Hybrid Ballpoint Showdown and Giveaway

Hybrid ballpoints

Over the past few years I’ve warmed to the idea that not all ballpoint pens are created the same. This is especially true with the hybrid ink ballpoints like the Pilot Acroball, Pentel Vicuna, Zebra Surari and Uniball Jetstream. I decided it was high time to put these four head-to-head. I wanted to know if they were all essentially the same or if there were any  distinct differences worth noting.

These pens are referred to as hybrid inks, emulsion inks, hybrid gel, hybrid ballpoint inks, to name a few. The bottom line is that they use a modified ballpoint ink crossed with the newer gel inks to create a smoother, quick-drying ink made to be easier flowing while maintaining the waterproof characteristics.

Hybrid ballpoints

I wanted an apples-to-apples comparison so I used single-color, retractable, 0.5mm black versions of the Surari, Vicuna and Acroball. I had a multi-pen Jetstream already and tested with that. The Jetstream is also an 0.5mm black but also includes an 0.5mm red and a 0.5mm lead pencil as well. All four brands  offer silicone grips and a whole array of configurations from point size, colors and pen barrel aesthetics. A single color pen can be had for $2.50 and up for a Jetstream, Vicuna and Acroball. The Surari is the budget pen at $1.65. My interest was specifically in the performance of the inks.

Ballpoint Showdown 1

On my standard Quo Vadis bright white notebook, all four pens performed quite similarly. At close examination I could see a little roughness in the swirl tests from the Jetstream and Surari and an occasional skip in the Acroball. The Vicuna was the smoothest on this silky paper. In terms of the richness of the black, the Acroball had the darkest color followed by the Jetstream and Vicuna. The Surari was the lightest black.

Ballpoint Showdown 2

In fairness, I also wanted to test these pens on more “everyday paper” so I used my new Poppin notebook which has better-than-average paper but not as fancy as the Quo Vadis. On the Poppin paper, all  but the Surari looked equally dark black. Vicuna was ever-so-slightly rougher on the paper but only minutely.

For me, the occasion I use ballpoints most frequently are either signing credit card receipts or writing postcards so I really wanted to try these pens on the toughest of all papers, coated stocks! I forgot to photograph my postcards before writing this so you’ll have to trust me on this. The Jetstream and Vicuna performed very well. They dired quickly. The Surari was good as well. The Acroball, for reasons I can’t understand, took FOREVER to dry which resulted in smudged writing and having to wait to post the mail until I felt sure it was dry. So… with that said I would rank the Vicuna as my most recommended for writing, smoothness and darkness. It wasn’t the darkest ink but it is super-smooth and worked on the most surfaces. Second place is the Jetstream. Its widely known to be awesome and it is but I did get a little fuzzing on nice paper.  I’d put the Acroball and Surari tied for third place. The budget price on the Surari gives it a little boost while the Acroball is a rich black color but terrible for glossy paper like greeting cards, postcards and magazines.

Finally, if you want to do your own side-by-side testing of the hybrid pens, I am giving away a $25 gift certificate to JetPens to help you on your way. Just leave a comment and tell me which of the four brands is or might be your favorite hybrid pen.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday August 23, 2013. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. Gift Certificate will be sent via email. One entry per person.

65 Comments on Hybrid Ballpoint Showdown and Giveaway

  1. Theo
    August 21, 2013 at 8:37 am (2 years ago)

    I’m an Acroball man. I agree with you that it’s the darkest, which is most important to me. I think it’s smoothness is on-par with the others. Thanks for doing the giveaway!

  2. Jenny
    August 21, 2013 at 10:11 am (2 years ago)

    I agree with you about the Pentel Vicuma judging by your review as I value a pen’s smoothness and I like it’s apparent color from your photos.

  3. bernadine Etter
    August 21, 2013 at 10:16 am (2 years ago)

    My favorite is the jet stream but I have heard great things about the acroball and I would love to try it out.

  4. mandy s.
    August 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm (2 years ago)

    I’d have to go with the Acroball – that dark black is really what I look for in a black ink.

  5. Anne Elizabeth (@LetterLoveBlog)
    August 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm (2 years ago)

    I was totally sold on the Acroball until I read the part about it smearing on glossy paper like postcards. Boo. So I suppose I agree with your first choice, the Vicuna.

    Thanks for the reviews!

  6. Lilith
    August 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm (2 years ago)

    So far I’ve only tried the Jetstream and the Surari, but the Jetstream wins by far!
    Haven’t tried the other two yet.

  7. zoey
    August 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm (2 years ago)

    I haven’t tried these pens… usually I don’t especially like ballpoints… But I’m willing to change my mind! :)

  8. Alisia
    August 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm (2 years ago)

    I probably would like to try all the pens and have fun with them.

  9. Mikel
    August 21, 2013 at 11:16 pm (2 years ago)

    I love the Vicuna. I should use it more and am always happy when I do.

  10. Antonio R
    August 21, 2013 at 11:29 pm (2 years ago)

    Pentel Vicuma is super. A great way to start.


  11. Michi
    August 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm (2 years ago)

    I think I would like the Vicuna best since I’m currently looking for a smooth pen.

  12. Chun Chuan
    August 23, 2013 at 10:57 am (2 years ago)

    Jetstreams are definitely the best hybrid pens around in the market.

  13. Charles Hadden
    August 24, 2013 at 9:39 am (2 years ago)

    I prefer the Jetstream and I have experienced differences between Jetstream, multi’s, the various Jetstream colored editions, and your basic Jetstream. Basic is the best, the multi’s are OK and the colored series do not write well.

  14. C Brown
    August 24, 2013 at 10:15 am (2 years ago)

    Since I like smooth, I’d say the vicuna…I have yet to try most of these though…

  15. Daisy Mason
    February 13, 2015 at 5:04 pm (1 year ago)

    Those who love JetStream clearly haven’t learnt how to hold a pen. Try holding it as you are told by your kindergarten teacher, and notice the scratchy upstrokes. It’s totally destroying the most important element of handwriting – rhythm.


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