Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Big Pilot Review: Be Green VBoard Master Markers, B2P Ballpoint, G-2 .7, Frixion Point .5 Blue, and Frixion Light Highlighter

Shoplet.com recently sent over a little variety pack of office supplies to try, with all but one items being new to me. Because I had never seen them before, I started with the Pilot BE GREEN Dry Erase Markers.

The BEGREEN aspect of this item refers to the fact that these markers are made with 91% recycled content. What's more, you can also buy a refill for Pilot Be Green markers and refill them up to four times which, according to Pilot, will result in a 39% savings over traditional (non-refillable) markers. 

I'm all for environmentally friendly products, and any opportunity to save money is more than welcome, so I think this product is brilliant. Pilot is also a sponsor of K.A.B. (Keep America Beautiful), an organization that promotes primarily promotes litter reduction and recycling. As it stands, +1 for the VBoard Master markers.

The markers are refillable via these little ink cartridges that are installed at the end of the marker. In terms of 'green' and environmentally friendly, I couldn't help but wonder if the wrapper was necessary. There's no indication that the wrapper is recyclable or biodegradable, and I think that it should be if it isn't already. 

On that same note, the plastic box that the markers are packaged is also void of any recycle symbol or bio-degradable indicator. In a future revision, I would like to see one or other on the cartridge wrapper and box.

As for the ink, the ink was as vibrant as most other dry erase markers I've used, and the flow was as one would expect - smooth and even. The ink erased easily without ghosting or leaving color flecks, as some markers tend to do.

The large chisel tip allows you to write in fine or bold lines, or with a calligraphic expressiveness, if you prefer. All of the dry erase markers I currently own have a chisel tip, so this is what I prefer, if only due to familiarity. According to the product cut sheet that came with these markers, you can also get a bullet point tip if you prefer that over chisel tips.

The cap of the markers has a little nub on one side to prevent the marker from rolling off, and the overall size of the marker allows for comfortable writing. If I have to stand at the white board for a while, it's nice to have a marker that will not result in hand fatigue.

So, what do I like about these markers? It's really pretty difficult to find any fault with these markers at all. I would like to know how green the packaging is, but compared to any comparable product, these are probably the most eco-friendly dry erase markers available. Plus, they write well, won't roll of a flat surface, are comfortable to hold, have vibrant ink, are refillable, and have two different tip styles, making them the most well thought-out dry erase markers I have seen. Hats off to Pilot on this one.

The second item I wanted to try is the Pilot B2P Recycled Ballpoint Pen. I've seen the B2P gel at stores and online, but I wasn't aware that a ballpoint version was also available. This pen, like the VBoard Markers, is made of recycled materials - 90% in this case. 

The B2P names means 'Bottle to Pen', referring to the recycled bottles were used in the construction of the pen. If it works as well as it's non-green counterpart, I'm all in. 

This is a retractable,1.0 mm ballpoint (the standard for most ballpoint pens, at least in my experience) with black ink. The barrel itself resembles a water bottle and it an appealing light blue color.

The grip is grippy and comfortable, as it is should. The retractable mechanism has a pronounced clicky action to it and does feel flimsy or loose. 

With a 1.0 mm ball, the writing action was smooth, but the ink was fairly standard in the realm of ballpoints. 

It's hard to tell in this writing sample, but the Pilot EasyTouch Pro and Uniball Jetstream were superior to the other three examples. I'd say the B2P was the third smoothest and darkest, followed by the Zebra Z-Grip, and the Bic Atlantis was easily the last place performer. 

If I could change one thing about this pen, it would be that it uses the EasyTouch Pro refills rather than the refill it has now which, if I were to guess, is probably the regular EasyTouch refill.

Likes: The B2P ballpoint made from recycled materials, is comfortable, feels solid, and looks good.

Dislikes: The ink is middle of the road and could use improvement. It's not bad by any means, but it's certainly not great.

I'm fairly certain the next pen does not require any sort of introduction but, if you haven't seen this before, this is the Pilot G2 Gel Roller Ball Pen, quite possibly the most popular gel pen on the planet.

I first saw these about 12 years ago, when I was in high school. Since then, Pilot has released other tip sizes (.38, .5, .7, and 1.0). You can get this pen in the regular (shown above), or pro version, and you can get it in a fairly wide variety of colors. There are mini versions, large barrel versions (the G-6), and the B2P gel also takes the G-2 refill. I'm sure that I am missing several other variations of the G-2, but you get the idea - it's a big player in the gel pen world.

One characteristic of the Pilot G-2 ink that I've always loved is that the ink is jet black; it doesn't get much blacker than the G-2, though the Sarasa was close (it's hard to tell what the opacity levels are in this image). 

A downside that many people have noted on the .7 and 1.0 G-2 refills is that the ink takes a considerable amount of time to dry. The result it that it smudges and smears, but I don't typically experience this with my .38 and .5 mm G-2s. 

The barrel itself has been the same since the beginning - you get a reliable clip, grip, retractable mechanism, and a pretty durable, translucent barrel. I personally wouldn't mind a revision to the barrel, but it might be hard to mess with a design that has served so many people very well over the years. I have had periodic issues with the writing performance of some G-2s, but it seems like it has been a while since the last occurrence, so I am wondering if there were a few quality issues in previous batches. 

