Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cross Tech 3 Multi Pen Review

Cross Tech 3 Multi-Function Pen Review

As you would expect, the Tech 3 comes in a selection of colours and finishes. To give my specific model its full and proper name, it is a Cross Tech 3 Satin Chrome Multi-Function Pen, item #AT0090-5C. It occurs to me that this blog has been going over three years, and yet this is the first Cross writing instrument to be reviewed. Ahhh, my oversights continue to build!

The Tech 3 is fitted with three tip selections – black ballpoint, red ballpoint and 0.5mm pencil. I won’t go into any detail on the ballpoints except to say they are the usual sort of mini cartridges, and write very smoothly and produce good solid lines. Your only quibble will be the size of the ink reservoir. The ballpoint tips are coloured red and black so you know which is which.
You rotate the lower half of the pen around to push the tips out. Unlike many multi-function pens you don’t twist left or right for a particular tip. This one is just a continuous twist, you can go round and round in either direction to your hearts content. At first I thought I preferred the directional concept, you know, from the retracted position, left for red, right for black or something like that. However, after a while with the Tech 3 though I think I have been converted to this continuous twist concept - just spinning around as it were.

So, let’s select the 0.5mm pencil tip. I have sometimes felt that multi-pens suffered from more lead breakages than normal mechanical pencils, bit I didn’t notice this with the Tech 3. Like most multi-pens the Tech 3 has some tip wobble. No worse than average, but that’s definitely too much for the precise folk out there. I did sometimes hear the tip move against the body hole when I first started to write.

The lead advance mechanism is a standard push top ratchet. Like many such multi-pens it is rather laborious and imprecise feeling compared to the nice crisp mechanism that pencil fans are normally accustomed too. Ten clicks will get you about 6mm of lead, which is not a huge amount for a general writing pencil. But then again they maybe more concerned about reducing breakage from over-advancing and so on. The actual lead sleeve itself is a short cone with final short pipe section. Of course the whole tip retracts when not in use so this writing instrument is fully pocket-safe.

There is a small emergency use eraser under the top cap. You have to unscrew the cap to get at it.To refill the pencil or replace the ballpoint cartridges you simply pull the top half of the body away from the bottom half to reveal the internals. Then pull the relevant tip off its stalk and replace. For the pencil in between the ripping off and sticking back on you of course shove some leads in the tip and up the stalk. This is where it gets a little tricky. You need to be careful when pushing the pencil tip back onto the stalk that you don’t break any leads. Cross say the Tech 3 is filled with five leads, well I won’t dispute that you can get five leads in there, but personally I’d say you were pushing your luck and I’d only stick two or three in. Unless of course you like a bit of break and jam.

There is no specific grip zone or grip enhancements. My satin chrome finish seemed to offer reasonable grip though. The combination of satin and lustrous chrome trims is pleasing to the eye, and overall this is a fairly nice looking pen. Personally I think the tip is a little bit blunt and rounded, and that they could have done a little better with that part of the styling, but then that’s just my opinion. Obviously the folk who actually get paid to design these things disagree.

The Tech 3 is not a heavyweight and is fairly neutrally balanced, perhaps a little on the top heavy side of the line.

The pocket clip is the standard Cross design, good sturdy and functional, although not spring loaded. The only marking on the pen is the Cross name on the pocket clip. Overall then, this is a pretty good multi-function pen, and I enjoyed using it, and took the opportunity to use the red and black tips to underline some pencilled notes in meetings, etc.

  • Best Points – Continuous spin to select point.
  • Not So Good Points – Limited ink and lead capacity. Lead advance mechanism is a little laboured.
  • Price Range – Mid.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.

Dimensions – Length 139mm, diameter 9mm at lower body half. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.

