Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Battle of the Pocket Notebooks: Moleskine Volant vs. Rhodia

Which is the better pocket notebook: the Moleskine Volant or the Rhodia Classic Staplebound notebook?  In this epic battle, only one notebook will emerge a winner - or will it?  Read on to discover the result.

Moleskine Volant and Rhodia Classic Staplebound notebooks, with Sharpie Pen for scale.

Round #1: Size and Ease of Use

The Moleskine Volant is the smaller of the two, measuring 6.5x10.5cm, while the Rhodia measures 7.5x12cm.  Since these are pocket notebooks, they obviously should not be too large, but very small notebooks may also be awkward to handle, especially for people with larger hands.  Personally, I found the slightly larger size of the Rhodia made the notebook a bit easier to use than the Moleskine.

Score: Moleskine 0, Rhodia 1

Round #2: Packaging

Because I am concerned about the environment and want to reduce waste, I try to buy items with less packaging as often as possible.  Although the amount of packaging may depend on where and how you buy your notebooks (in store vs. online, for example), the Rhodia was the clear winner in this case.  (I bought both of my notebooks in local stores.)

The Rhodia came with no packaging (other than a price tag), while the Moleskine came packaged in a plastic wrapper, with a paper sleeve on the outside, and a pamphlet on the history of Moleskine and two blue stickers marked "Quality Control" whose purpose is unknown on the inside.

Score: Moleskine 0, Rhodia 2

Round #3: Cover Material

The Moleskine cover has a black textured finish, with no markings other than the embossed Moleskine logo on the bottom of the back cover.  Sophisticated and understated is the look here.

The Rhodia, on the other hand, has a more casual appearance with the Rhodia logo displayed boldly in orange in the middle of the front cover.  The back cover bears another logo, information on the notebook, and a barcode, all in orange.  The glossy black cover has a smooth coating and is described as waterproof, although I haven't tested it.  What I really don't like about the Rhodia cover is that the material shows every small scratch and scuff.  It also does not feel quite as sturdy as the Moleskine cover.

Both notebooks have rounded covers, which is preferable to avoid that dreaded dog-eared appearance.

Score: Moleskine 1, Rhodia 2

Opened up: Rhodia (left) has bright white pages, Moleskine (right) has off-white pages.  (Excuse my fingers.)

Round #4: Paper

The Moleskine has off-white paper of unknown weight, with grey ruled lines 6mm apart, although the ruling seems wider because the notebook itself is so small.  The Rhodia has bright white 80g paper with violet lines 5mm apart and is available in both gridded and lined versions.

Although the crisp clean appearance of Rhodia's white paper and violet lines probably would have made it the winner in this round anyway, what sealed the deal is that the Moleskine Volant has perforated, detachable pages.  I didn't realize this when I bought the notebook (okay, I didn't read the package) and was very disappointed when I opened it up.  It just feels wrong to remove pages from a bound notebook like this.

Score: Moleskine 1, Rhodia 3

Writing samples: Moleskine (left), Rhodia (right).

Round #5: The Dreaded Pen Test

Both notebooks were enjoyable to write in and I noticed no immediate or obvious differences between the two while I was testing out the different pens.  The colours of a few pens may have looked slightly more vibrant on the off-white paper of the Moleskine than on the bright white paper of the Rhodia.  However, on closer inspection there were greater amounts of feathering with the Pentel EnerGel, Uni-ball Vision (but not the RT version), and Pilot V5 Hi-tecpoint in the Moleskine than in the Rhodia.  The lines in the Rhodia generally looked crisper than in the Moleskine.

Turning the pages, there was minimal showthrough in the Rhodia, while the Moleskine suffered from bleedthrough with the three pens mentioned above as well as with the Vision RT.  The rest of the pens showed through to some extent.

Although it depends on what sort of writing instrument you use (for example, I liked the Jetstream ballpoint and the pencil better in the Moleskine than in the Rhodia), generally the Rhodia performs better here.

Score: Moleskine 1, Rhodia 4

Writing samples, reversed: Moleskine (left), Rhodia (right).

Further Remarks

The Rhodia is staplebound, while the Moleskine has a stitched binding.  The Rhodia has 48 pages, while the Moleskine has 56 pages.  The Rhodia is made in France, while the Moleskine is made in China.  Finally, the Rhodia cost me only $2.29, while the Moleskine cost me $7.95 for a 2-pack ($3.975 each).  Of course, your prices may vary.

Conclusion

Although the Rhodia Classic Staplebound notebook came out the winner in this battle, it may not necessarily be the best pocket notebook for you.  Depending on your personal preferences, choice of writing instrument, and extent to which your notebook is a part of your fashion statement (or lack thereof), the Moleskine Volant may be the better choice.

Conduct your own tests, assign your own scores.  The battle continues.

Related reviews for Moleskine Volant: OfficeSupplyGeek, Simplicity Embellished, Life Imitates Doodles, Rob's Art Supply Reviews.

Related reviews for Rhodia Staplebound: Travel Tech Review.

15 comments:

  1. Any differences in ink drying time between the different notebooks? I have found Rhodia at a retailer here in Virginia and have found the drying time for fountain pen inks, as well as G-2 inks, is something I did not like at all. Wondering your thoughts...

