I've seen the Zebra F-701 in plenty of pocket dumps in various corners of the internet. It seemed to be a relatively well-liked pen so, being me, I decided to pick one up on a recent trip to Staples.
The F-701 is relatively inexpensive as far as I'm concerned. I paid about $7.00 for it from Staples and imagine that's about the going rate in brick and mortar stores. Online it's typically less expensive; it is, for example, available on JetPens.com for $5.30.
Of course, I'm using the review system for writing instruments found here to evaluate this pen.
The exterior of the F-701 is predominantly stainless steel. I say "exterior" because the core of the barrel is plastic. A few places have touted the F-701 as a poor man's tactical pen only to be berated by comments disparaging the plastic core and two-part barrel section. I don't hold much (or any) stock in "tactical pens" so this revelation isn't too disappointing.
In any event, the F-701 is constructed from durable materials. I haven't encountered any problems in terms of durability and don't expect to, either.
There aren't any fit problems with the pen; everything is fits together well and doesn't shift when writing or otherwise.
The pocket clip can rotate a slight bit, most likely due to its design. It's not something that is noticeable unless you're deliberately fiddling with it, but is annoying nonetheless.
The F-701 uses a click-type mechanism. Zebra calls it a "soft-clicking mechanism." As far as I've read it's intended to be quieter than other click-type mechanisms. It is a bit quieter than other pens that I have in my drawer but it's not incredibly quiet. If you desperately need a quiet pen you should probably consider something other than a click-type mechanism.
Truth be told, I find the "soft-clicking mechanism" a bit muddy; it doesn't have as crisp of a click as I might prefer. The mechanism has gotten better with use but straight out of the package I wasn't the biggest fan.
The plunger does return to the upright position when the point is extended. As I've said in the past, I love this feature in click-type pens.
The F-701 retails with a 0.7mm cartridge. It performs as expected. It doesn't drag or skip. I always find myself wanting more from a ballpoint, though. I can't seem to find one that exceeds my expectations.
Writing Comfort: 2
Compared to the Parker Jotter this pen is far better. The F-701's grip section doesn't taper, resulting in a consistent hold regardless of where my fingers land. Also, the F-701's grip has relatively aggressive knurling, a feature I have come to appreciate. The knurling facilitates a great non-slip grip and I find the texture to be rather pleasant.
Design Concept: 1
While it's a nice looking pen I do believe it's a bit little clunky. I don't understand why Zebra chose to use a brushed stainless barrel and a glossy pocket clip; I think it would have been a much better choice to maintain the brushed look throughout. Also, the point of the pen has a series of interesting bevel choices. While one or two tapered sections would typically suffice, Zebra chose to reduce the diameter in six distinct steps.
Markings and Insignia: 2
The barrel of the pen is absent any markings. The pocket clip features a small font reading "ZEBRA" and a larger, slightly italicized font with the pen's model designation, "F-701." The terminus of the pen just below the plunger reads "INDONESIA," the manufacturing origin.
I appreciate the minimalist style Zebra has adopted with respect to branding the F-701. It's nice to see a cheaper pen without a ton of intrusive markings.
Carry Method: 2
The F-701 uses a traditional pocket clip that's fastened to the very top of the barrel. Due to its placement only the plunger and a very small portion of the pen body sticks out above the top of a pocket (just over half an inch, by my measure).
The deep carry facilitated by the placement of the pocket clip is a great asset to the F-701. Deep carry means greater comfort and less snagging. Also important to note is the fact that the F-701 isn't difficult to retrieve from the pocket; the plunger and pocket clip are more than enough to get a good purchase on the pen.
Carry Durability: 2
The stainless steel construction surely contributes to the F-701's durability in a pocket. The barrel isn't likely to suffer any significant damage during normal carry. The clip itself is also robust; it hasn't lost tension in the time I have been carrying the pen.
Carry Comfort: 2
The F-701 isn't uncomfortable to carry. It sits well in a pocket and doesn't shift its place. Short of that, there isn't much to say about this particular pen...
In the grand scheme of things, this pen is a great value. For under $10.00 you're getting quite a bit of pen. The F-701 is probably a better value than the Parker Jotter (despite the 1 point discrepancy, the Jotter having received a 17/20 due to a slightly better mechanism; although, it seems as if the soft-click isn't too terrible compared to the Jotter's mechanism).
There are also a bunch of end-user modifications that can enhance the usefulness of the pen. There is, for example, a method of installing a Fisher pressurized ink cartridge into the F-701. Roughly the same system is described at Gear Journal where they also discuss installing the all-metal click-type mechanism from an F-402 into the F-701.
If you're looking for a pen that's better than the cheap ones you've been dragging around but don't want to break the bank, the F-701 would be a great start.