Choosing pens can be a challenging business, and if you’re a keen stationery fan, you may be wondering which pen would best suit your needs. Most offer a variety of pros and cons, so let’s explore some of the top options.
The best pen under $500 often comes down to personal preference, as people have different styles and enjoy different flows. However, we believe the Aurora Optima encompasses many of the qualities of a superb pen and costs a little less than $500.
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Which Is The Best Pen Under 500?
There are many things to consider when it comes to choosing the best pen, including the aesthetics, the tip sizes available, and the price. However, the most important thing is how well the pen writes, so let’s explore this before looking at the top pens’ pros and cons. Writing is graded on things like:
- Ink flow
- Ink vibrancy
- Lack of feathering
- Lack of skipping
Based on this criteria we believe the following are the best pens under $500:
- Aurora Optima
- Pilot 823
- Sailor 1911
- Lamy 2000
- Montblanc Meisterstück
Personal taste also makes a big difference in these things, but the Aurora Optima brings together style, aesthetics, tip flexibility, and a reasonably good price point. It has a “feedback” nib with a bit of tooth to it, making it a more tactile pen to write with, unlike some of the smoother options, but many people prefer this.
One of the best things about the Aurora Optima is that the nib has no “sweet spot” and works well no matter what angle you hold it at. This makes it popular with users everywhere, because it doesn’t work better for some writing styles than for others.
However, some users find them too light and uncomfortable to write with. For a heavier option, you might want to choose the Pilot 823, which is weightier in your palm and may offer more control. It uses a vacuum filling system, rather than pistons, and it has more ink capacity. Most people find that the Aurora is more ergonomically satisfying, but it’s wise to try both if possible.
The Aurora Optima pens have a lot going for them; there are a couple of different lines, and you can choose fountain pens, rollerballs, or ballpoints, with a variety of different tips. Most of these pens come at a price point below $500, and they are a superb option if you want a reliable, refillable, and aesthetically pleasing pen for your collection. Let’s find out more!
Nib: There’s some nib feedback, which some people like and others hate. Aurora nibs tend to have more character than other pens, so you should soon be able to tell whether you like them or not. You need to choose your refills with care to get good results from this pen.
Color: The Aurora Optima pens come in some beautiful shades with mottled patterns all over the barrel. Some look like stone, others like water, and some like galaxies or forests. If you’re a fantasy lover, you will find these pens suit you perfectly. You can also buy them with a black barrel for more serious occasions.
Tips: If you select the fountain pen, you’ll be able to choose from various different tips. For example, this Optima Fountain Pen has a medium point, while this Optima Fountain Pen Gris has an extra-fine point. The Optima Fountain Pen Black Pearl is in between with a fine tip. However, you may not get a choice in nib size if you want a ballpoint or rollerball option.
- Optima Fountain Pen, Medium, Medium Point
- Product Number: 996-PVLM
- Color: Viola
- Mechanism: Inhalation type
If you are after a top-of-the-range fountain pen for a low price, the Pilot 823 may be perfect for you. These pens look sleek and attractive, with classic accents and a satisfyingly rounded shape. They have a friendly aesthetic, but they are business-like nonetheless. With a resin body, they are also durable and lightweight. The body is semi-transparent, so you can actually see the mechanism.
Nib: These nibs are wonderful to write with. They flow well, and have an excellent balance between wet and smooth, meaning that you get even text. The quality control is superb, too.
Color: You don’t get much choice when it comes to the color of the Pilot 823; these pens are built for business and lack the bright hues seen in the Aurora Optima. Most are black, like this Pilot 823. It has simple gold accents, with no other color choices. You can purchase an amber Pilot 823 as well. Both allow you to see the mechanism.
Tips: These pens come with three different nib choices – you can select fine, medium, or broad. That means there’s a nib for all styles and requirements, although some people might wish that there was also an ultra-fine option for particularly fiddly detailing.
- CUSTOM 823 FOUNTAIN PEN: Pilot's truest 'demonstrator-style' fountain pen with the largest ink reservoir. 14K gold nib...
- ELEGANT & DISTINGUISHED: This fountain pen is refillable via a unique vacuum plunger system for a long-lasting, smooth...
- PILOT FINE WRITING COLLECTION: Our innovative, exceptionally crafted fountain pens & elevated gel & ball point pens make...
- TRUSTED QUALITY: We've been making pens for over 100 years. Whether you're taking notes, stocking up on school or office...
- PILOT NAMIKI INK is recommended for use with Custom series fountain pens. Please note that the plunger has to be...
