The PenBBS 500 makes a strong first impression. It feels substantial with solid size, girth and weight.
The concave cap finial shows an effort at design. It's complimented by a smaller metal button-style end-cap. A mild step-down in the barrel adds to the upscale effect PenBBS is going for with the pen.
The look is spoiled somewhat by the overly large "PENBBS" engraved on the cap band as well as the "made in china" (all lowercase) found on the ring in the section. English typographic design is sometimes tough for Chinese companies. In the past, PenBBS has done a good job in this area so this was a surprise.
All the metal hints that the pen is going to be heavier than average and that's the case.
At 131mm uncapped, the pen is an excellent size in the hand. The barrel is very gently curved and hits about 12mm at it's widest point. Capped, the PenBBS 500 is 143mm.
The section tapers, starting at about 11.3mm at the ring below the threads to 10mm just before a lip at the business end. The style of the section is the same as the PenBBS 309.
The cap can be said to post, but so shallowly that it turns the pen into a behemoth. It's heavy so back weighting is an issue. The pen writes very comfortably unposted so for me it's not an issue.
The cap takes 1¾ turns to go on or off. The threads are fine and smooth with no cross-threading.
The pen comes in some of PenBBS's most popular acrylics. I think they choose fewer of the more transparent acrylics (there's no demonstrator) to not overly call attention to the spring-loaded filling mechanism they've rolled out with this model.
When I first saw news of the PenBBS 500 I thought great, they're going after the TWSBI GO. I always considered TWSBI's idea of a spring loaded filling mechanism intriguing and a clever way to approach the entry-level market.
But that's not what PenBBS is doing. This pen is much more like the PenBBS 355 than anything else. The PenBBS 500 isn't even like the Wing Sung 601 Auto Draw Piston Filler. It's complicated like the 355.
And like the PenBBS 355, PenBBS is pricing the 500 near the top of their line.
Here's how things went. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to make the pen work while watching a basketball game.
When I went to unscrew the plunger rod from the end of the pen, the guide plug came unscrewed instead. That had to go back into the body of the pen before I could continue.
I eventually got the plunger sliding up and down but it wasn't engaged with the piston-spring system. I checked the instruction card about which way things were supposed to turn.
Helpfully, there's an English side to instruction card but the type is really small. (They prefer anticlockwise but that's not a huge deal.) The instructions mostly manage to avoid Chinese-English.
With the plunger free and rotating in the right direction, I was able to get it to engage with the piston-spring assembly, but pressing down didn't get anything to move. Given that pistons in PenBBS pens have a history of sticking, I started to imagine that I was going to have to take the thing apart. I decided to give it at least one more shot and used a little more force on the plunger. It broke free.
Half way home.
The next step was to confirm that I'd be able disengage the plunger from the piston in order to get the pen back buttoned up after filling. It was another semi-inscrutable process but eventually that worked too.
It was all over except for flushing the nib and picking an ink.
I'd been sitting on a bottle of Plum Penlux Mò ink for a while. The purple PenBBS 500 was the match I'd been waiting for.
The pen came with a standard PenBBS F mini-fude nib and wrote wonderfully from the get-go. Given the growing range of PenBBS nibs, finding something different to try is easily done. There's enough room in the cap to fit a No. 6 nib if that's your fancy.
My PenBBS 500 was just under US$26 plus shipping on Taobao. I love the size and ergonomics of the pen. It writes very well. I'm happy with the acrylic. I don't have many purple pens in my collection and it's a perfect match for the Penlux ink.
The filling system is the big drawback of the PenBBS 500. I get that the extra metal of the spring-loaded piston system is part of what gives the weight that makes the pen fun to write with. However, the system is neither fool-proof like the Wing Sung 601 nor entry-level simple like the TSWBI GO. It feels like PenBBS went there just to go there. It's just a little too gimmicky.
More often that not, my desk is my pocket. But everyday desk items doesn't have the same ring.