Zebra F-701 Review

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.

Materials:  2

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.

Fit:  1

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.

Mechanism:  1

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.

Line:  1

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...

Total:  16/20

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.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome pen, I'm never without mine in my EDC.
    I used to carry a Fisher Bullet Space Pen which is a great pen, but I lost one of the two I had (lime green) as it's short, just under 4" inches long closed, a bit weighty and easy to lose for me. But the Zebra 701 is just perfect, easy to find in my back pack.

    Haven't modified a.k.a. pimped it to use a Fisher ink cartridge as it works great for me the way it comes.
    Definitely worth the amazingly inexpensive price.
    Great review.