Parker IM Review

I had two of these pens, one of which I paid $8 for, the other one I just sold to a friend for the same price. I made out poorer, because the pen I got I don’t think is as attractive, but, on the other hand, it writes with a medium line, which is quite a bit nicer than writing with a fine line that I had on the black gold trim pen. So, I’m pretty familiar with the pen. In my Parker Urban review, I suggested this pen instead of it, which I maintain still. If you want an intro to Parker pens, I still suggest a Parker Frontier, or 45, but this is a solid second choice.

Appearance: 7/10.

I’m flip flopping on this thing. On a gold/black trim, it looks okay. In most others, it doesn’t. Like the one I have, for example.

Eugh!

I’ll be honest: I don’t know anything about design. I’m sure the cross etchings there on the cap are supposed to look like something else, or at least evoke some kind of past design style. Whatever that design style is, it’s objectively hideous. I think maybe only Catalan Modernism is uglier.

What a hack Gaudi was.

So, the Designe Uglée cap is a little off-putting, but the rest of the pen is okay, right? Yes. It is okay. There is nothing to not like about it, because it has, functionally, no design at all.

Whoever designed this pen must have been told “Make a pen for the most boring man in the world.” But then, when he did it, they realized they needed something extra, then told some intern to make the cap to try to breathe some life in it. Unfortunately, the cap has SARS.

Now, it sounds like I’m insulting the pen’s design. This is because I am. However, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Like I said, it’s okay. There are nice things to it. For example, it wasn’t designed with a ruler. It’s thicker in the middle and only slightly tapered on the ends. Compare to a Parker 45 to see a more aggressive taper, or a Vector to see some more aggressive rulering.

I'm switching up those quarters, dude. Look at that!

A Parker 45. I’m switching up those quarters, dude. Look at that!

And that metal grip section is pretty nice. Fun texture and look to it. It’s like the reverse of what Parker does normally…except on the Vector. Now this actually makes sense. The design is actually an evolution of the Vector. For real! Once upon a time, there was a pen called the Vector.

Twins!

As you can see, this pen looks very much like the IM I bought for $8. Except, somehow the chiseled metal cap looks a little better. And, actually, the section isn’t a nice brushed metal, but more of a shiny chrome. Despite the incredible and obvious similarities between these pens, however, there was a stopgap. This was called the Parker Vector XL.

If the Vector and the IM had a child, and the child joined a Las Vegas based percussion performance group, this would be it.

So here we’re seeing the brushed section come in, and the start of the cap on the cap, but we still have a Vector style no feathered clip, this one not inherited from the Parker Arrow, but a new design entirely. The IM, in a few markets, was referred to by another name: the Vector Mk. 2. This is kind of weird, since I’m about 80% sure Parker still sells the Vector, though I might be wrong. In 2009, Parker dumped a lot of their models to focus on only a few, like the Urban and the IM, though those are functionally the same and inhabit the same price point. We lost the Latitude, 45, 100 and the Frontier for this, Parker? Come on.

Anyway, like I was saying, this pen is as inoffensive as it gets, so nothing actually wrong with it, and the section is nice.

The IM section and nib. Actually the best looking part of this pen, and it's not close, either. This is the Rock N Rye of the Faygo variety pack.

The IM section and nib. Actually the best looking part of this pen, and it’s not close, either. This is the Rock N Rye of the Faygo variety pack that is this pen.

For those familiar with Parker Flighters, you’ll notice that the brushing on this metal section of the pen is extremely coarse. The flighters are often sandblasted in addition to being brushed, but it’s still very fine. If your eyes were closed and your buddy asked you to feel the barrel of his pen, and you trust this guy (cause it’s a suspicious request for a person), you would just feel metal in a flighter pen. However, if he asked you to grab his nib section (heh), then you’d absolutely feel the texture on this. That’s how significant it is, and it looks it. I’ll go into it more in the build quality section.

You may also notice that I haven’t trashed the nib yet, despite me complaining about that exact same nib in the Pilot Metropolitan review, calling it boring. It was, on the Parker Urban, a pen that is anything but boring. Read my review on that to get my full opinion, plus a Christina Hendricks photo. Here, however, it fits. This is a smallish feeling pen though large for Parker, and the nib is small and skinny…and it somehow fits here. You get to see a bit more of it than you see in other pens fitted with this nib, too, like the Vector, the Urban, the Reflex, the Facet, the 88, the Esprit, the Beta, etc. It has some little grooves on it that look pretty good with this pen. So, the pen body itself ain’t so bad. A solid 9/10 there, because, again, there is nothing to dislike about the barrel and the section looks really good.

But the cap. My lord, the cap. This must be the ugliest thing ever put on a Parker pen.

Okay. Maybe not the ugliest. BUT BESIDES THE REFLEX PARALLELOGRAM CLIP, the ugliest thing on a Parker Pen.

