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.
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.
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.
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.