This is Part 4 of my Mega Monster Review series on pocket notebooks. You can visit the main Mega Monster Review page for a listing of all the notebooks reviewed in this series. You can also open the massive Master Spreadsheet to see all the aggregated data on these notebooks. Note: This is a work in progress and will take several weeks to complete.
Fabriano EcoQua Pocket Notebook
Despite the dearth of decent options available in most US office supply & big-box stores, there are actually a ton of companies out there producing interesting, high-quality paper products in a range of shapes and sizes. Some companies are very prominent and well known (Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Leuchtturm), while others fly under the radar. One of these lesser-known gems is Italian stationery wizard Fabriano.
Fabriano has a pretty nice range of art and stationery supplies, but you might never know about them because they don’t get much press or recognition. Plus, for some reason, a lot of common retailers don’t carry them. I’ve been using several A5 and pocket-sized notebooks from their EcoQua line, and I’m extremely impressed with them.
Intended to be 100% environmentally friendly, Fabriano’s EcoQua line is, at first look, unassuming and minimalist. There are two things that immediately jumped out at me about their design. First, where most saddle-stitched pocket notebooks are bound by three staples, these use only two. Second, the covers are almost completely blank. There is a small logo printed at the bottom of the back cover that reads “FABRIANO Made in Italy” That’s it. There’s no other printing, embossing, stamping, or letterpressing.
While I’m sure this leads to a better carbon footprint, I think an obvious side-effect is a pretty big reduction in production costs from the unused staples and ink. Fabriano turned around and invested some of that savings back to the notebooks:
- Very high-quality cover and paper stock
- 64 pages per book (most others have 32 or 48)
- FOUR books per pack (I haven’t seen anyone else do this)
- Back half of the pages are perforated for easy removal
Speaking of the covers, these are fantastic. They’re made from 290 gsm, scratch-resistant stock. They’re very firm and durable. The texture feels great and the stock is stiff enough so you can write in the book while holding it in your hand.
The Fabriano EcoQua pocket notebooks come in four-packs of warm colors (red, orange, yellow, green) or cool colors (blue, wine, black, gray), and you can choose either dot grid ruling or blank pages.
As with all the notebooks I’ve already covered and (probably) all the ones I will, pencils were perfect. Practically no ghosting from the pencils.
- Palomino Blackwing: Very smooth, with a soft swishing sound. I do have to rotate the pencil more often than usual, as the paper seems to wear down the graphite quickly. Strange issue with erasing: The first few swipes of the eraser did nothing. Eventually, the graphite started coming away, but it never completely erased.
- Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil (0.5): Smooth yet feedbacky. Very fine, crisp line. It’s nice and dark, too. I can write very tiny, which is great given the 4 mm ruling width.
Pretty much flawless performance and minimal ghosting.
- Uniball Jetstream (0.7): Dark and consistent line. It feels smooth when writing, but there’s this underlying “crunchy” feedback feeling that I’m not finding with other papers.
- Fisher Space Pen (0.7): Nothing special, but solid performance. Smoother (less crunch) than the Jetstream.
Typically excellent, although the Sarasa was almost too much for it to handle.
- Uniball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (0.38): Typical performance. Very dark, which is nice. Super fine line. Gives some feedback from the paper’s texture, but still very smooth.
- Pilot G2 (0.5): Perfect. Like there was any doubt.
- Zebra Sarasa (0.7): Not quite as sloppy as it is on most other papers. It gives a bit more control, although it was the only pen I used that bled through the paper (not really enough to notice, just a pinprick here and there). Feels slicky-smooth when writing. Does give a little bit of spread that you can see under a loupe.
Liquid Ink Rollerball Results:
For as much as I hate rollerballs, both of these pens yielded excellent results on the Fabriano paper.
- Pilot Precise V5 RT (0.5): Excellent performance. Very smooth. Crips, clean line with no spread or feathering.
- Uniball Vision Elite (0.8): Surprisingly solid. It actually resembles black ink on this paper. The line seems fine with the naked eye, but under a loupe, you can see a little spread and feathering.
Fountain Pen Results:
The fountain pen results are so mixed. On one hand, pen and ink performance were beautiful. Easily the best so far. But it comes at a price: dry times. It ain’t good.
- (EF) Platinum Preppy with Noodlers Midnight Blue ink: Completely perfect. Up until the dry test. It smudged! I couldn’t believe it. Surely not the EF Preppy!? Could this be true? It’s true. No spread, feathering, or bleed. Minimal ghosting. Slightly scratchy with the paper texture.
- (F) Lamy Safari with Lamy Petrol ink: As close to perfect as it got. The Safari was my only fountain pen to pass the 10-second dry test, but it did show a tiny bit of spread under a loupe.
- (M) Platinum Cool with Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo ink: Perfect up until…you guessed it…the dry test. Quite a bit of smearing. Even though this is a really wet medium nib, I could still feel the paper’s texture as I wrote.
- (0.6) Nemosine Singularity with KWZ Standard Turquoise ink: Another perfect performance…right up until the dry test (it’s like a trend or something). Although, this pen/ink combination wasn’t that bad for drying time. Another couple seconds would have probably been enough. Gives a very crisp line with no feathering or spread.
- (1.1) Conklin Duragraph with Robert Oster Midnight Sapphire ink: This paper handled the sloppy, wet stub nib exceptionally well. There were a few random spots of spread, but not feathering and no bleed. Dry test? Failed miserably.
|Size||3.5 in. x 5.5 in.|
|Price||$10 for 4 notebooks|
|# of Pages||64|
|Cover Material||290 gsm, textured|
|Perforations||Yes, Last 16 sheets|
|Paper Weight||85 gsm|
|Paper Color||Pale Ivory|
|Ruling Type||Dot Grid or Blank|
|Rule Spacing||4 mm|
|Rule Color||Light Gray|
|FP: Feathering||Minimal, only with wettest pens|
|FP: Ghosting||Yes with all pens, back of page still usable|
|FP: 10-Sec Dry?||No, only the Fine Safari passed|
|Liquid Ink RB||Excellent|
Fabriano obviously took the “bang for your buck” approach with these notebooks. They shaved off some expenses that you see in other brands, and in return you get really nice cover stock, 64 pages per book, and four books per pack. Plus, the paper is fountain pen friendly and half the sheets are perforated. They pack a lot into this little $10 product.
The paper in these Fabriano EcoQua notebooks is probably the most fountain pen friendly paper I’ve seen in any pocket notebook that I’ve used so far. The downside to that is dry time. Of the five pens I tested, only the Fine Safari fully dried within 10 seconds. If a fast dry time is critical to your needs, either stick with dry pens or find another notebook.
The only other potential downside (for some people) is the ghosting. The paper is relatively thin, so you can see most writing on the backside of the page. There’s no bleedthrough at all (except for one or two pinpricks from my juicy 0.7mm Sarasa), but you can see where the writing is. I’d put it on par with Leuchtturm paper. If you’re comfortable with the ghosting from a Leuchtturm notebook, then the EcoQua won’t bother you. I consider the back side of the page completely usable, but others might find the ghosting too much.
Bottom line: If fountain pen dry time is not a concern and you can handle the ghosting, you really can’t beat these notebooks. You get a lot of high-quality paper for $10 (and I’m even seeing these go for under $9 in some places). But if you need a true grab-and-go EDC choice and you insist on using fountain pens, then I probably wouldn’t recommend these for you.