Where do I start? The chrome fez? The tiny clip? The terrible lines? The fact that it looks like squidward?

Where do I start? The chrome fez? The tiny clip? The terrible lines? The fact that it looks like a depressed Squidward?

 

Told you.

Told you. Man, I have hit a low point. I just put three pictures in a row, one of them a Squidward painting I did on the toilet.

Now, when I say that, let’s get this straight: I don’t think Parkers are almost ever ugly. At worst, they’re not notable…except for a few exceptions. This is one of them. The cap isn’t THAT ugly, but it’s a solid 3/10. Some of the other IM caps aren’t so bad, but this is not one of those, so I’m reviewing this one. Quit yer bellyachin. I think the thing that annoys me the least on the cap is the fez.

That cap looks like it should be living in Cairo helping out Indiana Jones. I really REALLY do not like how they stuck a big chrome fez on the end of the cap of the pen. It makes it unbalanced if you are a person who posts your pens, and it makes it ugly for everyone else in the room who is silently judging you for that choice. Parker has done a lot of caps in its days, but this one might be the only one with a fez on it. As a small demonstration, here are a few Parker pens, none of which cost much more than this one.

Huh. Only one has a conehead.

Looking at this pile of Parkers, the cap cap looks less like a fez and more like Dan Aykroyd circa 1978. We have, top to bottom, a Vector, and Arrow, an Urban, a Frontier, a Reflex, the IM, and a 45.

Now, what I did on this thing was align the top of the clip with the left margin line on the paper. They don’t look aligned due to perspective, but trust me on this, they are. We can see that the IM cap sticks up way farther out than other Parker caps, and, annoyingly, the clip is much smaller.

It looks it too. When eyeballing the IM, I first though “What the hell is wrong with that clip? Why’s it so small?” It’s not just smaller in comparison to the cap than the other Parkers, it’s actually legitimately smaller as well. This pen is larger than every single pen pictured. Every single goddamn one of them. And it has the smallest clip. This doesn’t do well for it. It looks like it has a tiny little face on what would otherwise be a not entirely hideous pen.

“Hello. I’m tiny faced Mitt Romney. I’ll be your Parker IM for the evening.”

Can we look at that clip again, though?

Where do I start? The chrome fez? The tiny clip? The terrible lines? The fact that it looks like squidward?

Note the fletching on the arrow. Was it done with a butter knife by an arthritic toddler? It’s almost undefined. My $1 Chinese Sonnet look alike I have has a better clip than this. See my Parker Urban review for some pictures of that pen.

The work put into making this cap look well built is absolutely abysmal.

Build Quality: 7/10.

The pen isn’t actually built with bad stuff, it’s just built poorly. They spared every expense to make it seem like they spared no expense. To explain, I’ll continue with the cap.

So, we can see the fletching is not only indistinct, but it’s also uneven. Some of the feathers are longer than others, and the spacing and angle is screwed up. In addition to this, the lines accenting the cap look less like they were done with a butter knife by a toddler, so that’s good. They look more like they were done with a butter knife by an adult. Hint: this is still bad.

Man. Those...those are lines.

Man. Those…those are lines.

If we continue to look at the cap, we can see the Parker logo and the date code, both stamped with the same level of incompetence and/or apathy. The definition is so bad, it looks like what you’d see on a fake. Except I bought one of these from a reputable dealer before I got rid of it, and it was the same way. So there. This is real.

Now, the thing is, this pen feels really nice, and you can tell it was made with good materials. For example, my pen weighs exactly one ounce. That was designed and engineered well, and is the perfect pen weight. It’s got very little plastic in it, too. The lacquer is top notch, and I don’t see any blemishes on the finish.

It actually reminds me very much of a Chinese pen. Those pens often use good materials, are nice and hefty, and are finished okay, but once you get down to brass tacks, are about as well made as a Play-Doh hamburger from your niece. The pen doesn’t have any made in France or UK markings on it, and Parker has opened a Chinese factory, so there’s a non zero probability that this is a Chinese pen.

Both the section AND the barrel have metal threads. Great materials here.

Both the section AND the barrel have metal threads. Great materials here.

But, even in the section with metal on metal threads, something of a quality rarely found in these pens, the crappiness of workmanship is seen. The threads on the section are wavy, rough, and uneven. I do not like it when my metal pen doesn’t screw in as well as a plastic Jinhao. That’s just silly.

If we continue going around the pen, we see a little more of the wildly variable build quality. The section does feel nice, and it is all metal. Here, the crappy part is actually a feature: because the brushed nature of the metal on the section is so rough, it actually keeps your fingers where they should be on the pen for however long they should be there. It doesn’t get slippery or anything. That was a happy accident. It’s also an easy wipe off for refilling.

Refilling and Maintenance: 7/10.

It’s nigh impossible to remove the nib. But they don’t have any aftermarket options, either, so who cares? The pen can be flushed easily using the included converter, and Parker carts are all over the place. This is not a hard pen to refill, which you’ll be doing a lot, because the pen is strangely a very fun writer.

