Pen Review: Diplomat Magnum Softtouch
I own and enjoy a few Diplomat pens—the Aero and Excellence A in particular—but I don't have as much experience with the brand's budget offerings. Recently I found myself needing to add an item to my cart to qualify for free shipping, so I decided to check out the Magnum.
Materials & Construction
The Diplomat Magnum is made of resin and can be had in one of four different colors: blue, red, black, or gray. I opted for the blue version which is a dark, flat shade of navy blue that I can only describe as...inoffensive. It's not exactly the most interesting material visually, but if you prefer a little more subtlety in your pens then the Magnum may be a good choice.
Of course, one of the more interesting aspects of the Magnum is its namesake "Softtouch" finish. In short, the pen's material is made in such a way as to give it a matte finish that almost reminds me of the feeling of a chalkboard. I'm not sure that 'soft' is the best descriptor for the material, but it sure is grippy. That tactility makes the pen easy to hold even when your hands aren't completely dry and lends a feeling of added control when wielding the pen.
In terms of build quality and construction, the Magnum feels like it could stand up to some abuse. The resin is relatively thick at the cap and the barrel and I don't notice any give when applying pressure to them. The cap has an audible and satisfying click when you attach it, but the gritty sound that emanates when you twist the cap isn't so nice. One thing I don't enjoy is that there is a bit of a rattle when you jostle the pen, and it seems to result from the converter striking the inside of the barrel. It's not loud but may be annoying to some, and seems to be more prevalent when the cap is removed.
The Magnum features a tapered design that progresses continuously from the cap to the barrel. Let's start with the cap. It snaps to attach and posts securely on the end of the barrel, though it does require a little bit of pressure to do so. There's an interesting finial that features a design that I'll describe as "jeweled" even though that's probably not completely apt. In essence there's a domed bit of polished acrylic that's inset at the top of the cap, and underneath it sits the word "DIPLOMAT," which itself is flanked by a ring of text that reads "PRODUCT OF GERMANY." Personally I think the abundance of text looks a little too busy and I think Diplomat would have been better off using their 'ink flower' logo in this space.
The cap does feature a clip and it appears to be made of metal. It's engraved with "DIPLOMAT" on the front side, while "GERMANY" is inscribed on the top. The clip generally functions well. it's nice and springy, but I do wish it had slightly more ramp at the bottom to allow it to more easily slide onto thicker pieces of fabric.
The section has a hybrid design that I don't particularly enjoy. Though it generally has a round shape to it, there are three flattened facets that add a quasi-triangular shape to it that just doesn't really work for me. I don't prefer triangular sections, but I find them manageable when the flattened sides have some width to them like on the LAMY Safari. The hybrid design on the Magnum, though, is worse than a pure triangular design because the flattened facets are simply too narrow and I find that my fingers slip off of them easily. The fact that the facets taper inward on either end only reinforces this point, and the section's narrow diameter doesn't help either. Ultimately, I find that this pen tends to roll in my grip more than most other pens I own, and that's been a little frustrating.
As for the barrel, it extends the pen's tapered profile until it reaches a flattened end that's really quite narrow. The barrel features two ink windows that are shaped in a way that mimics the pen's overall silhouette. The three flattened facets found on the section are repeated on the barrel to give it a quasi-rounded, quasi-triangular shape. Again, the facets are a bit too narrow to really provide any meaningful gains in terms of grip, and they appear to be present mostly for design considerations.
Overall I'm not that taken with the Magnum's design. It's hard to call this pen handsome, as the tapered design is a bit too exaggerated for my liking, and the cap is just a little too funky for me.
In the Hand
The Magnum is a pen I definitely prefer to use posted. At around 141mm unposted, it's usable but quickly starts to feel cramped. At closer to 152mm posted, the pen has just enough added length to feel more comfortable.
