Zebra Sharbo X Multi Pen ReviewI’m one of those people, who love not only pencils (and some pens too), but also various gadgets or anything with a useful or at least semi-practical “trick” to it. So when I found out multipens exist, they seemed right up my alley: the Swiss Army Knife of pens, neat! Besides, I need both pencil and pen at work, which made the combination seem all the more attractive. So I bought a few of them. My favourite ones by far are Zebra Sharbo X and the similar Tombow Zoom 414, but I like the Sharbo X a little better, so that’s the one I’m reviewing here.
The Sharbo X is available in many materials, finishes and colors. The ones you see here are Zebra Sharbo X LT3 in matte grey and matte green. They are cheaper than most of the other options and I figured the matte finish would provide a better grip. These pen bodies are made of brass, but there are aluminium and even carbon fiber models available as well. The innards are almost completely customizable. In addition to the pen body, you will need to buy at least three refill components. One of them must be a mechanical pencil, the other two you can fill with any D1-pattern refills. The mechanical pencil components are available in 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 mm. They only fit one pencil component at a time.
The pen itself is 134 mm long (writing tips retracted, add 3-4 mm when extended), about 9.4 mm in diameter and weighs 23 grams with the internal components installed. I think it’s a fairly compact pen. See pic below with good old Pentel P205 for size comparison. The body is fairly smooth with almost uniform diameter, and the only external features are a few markings, grooves and a pocket clip. There’s no rubberized or knurled grip section.
The pocket clip appears to be steel and feels like it’s spring-loaded, but I haven’t disassembled to check. It has a fairly strong grip. Under the tailcap is a replaceable eraser, but the tailcap must be unscrewed to access it, so you’ll probably want to use a separate eraser. Still, it’s there if you need it.
About midway on the body are three marks: I, II and III with the Sharbo X logo under the I. The number that the pocket clip points to marks the function that is currently selected. I is where the obligatory mechanical pencil component is, II and III are the other components. That’s right, the pencil is always number I.
The different writing components are selected by simply turning the barrel in either direction, so whichever mode you have selected, the other two are always just a single quick twist away. There’s a definite tactile feedback when a given writing tip is extended and clicks into place. The selector can also be left in any in-between position, in which case the writing tips are retracted, making the pen pocket safe.
The best thing about the selector mechanism is, however, that it rotates endlessly in both directions. Personally, I infinitely prefer this system to any other, such as gravity feed where you have to hold the pen in a certain way to (probably) get the function you wanted, or those pens where the barrel begins to unscrew if you turn it too far. No such woes with the Sharbo! Just keep turning in either direction until you find the tip you wanted. (Note: the Tombow Zoom 414 works the same way, so this is not a unique feature.)
Naturally, the barrel can still be unscrewed so you can change the internal components. Simply pull out the one you want to replace and push another one in its place. You can also change the refills without disassembling the pen, but you may need pliers to get the old one out. The pencil part won’t fit through the opening, however, so if you want to change that, you’ll have to disassemble.
The lead is advanced by clicking the top of the pen, but instead of a button, the whole top half of the pen moves on each click. It works smoothly, but still requires a slightly stronger thumb action than most other mechanical pencils. With 10 clicks, the 0.3 mm component gives you 3.5 mm of lead, whereas the 0.5 mm one gives you 5.5 mm. In the pic below, the grey pen has a 0.5 mm tip and the green pen has a 0.3 mm tip.
One disadvantage of multipens is that the mechanical pencil part is tiny and will not hold many spare leads. I haven’t tried stuffing them to see how many they can take before jamming. I usually keep 3 spare leads in the 0.5 mm one and 4 in the 0.3 mm one. To refill the lead magazine, you can push the tail section to release the lead holding mechanism and feed in one lead at a time through the tip. Of course, you can also disassemble the pen if you want to put in several leads at once.
The lead sleeve is only 2 mm long, so this is not a drafting pencil by any means. Due to the nature of the beast, the writing components also have a tiny amount of wobble to them, but not so much that it would bother me. Indeed, I didn’t even notice until I deliberately checked for it.
Ergonomically, the pen is good, though it could be better. While the grip isn’t bad by any means, it’s not as good as knurling once your hands get sweaty from a lot of writing. On the other hand, unlike some pens with a built-in grip area, you can grip the Sharbo fairly close to the writing tip, which I like. When you pick it up, it seems surprisingly heavy for its compact size. The point of balance is located just a little beyond the halfway mark, about 70-71 mm from the tip. Technically, it’s slightly tip-heavy, but not enough to feel that way in practice. In other words, it feels neutrally balanced.
As far as durability goes, it’s perhaps too early to say much, since I’ve had them less than a year. But I’ve used them daily at work, and so far, I’ve had no issues with either one. I have dropped them a few times, and once the green one landed on a concrete floor, right on the tip of the 0.3 mm pencil component. The lead shattered, of course, but the pencil component itself shows no signs of abuse and works fine. And even if it had broken, it would have been very easy to simply replace the pencil component with a new one.
Since this is a pencil blog, I’ll only briefly touch on the other refills. There are many, many types and colors available from different manufacturers. Ballpoints, gel ink, highlighters etc. Tombow even has a pressurized Space Pen type refill, if you need to write upside down or underwater. I’ve found Zebra’s ballpoints to be very good, they start easily, write without skipping and seem to last a long time considering their tiny size. Their gel refills, on the other hand, seem to dry up and/or become scratchy fairly quickly. Also, it has turned out that D1-pattern refills are not quite universal. Tombow and Zebra ones seem to be interchangeable, but I tried a Lamy refill and it was slightly smaller in diameter, so it didn’t fit properly.
Overall, I really like the Sharbo X, but I did make the effort to write as impartial a review as I could (and yes, I paid for both of them and all the refills with my own money). As I mentioned, I frequently need both a pencil and a pen at work, and these multipens work quite well in both roles. Switching back and forth between the modes is effortless. While there are some mechanical pencils that are better pencils that the Sharbo X, it’s still a perfectly satisfactory pencil. If you are looking for a multipen to add to your pen collection, Sharbo X and the Tombow 414 are the best ones I’ve tried.
- Good points – easily customizable, three writing functions, excellent selector mechanism, high quality, pocket safe.
- Bad points – grip could be better.
- Other points – lot’s of material, finish and color options to choose from before you even get to the refills.
- Price range – high, if you include both the body and the internal components.
Great stuff! Thanks Jarmo.