actually doing what I'm typing about between paragraphs – so after about 5 minutes of smoothing, I now have quite an acceptable nib here. Still a fair amount of feedback, but it's lost any hint of scratch and, so far, it seems to have stopped picking up paper fibres. It actually seems very slightly less broad too – because it no longer is getting fuzzed up with paper fibres, perhaps??? Well anyway, RESULT! In general, this is giving a decent writing experience now, and I'm very far from hating it, but I could never love it. The toughness, mentioned above, in a school pen's nib has to count in its favour too. Before smoothing, then, this nib was a 5/10, after, I'll make it a 6/10. I'm going to have a go at using this for the rest of today, and I may come back in a few hours and change that score after a bit more extensive use of the newly smoothed nib. (Note that I've added an extra point to each of these scores because it's a school pen and the nib seems durable) Filling System/Maintenance: It came with a short international standard cartridge of royal blue washable ink, which I decided to use, to see what the Schneider ink was like – it's a very standard sort of blue, nothing bad, but not exciting (see above). It has a great big barrel, so no problems there, in using a long cartridge or a converter. I've had no reason to take the section apart, but what I did have to do, until I smoothed the nib, was floss between the end of the tines to get rid of paper fibre, periodically. A child at school may not know what was wrong or how to mend it if they do realise when this happens. (I can remember managing to floss tines with a bit of paper as a kid, but it was damned hard to do!) It's only 7/10, as I can't comment on all the basic maintenance aspects and, left unsmoothed, the nib needed tine-flossing every so often, depending on the paper. However, it does have the advantage of the easiest to find/cheapest cartridges and can happily take a converter. Value for Money: £3.50? That's very roughly what you'd pay for a pint in a city pub (a bit less than you'd pay in bigger cities!) For that, you are getting a very solidly built pen that, with a little care not to lose it, ought to survive at least a year of going back and forth to school, or can probably survive in a pen pot on a desk for a fair bit longer. My first experience of fountain pens was with untipped calligraphy nibs and I've had the occasional folded steel cheapo over the years and I can't say I've ever come close to wearing an untipped nib right down, but I believe it can happen. For this money, who's really going to care? Bin it and get another. Your son/daughter loses it after 6 weeks at school? You might grumble a bit, but getting another isn't going to be a massive problem, really, is it? It honestly is a very good pen for the money and only misses out on a 10/10 in the value stakes because of that nib. 8 or 9? Oh, well, it's only £3.50 so – 9/10 Final Conclusion/Total Score: I got a couple of free Schneider biros (which I've not really used) with my last two orders from Cult Pens, but other than that I've had no previous experience of the brand. I'm really very impressed. So, OK, the nib isn't everything I might desire, but at this end of the price scale there will always be compromises and the nib is the compromise here. If you own a nail buffer that includes 12,000 grit micro mesh (what I used for my bit of inexpert smoothing) you can buy this and have confidence that you can make it very acceptable as a basic writer – the quality of all other aspects of the pen, for the money, is excellent. Can I recommend it? Totally, and without reservation, if you own the aforementioned nail buffer. A great school pen and also a pretty decent one for most adults – especially as it isn't sized so that it can only be used by little hands. With just a very little work on the nib this could easily be given to anyone as a pen to let them try using a fountain pen for the first time. The overall average score reflects my feeling about this pen at 8/10 (That score still rounds to 8 whether it's smoothed or unsmoothed – 7.666 or 7.833, to be more precise.)

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