Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sailor HighAce Neo fountain pen review

The Sailor HighAce Neo is one of the least expensive fountain pens in my growing collection. I bought it with the intent to use it with a green ink. The green ink I settled on is Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel which I reviewed in my last post. I thought I would match the pen and ink colors so I got the HighAce in green. Red, blue and black are also available.

Sailor HighAce Neo fountain pen

The HighAce Neo comes with an F (Fine) nib and, as far as I know, this is the only nib offered by Sailor in this pen. The problem, you see, is that Japanese nibs are perhaps the finest in the world and, as a rule, they are thinner than, say, an European nib of the same designation. This means that the HighAce Neo with an F nib writes very fine indeed. But more on this later.

The Sailor HighAce Neo is a very thin pen. It is the thinnest pen I have and that's not necessarily a good thing. I don't mind the thinness. It's just that I've got used to some of the better fountain pens I have. Good pens generally are thick and heavy. I believe I have become a fan of thick and heavy so the HighAce Neo looses a few points in this aspect. But, as I've said before, I can still write very well with this pen.

Sailor HighAce Neo fountain pen

A thin plastic pen usually means light weight and, in this regard, the Sailor HighAce Neo doesn't (or does) disappoint. It is one of my lightest fountain pens, on par with the Platinum Preppy.

At $15, it is certainly affordable but when you factor in the Sailor converter, you end up paying half again the price of the pen. A converter is another thing that I am no longer desperate for. I've learned my lesson: converters sometimes are not needed, especially for cheap pens. Instead, it's easier to just fill up cartridges with ink, by using a syringe. Speaking of cartridges, the HighAce doesn't come with one.

One of the best aesthetic features of this pen is the cap, which is metal and has a satin finish. This makes the cap feel a lot more premium than the rest of the pen. The plastic material of the barrel is not exactly cheap, nor is it extremely high quality. However, it does feel and look better than Noodler's fountain pens. The barrel (the green part) is not shiny but also exhibits a satin-like finish. It tapers down toward the end where it has a hole, to prevent people from converting it to an eyedropper, I presume. Wicked move, Sailor.

Sailor HighAce Neo fountain pen

Moving on to the section, I'm not a big fan of the shiny black plastic it is made of. It is slightly slippery to hold and it shows grime and smudges well. One other thing I don't like is that the converter rattles a bit inside the barrel, regardless of how tight the barrel and section are screwed together. It's not a major annoyance and it definitely does not happen while writing but it's just one of those things that makes the pen feel cheaper than it is, when moving it around.

The cap is a slip-on and it actually has one of the more satisfying clicks among the fountain pens I own. Because the HighAce Neo is not a short pen, I can write either with the cap posted or un-posted. The posting mechanism was well thought out because there's a satisfying click when you've securely posted the cap. Once you've done this, the pen's balance is improved due to the cap being relatively heavy (since it is metal) compared to the light plastic body.

Sailor HighAce Neo fountain pen

There isn't much I can say about the standard Sailor converter. It works well enough but in the case of this cheap pen, it is half the price of the pen itself so in retrospect it might not have been a good idea to buy it. If you'd like to buy the Sailor HighAce Neo, you might consider getting cartridges instead of a converter, and then refilling those cartridges yourself.

The nib is a standard fare steel piece, with no flex whatsoever. This is the finest nib I own and the line it puts down is very thin and precise. I would say that a dark ink really does it justice. The Gruene Cactus ink seems to suit the pen rather well, especially since it almost perfectly matches the barrel color.

Sailor HighAce Neo fountain pen nib and section

As mentioned previously, this ink is designated "Eel" which means that it lubricates both converter and feed. There are no issues with ink flow so I'm assuming the ink does its job well. The pen also starts quickly even when stored with the nib pointing up.