The Magnum is a relatively light pen, weighing in at about 12g. However, one thing to note is that, at 7g, the cap accounts for a large percentage of that weight. What that means is that the pen doesn't have the best balance. When it's capped, the Magnum feels top-heavy, and when it's posted it feels back-weighted.
The biggest gripe I have with this pen, though, is its ink windows. They're quite sharp and can lead to some unpleasantness when holding the Magnum. If you tend to hold your pen closer to the nib then this issue likely won't matter to you, but I find myself gripping the Magnum a bit farther back. Doing so sometimes results in my index finger or thumb resting on or near the ink window, and its sharp edges never cease to annoy me. Moreover, it feels like every time I pick this pen up I end up running my thumb across the barrel and it will inevitably catch on the sharp edges of the ink window. Maybe I'm being too nitpicky, but it would have been really nice if Diplomat could have chamfered or polished these edges just a bit to avoid having this problem.
Material & Design
Diplomat includes a steel nib on the Magnum and there's not much that's special about it in terms of design. Adornment is minimal: two simple chevrons span the nib's tines, and that's all, apart from "DIPLOMAT MAGNUM" and the nib's size designation appearing at the base of the nib. Speaking of nib size, the Magnum is offered with a fine, medium, or broad nib.
Writing with the Magnum hasn't been the most enjoyable experience. To start, the nib skips often enough to warrant comment. It's been particularly bad when the initial stroke is a cross-stroke. For example, when preparing this review, I made a series of bulleted lists where I used hyphens as bullets, and the Magnum skipped on almost every single one. The same is true when crossing t's. It's been quite frustrating, and I often find myself putting down a couple of test strokes before I feel confident that it will write without hiccups.
Ink flow is on the drier side and is less consistent than I would prefer. When the pen hasn't been used for awhile, it puts down a darker, wetter line but quickly reverts to a faint, dry line after only a few words. In terms of line width, the Magnum's nib generally runs true to my expectation of a Western medium, but as the ink flow starts to slow down, it definitely starts to lean toward the finer side.
The Magnum's nib definitely has some feedback to it, to the point where you're likely to notice an audible 'gritty' sound as you write with it. The writing experience itself is smoother than that sound would make you believe, but there's definitely a noticeable toothiness to this nib's performance. One thing that caught me by surprise is that this nib has more spring to it than I was expecting. You can get some decent line variation out of it if you really push it, but it's not so springy that you'd see it in normal handwriting.
One final comment about this nib that I feel compelled to point out is that its grind has a bit of a stub-ish quality to it. The nib's downstrokes are noticeably wider than its cross-strokes, at least on the nib I received. I'm not sure if this is due to minor variations in manufacturing or if other Magnum nibs have this same quality, but it's not something I'm particularly fond of, at least not when the nib isn't specifically intended to be a stub.
As of the time of this writing, you can pick up a Diplomat Magnum for $20 at most popular online retailers. The Magnum's price tag is one of its more attractive features, but with that said it's up against some stiff competition. Other offerings in this price range include the TWSBI Go ($19), Nemosine Singularity ($20), and Pilot Metropolitan ($15), and I have to say I prefer all of those options to the Magnum. All three of those pens offer a superior out-of-box writing experience compared to the Magnum while also having something else going for them, such as a slightly lower price, better ergonomics, or more aesthetic charm (and sometimes all three).
One thing I should mention is that there seems to be some variance as to whether or not a converter comes included with the Magnum. I ordered my pen from Anderson Pens and though a full cartridge and empty cartridge were both included with the pen, a converter was not. However, in checking Goulet Pens' listing for the Magnum, they seem to mention that a converter is included. As an added bonus, Goulet Pens is including a free 90ml bottle of Monteverde ink when you order a Magnum from them between now and the end of 2018, so that's probably your best option if you're interested in picking up this pen.
Final Thoughts & Score
"Softtouch" finish offers good grip
nib has some spring to it
ink windows have sharp edges
unimpressive writing performance: nib skips; stub-ish grind; writes dry
doesn't stand out when compared to other pens in this price range