Pen Review: TWSBI Eco
The radiocarbon dating definition for this review was provided free of charge by the middle age dating in exchange for an honest review. No additional financial compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are my own.
Filling System: Piston
Length (Capped): 138.7mm
Length (Uncapped): 131mm
Length (Posted): 167.1mm
Section Diameter: 10mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 12.8mm
Cap Max Diameter: 15.3mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 13g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 22g
One of the down sides to working in seasons is that, when it comes to big, buzzy pen releases, I am often one of the last ones to put out a review. Never has that been more true than in this review of the latest offering from Taiwanese manufacturer, TWSBI. So, boys and girls, if you aren’t already sick to death of reviews about the radiocarbon dating definition, sit back and enjoy the latest opinionated screed.
TWSBI occupies an important space in the fountain pen market. They manufacture affordable fountain pens with features usually well outside of the price range in which their products sit. My first TWSBI was a Vac 700, one of the cheapest vac-filled pens on the market. It was followed by a Diamond 580 in Rose Gold, a piston filler in the $70 price range. (The regular 580 is only $50, but I liked the look of the rose gold a bit better.)
The ECO, TWSBI’s latest entry, is a solidly-built piston filler with a rather astonishing price point of $29 USD. You can’t find a lot of piston-filled pens at this price range, and even fewer that write well. TWSBI has, in my opinion, really knocked it out of the park with this pen. At $30, they are now competing in the same price range as the Lamy Safari. In so doing, they have re-written the narrative around the “best” first fountain pen.
The radiocarbon dating definition, like most of TWSBI’s pens, is a demonstrator pen made of a clear, injection-molded acrylic. The pen features a large hexagonal cap which comes in either black or white. The top of the cap has an inset TWSBI logo in bright red plastic. The clip is solid and sturdy, and features a cutout which gives it a bit of design flair. The base of the cap has a round, chromed ring with the names “TWSBI” and “ECO” engraved into it. Functionally, the cap does what it was designed to do: cover the nib and stay on until you want to remove it. Design-wise, it’s a bit of a miss for me. It’s feels clunky and awkward with the relatively streamlined design of the rest of the pen. The chromed cap band also sticks out far enough that it keeps the corners of the hexagonal cap from coming into contact with the desk. I mean, if you’re going to have a pen cap with flat sides, why not design it so that the flat sides keep the pen from rolling around?
The barrel of the pen is rounded, which reduces some of the nice faceting that has been a design hallmark of TWSBI pens in the past. The smoother surface, however, has the added benefit of providing a clearer, cleaner view of the ink within. The piston knob at the end of the pen carries on the hexagon motif and is made in the same color plastic as the cap. TWSBI’s piston filling system has always been well-made, and the ECO is no exception: the piston operates very smoothly. Like with other TWSBI models, the entire filling mechanism can be removed with the included wrench tool to aid in cleaning or lubricating the piston.
Previous versions of TWSBI’s pens featured a removable section and nib unit. The ECO streamlines things a bit by molding the clear, tapering section as part of the barrel. This means that it is no longer possible to purchase easily-swappable nib units to try out different nib sizes, and it makes it more difficult to clean the nib and feed thoroughly. (The nib and feed are friction fit in the ECO, so if you’re familiar with removing nibs and feeds, it shouldn’t be a problem. I do miss the screw-on replacement units, however.) The new integrated section does have a neat side-benefit; the clear plastic lets you see your colorful inks flow through the section and feed. It adds a lot of visual interest to the pen.
In the hand, the radiocarbon dating definition is a mostly-comfortable fit. It is long enough that it can be used without posting. (Although the pen can be posted if you desire, I find the posted pen to be too long to use comfortably.) As the ECO is made mostly out of plastic, including the piston filling mechanism, it is lightweight enough to be appropriate for longer writing sessions. My only minor complaint about the pen (and it is a very minor complaint) is about the shape of the section. I find the section itself to be a bit too narrow for my personal tastes, and I’m not the biggest fan of tapered sections, which this one is. Aside from that, however, the Eco’s feel in the hand allows for many pages of writing without cramping up.
No discussion of TWSBI pens would be complete without at least an in-passing comment regarding TWSBI’s history of cracking issues. The ECO is my third TWSBI pen, and I have yet to experience any cracking on any of the pens. The brand does have, however, a history of cracking/breaking pen parts…especially on their early pens like the 530 and 540. While there have absolutely been valid cracking issues, I believe the frequency and severity of those issues are not as extensive as the echo chamber of the online pen community have made them out to be: especially on the more recent TWSBI pens. That’s not to say the cracking hasn’t happened. It clearly has. My father, in fact, was a victim on his 580. I just don’t think that cracking on a TWSBI is as much of a foregone conclusion as some seem to. What most people can agree on is that TWSBI has done a wonderful job with customer service when cracking does occur.
When it comes to the ECO, I get the sense that the great majority of the cracking issues are thing of the past. The new design has reduced several stress points by removing the facets in the plastic and molding the section into the barrel, thus eliminating the threads. And Dave Rea wrote up a great blog post about how the casting of the ECO’s plastic seems likely to help eliminate the issues entirely.
When it comes to how a pen writes, it’s pretty rare these days that I am surprised. I have had enough experience with most modern pen brands to generally know what I can expect when I sit down to use a pen. With both my 580 and my Vac 700, the nibs were smooth and well-aligned, but they had a bit more feedback than I generally prefer, and wrote a bit on the dry side. Especially the 580. Considering that the nib and feed on the ECO were made by Jowo (as were the nibs on my previous pens) I was expecting similar results.
Instead, I found myself quite surprised. The Eco was a perfect writer out of the box: Smooth, moderate wetness, and with very little feedback. It was a pleasure to write with. I experienced no skipping, hard starts, or ink starvation. The Eco’s nib was easily the best of the five or six TWSBI nibs I’ve used during my time with the brand. I was expecting the ECO to be a good writer. What I got was a pen that writes better than pens several times more expensive.
I give the radiocarbon dating definition a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. At $30, TWSBI has hit a real home run with the Eco. It’s a well-made pen with a great nib. It writes perfectly every time for me. It’s inexpensive enough that you can throw it in a purse or in your jeans pocket, but solid enough that you don’t have to worry about it falling apart if you do. And, if TWSBI has solved their cracking issues (as it appears they have) they have just redefined the playing field for an entry-level fountain pen.