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  2. Thanks for the reminder, Marco! I was going to add something in here about drying time but forgot altogether, I'm afraid.

    I don't use many fountain pens, but I just did some quick tests with my G-2 and Platinum Preppy and found that the ink takes a fair amount of time to dry in both notebooks, although it seems to take longer to dry in the Moleskine than in the Rhodia. About 10 seconds for the G-2 and 12 seconds for the Preppy in the Rhodia, and 15 seconds for both pens in the Moleskine.

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  3. very interesting, very helpful. OK, actually, knew nothing of Rhodia - I'm kinda "new" in this paper pursuit, having discovered your blog recently and also having been a notebook junkie for years but usually getting them as gifts. Now, I'm searching out what I want/ love on my own.
    I don't use fountain pen so Rhodia sounds good to me, drying time or no drying time.

    HOpe I can find it/some locally...

    Loved this review.
    Ciao.

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  4. Well done!

    If you're interested in widening the field just a bit, give tries to Clairefontaine's equivalent-sized notebooks (made in France),
    and to Field Notes Brand (made in USA). These are my two favorites.

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  5. Thanks, speculator! I'd love to try the Clairefontaine and Field Notes notebooks. My budget for new supplies is not large so it may be a while before I get around to trying these out, but they are on my list of items that I would like to try.

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  6. I remember reading a review some years ago between a Mazda RX7 and a Porsche something or other. The review said that the Mazda was faster, accelerated better, had better road-holding, was more comfortable, more economical and cheaper to buy BUT . . . you guessed . . it simply wasn't a Porsche. So you can say what you like about the Rhodia, but addicts like me will always stick with the Porsche . . .I mean, Moleskine . .

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  7. I must admit, Rhodia simply does not appeal to me. The orange logo, the name - it just all shoves it into ordinary notebook category for me, as oppose to a journal, and for me, there is a huge different. I will pay £10 for a journal, not for a notebook. Moleskine on the other hand, works on every level for me. Snobbish? Certainly.

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  8. Thanks for the comments, rowlandjones and Dolly! I know that for some people, Moleskine simply is the notebook, whether because of its iconic status, purported history, or classic good looks. Some people also dislike the prominent logo on the cover of the Rhodia notebooks and journals. I'm an experimenter myself, and I love trying out all the different notebooks and journals that I can find. I haven't yet found that perfect notebook, so the quest will continue...

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  9. I really liked this comparison and I would love to see others (Field Notes, Daycraft, others I may not even know about yet!)

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  10. Thanks, PointSpecial! I'll see what I can do, but, as I pointed in my reply to an earlier comment, I do have a limited budget for notebooks and there is a limited availability in my area. I'd love to do more comparisons myself, too.

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  11. If you get a chance, try out the Leuchtturm 1917 also. As classy as the Moleskine but with better paper & better features overall.

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  12. I love Rhodia paper, but the Moleskine Mini Volant is the perfect size for my pants pocket. Rhodia does make a mini notebook, but it wasn't in your review. The Rhodia cover is much longer-lasting than the Moleskine. The Moleskine cover starts to come apart at the corners after awhile. The Rhodia cover, with its waterproof (yes, it is!) cover, does not come apart. I can buy the Moleskine Mini Volant at Barnes & Noble for $5.95 for a 2-pack. The Rhodia Mini Notebook must be ordered online for $2.40-3.00. I used to buy them at the local college bookstore, but they dropped the Rhodia line. (Doh!) With shipping added, Rhodia is no longer a bargain. Conclusion? If you can find the Rhodia Mini Notebooks, they are the perfect pocket notebook. Rhodia paper is wonderful. Otherwise, the Moleskine Mini Volant Notebooks are a good second choice. BTW, I would RATHER have perforated detachable pages, like those in the Mini Volant. Makes it easy to update your notebook, and to tear-off pages to pass a notes to friends. And while most Moleskine paper is death to fountain pen ink, the Mini Volant has thicker tougher paper than any other Moleskine I've tried. Works for my Pilot Varsity fountain pen. Come join our Facebook group for the Varsity, here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/197623255226/

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  13. I am partial to a Moleskine notebook that measures 2.5 x 4 inches and fits perfectly anywhere. I don't know if Moleskine has an actual name for them, but they are available in packs of 3 at Staples. The unlined pages are perforated for easy removal and I'd be lost without having one with me at all times.
    Jo Silverman

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    Replies
    1. Jo, the size and perforated pages makes it sound like a Volant, similar to the one I reviewed in this post, but unlined rather than lined. I love its portable size and sleek cover, even though the paper is not as good as the Rhodia.

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  14. Rhodia is better in every way. Moleskins are for people who know nothing about paper and proper writing mediums aka. fountain pen. Moleskins are made in china while Rhodia's paper is made by clairefontaine who is the premiere luxury paper maker in the world. Rhodia paper in their webbies is off white now and it comes in blank as well, also the covers are more simply designed, and of course the paper is better just as its always been. Moleskins are overrated and over priced, I can name a handful of better brands off the top of my head: Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Qua Vidis, Paper blanks.. etc etc.

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