Monday, August 24, 2009

Papermate PhD Multi Pen Review

Papermate PhD Multi Pen Review

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I recently had a little overseas holiday. In the past I have often taken mini pencils as part of my travel kit but this time around I thought to myself that surely international travel was one of those occasions when one should consider a multi pen. So I swept aside the usual contenders and grabbed the Papermate PhD Multi that was lurking around in my office.

Papermate PhD MultiThe Papermate PhD Multi has three tips to select from, and a quick bit of web-time lead me to the conclusion that Papermate offer the PhD Multi in two formats. The first format is ballpoint pen, mechanical pencil and stylus. This is the only format mentioned on the Papermate website. However, there is a second readily available format, namely two ballpoint pen tips and a mechanical pencil tip. The ballpoint pen colours available are black and red, but 0.5mm seems to be only the mechanical pencil option. My PhD is this second version – two pens and a pencil.

Being a fairly substantial size, and a multi pen, the PhD Multi is a heavier than your average mechanical pencil, and a little top heavy in the hand.Papermate PhD Multi PenThe grip zone of the PhD Multi is a fairly deeply scalloped grooved rubber triangular grip. It’s a fairly large sized grip, the sides of the triangle are about 12mm long. The rubber compound is reasonably hard but quite ‘grippy’. Now, I’ve had plenty of bad thoughts about rubber grips over the years but this is a rubber grip that unquestionably improves things. The rubber compound, the grooves and the contoured shape all combine to provide an extremely positive and secure grip. I note that the Papermate website states the grip is “endorsed by the American Physical Theraphy Association.”Papermate PhD Multi pen rubber grip
Papermate Phd Multi rubber grip 2One thing I do not usually cover in my reviews is the long-term reliability and durability of a writing instrument. That’s because I’m usually only using the review item for a week or two, and taking good care of it, so that I can put it back into my collection in “as new” condition. So, long term durability is beyond the scope of my reviews. The rubber grip on the PhD Multi just felt a little thin to me and the triangular grip would tend to concentrate the wear pattern, which made me think about long term durability, so I took the unusual step of doing a bit of searching for feedback on shopping sites, etc. I wasn’t too surprised to find a number of commenter’s stating that the rubber grip stretched or loosened and came off over time. Peoples expectations of durability and life-expectancy are very subjective and highly variable, but there might be a bit of an issue with the rubber grip. But hey, I think there’s one problem or another with all rubber grips! Seriously though, no rubber grip is going to last as long as bare metal or a section of hard moulded plastic body, and I imagine the softer and squishier your rubber grip, the more prone it is to wear and tear. Everything’s a compromise; it’s just something to keep in mind.

Right, let’s get back to writing with the PhD Multi. You select your desired tip by twisting the top half of the body to the left or right. This is not a continuous twist mechanism; in other words you cannot just go round and round. When you have reached the far left position you must then twist back to the centre position and on to the right position, and then back again, etc. Coloured dots and a pencil tip logo indicate which tip is where. You twist to line up the desired tip indicator with the small depression in the silver centre ring. This depression is quite small and not particularly conspicuous, so you might need a second glance to locate it.Papermate PhD Multi selectorThe ballpoint pen tips write very well, with a nice smooth ink flow. They really do glide across the paper. The black ink appears good and black, and the red is a proper red.

When the mechanical pencil tip is extended it is a short cylindrical lead sleeve leading into a cone. Of course the very nature of this type of multi pen mechanism means the writing tip extends out of the front section at a slight angle.Papermate Phd Multi tip angle Remember the writing tip is on a long stalk which is just bent and thrust out of the front section when it is selected. I mention this because somehow this is the first multi pen that I have really noticed the axis of the mechanical pencil is not aligned with that of the pen body. You can see it is protruding out at an angle. This is normal with many multi pens, it’s just I don’t normally notice it, but somehow with the PhD Multi I did.

The mechanical pencil is 0.5mm lead diameter and operates as a push top button ratchet mechanism. Ten clicks will get you about 6mm of lead. For a multi pen the push top action is quite light, easy and smooth, although it has a fairly long stroke on it as is common with multi pens. I often find that multi pen pencil tips are prone to more lead breakages than normal, but I didn’t notice that with the PhD.

