Posts filed under Rollerball

Zebra R-301 Review

Zebra R-301.jpg

The Zebra R-301 is a metal (mostly) rollerball pen that didn't show up on my radar until I was idly browsing JetPens when I should have been working. I can't lie – this happens more than once a week. I haven't really been interested in rollerballs since I'm really happy with my Retro 51 Tornados, but I wouldn't refuse a new player with a nice design.

Now, the Zebra doesn't really compare to the Retro 51s in quality, but they're also around 15% of the price of a Retro 51. There's a lot to love about this pen, so let's jump in!

Zebra R-301 Open.jpg

Look and feel

The Zebra R-301 doesn't look like a cheap pen in my opinion. The stainless steel give it a great shine and feel. Unfortunately, the stainless steel only covers parts the barrel and cap. The grip section is made of a textured plastic that I imagine creates a great divide in opinion.

Upon first looking at the pen, I was displeased by the grip because its diameter is smaller than the body and cap. It just looks odd. But then I started writing and let that little detail go. I enjoy the grip, and if you're a fan of other Zebra pens that have a similar plastic textured grip, you'll probably like this one just fine. It's the kind of design that fosters a "love it or hate it" response.

The pen is fairly light, so long sessions aren't a problem. The cap secures tightly when the pen is closed, but it tends to wobble a bit when posted. Not a huge issue for me, but this will annoy others. If it were just a fraction of a millimeter tight, it would be perfect.

The cartridge on this pen is a good size. It's much longer and wider than an international short cartridge. It pops in with no trouble, and I was able to start writing in seconds.

Zebra R-301 Cartridge.jpg

Writing performance

Now, on to the important part. This pen feels amazing when writing. It glides across all sorts of paper like smooth glass on silk. It's on par with the Retro 51 Schmidt refill. The ink is very dark and bold – something that I love in a black ink.

That said, it's a very wet writer. Zebra claims it's a 0.7mm tip, but the wet ink lays down a wider line. There are absolutely no feed problems with this pen. Ink is always plentiful.

For being such a wet writer, it dries extremely quickly. I did a couple of tests and found that the ink would no longer smudge after 2 or 3 seconds. That's impressive!

On the downside, the ink seems to feather on every paper I tried. Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Apica, or cheap notebook paper – they all suffered from noticeable feathering.

Zebra Retro Kaweco.jpg

Things to note

There are a couple of things to note about the cartridges for this pen. For one, they're proprietary. I didn't look for very long, but I wasn't able to find any satisfactory replacements for this pen. I've thought about trying to refill the cartridge with a syringe, but I don't know if a fountain pen ink would work properly with this pen. Who knows? At this price, I wouldn't be upset if it ruined the pen.

Ah, the price. At JetPens, the Zebra R-301 is currently priced at $3.20. The pen comes with two cartridges. A set of two cartridges (no pen) is priced at $2.30. That's only a $0.90 difference. I guess the pen is worth a lot less than the cartridges. Personally, I wouldn't mind if they made the entire pen out of stainless steel and bumped the price up a bit. That would be an excellent EDC pen.


Despite the issues that I found with this pen, it's actually real joy to use. It's a great rollerball with great flow, bold ink, and durable body. And at this price, it's easy to try.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Zebra R-301 Review.jpg
Posted on March 12, 2014 and filed under Pen Reviews, Rollerball, Zebra.

Platinum SBTB-1000H Roller Ball Review

Platinum SBTB-1000H

The sleek and shiny barrel is what caught my eye on the recently added Platinum SBTB-1000H Roller Ball at JetPens. But as I have said many times before, don't let looks get in the way of performance. What good is an expensive pen if you don't like how it writes?

Fortunately, the SBTB-1000H writes almost as well as it looks. I say almost because I did notice if I hold the pen at too low of a writing angle I start to feel some scratchiness. This happens with many pens. If your writing angle is low you start catching more of the tip cone than the actual ball of the pen. Raise your writing angle a bit and you should notice a completely different feel.

With my normal writing angle the ink flowed smoothly and very cleanly for a rollerball, which is sometimes hard to pull off. There is little to no feathering or bleed, and the ink is pitch black.

The aluminum barrel feels great and the design is top notch. It reminds me of a cross between the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Cavalier and the P1 on Kickstarter, two outstanding pen designs. All in all I am happy with this pen.

My only hang up is the name. "Would you like to borrow my Platinum SBTB-1000H" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Oh well, it's not like us pen people talk to real human beings anyway. ;)

(JetPens is an advertiser on The Pen Addict and I received this product at no charge.)

Posted on May 2, 2013 and filed under Pen Reviews, Platinum, Rollerball.

Rotring 600 Series Black Rollerball Review

Rotring 600 Rollerbal

It wasn’t until I was deep into my pen addiction that I discover the wonders of NOS, or “New Old Stock”. I had seen the term before on places like eBay but never realized what great products could lie behind the designation.

In a nutshell, NOS designates products that are no longer being manufactured but are still in new and unused condition. The product could have been discontinued, or had a design tweak that was cause for a new version. Whatever the case, many NOS pens are highly sought after by collectors.

Rotring seems to be one of the most popular NOS brand names. Their industrial designs are timeless, and with all of the changes in the company over the years, many models are no longer being produced. While I haven’t gone on the hunt yet for some of the rarer pens like the Lava Series I was able to pick up the Rotring 600 Series Black Rollerball for a very reasonable $60 from a dealer at the Atlanta Pen Show back in April. It wasn’t on the shopping list that day, but how could I pass it up?

I was smitten with it immediately upon first use. The barrel is substantial in both size and weight but remains comfortable to write with as long as I leave the cap unposted. It is too long and the balance is off otherwise. The refill I believe is a Rotring branded Schmidt rollerball and is a standard size so many other refills should fit as well. This one works wonderfully.

It is rare that a pen makes you feel like a superhero. The Rotring 600 Rollerball has that special quality where when you use it you know it is different from most other pens. The only downside is it is going to cost me money as I search out more NOS goods.

Posted on August 20, 2012 and filed under 600, Pen Reviews, Rollerball, Rotring.