The Faber-Castell NEO Slim rollerball pen falls comfortably into the sleek gift category of pen, but it's also a solid performer that comes equipped with a great refill.
At face value, this is another pen that falls into a category that is already fairly cramped, so it has to show some sort of unique feature or style decision that sets it apart from the many other contenders. Priced from $35 to $55, it's already more expensive than other pens in the same class, making the comparison even more difficult. But, even with this uphill battle, the NEO Slim manages to (mostly) pull its own.
The model in this review is the Black Matte, which falls in the middle of the price range at $45. Here are the basics: this is a slim barrel click pen that's made mostly of metal. The included refill is a Parker-style medium ceramic rollerball in black. If you're looking for a different color from Faber Castell in this line, you're out of luck. There are plenty of ballpoint refills, but no rollerball. That might sound like a downside, but I wouldn't go that far because of the lack-luster performance of the rollerball refill.
When most of us think of "rollerball" refills, visions of different Retro51 Tornados flash through our minds. They're popular, affordable, and perform well. When comparing the NEO Slim refill to the Schmidt rollerball refills that ship with the Tornado pens, there really is no contest. The NEO Slim refill acts exactly like a decent ballpoint refill. Even then, when comparing to something like a Schmidt EasyFlow refill, it still doesn't match up. The rollerball refill has certainly disappointed me, but the saving grace is the fact that it's a Parker-style refill, meaning you have a plethora of other options.
When writing, the included refill normally has a rough start with lots of skipping and some ink build-up around the nib area. Once it is going, it's a fairly smooth writing experience minus the occasional hiccup. The richness of the ink is lacking, as it just isn't bold enough to grab your attention. One the plus side, it does dry fairly quickly for a rollerball ink, and that probably has something to do with how thin the line is.
The pen barrel is slim, but still comfortable. It's very similar in length and diameter to the popular Rotring 600 ballpoint pen, but it has a much more minimal and sleek design.
The only branding on the pen is a small logo next to the clip. The clip is mushy and doesn't seem to stay very well when clipped to things. It doesn't have a pronounced jaw or tooth on the clip are, so it slips around easily. If you're clipping this pen to your shirt, pocket, or bag pocket, it will stay put. If you make any sudden movements or toss your bag around, it will probably come loose.
The click mechanism has a solid but pleasant feel. It doesn't take much pressure to operate, but it has a satisfying click sound. The only irritating part of the mechanism is that you can hear some metal-on-metal grating sounds when using the nock. To me, it sounds like the spring inside the click mechanism is too loose and rubs against the edges. It's not a deal-breaker, but worth mentioning on a pen of this price. On another note, the top of the click mechanism has a slight concave depression that feels great under your finger.
The only non-metal portion of this pen is the nose section where the nib comes out. It's a black plastic material that degrades the overall feel a tiny bit, but it feels good in the hand and does a good job.
Overall, I wanted to really love this pen and add it to the list of "great pens to buy as classy gifts," but the number of negative ticks is just too high to justify the price. It's great that it accepts the ubiquitous Parker-style refill, but I expect a $35-$55 rollerball pen to have a buttery smooth refill out of the box. It's hard to justify this pen over a Parker Jotter, Retro51 Tornado, or the Rotring 600, just to name a small handful.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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