Monday, September 3, 2012

Zebra Z-Mulsion EX Ballpoint 1.0 + Zebra M-301 .5 Mechanical Pencil

Many thanks to and Zebra Pens for sending over some office supplies for review. I've been a long-time consumer of Zebra products, but I have never used the Zebra Z-Mulsion EX Ballpoint Pen, and it's pen some time since I used a Zebra M-301 Mechanical Pencil

Alright, let's get down to brass tacks, starting with the Z-Mulsion EX ballpoint:

Zebra products are manufactured in several countries - Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, and China. The Z-Mulsion is a Chinese product, and though I don't know if the Z-Mulsion is made in other countries, I can say that this one feels pretty cheap and fragile. The Zebra products that I own from other countries of origin do not seem to have the same quality issues as this one.

I like the writing performance, minus the globbing. And I like the ergonomics of the pen, but I feel that this isn't something that is going to last over time. The pen is refillable, but I looked around and did not easily find refills available for the Z-Mulsion. 

The pen did quite well against a few other blue options, and I was surprised when a brand new Jetstream failed me on the side-by-side comparison (you can see some white spots, and the performance was not very smooth). The Sarasa Clip and the Pilot Multiball were the two top performers in the bunch, and the Z-Mulsion and Easytouch Pro were the top second-tier performers. 

The clip and the push button mechanism were the were offenders of quality, but they will get the job done. 

The branding was fine - nothing to dazzle or disappoint. 

On the left we have the grip, which was sized well and comfortable to hold. You can also see the Zebra emulsion ink logo. If you didn't already know, emulsion ink is a blend of oil and water, allowing the 1.0 ball (right) to flow smoothly across the page. 

Moving on to the Zebra M-301 Mechanical Pencil...

I've had these in my pen case for many years, and this was the first high-quality mechanical pencil I used in college. It's sibling, The F-301 ballpoint, was actually one of the first pens that lead me on to better pens when I realized there is a difference, and I should demand an elevated writing performance over the common ballpoint, so Zebra M series of writing instruments is both nostalgic and special to me.

So, I did critique the weight, but this pencil doesn't cost very much - less than $3.00 in most cases.

The sleeve is not retractable, but adding this feature would also likely bump up the cost. I keep a few of these in the tool box and a few others around the house.

Getting back to quality, this is a product of Japan, and it shows in the solid construction - nothing feel flimsy or likely to come apart. clip, barrel, and knurled plastic grip all feel like they won't let you down, and I can say that I've never had one of these fail on me in any way.

You get the standard emergency eraser, which works very well in a pinch, but I always keep larger erasers around so I don't have to replace the emergency eraser.

Again, this one comes with a knurled grip made of plastic. You can also get the M-701, which has a heavier body and metal knurled grip. I've never tried the M-701, but the F-701 ballpoint is in many ways exceptional, especially for the price.

In summary, the Zebra Z-Mulsion ballpoint is not bad, but it isn't great. I think younger consumers will love the colors, performance, and feel without being upset at build quality.

The M-301 is always a fantastic economy choice for a mechanical pencil, and anything that one might dislike about it can easily be disregard due to the very fair price.

Thanks again to and Zebra for sending these over. I'm looking forward to seeing the other new releases Zebra will produce down the road.


  1. The Z-Mulsion ink (at least mine) is made in Japan, so it shouldn't be much of a concern. The construction isn't much of a issue for me, either. However, because the tip is so huge (or maybe just the ink property), it is indeed very much prone to globbing, which I just hate. I'm a bit disappointed, since I'm worried that it'll smear easily, and I would have to clean the tip frequently.

  2. v4ever - I'm hoping Zebra releases a smaller tip size, which would likely help with the globbing aspect. I will have to look for the Japanese-made version to see how it compares.

  3. Another interesting aspect of the Zmulsion pens is that the cheaper one (about 50 cents less per pen) is all plastic, slimmer and lighter, though it seems to have the same grip style (though the cheaper/all plastic one is less tacky to the touch).