A new pen to the Kickstarter scene is the DUO minimal ballpoint and stylus pen by 529 Studio in the UK. They were kind enough to send me a sample prototype for review, so many thanks to them for providing it to share here on the blog.
The DUO is a pen machined from aluminum (aluminium...this is a British pen...) and the model I received is in a bright anodized (anodised?... ok, enough) Electric Blue finish. The machining is nice, simple, and didn't appear to have any noticeable blemishes or issues. Etched in the top section of the pen is the 529 Studio logo, a crescent style moon which is tasteful and not overly distracting.
It is manufactured and assembled locally in the UK where 529 Studio resides which is a huge plus for me. Not that getting things manufactured elsewhere is "bad", but I always enjoy seeing companies strive to support their local economies and businesses when they can.
It is a very skinny pen at about just over 1/4" in diameter. Think about the size of a normal woodcased pencil and is fairly light weight coming in at 0.6oz.
The grip area of the pen (and the rest of it) is completely smooth, and being so narrow I did find it a slight bit difficult to be comfortable and hard to get a good grip on it. At least I felt I was constantly moving it around in my fingers to get a better handle on the pen. Not sure there is a lot to be done here without losing some of the "minimal" design like adding some machined rings, etc.
The pen is built upon the Cross-style twist mechanism and takes the threaded, screw-in style refills. A lot of people love these ballpoint refills and there are quite a few varieties of these to choose from, but if you're hoping to swap in a gel or rollerball there aren't really options for it.
With the barrel being a bit on the slick side, getting a hold of the two pieces to twist the mechanism doesn't seem to be the most comfortable and actually took a bit of conscious effort each time opening and closing. Also, when twisting, the two pieces seem to "flex" out of alignment a little creating a small (like, really small) stair stepping effect between the seam. With a little wiggling they go back into alignment, but seemed a bit odd.
Granted, these are prototypes and I'm not certain how the actual mechanism is fastened to the lower, grip barrel section, but there seems to be some slight fluidity or give in there that would be nice to get tightened down in final production.
If you are familiar with the Cross Century (of course you are...) which I think everyone's parent or grandparent used in their Franklin-Covey or checkbook (usually gold), then you can get a sense of the size and overall feel of this pen. Normally, the Cross pens have a clip and I think this is where some of the "twist" problems come in as you usually have something extra to hang onto when extending the refill which the DUO does not.
If I can be blunt, the stair stepping thing did bother me quite a lot as it feels a bit wobbly and set a tone for the overall feel of things.
The stylus tip is on the smaller side which is a plus and works well. I don't really use a stylus often, but it was responsive when I did some tests on my iPhone. If you use a stylus tip often, this one works well.
I find this pen to fit a pretty unique taste: the Cross refill and mechanism, stylus, really skinny... It is definitely unlike other pens hitting Kickstarter these days, but at the same time doesn't offer much in uniqueness or novelty in my opinion. And, in functionality it is similar to a Cross Century or Tech2 pen, just sans a clip for the more minimal style, but I'm still not super clear on how it stands out in a crowd of similar pens. It is machined and not quite as "flashy" as similar pens, I'll definitely say that.
Overall the DUO is a nice pen that has a lot of visual appeal when you see it. There are things I think they can refine a bit more like the flex in the barrel (if possible), but I know they are looking to make an excellent pen and hope my feedback/thoughts are seen as constructive or helpful.
Thanks again to 529 Studio for sending the DUO my way! Check out their Kickstarter campaign for more details on the options and pricing for the pen.