Rotring Trio 600 Stylus/Pen — all PDAs

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, January 2005, updated Mar 2007
Manufactured by: Rotring
Available from: StylusCentral
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$68.00 (available for less at retailers including StylusCentral)

I recently used the Rotring Trio Stylus/Pen to help clean out my PDA databases (deleting, entering, correcting), and to plow through a pile of editing in several contracts using Documents To Go. What I was hoping for throughout the extended experiment was to find the perfect stylus/pen combination and I think I came close. This one is a sophisticated writing instrument which can be used for extended periods of writing, note taking and gaming on your PDA or smartphone. The model I reviewed is made of cast & ground brass in matte black with a hexagonal rear barrel and a cylindrical front barrel and tip. The tip and pushbutton sections are finished in gloss lacquer. The Rotring Trio 600 includes a 0.7mm pencil, ballpoint pen (medium point) & stylus (medium tip).

The Rotring name (literally, "red ring" - each model has a distinctive red circle located somewhere at or near the top) is associated with extreme durability, long lasting quality, weight and noticeable dimensions. The Trio 600 (not to be mistaken for the Palm Treo 600 series of smartphones) is no exception, but for the fact that it is much better balanced than the Initial Data Rollerball Stylus Pen model we reviewed in 2004. The improvement in balance makes the Trio easier to use and shortens the time needed to get used to the heavy weight and feel.


Individual tips are loaded by gravity. Roll the barrel so that one of the indicator dots is facing up. Click the pushbutton to extend the selected tip. The retraction mechanism is a rotating cylinder section located immediately below the pushbutton and can be actuated with a two-finger grip in either hand. The pocket clip is mounted below the retractor, placing it lower than normal on the rear barrel. The pocket clip position necessitates a slightly higher carry, although the overall weight of the Trio is likely to keep it out of most shirt pockets anyway. This model is better suited for carry in briefcases, inside jacket pockets, notebooks, daytimers and anyplace else that can support a heavier writing instrument. The pocket clip is made of flat spring steel finished to match the barrel, and sports an engraved Rotring logo. The clip mouth has a rounded lip and very good clearance which means it will fit easily over a wide variety of cloth and leather pockets, notebook covers and so on.

In daily use, the Trio 600 has proven to be a good performer. Aside from the attention it frequently gets when I use it in public, the reliability of the mechanism, the quality of the ballpoint and stylus tips, and the sturdy feel of the instrument have made me forget the price. What that means is that I have stopped treating the thing like some sort of expensive, delicate orchid. I've been treating this thing roughly, tossing it around, using it in sub-zero weather, using it to nervously drum the edge of desks and tables, and above all else, using the stylus tip almost exclusively (instead of the horrible little telescoping toothpick supplied with my Sony Clie TH55). The Rotring has been dropped in puddles, dropped in the snow, knocked off my office desk (5 times? 10 times? I've lost count), left outside overnight in below zero weather and generally used the way I typically use a trustworthy stylus/pen: roughly, exclusively, demandingly. The Rotring has come through weeks of this without so much as a scratch, abrasion, loose part or indeed anything else which might detract from its perceived and factual high quality.

Purely as a writing instrument, you'll find quite a bit of competition for the Trio 600. Other Rotring models may even be better ballpoint writers. But the Trio 600 is a competent writer no doubt. I've been able to use it exclusively in meetings for note-taking and meeting minutes with little fatigue. The Rotring mini ballpoint refill has a well designed tip which works smoothly on a variety of paper stock. Ink flow is good, not great, and provides clean, legible results. I like the feel of the Trio 600 in my hand.

The trick, when using a heavy writing instrument like this one, is simple: relax your hand; don't grip tightly. Let the heavier weight of the Trio 600 do the work. The ballpoint refill does not need much pressure to work well on most clean papers, and the weight of the pen when using the stylus is more than sufficient for good response on all PDAs when writing Graffiti, tapping or entering data freehand.

Cons: Nothing to do with the quality or inherent usefulness of this pen, but both the Rotring and Sanford USA web sites are really terrible. There are pictures aplenty, but a mystifying absence of technical details about individual products and rather poor navigation and usability. Many Rotring designs feature heavy rear barrels and the Trio 600 is no exception, so while it's well worth the money and a terrific piece of work, it will take a little time to get used to the weight and balance. The ballpoint ink capacity is limited by the physical size of the Rotring mini ballpoint refill and we think that in this price range, and considering the excellent usability of this model, it should be designed to accommodate a somewhat larger ink capacity.

Pros: You can drive nails with this thing. Rotring designs its pens, stylus/pens and everything else they produce to last a very long time. The materials, fit and finish are excellent. I mentioned that the Trio 600 is a bit top heavy, but the weight is nowhere near as noticeable as it is in other Rotring models such as the Initial Data Rollerball. You will quickly get used to the weight and balance. The Rotring ballpoint tip is well designed and writes very smoothly on a variety of papers. The stylus tip is very kind to all of the screen surfaces we've tried. The stylus tip is also extremely durable and its bright yellow color helps to improve tapping accuracy. One of the best stylus/pens we've reviewed. Highly recommended.





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