Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: rOtring Rapid PRO 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

Hey, I've never reviewed a mechanical pencil here, have I? Let's have "Things that may annoy both the wooden pencil diehards and the fountain pen folk" for $100, Alex.

Rotring Rapid PRO

Much though I like those other things, there is something to be said for mechanical pencils when it comes to fuss-free on-the-go writing, and this has been my primary for that role over the last six or seven months. It went with me to Wintergrass, and has been my companion on many a coffee house jaunt.

Last things first: I flippin' love this pencil. A goodly percentage of my current large-work-in-process (Mind Jinx) came out of this pencil. I could dedicate novels to this pencil.

I will, however, try to remain objective.

1. Appearance:
This is a classy looking item. My one and only quibble is that the version I have (black--there is also a silver flavor) tends to get a little grungy looking over time as the knurled grip picks up dust and whatnot. I can't say for *certain* that the silver would be better in this regard, but it seems logical. The black does, however, contrast beautifully with the rOtring red ring, and has a nice understated stealth appearance to it outside of that splash of color. The paint has held up well to abuse (read: being carried unprotected in bag and purse and bumped about on tables and desks). The body is subtly hexagonal, which--along with the clip--makes it less apt to roll when it should not.

Lead Sleeve
2. Grip:
The knurled grip is rough enough to be reassuringly sticky, but (unlike many drafting pencils) not so rough that it will sandpaper away your hard-won writer's callus. Keep in mind that I am not a draftsman, and use this strictly for writing: it could possibly be a little *too* smooth for some drawing purposes. Even for writing, I wouldn't mind just a touch more roughness, but it gets the job done. The grip is of a pleasant girth: more than a wooden pencil, less than your average gel pen.

3. Balance:
This is a relatively heavy pencil at 24.2 grams by my little kitchen scale (in contrast, I weighed a Pentel P209, and it weighed just under 9 grams). It doesn't feel clunky, however. The center of balance is almost exactly in the middle--just a smidge closer to the tip than the tail. It feels about perfect to me. I have a Pentel Graphgear 1000 I like a great deal, but it is back heavy, and that gets tiring after awhile. This one doesn't fight me either way.

4. Retracting tip:
THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME. I don't wander around with a pocket protector, and I don't always feel like carrying a whole pencil case. I can quickly and easily put the point of this pencil away for its safety and mine. It doesn't have any fancy auto-retracting mechanism: you just hold down the button at the back of the pencil and then release it while you press the tip gently against your notebook/table/finger. I like the simplicity. Less to break.

Before the Rapid PRO arrived, I worried there would be a lot of give or wobble in the lead sleeve, or vibration while writing. I have little tolerance for this. As an example, I know a lot of people love Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencils for the way they rotate your lead for you and keep presenting you with a clean, sharp edge, and while in theory it sounds cool, I find the slight give irritating enough that I haven't used my Kuru Toga as much as anticipated. This pencil, on the other hand, is pretty solid.

My little point-and-shoot camera steadfastly refused to acknowledge the existence of the eraser, but you get the basic premise.

Other details:
The eraser is found, as you'd expect, behind the little back cap. There's actually a hole through which you can see the white eraser peeking through--I would prefer a solid cap, but whatever. The eraser itself is par for the course for quality mechanical pencils: i.e. you *could* use it in a pinch, but it wouldn't go very far, and I much prefer a separate Mars Plastic or a Pentel Clic Stick.

Eraser viewed through end cap
Eraser, as seen through the back cap

To load leads, remove the little eraser and drop them in the back end of the pencil. Again, pretty standard. It's a fairly small lead chamber, but my 0.5mm model will hold a half dozen or so leads in a pinch. The lead feeds out at a nice rate--doesn't require extra clicks, or overadvance and cause breakage.

It'sa clip.

I don't use the clip much, but it appears durable and without any bits that catch on things they shouldn't.

Overall impression:
As I said, I really like this pencil. The balance works perfectly for me, the retractable tip means I can take it anywhere without worries, the grip isn't bad, and the whole thing just screams quality. I currently keep mine loaded with plain old Pentel Super Hi-Polymer lead (B grade), and it is a pleasure to use.

• Just about perfectly balanced, at least for plain writing.
• Retractable lead sleeve/tip.
• Purty.
• Comfortable heft and solidity.
• Knurled grip adds stability.

• The black version can get a little grungy looking.
• Lead sleeve is fragile, from all I've heard, so make sure you get into the habit of retracting that point when it isn't in your hand!
• Don't expect the eraser to do much for you.
• Knurled grip could be a little grippier.
• Spendier than the Pentels and Bics at Wal-mart. (I paid about $30 for mine on Amazon back in November. YMMV.) That said, it should last pretty near forever with a bit of care.

Weight: 24.2 grams (empty), at least according to my cheapie scale
Length: Approximately 5.7 inches (14.5 cm / 145mm) long
Diameter: 9mm
Body material: Metal, but I'm not sure what type--if you know, feel free to fire off in the comments!


Bill M said...

Great review. I've never used a Rotring pencil although I have been tempted to get one. I've used mostly technical pencils for decades, Pentel mostly. I have one that actually shows wear I've been carrying and using it so long.

I like the feel of a good wood pencil best, but I do not like carrying a box or them so I can always have a sharp one with me. Mechanical pencils store plenty of lead and are always sharp.

Johnny said...

You might get me thinking more about mechanical pencils! Great review!

Little Flower Petals said...

Mechanical pencils have a place, for sure! I'll be bringing the Rotring on my upcoming trip.