I haven't ever cared much for multipens. I often find them to be bulky, rattle-y, and the refills can be fiddly and don't hold enough ink. Many times I run out of one color before the rest, and I find myself playing refill roulette. As a child, I thought they were magical, but eventually my inner curmudgeon took over. So when someone says they have a great multipen, my initial thought is "you mean you have a convenient cluster of mediocre pens". I'm just admitting my bias up front, here, because this review should be read through that lens.
The Pilot Ridge is a pretty great multipen. I'm using it more than I thought I would--and it somehow seems to have claimed a permanent residence in a pocket of my carrying case. What has ultimately won me over is that it's a multipen that doesn't look or act anything like a multipen.
For one thing, it's very slender. The main part of the barrel is even slimmer than a Retro 51, and the black model has a sleek matte finish that is smooth and comfortable to hold. The texture provides just the right amount of grip friction. Overall, the pen is very minimalistic and elegant in its simplicity. Despite it's slimness, though, the pen is quite heavy. It packs a lot of pen into its small frame, and I found myself getting some hand fatigue after about thirty minutes of writing. But a multipen isn't likely what one would use for a long writing session, anyway.
Part of its sleekness is the lack of those wing-like slide-clicks that you see on so many multipens. The Ridge uses, instead, a smooth twist mechanism that deploys the different tips in a rotation. It's completely silent, and quickly springs each color forward till you get to the one you want. Admittedly, sometimes it goes too quick, so you have to backtrack--but the twist works in both directions, so once you get the sequence down, you can find your desired color quite efficiently.
One small issue I have with it is that the only way to tell what color you have is to look at the tiny band on the end of each cartridge tip as it pops out. There's very little difference between the blue and green, and in low light, it can even be difficult to tell between the blue and black. I've found myself squinting at it often, and wishing for a better way to indicate the ink color. Another problem with the mechanism is that there is very little pause space between colors, so positioning it in such a way as to keep the tip retracted takes a little fiddling. It would also only take a small agitation for it to move past that between-spot and deploy the tip in a pocket or bag. So I don't recommend this pen for pocket carry.
The thin cartridges are securely housed in the two parts of the barrel. The two sections pull apart to reveal the four D1 cartridges. The cartridges are friction-fit into the revolving mechanism--just pull one out to replace it. They are quite tiny. I haven't run out of any ink yet, but I don't imagine each cartridge has a very long lifespan.
The ink was another pleasant surprise. It's ballpoint ink, but upon first use, it could be mistaken for gel ink. It is very smooth and vibrant with excellent flow. It's Pilot's special Arco ink, formulated with low viscosity, and it just glides. The green still has a little of that washed-out ballpoint ink look, but the red, black, and blue all have more intensity than I've seen in other ballpoint inks. And if you want to add more wild colors to the lineup, it appears to take any D1 refill, so there are lots of other brands and colors to choose from.
I was a little surprised by the price--at $54.50, it seems a bit high. It is definitely well-constructed of quality materials, so it may be my general aversion to multipens clouding my view here, but if someone had handed it to me and asked me to guess the cost, I'd have been way off.
While it isn't something I would have picked out for myself, I think this pen would make an excellent gift--especially for a graduate or a young professional getting their first job or promotion. It would be great to give to a visiting business partner, or a valued assistant or teacher. It's very elegant and professional looking, and super practical. The multi-function is inarguably great for editing, grading, or coding notes. Personally, I have a feeling I'll be ordering some refills at some point, and this may very well be the first multipen that stays in my collection. It brings back some of that old multipen magic, much to my inner curmudgeon's dismay.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)