There's one small issue which has just reared its ugly head recently. I store my fountain pens with the nib pointing up and most of them start without any issues. Because the HighAce Neo had almost run out of ink, I stored it with the nib pointing down for a couple of days. When I inspected the inside of the cap I noticed a very small pool of ink at the bottom, which hadn't been there the last time I checked. It's easy to spot any ink drops/leaks because the inside of the cap is white. So now I'm left wondering if this pen also drips ink when stored like that. It's not a big problem for me but I thought I would mention it.

Finally, the writing experience. I would be tempted to say that the Sailor HighAce Neo's F nib is scratchy. However, because the nib is so thin, it tends to give the initial impression of scratchiness but the pen is not scratchy. In fact it is quite a wet writer. The nib does not skip or misbehave.

I've found that I don't use the HighAce Neo for writing. Instead, because it is so precise, I use it for drawing. In this aspect, its crisp lines make it excellent for sketching very tiny details. If this were my only fountain pen, I would definitely use it to write but these days I'm more attracted to broader nibs.

To summarize, the Sailor HighAce Neo with F nib is an entry level fountain pen in Sailor's lineup and could make a good first fountain pen for anyone. The caveat is that, unless you are really in love with very fine nibs, the lines might be too spidery for your liking. Alternatively, this fountain pen can be excellent for drawing very fine details, thanks to its crisp and precise nib. Another advantage of the HighAce is that you can carry it with you without much fear of losing or damaging because it is so cheap, yet it looks good enough to spare you any potential embarrassment. The Sailor HighAce Neo is also a good performer in the writing department because it starts immediately, flows well and lays a nice, wet line.

Below are a couple of writing samples in Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel.

Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel ink review on photocopier paper

Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel ink review on Staples journal


  1. A very thorough review, thank you! Your pictures are pretty good too, are you taking them yourself? A lot of folks are a fan of really fine nibs, so this pen is probably right up a lot of peoples' alley. I bet a lot of folks will be shopping this pen against a Lamy Safari.

  2. This was my very first fountain pen and I still use it all the time. This is a very good, thorough review and I agree on nearly all points. I have to say, though, that my converter does not rattle at all in the pen.

  3. @Brian thanks! Yes, I take my own photos. One of my other hobbies is (or was) photography. I can't say I'm incredibly happy with they way some of these photos turned out.

    Though I have a DSLR with a whole complement of lenses, plus strobes, light stands, umbrellas etc, all my pen/ink photos are taken with a Canon G11 which is an amazing camera and a lot easier to take quick photos without complicated setups.

    Hmm... the Lamy Safari is almost double the price but honestly I would pay more and get another TWSBI :)

    @Arleigh thanks! What actually rattles is the small knurled knob which is not tight, regardless of the piston's position.

  4. I should start sending you my review items to photograph. I've got a few product reviews and ink reviews fully written but I haven't posted them yet because I can't take a decent picture!

  5. Haha I can teach you. Actually I was thinking about writing a post or more about how to take a decent picture of pens. That's because I have a strong amateur photography background and I've noticed that a lot of folks are having trouble with taking shots of their pens.

    As a quick tip, I would advise anyone to try shooting in daylight, close to a window. Use a uniform background. You don't need an expensive camera. Set it to macro and get close. Use a tripod and a timer if available. Make sure to focus properly on the pen itself.

    But yes, I do plan to write that article.

    BTW Note Booker, your photos aren't bad at all and your writing samples are better than mine. Are you using a scanner? My scanner is fussy with the colors so I prefer to photograph mine.

  6. Thanks for this review. I've been looking for a good extra-fine sketching pen and this may be it.

  7. Thanks for the much needed pen review. I was just gifted the Sailor K.O.P. Mozaique pen with the gold plated nib, and although the quality is very fine indeed, the line is very bold, and doesn't work as well for writing English as Japanese or Chinese, it seems to me. The pen seems to be designed to always pull ink perfectly and thickly in downward strokes, and radicals are always supposed to be traced downwards. It seems like the High Ace Neo with it's fine nib, is a good solution for a Sailor pen suited to writing English, and since I already have one of Sailor's more high-priced pen, the Neo's price tag is a relief as well.