Pen Review: Moonman M100
After garnering much attention with the M2 and Wancai Mini, the Moonman brand is back with a (relatively) new model, the M100. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Wancai Mini, so I figured I owed it to myself to check out the M100.
Materials & Construction
What immediately drew me to the M100 was the interesting variety of materials. Whereas the M2 and Wancai Mini initially earned their stripes by offering attractive clear demonstrator models, the M100 comes in several different patterned designs. The acrylic resin evokes a vintage aesthetic, particularly the brown and black fleck design that appears in the pen I purchased. Though the material itself isn't premium by any means, it still has enough character to be interesting. Some of the flecks in the pattern have a bit of chatoyance and gleam when struck by light, but it's a subtle, mature effect that doesn't come off as cheap or cheesy. The material is also finished well: it has a nice, glossy polish there are no burrs, bits of flashing, or other indications of inconsistent manufacturing. Considering I purchased this pen mostly for how much I enjoyed the look of the material, it's nice that I wasn't let down on that front.
I also like that Moonman makes use of gold colored trim on the M100. Though gold isn't always my preference, it works well here and only serves to bolster the vintage vibe. However, it is a bit unfortunate that Moonman decided to use a metal tenon to join the section and the barrel. Had the brand opted to make this component out of resin rather than metal, the pen would have been a good candidate for eyedropper conversion, but as it is, I would avoid doing so.
The M100 is constructed well and I have no complaints about build quality. The pen takes a standard international cartridge or converter and one was included with the pen. One thing I often worry about with inexpensive Chinese fountain pens is converter rattle, but I'm happy to report that hasn't been an issue with the M100. The converter seats tightly and stays put. On that same note, the threads on the pen are machined well and allow for easy pairing and unpairing without any squeaks or annoying cross-threading. Finally, the acrylic resin is drawn to a relatively thick dimension which really makes the material feel sturdy. I don't have any concerns that the material will crack or break under ordinary usage.
The M100 has a tapered profile with slightly more exaggerated tapers than what you would find on a traditional cigar-shaped pen. The ends are not quite as pointy as what you might find on something like the Edison Nouveau Premiere, but they definitely have a steeper angle than what you would find on something like a Sailor 1911 or Platinum 3776. I'm generally not a big fan of such an exaggerated taper, but that's simply a matter of personal preference.
One area where the tapered design is actually a negative is the impact it has on posting the cap. While the cap does technically post, it tends to pop off rather easily if you apply even the slightest bit of lateral pressure to the cap when it’s posted. As I've stated in previous reviews, I can accept if a cap either posts or doesn't post, but giving the illusory impression that the cap can post is a big no-no for me. It only serves to trick the user into thinking the cap will be held securely, when in reality it will fall off at the slightest jostling. Speaking of the cap, it's a screw-cap that takes approximately 1.75 rotations to remove, which allows for relatively quick deployment.
The clip on the M100 has a simple, but attractive design. The upper portion has a triangular shape that gently tapers as it progresses downward, where it ultimately flares out before tapering back inward. What I really like about it is the subtle raised ridge that runs along the spine of the clip. It almost goes without seeing, but when you do notice it you can't help but feel that it was a thoughtful design touch.
One final comment I have on the design of the pen is that I do enjoy the minimalist approach Moonman has taken when it comes to branding. You won't find the Moonman name or any logos anywhere on the exterior of the pen. In fact, the only logo I can spot is a small Moonman wordmark on the tenon that pairs the section and barrel, which you're only going to see when the pen is disassembled. The lack of external branding complements the understated, classy look of the pen, and I appreciate that Moonman exercised some reservation in this regard.
In the Hand
The M100 feels really good in hand. The section on the pen has sufficient girth to allow for a comfortable writing experience, and the step down from the barrel to the section is not drastic. One thing I will point out is that the pen has far better balance when uncapped. Because the cap constitutes a substantial portion of the pen's overall weight (8g of 21g overall), the pen can feel a bit top-heavy when capped. Removing the cap results in a pen that feels noticeably lighter and easier to wield.
In terms of length, the M100 rings in at about 144mm capped, or about 124mm uncapped. In terms of comparisons, that means that when the M100 is capped it's slightly longer than a capped LAMY Safari, but a bit shorter than the Safari when comparing them uncapped. These proportions work well in my hands, though I can imagine the pen may be a bit short when uncapped for those who may have larger hands than mine.
Material & Design
The M100 includes a steel nib from Schmidt that's gold in color. A large cursive 'F' appears front and center on the nib to denote the nib's tip size. As far as I am aware, the M100 is only offered with a fine nib, though it seems to be a standard #5 size, so you might be able to swap in another size if you so desire. Some light scrollwork flanks each of the tines, and "SCHMIDT IRIDIUM POINT" appears at the base of the nib. Note that the pen lacks a breather hole (more on that later). Overall, it's a relatively generic, utilitarian sort of nib, but I wouldn't necessarily call it unattractive.
Though this review has mostly been positive or tame up to this point, the nib performance is where things take a turn for the worse. Out of the box, the nib on the M100 was a bit of a disappointment, to say the least. Things got off to a rough start: even though I flushed the pen in advance of my initial inking, the pen just would not write. The feed was assuredly saturated, as I filled the pen by dipping the nib and feed into a bottle and using the converter, but it just refused to start up. It took several rounds of priming the feed by gently forcing ink out of the converter to get it to write at all, and even then the experience has not exactly been pleasant. Ink flow is inconsistent and results in a dry, scratchy writing experience. I often find myself having to re-prime the feed, especially if the pen has gone unused for a day. The ink starvation also results in a stroke width that seems to be closer to an extra fine than a fine. I suspect that the lack of a breather hole on the nib has something to do with my woes; it feels as though there isn't any air making its way into the converter to keep the ink flowing steadily.
It really is a shame that the writing experience is sub-par, because the other aspects of the nib are relatively decent. The tip is ground well and writes relatively smoothly for a fine nib. My guess is that if the ink flow were better the nib would probably write even smoother, as the additional ink would provide for more lubrication. And while the nib doesn't really have much natural spring to it, per se, you can get a bit of line variation out of it if you push it gently.
I really can't overstate just how disappointed I am that the writing experience isn't better. I want to like this pen so much, and I suspect I could tune it to the point where I will enjoy it more, but if I'm being fair and judging it as presented, it's hard to call the writing performance anything other than a letdown.
To my knowledge, the M100 isn't available from popular fountain pen retailers in the United States. Consequently, I had to turn to eBay to get mine, where the average selling price hovers between $30-$40 at the time of this writing. I've also seen it pop up on Amazon recently for around $40. At that price, the M100 competes with heavyweights like the TWSBI Eco and Faber-Castell Loom. Though the M100 appeals to me far more from a design perspective, the fact of the matter is that those other pens offer a more consistent and enjoyable writing experience than what the M100 provides, making the M100 a tough recommendation.
Final Thoughts & Score
material has a lot of character for a pen in this price range
attractive vintage design
totally acceptable fit and finish
frustrating writing experience out of the box
cap doesn't post securely
only available with fine nib