Zebra F 701 Ballpoint Pen Review
Before I start, I would like to say that this is one of my all-time favorite pens. Hats off to the folks over at Zebra, they absolutely killed this design. In my long-lived career of being a metal pen nerd, I have found very few pens that surpass the F-701 in terms of build quality and functionality. I have probably purchased about 3-4 of these pens in my lifetime. I must note that none of them have been damaged or defective, I simply lost them :((. I can remember that I have ran out of ink on several occasions, and that each pen will last many years with the proper care. For under 10$ it really is hard to find a better metal ballpoint pen.
At first glance, it doesn’t look like the best pen I’ve ever seen. I think that it looks kind of chunky and weirdly circular. Personally, I think it looks very unique, but I can see how others would think that it looks unusual. When you first pick this pen up, you will notice that it feels like an instrument that you want to keep for a very long time. It is very weighted in such a way that more of the weight is towards the tip rather than evenly distributed. I think that this makes writing for long periods of time more relaxed. With heaver pens, my hand tends to get tired after a while, and I need to stop writing to take a break. This should not happen with the F-701 design. Other than the solid weight and build quality, my second favorite thing about this pen is the retractable clicking mechanism. It is super quiet and super smooth. It is really hard to explain it without feeling it for yourself, but take my word on this one it is very satisfying to click. Also, I really like the unibody design. Some pens are two part pens that screw apart in the middle. The F-701 has removable parts at the tip so that the ink refill can be replaced and in the back so the clip can be replaced. I find this design much more sturdy and practical when compared to other pen designs. Regarding the ink, I think it does a great job not smearing. Especially as a lefty, it is hard to find pens that don't smear at all. I also love the fact that you can replace the pen clip if it breaks, I think that more pen companies should provide replaceable clips. Additionally, a note on the clip suspension threaded screw mechanism, it has recently been replaced to 100% metal. Before, the model that I have pictured, the pen was all metal with the exception of this little plastic ring. Zebra has since then replaced that component, now making the pen 100% metal. I think that this is a step in the right direction and makes the pen look much better overall. You can see that my pen clip is a little scratched. Fear not, I have had this pen for 1.5 years now with a LOT of everyday abuse and scratching. I carry this pen everyday, and this pen looks very much the same as the day as I bought it.
I am having a hard time finding some of the drawbacks of this pen, but I have managed to come up with two that stick out to me. Firstly, the grip is very… grippy to say the least. I find it to be very comfortable and easy to hold on to because of my lighter pen grip. I know many people that tend to grip the pen very tightly when writing. This might lead to irritation over time, because the machined grip is a bit rough. In fact, I have even used it to grind down my fingernails on occasions lol. The second thing that some may find negative is the type of refill. The refills that Zebra sells look cheap IMO. They do write very well, but they come in a clear plastic sleeve. I don’t mind this at all, because it allows me to see how much ink I have left. I could understand that some extreme pen critics might want a more rugged looking metal cartridge refill. But then again, how many people really care what the refill cartridge looks like if nobody will ever see it?
Overall, I don’t care what anyone has to say about this pen. It will always be the pen that introduced me to the world of pens. This is one of my all-time favorite writing instruments that I carry on my person almost everyday. If you are looking for a first pen to upgrade from your standard cheap-o plastic disposable pen, I would recommend no other pen than the Zebra F-701.