Gel stick pens are great to have around the office because they're inexpensive, simple and tend to write so well. Plus, they're typically nice-looking pens. But not all sticks are created equal, and we decided to put three popular office models to the test to see which one came out on top.
You probably recognize the G1 Grip as one of Pilot's older pens, but it's still a hot seller in the UK, as are the Pentel Hybrid and the Uniball Signo. All three are marketed as particularly comfortable (because of their rubber grips) and are supposed to be as smooth as any gel writer. After some comparisons, this is what we found:
The Pilot G1 Gel Grip loses this category right off the start. The barrel is completely plain, with a too-small cap, and that ugly orange oil Pilot uses to top off the ink cartridge looks like used cooking grease. The perforated grip adds some style, but not nearly enough.
The Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip has the same problem as the G1 – it's so plain, especially the grip, which boasts no frills at all. However, the crystal barrel gives it a bit of sparkle the G1 doesn't have. And the rounded cap, while fairly ordinary, complements the understated effect with a little bold printing.
The Uniball Signo Gel Grip is the clear winner when it comes to looks. The silvery barrel is slightly flashy in a professional way. It's offset by two tinted windows that show the ink level in the cartridge and a black ring, printed with "Uniball," separates the barrel from the grip. The cap is clear and the sleek architecture of the clip continues the modern motif.
The hard rubber grips on all three pens are nothing really to speak of. There's little give and no cushion. The perforations and horizontal ridges in the G1 grip do give it a slight advantage in holding your fingers in place as you write.
The thicker the pen, the more comfortable it's likely to be, and, in that regard, the G1 is least comfortable, as it's the thinnest of the three pens. As the thickest, the Uniball could have been the most comfortable, except that the pen is simply too short, leaving the cap to rub annoyingly against the base of the thumb.
The Hybrid won here because it is slightly thicker than the G1, has a pleasant round feel in the hand, and is long enough that it does not have the Uniball's problem. The pen's comfort, weight and balance actually make it a favourite of pen spinners.
All three were fairly smooth writers and left good, dark vibrant lines, as you'd expect from gel pens (.07 mm for the Pilot and Uniball and .06 mm for the Pentel). The distinction in writing experience and ink appearance was a matter of degrees. However, the actual performance of the ink varied considerably more. One major surprise: All three smudged when touched within five seconds of writing on an ordinary white legal pad.
The G1 wrote fine, but felt a little scratchy in comparison to the other two. It had some minor issues with skipping, especially when first being used. Left uncapped for a couple of hours, it showed no signs of drying out and wrote immediately. Feathering and bleed-through did not seem to be an issue, but the ink still smeared slightly after 12 seconds of drying time.
The Hybrid easily felt like the smoothest writer of the group, requiring very little pressure to make the point glide over the paper. There was no feeling of scratchiness at all, even though the point was a bit smaller than the other two. No problems with skipping or blotting and wrote immediately after being left uncapped for two hours. Smearing was a major issue, though. Even at 12 seconds of drying time, the ink still smudged considerably.
The Uniball was also smooth and had a certain liquidity to its movement. The ink flow was heavier than the other two and left small blots when writing. Left uncapped, the pen still wrote immediately and without any more blotting than usual. The most interesting thing was that while the Uniball was the wettest writer, it also had the fastest drying time (as is common with Uniballs), with little to no smudging at 12 seconds. Surprisingly though, there was some smearing even up to 8-10 seconds after writing.
At first, the Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip (which seems to be the most expensive) looked like the overall winner. It was more comfortable and gave a better writing experience than the other two pens. But that ridiculous drying time just can't be overlooked. The Hybrid doesn't have a reputation for slow drying, so it's possible that it was just the pen being tested. Still, in comparison, the Uniball was nearly as smooth and the ink performed better, even though it was not as comfortable to hold.
So that's it: The Uniball Signo Gel Grip won this head-to-head competition.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. Got an opinion on which is the better of these three gel stick pens? Speak up and be heard.