I often like to have a themed background in my photos. I was trying to find some suitable backdrops for the Tech 3 but wasn’t having much luck. Then my neighbours turned their stereo up, and inspiration came. Unfortunately I didn’t have any suitable images to use, but I took a couple of shots against screen images that I googled. There’s no prize other than honour and glory (and maybe an empty can of XXXX) for the first person to leave a comment about the relevance of this images to the Tech 3. Sorry to most of you out there, but this quiz is slanted in favour of Aussies and Brits, and of course Kiwis too.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, well three girls are a TRIO and maybe they have a Multi use purpose. I'll stick to your review though. Nice pencil - love the satin chrome and 9mm is pleasantly slim BUT (you knew there was a BUT didn't you) that bulbous tip is a real detract point.

2 1/2p

Semi-Imperfect Role Model for Superheroes and Other Super Things ("Have no fear, imagination is here!"©) ♡™ said...

Hi, do you know what brand of pencil illustrator Peter de Séve is using in these photographs?


Michael J Corry said...

I have one of these and I used to have a rotring four in one. I prefer the Cross. The rotring had a weird system where you held the pen horizontally with the relevant symbol uppermost and pressed the top button. It was wobblier than the Cross and rattled.
You're right about the lead capacity 3 is the safe limit. The ink refills last longer than you might think being fine tipped (a minus IMO). I use Lamy refills because they come as medium.
Overall I like the Tech 3 as a useful combination when you need a pen but don't want to carry two items.
A good point - the screw cap has an O ring to keep it secure.

Kiwi-d said...

2 1/2P - well you are partway there, but there's more to the image.

Techniclick said...

As 2 1/2p said, they are a trio, but they also come in more than one color. There's a redhead and a brunette in the same way that the Cross Tech 3 writes in red and black.
Nice pen/pencil; good review.

Caitlin said...

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LauraJ said...

We're not bad, we're just drawn that way... airbrushed next, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, I was reading through this typically excellent review and I couldn't help thinking that something was missing (and I am referring to a cheeky lack of gold lame). I asked myself where are the dancing girls? Asked and answered...there they were right at the end. You knew we were going to smell a rat didn't you? You know how to play us like a cheap violin.

Barrel Of A Pencil

Anonymous said...

(In reference to your response to 2 1/2p's comment) I'll say! There certainly is more to this than meets the eye, they're identical triplets. I have to admit my eye wasn't initially drawn to their faces. Does this make me a sexist pig?


Kiwi-d said...

Well, I must admit I am a little surprised no one has got the image reference. There is only one lady in that final image, namely the "little Aussie Pop Princess", Kylie Minogue.

The image is a publicity montage from her single "Spinning Around".

I thought an Aussie or Brit out there would identify her, and I mentioned the inspiration was from my neighbours stereo. Also as mentioned I was just "spinning around" with my Tech 3 at the time. Ah well, no one wins the empty can of XXXX so that will save me on postage :-)

Kiwi-d said...

Follow up comment. Having said all that, the Trio reference, hair colours, etc was all good work, just not what I was looking for.

Anonymous said...

Well there are excuses for me - I don't listen to Kylies songs but I thought the Cryptic Barrel might have spun a story :)

2 1/2p

Dave B said...

I've got one in blue. This guy resides in my shirt pocket daily. I have several multi's (Lamy Accent, Rotring Trio, Foray) and the cross is the best so far. I'll agree that the eraser is a bit of a pain to access, but what can do? I did just recently get my hands on some lower end multi's from Pentel and Zebra, both of which seem to be decent for their respective costs. The Pentel has the bonus of EnerGel liquid gel ink and the ink supply is larger than most multi's

Kiwi-d said...

Dave B - Sure, fair call about the eraser. Seeing you have plenty of multi's, what type of mechanism do you prefer? The continuous spin type like the Cross, or the directional left and right types?

Dave B said...

I like the continuous spin mech. No matter what tip you have exposed in a 3 funtion multi either of the other tips in the next tip over, you just need to know which way to turn the mechanism. The Pentel multi is not continuous spin and they have the black ink on one end and the pencil on the other with red ink in the middle. I use the pencil and black ink more than red so to toggle between those two I have to spin all the way around past the red ink. That's not a huge deal but a wonder how all this extra turning is going to wear on the mechanism, especially since this is a lower end unit. I also like the gravity mechanisms but they have their faults at times.

