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What makes one pen superior to another?

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Is the Uni-Ball Jetstream the world's most perfect office pen?
Is the Uni-Ball Jetstream the world's most perfect office pen?

Brad Dowdy has reviewed more than 700 pens on his website The Pen He joins the show to tell us what makes one pen better than another.

Even though a lot of us spend most of our time these days clacking away on computers, tablets and smartphones, the traditional pen has not yet vanished from our collective consciousness. 

Some people have almost a fanatic loyalty to their plume of choice, whether it be rollerball, gel or just a plain old ballpoint. 

The website Wirecutter recently did a breakdown of what makes the perfect pen and found that the Uni-ball Jetstream reigns supreme.  

"The Uni-ball Jetstream seems to be the winner across all categories. It's similar to a ballpoint ink, but its a hybrid ballpoint," said Brad Dowdy, who runs the website "Uni-ball has made a special ink formulation to give the pen a much smoother writing experience and to give it a really dark line. It dries almost immediately, the ink has security properties to where it bonds with the paper and it can't be washed out if you're writing checks."

Dowdy has reviewed more than 700 pens for his website, so he's definitely an expert on what makes one pen better than another. He says the first thing he looks for in a pen is its smoothness. 

"I don't want to feel like nails going across a chalkboard when my pen's writing on the page," said Dowdy. "It's got to be smooth it's got to be comfortable. If the pen's not smooth, it's not going to be good."

Next he says a pen must be able to produce a consistent, solid line without skipping or leaving white marks. Finally, he says one of the most important qualities, especially for left-handed writers, is that the ink dries quickly. 

"I don't want it to be too wet where I'm going to get ink on my hands," said Dowdy. "For left-handers that's very important. That's probably their number one priority."

It's also crucial that a pen is designed so that its comfortable in your hand. "Some manufacturers somehow find a way to make the grip area uncomfortable for you to write with and that's just a no-go in my book," said Dowdy. "In the end I want it to look pretty cool too."

So what are the different kinds of pens you might encounter at an office supply store and how do you pick the right one for you? There are three different types, each with its own pros and cons depending on what you want:

1.) Gel Ink
Pros: Provides a dark, rich line
Cons: Ink takes longer to dry, smears easily, not good for leftys

2.) Ballpoint
Pros: Cheap, a clean writing pen that doesn't easily smear, leak or dry out
Cons: Often uncomfortable, lines can "skip" and be inconsistent, not as dark as gel or liquid ink

3.) Liquid Ink, or Rollerball pens
Pros: Smooth writer, clean, dark lines, no skipping
Cons: Will bleed through certain kinds of paper, smears easily, leaks if cap is not put back on

What's your pen of choice? Tell us in the comments!

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