TWSBI Eco Review
When I think “budget piston-filler,” the TWSBI Eco immediately springs to mind. With its clear demonstrator body and affordable price tag, the Eco has plenty of appeal for both new and experienced fountain pen users. So how does it stack up?
Materials & Construction
The Eco makes use of plastic throughout its components. The pen does have a metal clip, and it’s quite stiff. The band on the cap is also metal, but apart from those two parts (and the nib), everything else is plastic. The choice of material has both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it keeps the pen affordable and lightweight. However, durability seems to suffer, as I’ll address in more detail below.
One of the primary draws of the Eco is its piston filling mechanism. In the budget fountain pen tier, most pens use a cartridge/converter filling system, so finding a piston-filler is a bit of a rarity in and of itself. What really puts the Eco over the top, though, is the quality of its piston mechanism. Out of the box its smooth and works without a hitch, which can’t always be said of other inexpensive piston-fillers. For example, the Fountain Pen Revolution Guru and Noodler’s Konrad both offer piston filling mechanisms, but they are hardly a pleasure to use. On those pens, the piston turning knobs are tight and take concerted effort to operate. The piston knob on the Eco, on the other hand, turns smoothly and doesn’t require nearly as much force. Moreover, if the piston ever loses its ability to glide smoothly along the inside of the barrel, TWSBI includes a small bottle of silicone grease that one can apply to reduce any friction that may crop up.
Also included in the box is a wrench for disassembling the pen. I like that TWSBI facilitates the user’s self-servicing of the pen for cleaning and maintenance, but newer fountain pen users might want to be cautious, as reassembling the pen isn’t totally intuitive (though there are resources available online to help if you do get yourself into trouble).
Build quality is one area where my otherwise positive opinion of this pen takes a slight dip. Though I have not personally experienced any issues with the two Ecos I’ve owned, I’ve heard enough horror stories and seen enough posts on social media to understand why the Eco has earned a reputation for not being durable. The main issues seem to be caps breaking at or near the cap band, and cracks developing on the section. Fortunately, many of these horror stories are accompanied by tales of great customer service from TWSBI, who seems to sometimes offer replacement parts for little or no expense. Again, I haven’t had a need to experience this customer service personally, but it’s nice to know that the company seems to stand behind its products.
The Eco has an intriguing blend of minimalist and modern design. The cap features a flat top with a red plastic insert emblazoned with the TWSBI logo. It’s a nice touch that adds a bit of visual flair on this clear version of the pen, but it does sometimes clash with design on versions that have colored caps.
The cap has a hexagonal, faceted design, but the facets don’t actually stop the pen from rolling, as the cap band flares out enough to prevent the facets from making contact with whatever surface the pen rests on. Speaking of the cap band, it’s inscribed with “TWSBI” on one side, while “ECO” and “Taiwan” appear on the other side.
On some models, the cap and piston knob are solid colors, but I opted for the version with all clear components. It’s an attractive design, though I do think the inner cap liner detracts from the design, as it clouds the view of the nib.
The section on the classic version of the Eco is cylindrical, but TWSBI also offers an “Eco-T” model that has a triangular-shaped section if that’s more to your liking. The section also features three small nubs that protrude near the nib, which are ostensibly aimed at keeping fingers from slipping down onto the nib itself. In practice I don’t find myself relying on them all that much.
The barrel is also cylindrical and is made of clear plastic on all versions of the Eco. Though I’ve owned this pen for some time now, the joy of watching ink slosh around inside the demonstrator barrel still feels novel, and never ceases to bring a sly grin.
At the back end of the barrel we find the piston turning knob which repeats the hexagonal faceted design on the cap. I really enjoy the symmetry of this design, and it brings a sort of completeness to the overall aesthetic.
In the Hand
The dimensions and weight of the Eco allow for a comfortable writing experience. At approximately 131mm and 11 grams uncapped, this pen rests nicely in my hand. The cap does post and fits quite securely thanks to the o-ring under the piston knob, but I do find it makes the pen a bit longer than I’d prefer (167mm). Also, while the cap itself is not that heavy (9g), the body of the pen is light enough that posting the cap can make the Eco feel a bit back-heavy. I definitely prefer to use this pen unposted, but those who wish to post the pen likely won’t be disappointed with the experience.
Material & Design
The Eco comes with a stainless steel nib that can be had in extra fine, fine, medium, broad, and 1.1mm stub sizes. The nib has a narrow, elongated design with gently curved shoulders. There’s minimal scrollwork on the tines, and the TWSBI logo and wordmark rest under the breather hole. Overall it’s a simple and inoffensive design, but isn’t exactly inspirational.
Out of the box, the nib on the Eco writes consistently and without issue, but does have a hint of feedback that some may find less than completely pleasurable. The nib is rather rigid, but I am able to eke out some decent line variation if I do push it a little bit.
There’s a rather large channel cut into the underside of the feed. It provides for an interesting look, but I will note that I have experienced ink burping on at least one or two occasions. The burping usually happens when ink is running low, and even then tends to be limited to longer writing sessions, where my hand is likely warming up the air in the barrel, causing ink to be expunged. It hasn’t happened frequently enough to annoy me, but I do think it’s worth pointing out nonetheless.
Writing with the Eco has been an entirely consistent and reliable experience. I’ve not had a single skip or hard start with this pen, and I don’t find myself worrying about ink flow or starvation at all. It’s a predictably enjoyable writer, even when left unused for extended periods.
As of the time of this writing, the Eco lists for just over $30 at most online retailers. At that price, the Eco competes with the likes of the LAMY Safari, Pilot Prera, and Nemosine Fission. However, those pens all have cartridge/converter filling systems, as opposed to the Eco’s piston-filler. Apart from certain other inexpensive piston-fillers (such as the aforementioned examples from Noodler’s or FPR), the Eco is somewhat in a league of its own in this price range. As such, the Eco is likely to be the first piston-filler fountain pen for many new users, and it makes me happy that it offers such a pleasant experience out of the box.
Final Thoughts & Score
- piston filling mechanism at an affordable price
- ample ink capacity
- silicone grease and wrench included for maintenance
- plastic components aren't exactly known for their durability
- clip is quite stiff
- occasional (but infrequent) burping