Multipen systems make an immense amount of sense. Why carry around two, three, four or more pens of different colors when you can carry around one pen with multiple inserts of various sizes. There are; however, some concessions to make in order to gain the convenience of the all-in-one multipen system. First, the barrel of your average multipen is wider than most other writing implements. Second, the options for refills are limited and often proprietary. I haven’t done a rigorous survey of all the multipen options out there, but I suspect most use ballpoint technology and only a handful work with refills not made by the pen manufacturer. So, when I find a multipen option that doesn’t feel like I’m writing with a cigar and gives me some flexibility with respect to the refills then I give it a serious look. Specifically, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto comes in a variety of body sizes and, although proprietary, the range of colors available for the gel refills provides a version of flexibility.
As you can see from the pictures, I tried the Coleto 3 and the Coleto Me (4 refills). Both use the same Hi-Tec-C multipen refills that come in several colors and a few different point sizes. Let me start with point sizes and then I’ll get into the differences between the Coleto 3 and the Coleto Me. The choice of point size actually factors into another point regarding multipens and that is build quality and noise. Because multipens involve several moving parts, these pens often have a rattle sound here and clicking noise there. Also, the deployed refill can demonstrate a bit more wiggle compared to single-refill retractable pens. Afterall, a refill in a multipen needs to move forward and away from the inside wall of the pen body as it advances out the hole. (By the way, is there an official name for the hole where the refill pops out of a retractable pen?) So, what does all this have to do with point size? It seems to me that the thinner point size (0.4 mm in my case) grabs the paper a bit more which causes the refill to show more wiggle than a broader point size (0.5 mm in my case). Of course, much of this can be due to writing style but using a ultrafine tip in a multipen seems to be a no-go for me. My advice – if you’re interested in writing with anything smaller than a 0.5 mm Hi-Tec-C point, go with the single-refill stick option. The thin point needs the added build quality (i.e. less wiggle) of a dedicated pen body.
As for the gel ink itself, there’s not much I can add that likely hasn’t been said elsewhere. The inks are vibrate and the 0.5 mm point size lays down a solid but certainly not wet line. In terms of line consistency, all the colors I tried (black, blue/black, blue, aqua blue and orange) behaved well save for black. It could have been my particular refill, but the black offered the most hesitancy to start but not so much that I grew frustrated with the refill. I’m not a big black ink guy anyway, so not much of a loss there.
Between the Coleto 3 and the Coleto Me, I’m going with the 3. The Me does have a simple grip that works well but the barrel diameter is just wide enough to be a touch awkward for me. Also, the rounder shape of the plastic tip seems an awkward contrast to the thin refill tip coming out. There’s also a noticeable step up between the grip section and the upper body of the Coleto Me that detracts from what should be, given the thinner point and gel ink, a sleek feeling writing experience. The Coleto 3 is a touch thinner at the grip section which I like and shows more width consistency along the entire length of the pen. I think I like the contoured grips of the Coleto 3, but I’m not entirely sold. Also, compared to the Me, the plastic tip of the 3 is more cone-shaped and less rounded which just seems to match the line of a thin gel refill better. In general, the Coleto 3 feels a touch more solid. The Coleto Me is not poorly built. It’s just that the Coleto 3 beats the Me by a nose in the overall feel of the build quality.
Should you buy a Coleto multipen of some sort? In short, I would say yes. The pens are inexpensive enough and the refills offer plenty of color and size variety that it’s worth spending $15-$20 on a couple of pen bodies and a few refills to see what you like. But don’t expect a precise writing experience or to get a pen that you’ll want to write with for extended writing sessions. I’ve gotten a fair amount of use out of mine when helping students with problems solving and for grading. The multiple colors are helpful for highlighting different portions of problems and the orange color stands out nicely when marking papers. One quick word of caution. I did notice that the refill skipped a bit after I wrote over writing done in pencil. It seems the graphite interferes with the refill tip for a just a bit before the normal flow returns.