Performance: 8/10.

The pen uses the same modified Vector nib as many of Parker's other cheap pens. This means problems.

The pen uses the same modified Vector nib as many of Parker’s other cheap pens. This normally means problems.

The pen skips sometimes. It is also loud. These are things that have ruined pens for me in the past…but somehow on this one it doesn’t matter much. The skipping is for maybe a half a letter per page, and the loudness doesn’t translate into scratchiness, but there is feedback. I don’t normally like any of this stuff…but on this pen, it’s great. The pen is not, objectively, a good writer, I don’t think, but it is somehow desperately fun to use. It is so fun, I brought it to school the other day to power through a few pages of notes, and then stayed up last night just writing in my notebook for fun. What the heck is wrong with me? I had even filled it with black ink, an ink I don’t like! If I were to go to my notebook right now, and pick up a pen to write with, it would actually be this stupid little pen I don’t want to like. GRAHH.

The line it writes is a standard medium.

Fine, B, B, M, M, M, from top. You know what my favourite kind of kitten is? Scottish fold munchkin cats. Here's some Youtube videos. You can thank me later.

F, B, B, M, M, M, from top. You know what my favourite kind of kitten is? Scottish fold munchkin cats. Here’s some Youtube videos. You can thank me later.

So, in the above picture, we can even see some of the skipping the pen does. It’s really not this pronounced normally. We can also see my Monteverde Impressa also skipped, and that rarely happens. I wonder if this paper is a little screwy? Regardless, like I said, the pen is objectively mediocre, but subjectively it is fantastic. I cannot explain it.

Value: 7/10.

The pen normally runs $19-20. Sometimes you can see them on places like Goulet Pens with special finishes for more money, but that’s out of the norm. Because of the fact that this pen is not terrible for that price, is fun to use, and looks all right from really far away, then I’m okay with that.

Conclusion: 7.2/10.

In a long line of 7s, this should come as no surprise. I posted in my Urban review that I would recommend this pen over the Urban every time for a new Parker, and I do. But…that’s only if you want a brand new Parker. There are much much better pens in this price range. The Pilot Metropolitan, some new old stock Frontiers or 45s, that Herlitz Tornado if you like plastic, and if you buy a Baoer 388 and replace its nib with a Knox nib, you can get out paying slightly less for a much better pen.

So, buy it if you want to have fun writing, or if you want a brand new Parker and don’t want to drop the dough for a Sonnet.

Here’s some terrible writing.

CAM00599 - Edited

 

4 Comments on Parker IM Review

  1. Randy Schwartz
    June 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm (3 years ago)

    A compliment, an observation, and a question to be answered later. You have hit the pen on the cap in pointing out that Parkers are made for people who want to impart the notion that they are inoffensive,and easily-ignored, corporate middle-mangers.(Was there ever a blander instrument than a Parker Jotter? It was made for the Jack Lemmon character in “The Apartment.”) Good work. But here’s the thing about cheap Parkers: these fuglies are, in my experience, indestructable. I’ve owned a Vector for five years, and though the thing is too small for my hand, it writes all the time and every time–this despite any care and feeding. Over that period, a pampered TWSBI and two Kawecos have bit the dust. I’m just saying.

    And now, an irrelevant question for you to explore at some future date: Any idea why those cheap Jinhao Safari clones write twice as well as the originals, which cost six times more? I’ve used three of the knock-offs incessantly for a couple months, and they still perform lots better than the originals. And Jinhao quality control sucks. Maybe you know the answer.

    Regards, as usual,

    Reply
  2. Randy Schwartz
    June 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm (3 years ago)

    A compliment, an observation, and a question to be answered later. You have hit the pen on the cap in pointing out that Parkers are made for people who want to impart the notion that they are inoffensive,and easily-ignored, corporate middle-mangers.(Was there ever a blander instrument than a Parker Jotter? It was made for the Jack Lemmon character in “The Apartment.”) Good work. But here’s the thing about cheap Parkers: these fuglies are, in my experience, indestructable. I’ve owned a Vector for five years, and though the thing is too small for my hand, it writes all the time and every time–this despite any care and feeding. Over that period, a pampered TWSBI and two Kawecos have bit the dust. I’m just saying.

    And now, an irrelevant question for you to explore at some future date: Any idea why those cheap Jinhao Safari clones write twice as well as the originals, which cost six times more? I’ve used three of the knock-offs incessantly for a couple months, and they still perform lots better than the originals. And Jinhao quality control sucks. Maybe you know the answer.

    Regards, as usual,

    Reply

2Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Parker IM Review

  1. […] Ahh, the beautiful Urban, with an ugly nib. Weirdly, this nib looks great on the IM. […]

  2. […] Ahh, the beautiful Urban, with an ugly nib. Weirdly, this nib looks great on the IM. […]

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