The “Simply White” is a pen of which the design really appealed to me when I first found it online some time back. It is available from a German company named Troika, which is well know for their portfolio in promotion articles – however their products are also available to end customers.
While I initially really liked the pen, which is a rollerball, for its design, I became even more interested in it when I learned that, by using additional components, it can be modded into a fountain pen as well as stylus pen. So I was really glad to be able to review one of these when Troika kindly made on available for me. Thanks for that!
Costing around 45 € on Amazon (or e.g. 35 £ on CultPens), the Simply White is not the cheapest writer on earth, so I had my expectations. The first impression is really good, since the pen comes in a wonderful packaging that really matches its minimalist design.
Upon removing the cardboard sleeve, another minimalist packaging, which is a white metal box, is revealed. The box is really good and might easily serve for storing pencils or so after taking out the Simply White.
Now, as said above, I was not only interested in the pen as a rollerball (it comes with an inserted reservoir as well as another extra refill that you can see here in the box beside the pen), but of course also in its character as a potential multi pen. So I also got the stylus-add on (costing 3 £ on CultPens) and the nib-unit (costing 6 £ on CultPens). The latter is a medium (M)-steel nib; two blue ink cartridges are also supplied with the nib unit packet. This all together makes up the set that I am going to talk about here.
Here’s a closer view onto the stylus- and nib-unit as well as the two ink cartridges. Both units feel high quality, as they are metal-made and pretty heavy.
Here’s a shot of a page from the brochure that comes with the pen and that sort of shows how the pen is dis- and reassembled. I do also have a video of this whole process towards the end of this post here.
Now to the pen itself. First thing you’ll notice when picking it up is it’s weight. Weighing a bit under 50 g that thing is really heavy. I like heavy pens and it feels really nice and well made in the hands. I love the minimalist sort of industrial-design, which really matches with the heavy weight of the metal pen. So far, a real “like”. Here are the specs of the pen:
- Weight: about 50 g
- Length capped: 12,5 cm
- Length of the cap itself: 4 cm
- Uncapped: 12,3 cm
- Posted: almost 16 cm
The cap of the pen is rather short in comparison to the overall proportions of the pen, but this is no problem in my eyes. Just a matter of taste. I really like the design. Flat silver metal top and clip, which goes very well with the rest of the minimalist design. The clip is springy and sturdy, so it should be perfect in everyday usage.
Now, the first thing that really disturbed me as soon as I saw it (and you will not see that on any picture that any seller of that pen has put online) is the bottom (or shall I say: the end) of the pen. It has sort of a slit around, which serves for posting the screw-on cap as well as (potentially) the stylus-unit (if you have it). While this, in my eyes, really does look cheap and sort of destroys the whole design of then pen, the edges of the slit are also rather sharp. While it makes the other end of the pen look something like an AA-battery-bottom, I can also imagine it being good a collecting all sorts of crumbles and lint from your bags and pockets. Another thing is, that while holding the pen, my fingers somehow constantly wanna play with that slit there, which is pretty painful after a while. While this is, of course, my own fault and not the one of the pen, it just doesn’t convince me more that this is a useful design aspect.
Here’s a front view of the pen. While this really looks great at first sight, there are many problems (at least for me) when using the pen. I will talk more about these later – but maybe already in advance: It is next to impossible to hold that pen in order to write, since the section is super short (you have a good comparison on the picture here – remember the whole cap is only 4 cm in length). This means that you will either have to grab the pen almost towards the tip, or at the thick white barrel-part above the section, or you will inevitably always hold onto that part into which the cap screws, which is super uncomfortable. So that thin silver metal part of the cap is the part that screws into the slit when closing the pen or…
…alternatively into said slit at the end of the pen in order to post the cap. That silver Troika-knob is threaded for that.
This is how the pen looks posted. Design-wise, again, I find this to look really good. I wouldn’t write it posted though, since with 16 cm (posted) it really becomes too long for me to write with it comfortably.
This is what it looks like when you screw the stylus-unit onto the back of the pen – here with the nib-unit mounted. I will not loose many words about the stylus-unit. It is usable, but that’s it. It’s probably comparable to any 2 € stylus you might find at your average whatever-store around the corner. Not very precise, not very unprecise either. Just usable for some jottings into a writing or sketching app. If this is something you do frequently, I would recommend to get something that works better for this purpose.
Now let’s morph the Simply White into a fountain pen, for which we will disassemble it.
We remove the rollerball-section and -refill and screw on the nib-unit with a cartridge jacked into it.
And now this is where my real problems with the pen start becoming evident. As you can see here, again, the section is really short. While it was already bad with the rollerball section, the fountain pen equivalent is even worse. So I am left with no option than holding the pen at the barrel – which basically is no option for me at all. I just can’t write like this…
…or I hold the pen almost at the nib. This, again, is super-uncomfortable and just doesn’t make any sense. I can’t even see my own writing like that.
If I try and hold the pen the way one is normally supposed to hold a pen, I grab it straight on that sharp edge into which the cap normally screws. As already said, this is probably the worst option, since the width-difference in between barrel and section is considerable, hence, making it a pain to hold the pen like this.
Another shot from this angle, again, might really show how uncomfortable it is to hold the pen just on that edge. Jesus.
All the above is really unfortunate, I find, since the pen generally really would have potential. I initially really fell for the design. A writing test also has shown that the nib really is not too bad at all. It is a nail, yes. But it is definitely very usable.
The problem is that one can’t even use the pen as a “jotter” (like for short hand notes). While it, of course, would be too expensive for using it as such anyways, the problem is that the cap needs like 3 full twists to be unscrew. This is way too much and takes too much time for the pen being a “jotter”. As already said, lengthy writing sessions, at least to me, are beyond what is imaginable.
Otherwise, the nib itself is a solid M. Here’s a close-up for seeing the comparison to a Lamy F.
Here’s a quick video coverage I shot of the dis- and reassembly of the pen as well as an all-around look at it.
Now all in all, what am I expected to say to wrap it up. I mean, it is really a pity with this pen. While it looks really nice and I also like the overall idea of a multi pen that you could combine into whatever you would like it to be, it is unfortunately (at least for me) almost unusable for what it really is meant to: writing. I think the pen is a good example for a great idea that is not executed to its full potential.
What makes things even worse is that Troika does merchandising products. That means that while the pen is available for end customers, you as a company can have Troika print your logo onto such a – generally really high-quality – pen that you could then dish out to your clients. Now, if you did that with this pen, what shall you clients really think of you? Hopefully not that your services or products are as thought-out as this premium offer-giveaway is.