Notebook Review: Pen + Gear Gameboy Notebook

I had an unusual little visit to a nearby Wal-Mart this weekend and browsed through the back-to-school aisles. Much of the merchandise was standard back-to-school fare including massive packs of cheap wooden pencils, huge reams of 3-ring notebook paper and packs of multi-colored pens.

There were a couple little gems though including the Pen + Gear Gaming Journal ($7.50) that looks like a vintage gameboy.  The cover is made from translucent yellow plastic with die cuts that highlight the silver foil on the soft cover.

Inside are three colored paper sections with 40 sheets each in aqua blue, lemon yellow and fluorescent orange. Each section features a different phrase in the lower corner: Keep Calm, Game On and Level Up.

Each page is also perforated for easy removal.

I did my initial writing sample with a Platinum Carbon Pen and to my great surprise, the paper seemed to take the ink well.

In further writing samples, I tried a variety of pens that I might use with a notebook like this: gel, pencils, markers and felt tips as well as fountain pens all with similar results.

To my surprise, when I flipped the page over, their was very little showthrough or bleed through. There was a bit of bleed through with the Pentel Dual Metallic gel pens but they are quite a specialty pen.

I did a close-up image to see the few little dots from fountain pen tests.

Overall, this notebook is actually pretty good and ridiculously fun. I hope that I can find another notebook that will fit into the yellow cover so that I can re-use it after the colored paper journal is filled.

I was delighted to find a little treasure in the back-to-school section.

Bonus Review: Mead Five Star College Ruled Composition Notebook

I also picked up a Mead Five Star Composition Notebook ($2.50). It’s college-ruled with a plastic flexible cover. I have always loved the size and form-factor of a composition notebook but, unfortunately, since these notebooks are exclusively targeted to school age kids, the driving factor is often price over quality.

When I saw the pretty marble-look cover in pastel colors with metallic gold paint flecks, I had high hopes that the quality of the notebook would be above average.

The notebook includes 100 pages and QR-style codes in each corner that will allow pages to be scanned with the Five Star App. Notes can then be synced to Google Drive to access them anywhere from any device.

With standard writing tests, none of the pens bled or feathered but the show-through and bleed-through was ridiculous.

From the reverse, the paper looks so see-through as to be tissue rather than actual paper stock.

I’m very disappointed in the paper quality. Why do we do this to children? Why do we give them sub-par materials and expect to succeed?

Sadly, I find this notebook is seriously unacceptable. Mead, “High quality paper”? My ass. Give this composition notebook a hard pass.

Pens used in the writing samples for both notebooks.

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12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. If you have a chance, check out some of the other Pen + Gear journals or notebooks that are not necessarily meant for school use or made for kids. They make some very nice blank books with pretty covers and good thick paper.

  2. To answer the question of why does anyone give kids crappy paper for school: it’s because they are stick with crappy writing instruments.

    This crappy paper and ballpoint pens deserve each other but our kids deserve better.

    This situation will not change unless our schools require better writing instruments for all work done on paper. Only then will the school notebook industry raise their standards and deliver better paper quality.

    Expect prices to rise commensurately.

  3. Mead and 5 star notebooks have terrible paper but if you see Oxford give them a try. I just found the 70 page single subject ones at a local store for $.25 a piece.

  4. Hi Ana, thank you for including the link. I put the Gameboy Level Up notebook in my Walmart pickup order. I already had a pencil pouch in it. I should go into the store. I just don’t always want to. Since I’m a solo caregiver for my Mom, who is basically home bound, I try to be careful in going out to places.

    I have two pen rabbit holes: fountain pens and customizable multi pens. I ordered 5 of the 6 collaboration of Uni Style Fit with Kippis multi pen bodies. So those could be used with the Gameboy Level Up notebook too.

  5. Well thank you Ana, I appreciate that. I got my pickup order today. If I ever use up the pages, any new insert would need us to keep the original cover.

    Interestingly, I’ve been playing games on my Nintendo DS which replaced the Gameboy. I still have a blue Gameboy, the version that folds in half into a square shape.

  6. Well I thought I left a reply earlier today, but I don’t see it. Basically what I said was that the Pen + Gear brand includes some very nice quality blank books/journals of various sizes and types, and all of the ones I’ve purchased have very nice paper for the price.

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