When most people think of a high quality, top end pen, they think of Parker pens. I did too, until I had my first.
I wanted a good pen for use in exams so I was bought this pen for Christmas last year. I tested it out and it seemed very nice:
The build quality initially was excellent, I could not fault it, the weight of it just enhanced the feeling of quality and you certainly did not feel like they had "cheaped out" on anything during manufacture. The ink coverage was amazing, not too much ink as to soak the paper and not so little as to make the lines faint. Even the pocket clip, which I have a tendency of breaking off, was very high quality and, surprising, after a year it is still attached.
However, I find it very uncomfortable to write with for long periods of time i.e. exams. After about half an hour of continuous writing, my finger hurt due to no padding whatsoever on the pen and the fact that I have to grip especially hard due to the pen being completely smooth and nothing to increase friction with my finger to prevent my hand slipping. The sweat on my hands during the pressure of exams makes the situation far worse too.
I have found that the substantial extra weight of this pen over other pens adds to the noise when writing, during a near silent exams hall I feel very self-conscious about writing when using this pen because of it.
The refills for these pens are surprisingly cheaper than I expected at only a couple of pounds for a pack - I was expecting it to be more expensive but when you consider that you can usually buy a PACK of decent pens for this amount, it does seem a little dear.
When I was about 14 my parents bought me a Parker Vector Set for Christmas, which included a ballpoint pen, fountain pen and propelling pencil. I still have and use three 20 years later - the Vectors are pretty durable items!
At school we had to use fountain pens so my Vector ballpoint got little use, apart from when I used the magic correction pens which dissolved the washable fountain ink and I would write over the top in the ballpoint pen. Since leaving school the ballpoint pen has had much more use and I have had to buy a refill cartridge at least twice. One cartridge does however last a very long time, probably around 4 years, although I'm not doing a huge amount of writing these days as everything has become electronic.
The pens come a variety of colours, I have seen black and navy blue ones as well as multicoloured ones which come and go as fashion trends. My Vector set is burgundy and I quite like this colour. The pen itself has the lighter washable blue colour cartridge in, which is the colour I prefer to write with, although it is possible to buy black and darker blue versions as replacements.
The pen is a cap up/down, ie. press the end of the pen and the nib goes in/out. The pen is made from moulded plastic and screws open above the stainless grip which is where the refill can be replaced. The area around the nib, the clip and button for pushing the nib in and out are also stainless steel. The pen writes very smoothly and I find I can write neatly using this pen. I think the pen looks quite stylish and professional and would be a nice gift for someone to take to work.
I have no idea how much my Vector set was, but having a quick look online the ballpoint alone can be bought for around £10. I seem to remember paying around £3 for the last refill, which is actually quite a lot considering the cost of the pen new, however I like this pen for sentimental reasons plus I am used to it and it writes very well. For durability and length of service this pen has to get 5/5 from me.
For many thesedays, actually writing something rather than typing can be something of a rare occurrence and I can't imagine that sales of ball point pens will not have suffered in the last decade as a consequence.
As will be the case with many writers and many reading this review, I have a huge number of pens of various sorts and brands from the very cheap hotel giveaways to the really rather nice expensive pens that are just too nice for everyday use. In short, I never throw any pens or pencils out and they are all over the place!
My better pens are in the desk drawer and I do give them an occasional outing. I have a couple of Parker Vector pens - one with a black barrel and one with a blue. Each of them has a brushed steel finish at the finger end. The black one I found in a car park and it's a bit bashed, but still works; the blue one was a present many years ago.
What I like about Parker Pens:
* They are really reliable at getting ink out of them first time, unlike so many cheap pens
* They look so slim, sleek and stylish and don't go in for anything too fancy.
* The clips are strong; I have never broken one
* The refills last a decent length of time and don't leak
* The brand is one of the best around; I like its longevity and the reputation for quality
What I don't always appreciate:
* The cost of the refills
* The initial purchase price can be high - worth shopping around
I do believe that everyone's handwriting is improved through using a good quality pen and, although you can pay an awful lot of money for a quality pen, the cost of these is still within reach of the common man. I suspect many are bought as presents. Sadly, I suspect there are a huge number languishing in desk drawers, never getting used. Such a shame!
If you believe it is important to write well, this pen and a pack of refills would be a good investment for your children or grandchildren. They are still available after being around for many a year and although there can be quite wide variations in price at retail outlets, eBay is a good place to hunt, especially for sets, incorporating a fountain pen or a pencil, with a matching case..... in some cases, less than a tenner which I think is excellent value.
When my father died a couple of years ago we didn't imagine we'd fine so many classic pens that would turn out to be a rather large private hoard. Amongst the many fine brands I had already recognised, the humble Parker Vector pens made up some of his collection, much of which have now been passed down to me. I now have a mix of classic designs that are well made, can accept standard and current ink replacements as well as mix in with my own collections. The original Parker Vector has always come with a hard plastic presentation box with a plastic grey insert with brand name and a little paper manual tucked in behind the grey insert. However these days you'll find cheaper priced pens in a blister pack made up of either one or two pens.
