I enjoy writing reviews of analog tools that I love to use. So, in this very early stage of Write Analog, I’m choosing to review things that I think are pretty darn awesome. I’m selecting items from my own collection that I want to tell the world about. So for the “reviews” portion of the blog, expect much positivity for awhile.
I’m a huge fan of retractable pens. For my day job, I really don’t do any long-form writing, but I jot down many short notes rather often. Retractable pens are ideal. I’m so glad I ordered the Uni-Ball Signo RT1 0.38 mm black gel ink pen from JetPens. It’s a fantastic retractable gel ink pen.
The Signo RT1 wasn’t the first retractable gel ink pen I used when I started getting back into analog tools and writing by hand. It was the second. The 0.4 mm Black Zebra Sarasa Push Clip was the first1. As stellar as the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip is, I got hooked on using the Signo RT1. It became my daily writer at work for months, and it’s still in frequent rotation.
Appearance & Design
The Uni-Ball Signo RT1 has a fairly mundane appearance that isn’t going to attract much attention. No one will guess you’re holding a pen you can only get from a few select online retailers, or by visiting Japan. It has a simple design that makes it look like a long black bullet. With a weight of 0.4 ounces, grip diameter of 10.6 mm and 14.0 cm (point extended) length, the Signo RT1 has pretty standard specs for a gel ink pen. The grip section is rubberized and extends a bit more than a third of the pen’s length. The remainder of the pen’s body is ever-so-slightly opaque that you can see if you hold it up to a light source. Honestly, I used the pen for some time before I ever noticed this.
The clip and knock (push button) are a one-piece unit. It looks super-cool, but the conjoined clip and knock is definitely a case of form over function (more on this later).
I’ve read differing opinions whether or not to leave the manufacturer’s sticker on pens. I guess I fall into both camps. I tend to leave the sticker on until it starts to look a little dilapidated. I like to leave the sticker on for the following reasons:
- In most cases, they look kind of cool. For the Signo RT1, I think this is the case.
- Every bit of technical information about the pen is contained on the sticker. This is really helpful for your own reference, or if someone inquires about your awesome pen.
- Looking at the Japanese characters makes me happy.
You could always put the sticker in a Field Notes memo book with notes about the pen. By doing this, you get an automatic “level up” in your pen journey and unlock the “pen diary” achievement2. Be proud of your pen diary.
Despite it being sort of plain, I really like the shape and style of the Signo RT1. However, the best thing about it is writing with it. As soon as I picked it up and pushed the knock, before the tip even touched the page, I knew I was going to like writing with it.
This is where the Uni-Ball Signo RT1 shines. I love writing with this pen. I’ll do my best to describe it, but it’s something you really need to experience yourself by holding and writing with the pen. The rubberized grip section and extended point come together to create a result that is so much more than the sum of the two parts. As cheesy at that sounds, it’s the best way I can think to explain it. The reason I admire writing with this pen so much is due to this grip/tip synergy that occurs in the distal centimeter of the pen. When you start writing, the conical tip skates across the page— it’s such a smooth writer.
The black 0.38 mm version of the Uni-Ball Signo RT1 puts down a crisp, very dark line. The UMR–83 refill is so darn good, it’s worth trying to hack other pen bodies to make it fit. If I were a pen maker, I would build something around this refill. The UMR–83 refill… ok, I’ll stop. The output of the UMR–83 refill is outstanding. I also like the 0.28 mm version of the Signo RT1, but the 0.38 mm tip produces the perfect line width for me. I’m a big fan of black ink, but lately I’ve really been getting into blue-black inks, so I’m eager to try the blue-black version.
The clip is the only negative about the Signo RT1. The clip performs well enough, even though it’s a tad on the loose side. The problem is evident when the knock is depressed to extend the wonderful point. The clip/knock has about 6 mm3 of “play”, and it can rattle a bit. Other retractable pens (for example, the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip and Pilot Juice) have this same knock movement when depressed, but with the Signo RT1, the effect is exacerbated by the combined clip and knock being relatively larger and heavier.
That being said, it’s not an issue at all while writing, so it loses no points in my opinion. To make the clip/knock move back and forth, I have to shake the pen with a decent amount of force. The clip/knock can be somewhat “noisy” with more subtle movement, but again, it’s not really a big deal and doesn’t detract from the Signo RT1’s greatness. Don’t let this “knock” prevent you from trying this impressive pen.
At the current price of $2.50 at JetPens, giving the Uni-Ball Signo RT1 0.38 mm black gel ink pen a try is an easy choice. The UMR–83 refill is $1.35 as of this post date, so it’s worth going the refill route to save a bit.
I think I’ve made it crystal clear that I adore this pen. If you like retractable gel ink pens, you have to give the Uni-Ball Signo RT1 a shot. I give it my highest recommendation.
The Uni-Ball Signo RT in this review is from my personal collection and paid for by me.