Tag Archives: Surari

Zebra 3-Color Ballpoint Face-off (Surari 3C [0.7mm] vs. Clip-On 3C G Series [0.7mm])

3 Apr

While writing the review for Zebra’s Surari 3C last week, I was reminded of another Zebra 3-color ballpoint multi-pen in my collection: the Clip-On 3c G series.  After a slight pen expedition I finally located it so I could do a back to back comparison with its younger Zebra brother.

Siblings reunited at last.

Actually, its more like the Clip-On’s stepbrother because the Surari has a completely new hybrid ink forumla that promises the smoothness and consistency of gel with the  quick dry-time and bleed-resistance of a ballpoint.  Last week I gave the pen a less than a flattering review, but concluded that there was still a lot to like about the 3c.  The Clip-On is an old-school grease ballpoint with exactly the same color setup of black, red, and blue.  Nothing fancy here besides a pretty cool push-button release near the grip.

The question remains: which one is better (and for whom)?  I was very curious to see how the two pens stacked up against each other.

The difference is obvious.

The Surari clearly has the deeper ink of the two and far more line consistency.  There aren’t many spotting issues with the Surari and besides some pretty serious glob-action, it delivers on Zebra’s promise.  Well….almost–the ink takes almost as long to dry as a gel.  I know it’s probably hard to read my writing without double spacing my lines, but I chose this way so that it was easier to see how obviously different the two inks really are.  The Clip-On’s refills are pale in color and love to leave white spots, just like any other old-school ballpoint.

Top: Surari, Bottom: Clip-On (all three tests)

I got some very interesting results while testing these inks.  I found that when writing in slightly larger text, the inks almost look like they came form the same pen.  Neither skipped or looked faded.  If you look at the Surari’s line, however, it looks much shakier than the Clip-On’s.  This is another huge gripe I have with the new ink formula. The Surari’s ball rolls fast, gets slower, rolls fast, gets slow, etc.  While it is smoother when it is rolling fast, it doesn’t feel nearly as consistent as the Clip-On’s roller.

Normal, small writing is where the Surari really proves itself as a better ink.  It doesn’t often skip or leave small white spots in your writing–even if you are switching directions very quickly (usual cause with non-hybrid ballpoints).  The new ink stays dark too because it doesn’t need as much energy or time to completely coat the ball with sticky hybrid oil.  The pen still doesn’t feel as precise as the Clip-On though.  The tip tends to get away from you because it needs slightly different pressure inputs as the ball speeds up and slows down, making it easy to put too much or too litte force on the pen.  While I would nevertheless choose Surari ink over standard ink for taking notes in class and many other applications, I would not choose it over Pentel Vicuña or Jetstream ink.

 Now let’s talk about the barrel.

Why does the Surari's grip have to be so fat?

The Surari’s ink is definitely a step in the right direction and is in many ways quite an improvement over regular ballpoint ink.  But the body….what was Zebra’s design team munching on for breakfast when they decided on this?  It’s overgrown, has too wide of a grip, and feels very cheap.  They chose to make the clip into one of the slide knocks, but the whole unit rattles around while you write.  The tips sometimes jump back into the barrel a little while you write and have too much play at the nose.  There is an out of place chrome ring above the grip and strange molding at the end which makes the pen look like it was meant to post a cap.

Awful sliding clip vs. solid clip. Why does the top of the Surari look like it has been molded to post a cap?

The Clip-on is an entirely different story.  It is more compact, more solidly built, no stupid chrome, no sliding clip, and a little push button release as a bonus.  The grip is not too much narrower than the Surari’s fat rubber, but it feels significantly better because it is sculpted to fit in your hand.  There is very litte play at the tip with all three colors and they do not randomly slide back in a little while you write.  I can’t help but think that Zebra’s design team set out to make their new Surari multi-pen by starting off with a Clip-On and then thinking “how can we make this pen worse in every way besides the ink?”.

I don't even understand the purpose of this. Both pens came filled to pretty much the the same level, the Surari's just had extra empty plastic at the back end.

