Once upon a time, Parker was the world’s leading pen brand, known for its quality and consistency. It spawned such classics as the 45, Falcon, and of course, the legendary 51. Now, Parker is a byword for cheap and low quality. Despite remaining popular in schools, Parker at times feels like the laughing stock of the pen world.
The Parker Frontier is one of these modern models that isn’t quite cheap enough for what it is. It’s one step up from the Parker Vector, and aims to compete with the Lamy Safari, low end Pilots etc. I’ve used this as a spare pen alongside my EDC for a while, so of course, here’s my review.
The Frontier comes equipped with Parker’s customary steel nib, an ugly affair that has a single thin line that can hardly be called an engraving (see photos for details). However, a nib’s job is to write, and it just about manages this. At first it suffered severe hard starting, but after a thorough wash and re-inking, I finally got it to put ink on the page. When it did start writing, the nib was fairly smooth, with significant tooth, and almost no flex. Whilst I wouldn’t write essays with this pen, it’s fairly comfortable for jotting notes, or as a backup to a better pen.
Parker showed all the imagination of a toddler with a crayon when designing this. Cheap resin? Check. Torpedo shape? Check. Plain black without even an attempt at decorations? Check. This is possibly the most forgettable pen I have, with almost nothing to differentiate it from the millions of other black resin FPs from a host of other brands. I do have to complement Parker’s decision to use a steel cap, which adds a touch of flavour to an otherwise utterly dull pen, and contrasts well with the shiny resin of the pen’s body. Unfortunately, said lid is a pretty poor fit, frequently falling off of the back when posted, and is loose when capped (although I don’t think it would fall off, it certainly feels like it). The pen is also quite small, meaning it is not very comfortable in my hands, especially as it is so light, meaning you have to actually press down when writing. It would be almost impossible for anyone with moderately sized hands to write with this pen uncapped, which is a shame, because it does not cap well, in terms of function or aesthetics.
I touched on this in the last section, but this pen feels cheap (it really isn’t. This is the same price as a score of Jinhao x750s – each of which is a better pen!) My largest complaint is the rubber section (a problem that I have with several parkers, the Lamy Nexx, and far too many others). Not only are they not comfortable to hold when writing, but rubber sections also conceal ink, which leaves you with a surprise ink stain if you’re fortunate enough to pick this pen up after refilling. If using blue ink, these stains are perceptible on the section, but incredibly difficult to remove. On the bright side, however, they add a much needed splash of colour to the pen – so the pen might actually get prettier over time!
I’ve already covered some of my issues with the lid, although it is saved by Parker’s arrow clip, which is the only sign of design flair on the pen, and amazingly, actually keeps a pen in the pocket. You’d be amazed to know how many £300+ pens have nonfunctional clips, so the Parker arrow clip is a breath of fresh air. Still, that doesn’t excuse the rest of the pen, including the cheap screws that mean the barrel does not fit perfectly to the section – something that annoys me every time I uncap the pen.
The Parker Frontier is a cheap pen, and has to be reviewed with this in mind. However, it’s not as cheap as I would have liked it to be given its many flaws. It looks unimpressive, but due to the rubber section and poor screws, it doesn’t pass as professional either. It does write, but badly, and Parker’s proprietary system means you have to buy a converter if you want to use decent ink. It’s not a pen that I would actually buy (I got it in a trade with a friend involving several of my other cheap pens), but it does serve as a decent backup. Even then, there are better options elsewhere – the Lamy Safari and anything from Jinhao comes to mind – but you’ll just have to wait for those reviews to come!
By Oliver Bennett