Refilling the pencil tip or replacing the ballpoint pen tips is done in the usual way. You carry on twisting past the end stop to unscrew the body and reveal the three tips, rip the empty tip out of its mounting and replace or refill. You can really only get one or two spare leads into the pencil stalk, and take care not to snap them when putting the pencil tip back onto it’s stalk.papermate PhD Multi refill procedure
Beneath the push top button is a medium sized eraser.PhD Multi eraser The top button clicks on fairly firmly and securely. The pocket clip is a basic sturdy springy metal clip and it joins on at the very top of the body..Papermate PhD clip attachment I tended to carry my PhD Multi clipped to the centre of a small wallet-folder which held our passports and other travel documents.PhD Multi clipped to wallet Now, because there is no part of the main body above the top of the pocket clip this means that the top button is the first thing you go to grab when you want the pen, and of course the top button just pulls off the body leaving the pen still clipped to whatever. This is hardly an earth shattering disaster, but it was a little annoying each time it caught me out, maybe because it reminded me I was being a slow learner. I’ve got my doubts about how long that top button would last before it was lost, or no longer stayed securely stuck on

Markings on the pen are "PhD Multi" and "Papermate, Japan" on the barrel.
Overall then, I’m reasonably impressed with the Papermate PhD Multi, and as a concept I think multi pens might be the way to go when travelling. Black ballpoint for filling out customs and immigration documents, pencil for a quick sketch and the crossword, red pen for a highlight – all came in handy at one stage or another.
  • Best Points – The grip.
  • Not So Good Points – Eraser cap can pull off when pen is clipped to papers.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.

Dimensions – Length 150mm, diameter 15mm at widest point. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.

“Holiday Apartment”

Real Life

And Still Life?


A Little Aussie Battler?

27 comments:

dodgemannfs said...

This is one of my favorites and it is the best multi pen I've ever owned.

Wes said...

A friend of mine had one of these a while back, and he lost in on a bus. Seems like a great multi-pen other than the fact it has a wide barrel, which might be a pro for some.

Wes said...

To kristian: Just tell your friend not to lose it... lol.

Wynne and Wes said...

this is a very good multipen for the cost, still its really wide, to wide for pocket use. Nice review and really nice sketch to

wynne and wes

Wes said...

I could see why it could be more easily lost than other pens/pencils, being too wide for pockets.

Stephen said...

Nice apartment lounge!

Not my choice of pencil (or multipen/pencil) if I had just one to take on a trip.

Nicholas said...

I used a Papermate PhD Multi (pen/pencil/stylus type) on a daily basis for about six years, and I think I can contribute a little regarding its failure modes. After a few months of frequent eraser use, the cap became polished and began falling off constantly. But what brought its life to an end was a little more bizarre - after about six years of use, the rubber grip began to shrink and ooze a slightly yellowish, oily liquid. I tried cleaning it a few times but the film kept coming back, so I gave up and switched to a Pentel QE515.

kiwi-d said...

Hi Nicholas
Thanks for your comment. To be honest I personally think that any rubber grip that lasted 6 years of daily use is an outstanding achievement and I imagine the folk at Papermate will think of it as a product endorsement. The cap though is another matter and I’m not all that surprised to read your comment, but I don’t think the PhD is alone in having that sort of issue.

Josh said...

Your complete review of the Phd is really comprehensive. I also feel that most multipens are heavy.
Just stumbled and submitted your site to Viralogy. Hope you get some great traffic from it. Your blog is here http://www.viralogy.com/blogs/my/90720
Josh

Alexa Matthews said...

I CAN NOT stand Papermate. But, I don't really mind the Phd pencils. I have one. For what it is, it is pretty expensive. My friend got one for me from Office Depot for like $13(US)! It was quite strange. I think that is too much for a Papermate pencil. Most Papermates lack quality...

Jeffery said...

Just wanted to say Thank You to everyone for their insight on the PhD pencil. I cannot refill mine and getting frustrated so the pen is going in the garbage!!

Steve said...

I love the PhD multi, but they do not hold up. I've had two where the grip oozed oily stuff, and another where the pencil mechanism broke. I think the rubber breaks down in heat like a hot car trunk.

Anonymous said...

I've been using the PhD pencils for ten years now and really like them. The grip can get a little loose and spin around some, but that's about the only problem I've had. I especially like the large twist eraser.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how to disassemble the grip-area / bottom peice into its separate parts... the black plastic part seems firmly attached to the metal, as well as the cone-shaped tip part... I'm trying to replace my disintegrated rubber grip with one of the same size/shape/color from a dollar store pen, but I need to get to the narrow part of the grip area from at least one side. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Another user of phd here. Great pen as you already said in your good review, but my clip bended, and when I tried to make it straight, it broke. Had rthis open for over two years now...

