Studio Neat Mark One

I went with the White/Copper option.
I went with the White/Copper option.

For the last year-plus I’d been using an Apple iPad/Pencil/GoodNotes combo for taking notes, which was working fine — until I lost my Apple Pencil this past summer. Replacing it would cost $99, but there was the additional factor of whether my iPad Pro (one of the original 9.7″ Pro models) was due for a replacement anyway, which would involve buying a second-generation Pencil1.

To hedge my bets I returned to taking notes with pen and paper. I’d wanted to try out the Studio Neat Mark One for a while, but didn’t like the default refill — 0.7 is a bit too wide a line for my tastes (my everyday pen is a 0.38mm Uniball Signo). A helpful refill guide by The Well-Appointed Desk convinced me that it was possible to find a finer-line refill, so I put in an order for the Mark One. The clicky mechanism is very satisfying and the Cerakote coating looks nice and has a bit of texture to it. I got the White/Copper variant — if you’re considering the Mark One, be warned that ink and dirt show up very quickly on the finish. It doesn’t really bother me, but if that would drive you wild the Black versions are very nice-looking as well.

I’ve since tried a bunch of different Parker-style refills, as well as D1 refills (Shapeways sells this handy D1-to-Parker adapter). Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  • Zebra D1 0.4mm w/ Tofty adapter: a bit too scratchy and thin when used with my Midori MD notebook
  • Zebra D1 0.5mm w/ Tofty adapter: Great line, feels smooth on the Midori paper, but there’s juuuust a tiny hint of tip movement when writing
  • Schmidt Easyflow 9000 0.5mm: A hybrid ballpoint/gel refill, it’s a little too close to the ballpoint end for my taste
  • Moleskine Gel 0.5mm: Felt scratchy on the Midori paper, and also didn’t quite fit the Mark One properly— it’s like there’s a lot of friction and it is hard to depress, and takes a while to retract
  • Ohto Flash Dry 0.5mm: My current favorite (Ohto also makes my favorite ballpoint pen2) — it’s smooth, dries quickly … I just wish they also made a Blue refill
Trying out some refills.
Trying out some refills.

Between a new pen, trying out refills, and trying out new notebooks3 I’ve spent more than the $994 I would have spent on a replacement Apple Pencil, but there’s something about writing on paper again that feels right. I may still return to the iPad Pro/Pencil for art and photo editing, but for now I’m staying analog with notetaking.


  1. Leave it to my brain to turn a $99 expense into a potential $1000+ expense. 
  2. The Ohto Horizon. Great damping on the knock mechanism. 
  3. More on that later. 
  4. The irony is not lost on me.