The road to pen addict status can be a long and windy one, but it has to start somewhere. For me, it all started with a Uni-ball Signo UM-151. This was the first gel ink pen that I purchased after being introduced to the world of pens that I never knew existed. Up until this point, I was limited to the standard selections found at big-box retailers. The 0.38mm tip on the UM-151 was astounding, and there was no turning back for me.
What makes the UM-151 special? For me, it's all about that refill. The refill that goes in the UM-151 is exceptionally smooth and consistent. Even today, it's still my favorite gel refill in the 0.38mm size. The color is bold, the lines are crisp and clean, they start without any issues, and the writing experience is smooth (even for a 0.38mm tip). I've used 0.5mm refills from other makers that aren't as smooth as this refill. I don't know much about engineering pens, but that seems like a major feat to me.
The body of the UM-151 is pretty plain. There's a rubberized grip on the section, a conical metal tip that screws off to provide access to the refill, and the rest of the pen is clear plastic. The clip contains the name of pen and the size of the refill, which is helpful if you have a large collection of these pens in various sizes. Of course, it only comes in the same capped model — no retractable version. There are similar pens offered by Uni-ball, but they just aren't the same. The closest one I've found is the Uni-ball Signo RT, but the refill color isn't as bold and dark as the UM-151.
This pen has long been a permanent fixture in my pen arsenal, but that doesn't mean it's a perfect pen. For one, I really wish they offered this pen in a retractable barrel that uses the same refill. Also, The grip section is just a tad short for my tastes. Apart from those two niggles, I've always been very happy with the pen. It's close to perfect, but not there yet.
The UM-151 is affordable at only $2.50 a pen. The refills cost $1.65, which isn't much cheaper than the pen itself. Another great benefit of the pen is the variety of colors you can grab. I prefer the standard black, but the other colors are a lot of fun. You can also get the UM-151 in 0.28mm and 0.5mm tips. I can't recommend the 0.28mm since it feels like writing with a needle, and I've never tried the 0.5 variety. The way I see it, I'm satisfied with the 0.38mm and haven't had a reason to go looking for something else.
So, there you have it. The UM-151 is a standard among the pen addict community. For many, like me, it was the gateway drug and the beginning of a new hobby (obsession) that led to a revived love for stationery. No matter how deep I get into fountain pens, I'll never stop loving the UM-151 for what it is — an absolutely fantastic gel ink pen.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)