After having heard good things about Pilot’s neox Graphite leads from Lexikaliker I bought some to try them out. This blog post is just a quick comparison between the neox Graphite leads and my standard leads, Staedtler’s Mars micro carbon. In this comparison both, the neox Graphite and the Mars micro carbon, were 0.3 mm leads in B.
I know that Pentel’s Ain Stein leads are liked by many, but I don’t have those in 0.3 mm in B, so I couldn’t compare them to Pilot’s and Staedtler’s leads.
I bought my neox Graphite leads from eBay for $2.80 plus 50¢ postage, i.e. $3.30 (~£2.20; €3.10) including shipping. They came from Taiwan and took about a week to get to me.
Filling the pencils
To test the leads I put the Pilot leads in a Pilot pen and the Staedtler leads in a Staedtler pen. Without a doubt the Staedtler system has the better filling system. The opening of the lead container has a width that fits in Staedtler pens, so you can just slide all leads into the pen. The lead containers are ISO colour coded (0.3 mm is yellow). You will also find this colour coding on some other mechanical pencils, e.g. Faber-Castell’s TK-Fine 9717. Filling the Staedtler is so easy that I made a video to demonstrate it.
Both leads seem to provide similarly dark lines. The neox Graphite might be a little bit darker, but I didn’t see much of a difference. I thought I have a look whether I can easily quantify the darkness of the marks made by the leads. To do this I drew a line with both leads on Brunnen Der Grüne Block paper, using ~1.2 N of pressure (axial and normal pen force) and moving both pens at ~15 mm per second. I then scanned the result using an Epson V700 scanner, turning auto improvements etc off. In the HSB representation most pixels for both leads had a brightness of between 40% and 60%. If I ever buy other leads, like the Ain Stein leads, to compare these too I might do a frequency analysis of the different levels of black to show the distribution, but I tried to keep this blog post short so didn’t do this as there are so many blog posts to write on my to do list.
To test how hard the lead is, i.e. how long it will last, independent of lead darkness, I extended both leads by ~0.7 mm and drew a lines with both leads on Brunnen Der Grüne Block paper, using ~2N of pressure (axial and normal pen force). The Mars micro lasted about 216 cm, the neox Graphite lasted about 189 cm.
Lead reflectiveness and erasability
I didn’t try to quantify the leads reflectiveness, i.e. how much it reflects light, but if you look at the lead markings on paper at an acute angle when there is a strong light source the Mars micro lead seems to reflect the light a bit more. In terms of erasability the neox Graphite seems to perform slightly better, too.
Pilot’s neox Graphite is a great lead. Depending on where you live it might be hard to get as Pilot doesn’t sell this lead in many of their markets (including the UK). The fact that the Mars micro was able to draw longer lines with the same amount of graphite could indicate that the neox Graphite B is more similar to the Mars micro in 2B, this would not be a surprise as Japanese pencils are often softer than European pencils of the same grade, but I don’t have the leads at home to confirm that this is the case for these leads.
Price and exchange rates: November 2015
I couldn’t find any reviews of the neox Graphite leads in other blogs, but there must be some in Japanese or Korean.
Lexikaliker mentioned the neox Grpahite leads in his Sonderanfertigung blog post.
In his blog Dave talked about the Ain Stein leads I mentioned in the beginning.
Johanna Basford, the artist behind the immensely successful colouring books is using a Staedtler Mars micro in one of her latest blog posts.
If you want to see another mechanical pencil video from me have a look at this Zebra Delguard blog post.