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I first spotted the Parker pens based on its “5th technology” on Amazon about a year ago, but only just managed to get my hands on one (two, actually), to review. According to Parker’s head of R&D, “the Parker 5th technology … offers a genuine fifth way of writing” as opposed to a fountain pen, ballpoint, roller ball, or mechanical pencil. You’ll notice he left out felt-tipped pens. More on that later.
The Parker 5th technology is considerably more elegant — and better-writing — than a ballpoint, and considerably more convenient than a fountain pen. Is it the perfect blend of elegance and convenience? Yes and no.
Parker 5th technology
You could accurately say that Parker’s 5th technology was already invented and in use long before Parker gave it a swanky name and packaging. You can get the same nib on a $3 fiber-tipped drawing pen/marker. That’s less than half the cost of a single Parker 5th refill. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
The fountain pen “nib” is just for show. It really just covers up the refill. The only actual similarity to writing with a fountain pen is that the tip of the refill is built to flex. Although that $3 drawing pen will do that, too, purely due to cheapness.
All this is to say there is nothing particularly ingenious about Parker 5th technology. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them.
What I don’t like about Parker 5th technology pens
When you buy a fountain pen, you generally get what you pay for. Sure, there are some notable exceptions, like a hacked Platinum Preppy (get the eyedropper conversion done for you at Goulet Pens). But generally, more-expensive fountain pens have better nibs, because the materials that make a great nib (a fair amount of gold, for starters) aren’t cheap.
I tested two Parker 5th technology pens: the large chrome CT model, which retails for $190, and the $70 IM Premium. Even though the more-expensive Parker Ingenuity cost almost 3 times as much, it uses the exact same refill cartridge. Any improvement in writing is down to the materials used in the rest of the pen, not the quality of the nib.
Speaking of the “nib,” it is constructed to mimic a fountain pen nib, but you’ll never mistake the one for the other. Here is the Parker Ingenuity next to my well-loved Parker Sonnet:
It doesn’t feel anything like writing with a fountain pen, either. With a fountain pen, you have to write at a lower angle, and you guide the nib over the page. You gesture more than you write. With the Parker 5th technology, you write like you would with any pen. The centered nib doesn’t require any real adjustment.
What I like about Parker Ingenuity pens
Like I said, none of the above means I don’t like these pens. I actually do. After a fountain pen, drawing pens are my favorite pens for writing. I actually tend to carry them more often than a fountain pen because (a) I don’t write often enough, so my fountain pen nibs are always drying out, and (b) really fancy pens look a little funny in the hands a guy who usually dresses in t-shirts and jeans.
I don’t carry ballpoints because no matter how you dress up a ballpoint, it always looks cheap, and feels as cheap to write with as the refill. I have a comically expensive Mont Blanc ballpoint (a 75th anniversary Meisterstuck), and I never use it. It is absolutely the nicest ballpoint I have ever held, but it still feels cheap to write with. No matter the enclosure, I know I’m writing with a $10 refill, not a $500+ pen. And in the end, I use nice pens because I like to write, not just because I like to carry around flashy things.
The Parker 5th technology pens are somewhere in between a ballpoint and a fountain pen — and I’m not talking about the “nib” which nobody who has ever used a fountain pen would mistake for one. Although I know I’m writing with an $8 refill, I really like writing with fiber tips, and the ink looks much better on the page than a ballpoint (or roller ball or gel pen). So I don’t mind that I’m writing with a cheap refill as much. Also, while I’ve said I don’t care about flash, I do care about writing with a nice pen. The extra weight and girth, especially of the Ingenuity, make writing far more enjoyable than with a cheap drawing pen. And even though the nib is fake, it does look a whole heckuva lot better than a ballpoint.
In the end, I would be much more likely to spend $190 on the Parker Ingenuity (or $70 on the IM Premium) than half that much on a ballpoint.
Who should buy a Parker 5th technology pen?
A good pen, like a good watch, is a mark of distinction as well as a useful instrument. If you do a lot of hand-writing, a good pen is essential. You should use good tools. Conversely, if you don’t do a lot of hand-writing, shouldn’t you enjoy the experience as much as possible when you do? Life is too short to write with bad pens, and $70 or $190 is not much to spend on something you will own for the rest of your life. You probably spent more on a smartphone you will replace in a year or two.
However, should you buy one of these pens, or should you buy a fountain pen? (If you want a ballpoint, use what my wife uses, or the cheap pens I prefer, and buy them by the box. Don’t waste your money on something expensive.) I think it comes down to convenience.
Objectively, fountain pens are nicer to write with, and cheap ballpoints are more convenient (not least because you can find them anywhere and you won’t care if you lose one). But if you want something in between — elegant to look at and pleasant to write with, but without the mess and fuss that comes with ink bottles and drying nibs due to not-frequent-enough use — the Parker 5th technology pens are a great option. They are elegant, well-constructed, and nicely balanced. They are also nice to write with, easy to refill without getting ink on yourself, and they won’t dry up if you don’t use them all the time.
Parker 5th Technology Pens
Reviewed by Sam Glover on .
Summary: Parker 5th technology pens are nice to write with, easy to refill, and they won’t dry up if you don’t use them all the time.
Score: 4 (out of 5)