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Cross Morph DigitalWriter Duo Pen
by Rick Smith (October 28, 2000)

This week, the A.T. Cross Company has released a unique pen - the new Morph DigitalWriter Duo Pen. I just received one and decided to test this pen by writing this entire article on paper before I typed it in. The pen consists of a Cross Morph pen that has a PDA stylus "tip" on the opposite end. The pen cartridge is replaceable. The A.T. Cross Company is a manufacturer of ball-point pens, fountain pens and pencils that can retail for over $500 each.

While this pen retails for about $55, I did expect this writing instrument to be a high quality pen, since it came from Cross. The "grip area" consists of a rubbery, flexible tube that surrounds the triangular shape of the pen. While this triangular shape sounds strange, it is comfortable. My only reservation is that this black flexible area is not entirely attached to the pen so it feels bloated and spongy, requiring me to press down on this "bubble" until you reach the pen. I feel that this rubber section should conform more tightly to the actual pen shaft. There is a barrel adjustment that you can turn to change the size of triangular grip area, but this adjustment can accentuate the baggy aspect of the grip. When fully expanded you can easily feel, and even see, the articulated, mechanical structure underneath. Refillable consumer pens such as Dr. Grip haver a much smoother feel.

I would have expected this Cross pen to feel more similar to the American made Sensa pen by Willat that touts itself as the "World's most comfortable pen". The Sensa uses a world-patented Plasmium filled displacement grip that is extremely flexible and can dynamically shift to changes in your grip. They are quite comfortable to write with and are a unique sensual experience.

The PDA "tip" of this DigitalWriter Duo pen is designed to be used with only the pressure style PDAs like the Palm-based, CE-based or V-Tech style portable devices. It won't work with the larger notebook based pen computers like the Compaq Concerto, IBM convertibles and tablets or even the current Fujitsu Stylistics. The tip does not appear to be replaceable if it becomes worn. While pen tips rarely get badly worn, I can easily tell when I change to a new tip when using my Compaq Concerto, because a new tip glides ever so smoothly over the surface of the tablet. While older tips work OK, the "writing effort" is greater due to the increased friction.

The presentation case that the pen arrives in is quite pretty and shiny. I did have a problem getting the pen out of this case without breaking anything because I had to remove the plastic form and flex it greatly, just to get the pen out. While I know that the pen needs to be restrained during shipping, this is much too extreme - the pen should be far easier to remove from the case. I also feel that some people may pull the pen's clip to try to extract this pen from its case and end up bending this clip.

While this pen has a very unique design, there are several "digital pens" that can change from an ink pen to a PDA stylus with a single click. With this Morph pen, you completely lose the comfortable grip while using the PDA stylus. You also need to wrap your fingers around a circular shaft and be sure to align the pen clip that could get in your way. If you are simply making a few taps on your PDA to reference some information and not really writing anything long, this is OK. But if you are writing a long email, wouldn't you want to have the same comfortable feel that you have when writing on paper?

Since writing is a very personal activity, my feelings may not be like yours. I only wish that the grip material was thicker and conformed better to the pen, without being so baggy. To me, the "rubber grip" on this pen just doesn't exude the decadence or evoke the quality that I expect from a Cross pen.

Copyright 2000 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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