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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Paper Doll Hears Hoofbeats, Thinks: "Zebras!" (A #Shoplet/Zebra Review)

Today's special post is another installment of our ongoing series of reviews of products brought to us by our friends at Shoplet, operator of the nifty and prolific Shoplet blog.

As we've discussed before, one of the reasons we develop desk clutter can be laid squarely at the feet (if they had feet) of our writing implements. Sure, lackluster paper management leads to desk pileups, but so too does acquisition of (and failure to cull) writing implements and other desk accessories that just don't work. As I said in a prior review:

We buy with a flourish, but we are too often disappointed when the pens and pencils, highlighters and markers fall short of their promises, or of our expectations, and then they languish as clutter in our drawers, or the bottoms of our bags, or our pen mugs, ignored until the ink dries to dust. That's why an inside look can be so important, and hence my delight at reviewing these office supplies.

When the UPS man delivered the lovely pen portfolio case (and its nifty stripe-y guardian) from the good people of Zebra, I was a bit surprised.

I was expecting to get two pens to examine and review. In fact, the interior held nine writing implements: pens, pencils and highlighters of various kinds.

On the left, we see the retractable Zebra F-301, also known as The Original. It has a cool-to-the-touch stainless steel barrel and a non-rubbery, yet non-slip, textured grip for writing comfort and ease. Since every classy pen has a pencil partner, Zebra included new Zebra M-301 0.7mm mechanical pencil.

In the center, you see a blue 1.0mm (medium point) Zebra Z-Grip Ballpoint Retractable Pen, a fairly traditional-looking pen with a clear-barrel (so you can check your link supply). The standard Z-Grip also comes in Green, Violet, Orange, Teal, Fuschia, Lime and Light Green.

The Z-Grip is available in a variety of styles, too. Fans of quirky, colorful pens might enjoy the Daisies line of Z-Grips. The one above (getting the little zebra's attention) is light green, though I must admit I'd prefer Zebra's fuschia version.

The Daisies also come in Teal, Orange and Violet. Z-Grip also has an Animals line, with Cheetah and Tiger prints, and the Zebra-print version you can see in the portfolio case photo below.

The non-refillable Z-Grip is a fairly standard ballpoint pen. I appreciate that it's lightweight without feeling as though it might spring out of my fingers if too much pressure were applied, and I like that the barrel is straight, rather than curvy, and that the color-coded rubber grip has both smooth and ridged portions to accommodate people who like to grip more closely to the tip and those who like to "choke up on the bat." While I'd be uncomfortable using the ribbed portion, I have plenty of colleagues who purchase after-market grips to create similar handling.

The writing experience is what I'd have expected from a traditional ballpoint. If I exert little pressure, I get a serviceable, if thinner, and slightly more faint, line; the harder I press, the darker and more satisfying the color's vibrancy. (Note: the grey ink in the green Daisy line pen was so light that it could have been mistaken for an unsharpened pencil. Then again, how often do you select grey ink?) Certainly no excessive force is necessary. Pleasantly, the Z-Grip provided a smear-free, jump-free, blob-free ink delivery.

The Z-Grip is just very much like a traditional, moderate-barreled (non-stick) ballpoint. This is not to damn with faint praise -- for those who like the ballpoint experience and want something quotidian, but with a little more gravitas than a "stick" pen, the Zebra provides a sturdy, smooth delivery of high-quality ink colors.

For comparision's sake, although I was not asked to review it, Paper Doll's favorite in the package was the Zebra Z-Grip Gel pen. The gel in this traditional ballpoint style flowed so smoothly and felt so much more like a metal-tip roller ball than a ballpoint, that I could easily see using it when my favorite pen is not at hand.

On the right panel of the portfolio, you see the Zebra Z-Mulsion ballpoint (which comes in blue, black and red) and its upscale buddy. The Zebra Z-Mulsion EX Ballpoint is a 1.0 mm medium point retractable ballpoint pen with emulsion-type ink.

The Z-Mulsion line is based on a new kind of (non-traditional and non-gel) ink that creates, according to Zebra, "a perfect balance of oil and water. It is quick-drying and smear resistant while maintaining a brilliant and bold writing line. It is the best of a ball point and gel in one!" The Z-Mulsion EX comes in eight colors: black, blue, red, green, violet, light blue, pink and orange.

The Z-Mulsion EX ballpoint has a nice weightiness to it -- it's neither too light nor too heavy, although the curvy barrel is thicker than I prefer. (My usual pen, the Pentel Energel, has a straight barrel that's perhaps 1.5mm thinner.) The grip is smooth and blended with the (thicker) barrel to make for fairly easy handling.

The ink is, indeed, fabulous. Shoplet and Zebra must know me well, because the Z-Mulsion EX Ballpoint they sent was filled with pink ink, and a glorious, vivid pink it is! I usually eschew ballpoints because they require exerting so much more pressure than on a roller-style or metal-tip gel pen, and I prefer mental exertion to physical effort. However, the Z-Mulsion EX Ballpoint required zero effort to glide across the paper. No sticking, no blobbing, no bubbling.

As for being quick-drying and non-smearing, I found this to be mostly true, particularly with standards types of paper, like writing paper, sticky-notes and non-coated cardboard. However, on glossy paper, like that found in magazines, the ink did smear when touched, even after thirty-seconds. By comparison, my usual pen is smear-proof on glossy magazines after ten seconds. In general, however, unless you're left-handed or trying to annotate this month's issue of Real Simple, you should be fine.

I could certainly learn to get used to the wider barrel, but the one thing that drove me to the point of madness was the retractable "clicky" portion of the pen. It's "loose" when the pen point is ejected and available, so if you shake the pen around as you contemplate (as Paper Doll does), there's a maddening maraca noise. I should note that, just as I rarely use ballpoints, I also rarely use retractable pens, so I'm not sure how common an issue this is to the product category.

The remaining item in the portfolio was the Zebra Z-HL highlighter, which promises to write on fax and carbonless papers, and has a see-through, three-chambered ink system to keep it from getting dried out. Although orange is my least favorite color, the nice people of Shoplet and Zebra could not have known that. This highlighter, as well as most of the pens in the portfolio case, will make their way to attendees of my next pro-bono speaking engagement. (But not the Z-Grip Gel pen or the pink Z-Mulsion with the noisy clicker. I'm holding on to those...for more testing!)

Disclosure: I received these products for review purposes only, and was given no monetary compensation. The opinions, as always, are my own. (Who else would claim them?)

posted on: 9/19/2012 5:56:36 PM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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