Suddenly I had an epiphany: if I throw the Surari fills into the Clip-On, all my problems will be solved!  I unscrewed both pens and pulled out the refills.  Guess what?  Zebra did not standardize the two refill sizes.  I’m sure I can get the Surari fills to fit if I cut the ends off of them but I’m not sure it’s even worth it.  The Vicuña and Jetstream multi’s are more comfortable and have better ink, making them my first choice when reaching for a ballpoint multi-pen.

If you want a really solid standard-ink ballpoint multi-pen, you can’t go wrong with the Clip-On series.  They are comfortable, cheap, and built well.  If you are in the market for a hybrid ink multi, though, I can’t say that I would recommend the Surari over Pentel’s (Vicuña) or Uni’s (Jetstream) hybrid multi’s.  I would, however, recommend it to fans of the Surari ink because it’s definitely still cool to have a multi-pen with your favorite type of ink.

JetPens carries both: Zebra Surari 3 Color Emulsion Ink Multi Pen – 0.7 mm – Clear Body and the Zebra Clip-On G Series 3 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body


Zebra Surari 3C Multi-pen (0.7mm)

27 Mar

The Surari 3c had so much potential to be great.  Zebra makes some very well built, standard ballpoint multi pens (such as the clip series) with comfortable grips and smooth actions.  Surari Ink, a hybrid ballpoint-gel ink, promises to deliver more smoothness and less skipping than a standard ballpoint.  Simple: put the two and two together and you have yourself an awesome multipen!  Well…

I’m not sure what they were thinking when they decided on this barrel.  It’s too fat.  If the pen had 5 or 6 interchangeable components then I would not have a problem with the width, but this has only three.  The tips rattle around in the nose-cone because there is some definite play where the tip is held in place when knocked.  Then there is the sliding mechanism, which ironically feels much worse than zebra’s other clip multipens that cost less (I’ll do a comparison in another post).  It jams when switching between colors, the springs are weak, and the whole system does not feel up to spec.  Slide the knock down on a Pentel Vicuña C3 and you will see what I mean.

Wasted talent. What a shame...

“But but,” I hear you all saying, “this is a Surari Ink multipen!  The barrel doesn’t matter so much as long as I have three awesome Surari colors in one pen!”  Well, this is the reason I bought the pen even though I didn’t like the barrel design.  I am a sucker for multipens and a Surari 3C was a rare bird I wanted to catch.  I hate to say this though (and I do not mean to bash all the Surari ink fans out there): Surari is the worst of the Japanese hybrid ballpoint inks.  I’ve tried many variations of the Surari cartridge in different colors, sizes, etc. but it has never quite stacked up to my personal favorite, the Pentel Vicuña or the gold standard of hybrid ink pens, the Uni Jetstream.  Though the ink is dark for the most part skipping is eliminated, there is quite a severe globbing issue here.  Please note, I am not one to care about globbing from pens.  I take it as a side-effect of ballpoint systems.  This is something far worse.  The red ink is amazing and the black and blue are ok but the pen globs so much that you can literally see strands of ink connecting the tip to the paper as you lift off (imagine Teenage Mutant Nina Turtle pizza cheese) and they come down wherever they want onto the page.

You can see the red glob strands leaving ink in the nose cone.

Now, I have a regular 0.7mm Surari Blue retractable pen with the same hyperglobular issue that I bought before this pen.  I was hoping that it was just a defect of the one I had.  Its beginning to look like the Surari ink is just stickier and messier than regular old grease ink.  I do use this pen sometimes and I get a kick out of it.  I love the red–its one of the best I’ve ever seen come out of a pen.  Had I known beforehand, I would have just purchased retractable red Surari.  I LOVE the barrel of the regular Surari’s too so I may do just that.  If you happen to adore the Surari ink or wide-body pens, then this may be the pen for you.  I, however, suggest getting a Vicuña or Jetstream multipen  over the 3c.

I really wanted to like this pen.  Here’s to hoping for a redesign!

JetPens has many variations: Zebra Surari Multi Series