The Sailor 1911L series is another beautiful fountain pen, and it is under $500, with quite a range of prices available. It is enormously sleek, with a barrel that is comfortable to hold and a cap that fits nicely on the end when you’re using the pen. With a simple design, it would look elegant in any situation.
Nib: Because the Sailor 1911L uses 21 karat gold in its nib, it will gradually conform to the user’s hand and writing style. After a couple of months, you will likely find that the experience is smoother and more personalized to you, and this makes the pen popular with many users.
Color: You can choose a Black Sailor 1911L Fountain Pen or a White Sailor 1911L Fountain Pen, with silver or gold accents. This is not a pen that comes with an enormous range of color choices or fancy designs. It might be basic, but in spite of that, it does not disappoint if you’re looking for a professional writing tool for offices and business environments, or if you just prefer simple things in life.
Tips: You can buy a variety of nib sizes, including extra-fine, fine, medium-fine, medium, and zoom, so no matter what kinds of lines you want your pen to be able to produce, you’ll be able to find a nib to meet your needs. However, only the medium nibs are currently available on Amazon, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want a different nib.
- [Type]: Cartridge converter compatible
- Product Size: Shaft Diameter 0.7 inches (18 mm) x Shaft Length 5.6 inches (141 mm) / 0.8 oz (21.6 g)
- [Nib] 21k Gold Large [Large Tip Lid] PMMA Resin / Metal Gold Plated Finish
- Feature 1: Classic ProFit 21 Series Raised in History with a Casual Represent of Class
- Feature 2: The writing comfort of a fountain pen with high elasticity. Adjustable center of gravity by attaching and...
The Lamy 2000 looks a lot more modern than most other fountain pens, which is an asset to some and a drawback to others. It lacks the sleek barrel that some pens have, but this may make it easier to hold, and being made of polycarbonate Makrolon means it should stand up to a good degree of use without any issues.
Nib: There have been some quality control issues with the Lamy nibs and this can result in scratching and uneven text. You may have to get your nib tuned, at an additional cost, in order to get the results you expect, which makes this pen a lot less desirable and more expensive.
Color: If you like understated hues, the Lamy 2000 could be perfect for you; it is brushed metal and has a matte appearance, but it does come in a few different color options. For example, there’s the standard Lamy 2000 Matte Black option or a Lamy 2000 Metallic. Both of these are nice enough for use in an office environment and have a business feel to them.
Tip: There are various nibs available, including extra-fine, fine, medium, broad, oblique, medium (OM) / oblique, and broad (OB). With such a range, you’re bound to be able to find one that suits your needs, whether you are writing or drawing.
- Made of a combination of black fiberglass and brushed stainless steel known as Makrolon
- It is piston filled and as such can only be used with an ink bottle and not with ink cartridges
- 14K gold, platinum-coated extra fine nib
- The Lamy 2000 is so revered that it is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art and has won countless design...
- The pen barrel also features four small window sections above the grip to view the ink inside
Like the Aurora Optima, the Montblanc Meisterstuck comes in a variety of nib types, so you can purchase a ballpoint, a rollerball, or a fountain pen. These all share an iconic, simple design, with the same black barrel and gold or silver accents you might expect to see on a pen like this.
Nib: The nib is quite firm, which makes it harder to get variation in your ink. It has a bit of a sweet spot, meaning you have to hold it at the right angle, and there are some issues with skipping. Many people have to get their nibs tuned to their handwriting style, which can be expensive.
Color: If you want a pen that looks great for any occasion, the Montblanc Meisterstuck certainly has you covered, but its options are extremely limited. These pens are almost all produced in black, with either silver or gold accents on the cap, barrel, and tip. Some of the ballpoints come in blue, and there are a few unusual options in silver.
Tip: If you choose the fountain pen, only the Montblanc Meisterstuck Fountain Pen with a medium nib is currently available on Amazon. If you purchase from elsewhere, you should be able to find a range of nib sizes, including extra-fine, fine, medium, broad, double broad, oblique medium, oblique broad, and oblique double broad. However, you may not be able to find this pen for below $500 from other stores.
- Montblanc Hommage a Frederic Chopin Fountain Pen 145 Black with Gold Trims 01518
Overall, which pen is the best option under $500 will depend on your preferences, but the Aurora Optima is a safe bet both in terms of its quality and in terms of its aesthetics. If you’re buying one for a gift, it’s particularly nice to see a change from the standard black barrel with silver accents!