In these pixelated times, pens can make a statement. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say that they have personality — at least a snazzy pen can reflect who you are in a way a laptop or phone never could. And if you’re looking for a pen that writes like a dream and lets everyone know you mean business (even though your bank account may say otherwise), your best bet is the Pilot Precise V5 RT.
As expected, our budget-pens test group was a crowded one. Pens in this price range ($10 or less for each) tend to be sold in bulk, often relegated to the office supply drawer, and generally seen as throwaway items. And while a few pens were certainly a pleasure to write with — the Zebra F-301 (and it’s all-metal sibling the F-701) and the Uni-Ball Vision Elite come to mind — no pen captured our attention quite like the V5 RT.
So what makes the Pilot Precise V5 RT a winner? This baby is one smooth operator! Lightweight and made of plastic with a dimpled rubberized grip for those who practice good form, the pen has a lot going for it: consistent ink flow, dark lines, relatively fast dry time, and just the right amount of resistance to paper, making it ideal for both everyday note-taking and impromptu doodles. It’s also worth noting that it’s available in a wider 0.7mm line width and comes in both retractable and capped versions, though we’re partial to the retractable model because we tend to leave pen caps all over the place. Plus, it’s got a good click that’s neither underwhelming nor annoying.
Despite its wildly affordable price, the Pilot doesn’t look cheap. The pen’s plastic barrel — which is thicker and more ergonomic than your average Bic or Papermate — is coated to look like metal. The pocket clip is nothing groundbreaking, but it definitely comes in handy. Its look may lean slightly “technical engineer,” but testers agreed that it can easily play in a variety of settings, whether at school, at work, or on-the-go. Did we mention that this pen is refillable, too?
When it came to feedback, some testers initially found the tip of the pen scratchy. That’s likely because the Precise V5 sports a needle-point tip, a style traditionally favored by engineers and architects for its precision and reliability, not to mention for a better view of the writing surface. Because they stroke the paper like, well, a needle, needle-point tips do tend to “drag” (we promise it’s hardly noticeable), but the trade-off is consistent lines and zero skippage.
That said, testers gave the Pilot high marks for its uniformity of lines, noting that line width didn’t change regardless of pressure or force applied. No matter their handwriting style, our panel of testers commented how little effort it took for the pen to produce dark, rich lines, and on a consistent basis. And even though the ink flows heavy and quickly, it dries relatively swiftly. Sure, if you try hard enough, you’ll get some smudging, but in our testing, the Pilot was by no means the worst offender.
Now, we know rollerball-style pens aren’t for everyone. Maybe you prefer the comfort and familiarity of a ballpoint pen. And as far as cheap ballpoints go, we’re suckers for Bic’s tried-and-true classic: the Cristal. Introduced in 1950 and a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent Architecture and Design Collection, the Cristal features a slim plastic hexagonal barrel and comes in a wide range of colors and line widths. This delightful throwback writes like pen should — freely and smoothly, with little pressure needed. Also, fun(?) fact: Cristal caps are perforated at the top in order to minimize the risk of wind pipe blockage if swallowed. Safety first, y’all.
Iconic ballpoint pens aside, we here at BuzzFeed like a rollerball for its thicker, more viscous ink, and if you’re of the same persuasion, the Pilot Precise V5 RT will literally check all the boxes.