Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pentel Tradio TRP55 Mechanical Pencil Review

Pentel Tradio TRP55 Mechanical Pencil Review

The Tradio is a relatively recent addition to my collection. The Pentel USA website declares the Tradio as a special offering from Pentel Europe and they only offer the pencil version in silver colour and 0.5mm lead. Pentel USA also offers the matching Tradio fountain pen, but this time in a variety of colours. I haven’t bothered to do the research to see what other variants may or may not be available in Europe or Japan.

With its cap on, the Tradio definitely has that traditional fountain pen shape and look. Well, at least it does to me. I assume the name Tradio is also part of the play on the traditional fountain pen theme. The Tradio is much lighter than I expected. The size, shape and metallic look all implied something a little heavier to my eyes and brain.
To post or not to post, that is the question!The Tradio certainly has enough length that you can use it without the cap posted on the end of the main body. Unposted it looks rather fountain penish in the hand because there is no eraser, push-top button or other such accoutrement on the end of the barrel. The cap is lightweight plastic so if you do choose to post it on the end of the body it doesn’t have a huge impact on overall weight or balance. As a pencil user, it certainly looks unusual having a posted “fountain pen” in your hand when you are writing with your pencil. Ultimately I’m not sure which I prefer, so I’ll probably use it both posted and unposted as the mood strikes me.

Using the pencil with the cap posted does have one advantage, the pocket clip on the cap stops the pencil rolling on your desk when you put it down. The pocket clip is just an integral moulding of the cap, basically functional but nothing exceptional. When you put the cap on the pencil the body push fits and clicks firmly into place inside the cap so there are no worries about it coming loose. Well at least when it’s nice and new, but who knows what a good few years of wear and tear will do to that push-fit? There is a clear plastic window section towards the top of the cap and you can see the tip of the pencil through the window. Presumably fountain pen users would also be able to see the pen nib through the window. Slightly interesting, but neither really here nor there. What was the idea?The Tradio does not have an eraser hidden anywhere. The lead sleeve is a fixed thin 3mm sleeve. Definitely not pocket safe without the cap. The lead advance mechanism is a side button ratchet system. Ten clicks will advance 5mm of lead. This is somewhat on the short side and I did notice that I had to advance the lead more often than usual. The side button is right there in the middle of the black front section of the body, right in the grip zone. I certainly did not like that at first, but I tended to get used to it over time. Having said that, it is still a bit annoying as you always have to twist the pencil into the correct orientation when you pick it up, and the button really is “in the way” although you do get used to it. At least operating it is easy given that it is “right there”. Ignoring the whole button thing, this pencil does feel quite good in the hand, although the narrow diameter grip will not suit all people. The grip section itself is smooth hard shiny plastic without any particular grip enhancements. I found that the side button tended to make me a little conscious of my grip, and I gripped it a little lighter than usual.

The Pentel website states, “Ergonomic barrel design provides added comfort and control.” Well, “Yeah, right” as we say down here. Just what’s ergonomic about it? I don’t see one of those so-called ergonomic rubber grips, or a triangular grip, or a large diameter grip, or…so what’s ergonomic about it? Looks like this is just pure marketing dross if you ask me.
Refilling the Tradio is a little more complicated than most other Pentels. You will not be surprised to find I didn’t receive any refill instructions with my pencil. You unscrew the body in the middle and then pull the chrome cap off the top to access the lead chamber.Last year when I opened up my newly delivered parcel of pencils, my first impression of the Tradio was not a good one. I felt that the silver metallic finish looked rather cheap and, well, “plasticky” for a premium offering from Pentel, particularly considering the price they demand for it. I’m somewhat surprised but glad to say that my week spent using it has largely reversed this negative feeling. The Tradio is never going to be one of my all-time favourites, but I’m now reasonably happy with my purchase.
  • Best Points – Interesting fountain pen look.
  • Not So Good Points – Lead advance button is in the way.
  • Price Range – Low/Mid.

Dimensions – Length 137mm capless or about 170mm with cap posted, diameter 12mm at widest part of body or 9mm in grip area. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip when capless.


Germ said...

I agree. looks kinda cheap, in some ways. especially the mold lines (IIRC).

Anonymous said...

I guess the window is there to let you distinguish the pen from the pencil, when you carry a set?
Nice review - enjoyable reading as always.
Nice sketch too.

kind regards Henrik

Javier said...

For the price, this version just seems too plain. I think I like the alternate colors that I have seen available a little more.

Brown Marble

Grey Snake Skin

Anonymous said...

I've got quite a big collection of PENTEL TRADIO (more than 150 in fact), some of them are on my Facebook group, others will be put in a near future... Have a look

Kiwi-d said...

OK, I'm just going to double check this. You have got 150+ Tradios???????? Surely there must be lots of double ups or are they printed with advertising or ????

Anonymous said...

Just a random - speculative - thought; maybe it is expected to be held more like a fountainpen, or atleast as one traditionally would, ie index finger and thumb loosely on top of tip/nib section, and the barrel resting on/in the webbing of the hand and of said fingers resulting in a low 20-45 degree angle~. I personally dont hold them this way except when using flex nibs when it is required, or italics to some extent. Anyway, so that you'd take the pen and slam on the button, and then let it slide down to the writing position, or let it fall forward a little and click with the index finger when in use.
But maybe its still in the way, and not to say you are not applying this grip already.

Anonymous said...


Yes, there are TONS of designs, with all kinds of Shapes and Colours.
There are colourful ones with rings, some look like carbon, metallic colours, wood-resembling fakes, soft-lacquered metallics and natural colours, sand and earthtones, marbled ones and so on and on.

The "Tradio System" does not only contain the "Porous Tip Sign Pens", but also metal-tip fountain pens, liquid gel pens, and rollerball besides the pencil.
AND all tips are interchangeable into each body, which makes for a lot of playability.
That's also why the window is there, so you can check which tip you have inside without always having to open all of your pens.
PLUS, a lot of Tips for Tradio Pens are "Colour Coded", so you can mostly see which tip PLUS which colour is inside without opening the pen.
If you love to dissassemble and reassemble pens all new mixed up like me, it's a nice additional touch.

The Tradio is although not my favourite mechanicl Pencil (Sharp Kerry for the Win (at least for me))... but I use it quite frequently.
It lies well in the hand, the grip section is (for me) a good distance from the tip point, and I always have the button betwen my thumb and index finger, it feels very comfortable to me, since I rarely twist pencils while drawing.

Unknown said...

Let my cousin borrow my Forte Pro II A77. Worst decision ever! It didn't return in one piece. Trying to find a replacement is proven quite difficult.