The Uni-ball R:E Erasable Gel Pen seems to be aiming to create some competition for the Pilot FriXion with this new line of erasable gel pens. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Uni improves the body design in some ways, I think, but hasn't improved on the overall ink quality. The FriXion pens have been fairly popular, and fans of Uni-ball may like these as well--but I have a lot of issues with them.
The feel of the pens is great. It's a sturdy, good build and doesn't feel like it's too delicate or flimsy. It has a nice rubber grip, decent clip, and a satisfying click mechanism. The eraser is located under a clear plastic cap on the click button. Uni has devised a special system that prevents the pen from clicking when it's inverted, so you can erase without retracting the tip. I noticed it sometimes takes an extra shake to disengage the lock mechanism. It also means that if you're in the habit (like me) of flipping your pen to click it against your leg or the desk, you'll have to adjust. The clear plastic cap that covers the eraser also has a short life expectancy. Being tiny and clear, if it rolls away, it may be difficult to find.
The ink is where my real issues with the pen come in. It's very unsaturated, as all of the erasable gel inks I've tried are. The black is really grey, and all the colors have a muted look to them. Uni accounts for this by calling the color "Off-Black", but I think that's marketing speak for "as close to black as we can get it". The muted tones are pretty, if you're expecting muted tones. I don't dislike the colors--I even love the orange in this set--but I'd love to see some more vibrant tones in the line.
Like the FriXion pens, the ink is heat-reactive. It's the heat from the friction of the plastic eraser that causes it to disappear. The eraser never wears down and doesn't leave a messy residue or dust. It does an okay job at erasing. It doesn't leave totally clean paper, but it's close. However, after about ten seconds, some of the ink begins to reappear. The pink and red did this the most--after about ten minutes a large portion of the erased area had reappeared, even at room temperature.
Because the ink disappears at temperatures over 140 degrees, and reappears at temperatures under 14 degrees, it's not recommended for important documents, signatures, or addressing envelopes. With ink that might disappear at any time, I can't think what it might be good for except for magic tricks and espionage. Every time I try to write with an erasable gel pen, I end up putting it back because of this volatile trait. I can't help but think of it as unreliable ink.
It's totally fun, though. As an experiment, I wrote a test page, and then I held it over a warm toaster. The ink vanished in seconds--though when I held the paper at an angle to the light, I could still see the texture of it on the page. Then I stuck it in the freezer. All the ink returned in less than three minutes, though even more muted than it had been before. It's a cool trick, but I wouldn't want it happening to my class notes or journal pages. While you can always freeze your page if your ink disappears in a hot car, if you've erased your work and then written over the same area--and then your page gets cold--you may have trouble reading the text. It can't be un-reappeared.
If you love erasable gel pens, and you love the Pilot FriXion, you might want to give these a try. They're a great version of a product that a lot of people enjoy. But the unreliability of the ink is a deal-breaker for me. It might be because I live somewhere that spends a good portion of the year below 14 degrees, but it all sounds too risky. I'd only use them to write something fleeting and unimportant, but I don't need 8 colors for that. Would be swell if I had black, though.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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