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Which Pen Is Mightier: A Survey of the Top Cheap Pens

Here at Beausay and Nichols Law Firm we consider ourselves connoisseurs of fine writing instruments (ie, cheap pens). We have a penchant for pens, if you will.

In our pursuit of the best out there, we’ve acquired a bevy of useful knowledge. For example, we’ve learned that users will generally come across three pen types in the US: 1) ballpoint; 2) rollerball; and 3) fountain. Some manufacturers may also offer as a fourth type “gel pens,” but in reality, these pens are likely rollerballs loaded with gel ink.

Ballpoint pens (think crappy blue BICs) use oil-based ink and dry quickly on paper. Rollerballs use either liquid or gel inks, both of which are water-based as opposed to oil-based. Fountain pens used water-based liquid ink delivered through a nib. Although rollerballs write smoother (and also faster) than ballpoints, ballpoints last 8 times longer.

We won’t deny our penchant for rollerballs. They glide effortlessly across paper (so long as it’s not glossy). As mentioned above, with rollerball pens, users should distinguish liquid inks from gel inks. Liquid inks use dye solute in a water-based solvent, whereas gels inks use pigments in a water-based solvent. Gel inks are often more vivid and can even be shimmery or glittery (but certainly not here at Beausay & Nichols).

Below, we share our list of the top rollerball pens. In compiling this list, we compared pens with blue ink and middle-of-the-road .7 mm or .8mm tips. If you tend to write with a heavy hand, as does Sara, most are available with a thinner tip.

Which Pen Is Mightier: A Survey of the Top Cheap Pens

Rank Pen Tip Ink Type Approx. Price Comment
1 Pentel Energel RTX Liquid Gel Pen

Energel

.7mm Hybrid $3.49 An uptown pen at a downtown price. Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars by 569 reviewers on Amazon, but we tend to lean toward 5/5.
2 Uni-ball Vision Elite

.8mm Liquid $3.25 The Uni-ball Vision .7mm tip (UPC 60020) is also a good choice, but is inferior to the .8mm tip.
3
Pilot Precise V7

pilotprecise

.7mm Liquid $2.62 Very nice pen. Jeff has had some that seem ink-poor for a while, then regain their original flow.
4 Pilot G2

g2

.7mm Gel $4.76 / 2 Touted as “America’s #1 selling Gel pen.” The G2 is a solid choice, but is inferior to the liquids above.
5 Uni-ball Signo 207

signo

.7mm Hybrid $2.10 Some reviewers complain about skipping and inconsistent ink flow, while others rave at its dashing good looks. At just over $2.00, you can’t have it all, eh?
6 Zebra Sarasa Dry X 20

dryx

.7mm Gel $1.95 A slightly cheaper alternative to the G2, and it shows. Lacks longevity, but economical enough to keep a few around.
7 Pilot FriXion Ball Erasable Gel Pen

frixion

.7mm Gel $8.35 / 3 The manufacturer doesn’t recommend using this pen on legal or office documents. Still, there’s plenty of other applications for these legitimately erasable pens. They’re probably too infantile for the likes of Jeff and Jake, but Sara really likes them!

Which Pen Is Mightier: A Survey of the Top Cheap Pens

Rank Pen Tip Ink Type Approx. Price Comment
1 Pentel Energel RTX Liquid Gel Pen

Energel

.7mm Hybrid $3.49 An uptown pen at a downtown price. Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars by 569 reviewers on Amazon, but we tend to lean toward 5/5.
2 Uni-ball Vision Elite

.8mm Liquid $3.25 The Uni-ball Vision .7mm tip (UPC 60020) is also a good choice, but is inferior to the .8mm tip.
3
Pilot Precise V7

pilotprecise

.7mm Liquid $2.62 Very nice pen. Jeff has had some that seem ink-poor for a while, then regain their original flow.
4 Pilot G2

g2

.7mm Gel $4.76 / 2 Touted as “America’s #1 selling Gel pen.” The G2 is a solid choice, but is inferior to the liquids above.
5 Uni-ball Signo 207

signo

.7mm Hybrid $2.10 Some reviewers complain about skipping and inconsistent ink flow, while others rave at its dashing good looks. At just over $2.00, you can’t have it all, eh?
6 Zebra Sarasa Dry X 20

dryx

.7mm Gel $1.95 A slightly cheaper alternative to the G2, and it shows. Lacks longevity, but economical enough to keep a few around.
7 Pilot FriXion Ball Erasable Gel Pen

frixion

.7mm Gel $8.35 / 3 The manufacturer doesn’t recommend using this pen on legal or office documents. Still, there’s plenty of other applications for these legitimately erasable pens. They’re probably too infantile for the likes of Jeff and Jake, but Sara really likes them!