Alex said...

11.99 for a 6 pack of beer?!??! Canada?

Kiwi-d said...

Well maybe thats the price in Canada too? But that advert pricing is in New Zealand Dollars, so around about US Dollars 6.50, which includes 12.5% sales tax, and a hefty special tax on alcohol. Lastly of course said Corona has of course been shipped downunder from far away Mexico.

Anonymous said...

@ Dave-B

You could swap the black and red refill positions on your Pentel. It may not match any labelling then, but at least it results in a quicker changeover for your use.

Anonymous said...


Just got this pen and wanted to add a couple of comments.

1. The max number of leads in the pencil for refilling is 3. At least that's what the manual in mine advised.

2. The idea of unscrewing the top to access the eraser is EXCELLENT. I have an older Sheaffer multi-pen from the 90s. The cap was a short slip on type and did not extend ino the cap barrel (since the mechanism was there). I can't tell you the number of times I got stressed out because the cap slipped off easily and I was hunting around for it. So for me, I like the screw on cap for the EMERGENCY eraser. That's the way I look at this eraser and I really like the fact the cap is securely fixed to the cross - the rubber seal is a nice touch too.

3. The rounded tip is to allow more room for the last extended part to rest comfortably when in the off position. Unlike some other multi-pens, the cross parts do not retract fully to the bottom position. The last one used is halfway between fully extended and fully retracted. This is the off position for the Cross and that is why the tip is shaped that way. If it were more conical like the regular Cross ballpoints, then there would be more stress of the part that is halfway extended.
(By half way extended I am referring to the position of the refill inside the barrel - from the outside the refill is in the off position)

4. The slim size and compactness of the Cross makes this my favourite of all my multi-pens - and it's durable metal also.

5. Made in Japan, not China - so fit and finish is good. I have a Cross ballpoint from China and the fit between the cap and the barrel is rubbish compared to a Cross ballpoint I have from the early 90s - when it was made in the USA.

6. I really like the continuous turn for selecting the pen/pencil to use. No indadvertent limit hitting on rotation of barrel as with others - and no wrong selection as can happen sometimes with gravity type multi-pens.

7. Finally, for anyone looking for a trio multi-pen - I highly recommend this Cross. Granted, it is more expensive than others but in this case it is worth it.


Anonymous said...

Hi...I have the Cross Tech 3 and find it so useful it's my pen of choice...plus, I always ise a fine tip! Unfortunately, Cross now only makes refills for the Tech 3 in a medium point!!! Any idea if other refills will work in this pen?!? Thanx! Q

Anonymous said...

Hi. I stumbled onto this blog while looking for instructions on how to replace the lead in the pencil. I had bought this pen for my wife for some occasion - can't remember which. And I took it back from her, as I find myself needing all three tips more often than her.I gave her my metallic blue Cross Morph to use instead. I absolutely love the pen. It's the full chrome version. Alot of colleagues have been impressed by it! I try not to drop it so that the lead doesn't break inside the pen. But I guess that happens with most mech pencils anyway. The rounded tip is not a problem for me - it adds a different style from the conventional. I use the pencil most of the time to take notes and do drawings - as the lead is easier to replace. I use the black to sign documents, and I use the red to correct documents that I am reviewing. I prefer fine tips - so that bit f news about Cross only making medium tips is a it disappointing. I should probably look around for a couple fine tip refills before they get more scarce! Cheers.
Anil. Trinidad.

Michael J Corry said...

