The comfort of a Dr. Grip, the convenience of a multi-pen, and the flexibility of pencil all in one. At first glance, the Dr. Grip 4+1 seems good too to be true–and maybe it is. Reviewers complain about the levers being fiddly, the green being iffy, and the ink skipping.
We were never ones to miss out on introducing a miracle product (or bashing a rip-off), so we purchased Pilot’s Dr. Grip 4+1, contacted three stationery specialists, and inspected the claims listed above. We also looked up available refills and tried installing them. This is what we learned during testing.
Pilot Dr. Grip 4+1
What are the Standout Features of the Dr. Grip 4+1?
The Dr. Grip 4+1 is a black, a blue, a red, and a green ballpoint pen plus one mechanical pencil, wrapped into variously colored barrels. These barrel colors include bright red, lavender, baby blue, and champagne gold (we picked out the Bordeaux to test).
The brand itself is known for its fat, squishy grips, which make long writing sessions more comfortable. The Dr. Grip 4+1 also contains “Acro Ink,” which is said to be only a fifth as viscous as traditional inks. So you have less of the greasy stickiness of older ballpoint pens, and writing feels a lot smoother.
Putting the Dr. Grip 4+1 to the Test
We teamed up with three stationery specialists and put the Dr. Grip 4+1 to the test. Specifically, we were looking for the five following factors.
Test ①: Smoothness of the Levers
Test ②: Grip
Test ③: Weight Balance
Test ④: Ink Depth and Color
Test ⑤: Design
Test ①: Smoothness of the Levers
Because most multi-pens are fiddly little things.
Don’t Press the Levers Too Quickly or Too Softly–Slow and Steady Wins the Race
The Dr. Grip 4+1 is designed like your typical multi-pen. There’s four color-coded levers on top for the ballpoints. You extend the mechanical pencil (and lead) by pressing down on the clip.
Most multi-pens you have to be careful with, and the Dr. Grip 4+1 is no different. Press down on the levers too quickly, and they get stuck halfway. Press on them too softly, and they pop right back up. But as long as you work the levers with some care, you shouldn’t have much issue.
Pen / Pencil Tip Does Not Retract until You Tell It to
Some levers have a mind of their own and pop back up when you’re still writing. We can say the Dr. Grip 4+1 does not. We filled up an entire notebook page with doodles, alternating colors the whole time, but not once did the pen tip retract on its own.
Test ②: Grip
Because isn’t that Dr. Grip’s speciality?
Thick Grip that Conforms to Fingers of All Shapes and Sizes
We admit, we’re also fans of this grip. It was elastic enough to mold to our fingers, but it didn’t feel sticky or suffocating.
The grip on the 4+1 felt slightly firmer than that on Dr. Grip’s mechanical pencils. It was still soft enough to divert pressure away from clutching fingers and grippy enough to not slide around in loose ones.
Test ③: Weight Balance
Because a well-balanced pen puts you in control.
Heavy, Front-Weighted Pen Offers Stability
This thing weighed about 26 g in total. It was more front-heavy than your typical multi-pens. We thought that the total weight and the balance point were a good match in the Dr. Grip 4+1; it made the pen feel stable and smooth to write with.
Test ④: Ink Depth and Color
Because what’s the point of a beautiful pen that contains only sub-par ink?
Acro Ink Offers Us a Beautiful, Crisp Black
We were fans of the Acro Ink. The color came out dense and clear. A lot of black inks will shine red under light, but this one stayed dark no matter what the lighting or angle we held it at.
Green Comes out Bluer and, We Think, Richer than Most
Lots of people seem to hate the green bundled in the Dr. Grip 4+1, so we paid special attention to it. We took a green Jetstream we had on hand and doodled with both pens side by side.
We thought the Dr. Grip had a richer, lusher green than most other ballpoint pens; it was a bluish forest green and not that yellowing grass green, which is all too common.
Watch How You Store the Pen, and Inkflow Should Stay Pretty Consistent
We also heard that the ink skips, so we tried writing with the Dr. Grip 4+1 after putting it through all sorts of rough treatment. Namely, we
- left it in a room with the tip retracted for 10 minutes
- left it in a room with the tip extended for 10 minutes
- left it in a refrigerator with the tip extended for 10 minutes
The only time the pen gave us any real trouble was when we tried to write with it after we’d left it in the refrigerator.
So you need to make sure not to leave the tip out and to store the Dr. Grip 4+1 at reasonable temperatures (that is, not in direct sunlight and definitely not in the refrigerator), but it should skip and blot less than your typical ballpoints.
Test ⑤: Design
Because we all like pens that look cool and function well.
Well-Designed, but Subject to the Same Weaknesses as Other Multi-Pens
It was thick, but it wasn’t thicker than your average multi-pen, so we cut it some slack there. We still considered the design quite sleek and functional.
The only small quibble we had was with the clip. We tried fastening to pen to our shirt pocket, but we kept jostling the clip when we walked and, every so often, that’d get the mechanical pencil to extend. Still, three’s a crowd and five levers on one barrel would certainly be chaos, so this may simply be another element of design that you have to overlook.
The Final Verdict: About as Fiddly as Your Typical Multi-Pen, but the Comfortable Grip and Quality Ink Earn the Dr. Grip 4+1 Our Seal of Approval
So, yes, you have to treat the levers with care. Yes, the pen is fat. And yes, you might not be able to clip the pen onto anything for fear of leaving bits of broken lead in your wake.
But most 4+1 multi-pens share these same weaknesses. And you still get that signature gel grip and smooth Acro Ink, so if you’re looking for a multi-pen you can write with for hours, then the Dr. Grip 4+1 is as good a contender as any.
How Do I Refill the Dr. Grip 4+1 and with What?
To refill the ink cartridges in the Dr. Grip 4+1, all you have to do is twist off the metal shaft (under the grip), yank out the cartridges you don’t need, and pop in the new ones. The Dr. Grip 4+1 takes Pilot’s normal oil-based ink refills, namely the BVRF-8EF (0.5), BRFS-10EF (0.5), BTRF-6F (0.7), BVRF-8F (0.7), BRFS-10F (0.7), and BRFS-10M (1.0).
To refill the lead, you twist off the metal shaft, yank out the metal mouthpiece of the mechanical pencil, and shove lead down the opening. The Dr. Grip 4+1 only takes 0.5 lead. It works well with Pilot’s neox GRAPHITE, which is available in 10 different grades (levels of hardness or softness).
Looking to Complete Your Japanese Stationery Collection?
We firmly believe you can never have too much stationery. You can, however, have too much bad stationery, so choose wisely.
We put Pilot’s Dr. Grip 4+1 to the test. It felt comfortable in the hand and wrote smoothly but was as clunky as expected. If you like the idea of a multi-pen but would prefer a slimmer design, we recommend checking out Pilot’s 3+1 RIDGE or the 2+1 SLIM.
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