The Pilot Varsity is (thanks to a terrific giveaway at Pentorium) a recent addition to my growing collection of "disposable" fountain pens. These are inexpensive fountain pens, usually around three dollars or so, that are generally not intended to be refilled (although many can be refilled, with a bit of work). Their "disposable" nature kind of defeats part of the purpose of a fountain pen, in my opinion, but they are still great affordable and non-intimidating ways for beginners to get started with fountain pens. I've reviewed a couple of these fountain pens already: the Platinum Preppy and the Pilot Petit1. So how well does the Pilot Varsity compare to these?
To begin with, the Pilot Varsity sports a striped barrel with a vaguely retro-ish feel, and a black cap that is clearly marked on the end with the ink colour. The pen has a small window on one side that allows you to judge the ink supply. (And it looks like the barrel is only about half filled with ink when the pen is new.) I don't have anything to complain of with the design of this pen. It's fairly basic, but sufficient for the price. One thing that I do like: the plastic body feels quite sturdy. One of the major complaints that some have about the comparable Platinum Preppy is that it cracks easily; I doubt this would be an issue with the Varsity.
If you are familiar with the Pilot Petit1, then the nib of the Pilot Varsity is very similar to the nib of the Petit1, except that the Petit1's nib is marked with an F
One thing I do love about this particular version of the Varsity is the red ink. I don't use red ink very often, but when I do, I like an intensely saturated shade and this ink is certainly that. It is a deep yet bright shade of red (it turned out slightly lighter on the Rhodia paper than on my draft notebook paper) that definitely stands out on the page. The ink does not have much shading to it, but it looks great nonetheless.
As a final note, I should add that although the Varsity is marketed as a "disposable" fountain pen, it can actually be refilled. I don't love this pen quite enough to want to that with mine, but if you do, a quick search on the Internet should lead you to a number of articles and videos.
Overall, the Pilot Varsity is not a bad introductory fountain pen, but it's not for everyone. If you have small handwriting and prefer fine-tipped pens, you'll probably want to skip the Varsity. Personally, I find myself with no strong feelings towards it, either positive or negative, probably because of that very issue. It's a perfectly decent pen, but it simply does not suit my handwriting. If you think you'd love a bolder, broader nib, give the Pilot Varsity a try, but if you don't, I'd suggest the fine-nibbed Platinum Preppy instead.
Related reviews: Peninkcillin, No Pen Intended, Good Pens, OfficeSupplyGeek, Pen and Design, The Daily Acquisition, Life Imitates Doodles, On Fountain Pens, Simplicity Embellished, Pentorium
Tips for refilling this "disposable" fountain pen: Peninkcillin, Good Pens