Pros: Smooth writing, great Bic ink flow, long-lasting, clean styling, solid cap, sturdy, lightweight
Cons: Retractable Cristals aren't sold in North America
Ah, the black Bic Cristal ballpoint stick pen with the standard 1.0mm medium tip. These pens write extremely well for the price. (a pack of 10 came out to $1.43 with tax) They also write extremely well compared to other 1.0 medium ballpoints. It's clearly the best value in ballpoint pens, next to the Bic Round Stic that I used in high school.
The black ink has that classic Bic dark-purple tint that gives my crappy handwriting a smooth, regal look. I've always been impressed by the ink flow; even my year-old Cristals write well. Getting the ink to flow on a fresh, new Cristal takes very little effort.
Hmm, I just printed "The" to test the flow of ink. The horizontal stroke in "T" was only slightly lighter in shade. By the time I started the vertical stroke, the ink flow was full and rich. It's a new Cristal, with only a couple page's of writing use. My year-old Cristal took a little longer to flow well. By longer I mean, the end of the vertical stroke. Yes, these pens really do write that well; even with light pressure. Writing in cursive, the ink flow is almost perfect. The last pack of Cristals I bought had two duds that wrote a little lighter than the rest, but still consistent.
That said, a ballpoint pen will only write as well as the paper quality allows, and desk pad or other writing surface. Ballpoints seem to have trouble changing direction. For example, consecutive "L's" and "O's" can cause tiny skips at the top of the loop. Cristals aren't immune to this, but when it does occur, they do a great job of restoring ink flow quickly to finish the pen stroke.
The Bic Cristal's ability to glide across paper is another reason I keep coming back to this product line. The Bic Atlantis and Velocity 1.0 medium retractables with their rounded ballpoint tips write a little smoother. (the Bic 1.2 medium Easy Glide ink system would be the smoothest pens I've ever used) These Cristals and Bic SoftFeel retractables are made in Mexico; Mexican-made Bics use a slightly-darker ink than the Velocity and Atlantis, which are manufactured in France.
Just an observation. The plastic "cartridge" that holds the brass point used to be painted with a metallic-bronze finish. It seems as if Bic's changed to a lighter, flat tan color with the last pack I purchased. Still looks nice.
Anyway, I can always depend on Cristals to perform well and last a really long time. I love these pens.