My story with Parker's famous Vector pens started independently when I was a teenager and got a summer job working in a car dealership. I got many free merchandise gifts including various pens and stationery and one of the many pen gifts was a Parker Vector pen, which at that time during the 1980's was nothing to laugh about in terms of value. Back in the 1970's and 1980's if you were ever given a Parker pen from any of their range, you were seen with a different kind of attitude, almost Yuppie-fied even if the term during the 1970's had not been born yet until the middle of the Eighties. These days you can find Parker Vector pens at so many stockists including WH Smith, John Lewis and even humble newsagents if you know where to look. Against the ordinary BIC pen and "middle of the road" plastic Papermate to their silver and gold premium metal bodied pens, if there is one other brand that is instantly recognisable sat at a classic, timeless and yet premium level, it is Parker but like Papermate, both companies are American by origin. I'd say for those who love pens, both companies seem to have a strong devoted fan line up, with Parker being the most popular now over Papermate that ruled previous market generations.
The Vector is a classic design - there's no denying it - slim, smart and compact (12cm length by 0.5cm diameter) it is easy to pick out by its chunky width and likewise easy to store away thanks to is cosy compact shape that fits most pen holders in briefcases and laptop bags. With the purchase comes a certain elegance and uniqueness thanks to the trademark arrow strong metal clip at the top of the pen, strong matt colours that never fade or unique pattern designs that make look awkward from an angle but seem to hold up to most abuse. The Vector is one of the most popular (and available) Parker styles I've seen in many UK stockists. There have also been other places I've seen them that have been the most surprising on cost. Priced around £5-99 to £10-99 on average, the pen is usually encased in a clear plastic frontage with cardboard backing and the more expensive prices lead to the original acrylic and black presentation box with grey insert, sometimes charging more if two Vector pens have been included. Other variations consist of £7-99 to £12-99 priced special edition twin blister packs containing a similarly designed pop-automatic pencil with 0.5mm lead or push function ball point alongside the normal pen is also available. However, the ballpoint push style is often encased in a lighter plastic compared to the metal bottom body and has one uniform design without a replaceable lid. If the Vector original has a design on the body or matt colour, the accompanying "free" pen or pencil emulates it.
Whilst the ink is easy to rely on and seldom runs once it is written with instantly, the metal shaft that acts as the grip area to where my fingers would naturally pinch around is made of strong brushed stainless steel. Whilst this is made well to keep the ink replacement tank inside, the brushed steel can be slippery and can take the user a bit of time to get used to its cold, smooth nature. The replacement tank inside is like a smaller pen and has a handy frosted top to check the level of the ink.
In my experience, the bigger problem with the Parker Vector in recent years is the mixed bag of quality over its largely fuss free ink performance. The pens back in the 1980's had a solid thicker feeling top with the arrow clip and would easily push and lock onto the back of the pen when in use, never falling off and easy to pull off when finished using the pen. The more recent versions of the Parker Vector pens suffer from poorer plastic tops that fall off the end, or in constant use crack at the rim making it impossible to fit on the end and stay there. Another issue is that the metal arrow clips are impossible to stay in the original position if they have been bent outwards to accommodate fitting on thicker clothing. Sadly, once the clip is pulled outwards it is impossible to give the pen the slim look when the arrow clip can't be pushed inwards. This then gives the pen an awkward appearance, abused looking and detracts it from its smooth, slim line original appearance.
This then compounds whether the original pricing is worth the money or not. This is why I've left the most important bit of info about this product to the last. Whilst hunting around for bargains around Poundstretcher, I found blister packs of the single Vector on sale for a mere £2-99! I've also seen the same pen in my local Morrisons and Tesco where the stationery is located, so it does pay to look around! Of course what you have to put up with sometimes, is the most garish designs of neon colours, or black with green peppered ball like designs or stripes in likewise loud colours on them. Put up with that and you have a great product, regardless of the body design even if the products have clearly been marked down because of their look. Parker Vector pens are available in blue or black ink, but it is usually blue ink that is the most popular and states this clearly on the top or bottom of the newer or older blister packs at the front.
Whilst is not hard to dislike the Parker Vector pen, it isn't hard to choose other alternatives. But for the fact that from time to time you can actually find the pen at cheaper prices and for the garish designs that are printed on permanently, the Parker Vector pen is still worth considering because of its timeless and seamless look. On performance it writes fairly well too and at times it feels well made for the price - but when the top or the clip goes out of its original design and ink replacements can be hard to find - sometimes going with the garish disposable idea is probably far cheaper in the long run. Still nice as a gift if you push for the more expensive presentation box idea, it is an ideal present for a young and budding writer - but expect more of it in terms of its external body and longevity and you may be pushed to buy something a bit more expensive and has a better tactile feeling of quality without the feeling that it will fall out of your fingers. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2010
Recently I have been racking my wee pea brain for ideas for other peoples Christmas presents. I was particulary stuck on what to buy my step-father as he is a notoriously difficult man to buy for. I was writing out a shopping list though the other day with my Parker pen that I use all the time and thought bingo...I'll get him one of these for work!
I have used Parker pens for years now. When I was at school my mother always bought me them and I never realised why until I grew up and now look back! Sleek in style the pen is standard sized made from silver metal and then the main of the pen is a colour and in plastic. The top pushes to reveal the pen point roller and down one side of it there is always a silver thin strip which you can clip on to your clothing rally securely.
The pens are lightweight, look smart and come in a variety of colours. Refills are easily bought for a couple of quid either online in places such as Amazon, Ebay and in shops on the high street such as Whsmith and what is great about them is that the refills last absolutely ages (even if they are used often) and always once you put pen to paper smoothly write and never clog up.
For me a Parker pen is simply quality. In either black or blue refills these particualar pens comes either on a carboard backing or in a plastic case and these are the rather basic looking pens out of the large range of Parkers that are available. Expect to pay about £5 a pen and as I have previously mentioned in a variety of colours too. You really can't go wrong with a Parker in my opinion!
This review is also posted on Ciao under this same username.