Any standard multi pen refill will fit - Lamy, Parker, Schneider, Pelikan.
There's even a Fischer Space Pen refill which has snap off sections to adjust the length.
I use Lamy for the green option.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here tried the Parker Insignia multipen? I've had one for a few years. When I thought that I'd lost it, I tried the Cross and a couple of others. That is when I really started missing the Parker. That may be at least in part due to looks though. Mine is brushed st.steel and gold. Unfortunately it isn't made any more. The Lamy Twin-Pen looks good, though it still lacks the 14k gold bling highlights of the Parker. The Parker barrel is around 8mm too, making it a nice hold. The new Parker Executive has four colours, the fourth being either a highlighter or a stylus.

The rattle problem in the Cross shouldn't be a big issue. Because I twirl my pens, I put a piece of tissue in the Insignia's barrel curling around the refills. It isn't noticeable and it silences the rattles. After my lost/found episode, I changed that to a small piece of paper with my phone number on it which doesn't quite silence as well.


Steve said...

Cult Pens of UK are now marketing the Zebra Sharbo-X multipen - which from what I gather, you get supplied with an empty barrel and then choose the refills you want from - ballpoint (choice of colours), rollerball (choice of colours), pencil lead (chopice of lead thicknesses/grades), stylus etc - very good to customise your own multipen

eg 3 lead grades in one pen, or,
rollerball and pencil lead and stylus etc - the combinations and customisations would be up to the individual requirements.

These look to be absolutely perfect to customise for what I need - must get me one

Cult Pens Zebra Sharbo-X here:
(no affiliations)


Louis said...


Does anyone know how this pen is compared to Lamy 2000 Multipen? :o)

Dorian said...

I have several Cross Tech 3 pencils, and--strangely--some can be rotated continuously in both directions, while others can only be rotated in one direction. The bi-directional ones are smoother and more convenient to use. I'm not sure if one model has replaced the other. The instruction sheets included with the pens seem to be identical printing, other than one sheet referring to clockwise rotation.

I also have a Cross Tech 4, which I suggest you review. It is a larger device with three pens and a 0.7 mm pencil. The eraser pops up automatically when the pencil is selected. I like it a lot, except that it can only be rotated in one direction. That is a bother when going back and forth between two adjacent colors.

Dave, I liked your review very much. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I started with a Fisher Multifunction pen and had some refills left over and tried them in my Cross Tech 3 and they seem to fit fine.
The black is SU4F
The red is SU2F
Plus they wright at any angle, been using them for years.

Anonymous said...

Well despite all the carefule helpful reviewage,there is one tremendous aspect to this pen that has gone astoundingly unremarked. It's balance!! so, buy one of these because they are great pens, but then...lay it on the desk in front of you and give one end a flick. This pen will spin for hours without stopping. Well, minutes actually. Well, a long time for a pen, and it's very entertaining. I always feel very sophisticated--like I should be in the movies when I sit there flicking my pen. Completely worth the 40 bucks just to flick.

Kiwi-d said...

Hehe.. great comment.

Anonymous said...

Nice pen, however mine didn't come with any lead.
Get a magnifying glass if you want to read the directions.
Mine only twists in one direction.

John K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just got myself one of this, polished chrome. It is quite grippy despite the highly polished surface. I knew this from my experience of using a Cross fountain pen many years go. Mine came with a dried black mini cartridge so I replaced it with a blue fine Zebra that I have around. Writes pretty nice. Do like the form factor where so slim a barrel holds three decent writing nibs. Guess I better keep them two colors for spare because this Cross is going to be my go everywhere scribbling tool.

Unknown said...

Zebra D1 pen refills can not fit in as a replacement.

Larsthegreat said...

I picked up one of these in blue (pre-owned, so very inexpensive,) and, as a previous comment mentions, it does indeed spin well on a desktop. Also as mentioned by other comments, the select mechanism on mine only turns one direction. This seems a step backward to me, unless there's some compelling reason for the change.

Mountain Man said...

The Cross Tech3+ is my favorite pen, not because it is great at any one thing, but I can do most tasks well with one tool. I like its heft for its size, its balance, and its look. The protruding center ring and the balance allow it to spin for a long time on a desktop, so between that and the continuous rotation is has a decent fidget factor. I have given away probably 30 of these pens as gifts.