One small point of interest: I think all of the G-2s I have purchased in the past have had an orange tint to the lighter gel behind the black ink, but this one is more of an off-yellow. Does anyone else have input on this?

The G-2: An industry leader of gel pens. A modern classic. Room for improvement? I guess it depends on who you ask, but I'm just excited that the micro tip sizes came out. I would love to see this available in a needle point like its cousin, the Hi-Tec-C. Anyhow, there's not much that I can say about the G-2 that hasn't been said already, but one of these has been in my pen cup for over a decade, and it's because this is a easily to find, reliable, well-performing pen.

Next is the Pilot Frixion Point Erasable Gel Pen. The pen utilizes thermo-sensitive ink to provide the option of being erasable. The 'Point' version has a needle tip, but you can get the regular Frixion, too, which is a conical tip. I've tried the regular Frixion before and thought it was quite good, though the black ink appeared a bit washed out - more like a dark grey. For a blue ink, I thought this was an excellent color, almost a ocean blue.

You can see in this writing sample that the ink is abit darker than cobalt or Zebra's standard blue, but not quite a blue black. I guess it would be fair to put this more in the denim blue range.

The writing performance was very precise, consistent, and enjoyable. I love the needle tip on the Frixion Point, and I plan to acquire more of these as I tend to make mistakes.

The 'erasing' is done by way of the little knob at the end of the barrel. If you like to write with your pen posted (cap on the back), you will have to remove the cap to use the erasing nodule. I'd prefer to have this on the end of the cap since I tend to write with the cap posted on the back, but this preference might not be universal, though I think it makes more sense either way.

The point size is indicated, too, as 05 on the side of the barrel. As for the design on the barrel itself, it's a bit wild for my taste, but I typically lean towards a minimalistic design approach.

The grip is subdued in appearance but works well. I found the comfort of the pen to be solid - no real complaints. The needle point feels solid, and based on the durability of the Pilot Precise, I'm confident that the pen will easily last until the ink is gone. 

I've read that people have had bad experiences writing important notes, e.g., a study guide for a final exam, only to have their notes disappear while the notebook was left in a hot car. Keep in mind, the ink is thermo-sensitive, so heat will remove the ink as though it has been erased, but it's my understanding that you can put the notebook in a freezer and the ink become visible once again! So, this pen might be a good choice for secret messages, too. :)

I was also sent a Frixion Light Erasable Highlighter, so I did the writing sample of the Frixion Point and the Frixion Light together. But, before the sample, let's take a look at the Frixion Light itself.

As you can see, the barrel design primarily yellow, as are most highlighter with yellow ink. The design is also similar to the Frixion Point in that it has a tribal design on the barrel. The combination of the black and yellow makes it look aggressive, almost wasp-swarm like.

If you like a plain barrel design, then this one is not for you. But if you want a highlighter that is vibrant and erases, then you'll probably love this:

  • Worried about highlighting in those expensive text books? It's erasable, so you can highlight key areas and erase it again. 
  • Highlight something on accident? No worries. Rub it away and relax. 
  • If you want to erase the highlighting of the Frixion Light off of the Frixion Point, then you will end up erasing them together, so keep that in mind.

So you can see how effective the erasing is, I wrote a line with the Frixion Point, a line with the Frixion Point highlighted with the Frixion Light, and then drew a line with the Frixion Light.

Using the eraser end, I rubbed a few diagonal lines across the writing sample. As you can see, both inks erase quite well. There might be a little bit of ghosting, but it is very light if at all, and the amount of effort is nominal at best. 

The chisel tip is shaped well for covering most lines of text in the typical font sizes. The tip didn't have much give, so I'm assuming that the tip will hold up well over the life of the highlighter.

What do I like about the Frixion Point and Frixion Light? The writing performance leaves nothing to be desired in both cases - smooth and consistent.

I like the barrel shape and overall writing comfort. Erasable ink is a very cool feature, and I think a lot of people could benefit from a second chance in their writing and highlighting. The durability of both of these products is evident in the feel and in Pilot's reputation. 

What don't I like? The barrel designs are a bit loud, a bit busy, so I'm wondering if a 'pro' or 'executive' model of each of these might be released at some point. 

Neither of these, as far as I know, are erasable. Pilot has taken the initiative of making several eco-friendly products, and it would be nice if these were a part of that agenda, too. 

All in all, it was a great time to try all of these products. With the exception of the B2P ballpoint, which could benefit from a different refill (EasyTouch Pro refill), any of these would be an excellent addition to your arsenal of writing supplies.

Please let me know if you have a different opinion, feedback, or questions about any of these products, and thanks for taking the time to look through the review!


  1. I have both the B2P ballpoints and the gels. I like the gel body better than the G2 body, truth be told. Of course the G2 ink is great. The only issue with the B2P body is that there's a stock black, blue, or red push button. It can be refilled with any color - you just have to remember what was substituted.

    The ballpen, on the other hand, is available in 5 colors. However, the ink and the shape are underwhelming, to say the least. I will continue to seek alternative refills that would make it a pleasant writing utensil. At the moment, they only serve as gifts to give folks who need a pen (I always seem to be surrounded by them).

    Just my two cents :)

  2. What a great package and an excellent review! The Pilot pens have always been at the top of my list.

  3. Bigger pens should mean longer usage and more convenience from its use and I no doubt that Pilot can easily fulfill the expectations of office supplies users.