Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pentel ErgoTwist AL 97 Mechanical Pencil Review

Pentel ErgoTwist AL 97 Mechanical Pencil Review

Recently I reviewed the somewhat similar Pentel Flex Fit II, so it’s natural to have that in the back of mind when reviewing the ErgoTwist. The main feature (or gimmick) of the Flex Fit II and the ErgoTwist is the customisable rubber grip.

Aesthetically, I like the ErgoTwist a lot more than the Flex Fit II. The grip on the ErgoTwist is smoothly contoured into the body of the pencil, and they have attempted to get something of a streamlined flowing balanced look about the pencil. With that in mind, the rather sharp angular transition to the front tip section is somewhat out of place.
The pocket clip is a rather heavy integrally moulded clip, but quite good as far as such plastic clips go. There is a small eraser under the top cap. You can easily get the cap on and off without activating the lead advance. Not surprisingly, the pencil mechanism is a push top ratchet. The tapered lead sleeve is not retractable so it’s only suitable for general writing, and its not pocket-safe. My ErgoTwist is a 0.7mm lead model which appears to be the only lead size offered, but there are several body colours to choose from.

Although it looks fairly substantial, the ErgoTwist is actually quite lightweight, and the balance is fairly neutral.

Pentel advertise the ErgoTwist as having “an ultra-soft, adjustable grip that twists to an individual’s comfort level and cushions to fight against finger fatigue.” It has been recognised as an “Ease-of-Use product by the Arthritis Foundation”. Well first off I would have to disagree about the ultra-soft description. You won’t have to look very hard to find a pencil with a softer grip. Certainly it’s softer than many rubber grips, particularly Pentels, but many cheap foam grips are softer. Then there are grips like the Sensa plasmium and its imitators. All of these are much more worthy of the wording ultra-soft. Personally I would describe it as a medium hardness grip as there is a little “give” under normal hand pressure.

The twist customisation of the ErgoTwist is not as good as that of the Flex Fit II. You can twist it to either side, but the twisting only starts about one-third of the way up the inserts. So, if you are like me and tend to hold the pencil down towards the start of the inserts, then you aren’t fully in the “twisted zone”. The pictures below show the grip in its normal position and twisted my preferred amount. You can see how the twisting only starts part way up the insert, and actually only the centre section is being twisted.
The black rubber is quite grippy, but the silver inserts are even grippier. I suppose there’s every chance they are actually the same compound and I’m embarrassing myself by claiming a difference in “grippiness”, but that’s the way they feel. There are three inserts spaced around the grip, and they are set into depressions, giving a somewhat triangular feel to the grip. So, long-time readers please make sure you are seated and prepared for a shock…this rubber grip is good, really good. If only they had the same twisting as the Flex Fit II then this would be getting scarily close to an A+. Actually the grip is a little large diameter for me, so if they could make it variable diameter, then wow, they might just take over the world.
  • Best Points – Super grippy rubber grip.
  • Not So Good Points – The grip is rather large, a smaller diameter option would be good. Better twisting customisation of the grip would also be good.
  • Price Range – Low.

Dimensions – Length 149mm, diameter 15mm at widest part of grip. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
(I think I got the hint. I haven't noticed she had left.)
In my opinion these ergo grip things gives me exactly what they promise to fight - writers cramp. So I usually avoid them. Maybe it is my writing style?
Henrik DK

Kiwi-d said...

I know what you mean. I think that for many people who have "normal" hand dexterity then many ergo-grips make things worse, not better.

Anonymous said...

The 99 cent store in Paradise Valley, AZ [Phoenix] had a flock of these. I have the ballpoint model, which I found to be extremely comfortable, so I was happy to see these. I found the pencil to be equally comfortable. To me they are much more comfortable than the Flex-Fit and Tranxition models. I find the grip comfortable without any adjustment.

I do agree that a pocket-safe mechanism would be an improvement. However, a larger eraser would be a higher priority for me.

Bob S. in Phoenix, AZ

Anonymous said...

I love the soft grip
its an amazing pencil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!