SAM said...

I HAVE HAD TWO OF THE PHD MULTI PENS NOW, AND IN EACH CASE BOTH OF THE POCKET CLIPS HAVE COME LOOSE AND WILL NO LONGER TIGHTEN ON TO THE BARREL WITH OUT A POCKET CLIP THEY ARE OF NO USE TO ME. THIS OCCURS WITH IN A VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME AFTER PURCHASE.

SAM

Debra said...

I love my PhD Multi but then I've not experienced the oozing... gross... However, if at $13 this pen/pencil lasts for a year at about $1.08/month, I'm happy... I'll gladly buy another. And Dave, thanks for the info on how to add more lead.

Jim Swinford said...

The oozing is just a lubricant grease that is actually applied to the barrel to help keep the rubber grip from breaking down and failing even sooner. I've had mine for 4-5 years and have really had no problems with it - it is what it is, and being made of plastic isn't going to last forever. But for the money and functionality, I think it is definitely worth it.

Jimbo said...

The oozing is simply a lubricant placed on the shaft of the pen to extend the life of the rubber grip. I've had the PhD for 4-5 years now and have been extremely pleased with it. Being made of plastic, it is what it is, but for price and functionality I think it is a great multi tool for writing.

Anonymous said...

I've had 2 or 3 of these over the past 10+ years. Had one with the gooey grip, every one has had the barrel split at the top, which then causes the clip to be loose, and eventually the pen falls apart as the split get's to large. They've all been the green "marbled" variety, and the splits always follow the "marble" lines in the plastic.

Anonymous said...

A HUGE Thank YOU for the info on how to reload the lead!! Haven't experienced the orange ooze. But, the grips are loose on both of mine(have one each of red/black ink and stylus and ink, pencil/stylus) after oohh, maybe 5 years. I can handle that.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I love this pen. It rocks. Only upon my first exam of the semster being SO HARD that I forgot the cap!! Now it is gone and I have no idea where I'm gonna get it replaced.. it's just not pretty without it. womp womp..

Clayjar said...

I used to really like this pen, but starting, perhaps 5 years ago or so, the rubber part on new ones started to feel stickier and the plastic would break easily if you apply even just a little pressure to tighten the pen on the thread. This means they've started to use cheaper rubber and cheaper plastic... and I stopped buying them ever since.

Ken said...

The one thing that this did not address is functionality of the stylus. I bought one because I am tired of the flimsy narrow stylus on my Entourage Edge. The Stylus works fine on the tablet screen but the screen that needs the stylus, the reader screen, it is useless on. Nice reviews on the clips, pen and pencil but sucky review on the stylus of course, that is to be expected I guess...

Kiwi-d said...

Ken - give me a break! My one doesn't have a stylus!!! Can't review what I haven't got.

Debbie Haughland Chan said...

This is my favourite writing device and has been so hard to find that when I find it, I buy several so I'll have a replacement when it breaks. I use the pen and stylus and love the stylus--I take copious notes in handwriting on a smart phone (previously on a PDA). My one complaint is that I'm sure there are times that when it breaks I could fix it but I don't know how. That's the case with my latest pen/stylus and it's very frustrating. But I haven't found anything else that is fat, has a rubber grip and both a stylus and pen in one, so I keep buying.

Bree said...

I'm on my third PhD multi in the last 10ish years. It is my work tool of choice - used for daily note-taling, mind mapping and I use the pencil in my day planner.

The first was maroon barreled and had the stylus option, which I used regularly with my Sony CliƩs. I dropped it on a tile floor and the barrel cracked, but it was still usable. When I left PalmOS behind, I bought a blue PhD with the red ink insert - same as Ken's review model. I used that for a year or two before I lost it. Since I only use it at work, I assume a coworker absconded with it when they found it unattended. Many have admired it, so the suspect list is long :D

I'm now using a green barreled one. I haven't had any of them develop oozy grips or lose the cap, but I rarely carry it outside the building. I have had the clip get loose, but my current planner doesn't have a pen loop, so I don't need the clip.

One thing that isn't noted is that you can buy blue ink refills for the PhD. On occasion, I take out the red or black and swap in blue.

My only complaint is the difficulty in finding refills. I've had to order them from Amazon in recent years, and even though I've bundled them in a bigger order, twice they've come all by themselves in a big box.