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.

All in all, I quite like them, although I’m not yet ready myself to give up my fountain pens and cheap drawing pens to spend $70 or $190 on a fancier fiber-tipped pen just yet.


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)


  1. JTD says:

    What are your thoughts on Space Pens? I know a lot of guys who really enjoy them, and they aren’t very expensive.

    • Sam Glover says:

      I’ve had two. They make great pocket pens because you can use them in any orientation, and because they are pretty indestructible. But they are still ballpoints, and there is nothing special about the rest of the pen that makes it better for writing than a cheapo disposable ballpoint.

  2. FJ says:

    Why am I reading this and replying on my IPad?

  3. Sweet_Veritas says:

    Wow. What a well written article! Thank you!

    My father used to write with a fountain pen, a maroon mont blanc fountain pen with gold on it. As a child I had no idea how expensive that pen actually was, but I remember always thinking it was fancy. I was given the token Mont Blanc laywer pen when I graduated from law school, but I’m so afraid of losing it that I hardly ever use it. Besides, as you mentioned in your article, it’s a ballpoint and the end result of its product isn’t as impressive as the look of the pen would cause one to expect.

    Anyway, I’ve always wanted to write with a fountain pen, but never knew where to start. After reading your article I bought a Platinum Preppy. I read other reviews of the pen online, all agree it’s a great place to start for the novice fountain pen user, and you can’t beat the price.

    Thanks for the great advice! I look forward to trying out my new pen, and maybe if I switch over and become a fountain pen user I’ll try out the Parker 5th.

  4. Boris says:

    Thank you, Sam!
    BTW, how long it takes for a fountain pen’s tip to dry? Going to write with it about once a day, is a 24h enough for tip to dry?

  5. jon pasternack says:

    My response to the Parker 5th Technology pen regards cost of use.I have been a life-long fountain pen user, with bottles of ink at hand wherever I have a desk. No serious, daily user of a writing instrument will find it cost-efficient to write with an $8 refill. Even rollerball and gel pens run out too quickly. So, for the cost of one bottle of ink, $8 – 12, I probably could write 50 times longer than with this pen. Seems this would be a perfect purchase for an infrequent user. JP

  6. John C says:

    The article is balanced and emphasizes the personal preference of the user. I have about a dozen fountain pens and wish I could write all the time so that I would use them.
    This Parker 5th was given to me as a gift and I was immediately struck by the faux fountain pen appearance typical of modern marketing. I agree that it makes more sense to buy a box of felt tip pens and skip the image enhancement.

  7. gandriollo says:

    Great article! What Parker pen would you recommend for a non-frequent user that wants to star using a nicer pen in a corp environment?

    • Sam Glover says:

      What fountain pen, do you mean? If you haven’t used a fountain pen before, grab a Platinum Preppy to see if you like using a fountain pen. If you already know you like fountain pens, the Parker Sonnet is an excellent choice.

      If you want the elegance of a fountain pen without the hassle of messing with inks, try one of the 5th Technology pens I reviewed here. They’re a good alternative; the ink is just a little pricier.

  8. JB says:

    Nice piece. I too like the fibre tip. However, I have learned not to hand fibre tip pens to my clients to sign. Invariably some dude will sign with so much pressure he could be carving rock and screw up the tip. Animals!

  9. Steveopolous says:

    Tried one of these; find it dries up extremely quickly regardless of use and ensuring that the pen is kept capped. Very very disappointing for a Parker product. I would not recommend buying this product under any circumstances and am a major user of different pens.

  10. Sam Jacoby says:

    Hold on, I have a couple of them and didn’t use them for a few months. Both dried up although they were almost new. Wasn’t able to use any of them until I changed refill. Big disappointment.

  11. Chris says:

    Another pen you might be interested in is the Pilot V-Razor fiber tip pen for $1. It utilizes the same tip as the $160 Parker 5th Technology Pen. The fiber tip pen utilizes the same principle as the nib of a fountain pen, both using liquid ink. The V-Razor ink dries fast on paper, which is a plus for lefties. Cheers. . .

  12. Jorge says:

    I have a very nice Lacquer Parker 5th pen, I really love the writing, but the refill dries out promptly and they are very expensive, maybe I might need to take the refill out at nights or when I do not use it and cover it with the plastic cover it came with, but this is cumbersome

    I love fountain pens and when they dry, it is easy to put a drop of water or put it on the ink bottle, but for 5th you need to purchase another refill,, difficult to find and expensive (by ebay around 8US plus shipping).

    It is sad such a nice technonogy and they passed this out.

    Maybe Parker might need to add more time to the drying of the ink as sometimes we do not need it to dry immediately if this allow a longer life for the refill.

    Image you open a new refill, use it a couple of days and put it on its box for a few days, when you return to it, the refill has dried out.

  13. Ekrem Ayna says:

    I have been using Parker 5th for almost more than a year and its very popular in Japan and South Asia. Its very practical to carry and use for very young generation who might not want to deal with ink. The refill quality has dramatically changed and improved.

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