The M205 DUO was originally introduced in 2010 as part of the Classic line, taking the novel approach of combining a fountain pen with a highlighter. The Pelikan brand was no stranger to either product, but this was the first time that they sought to integrate the two. The concept was well received, and the design went on to win several awards the following year (ISPA Award at Paperworld, the IF Product Design Award, and the Red Dot Award). Equipped with a double broad nib (BB), the pen could be used to highlight pertinent text but also to annotate the margins. It was a serviceable if not perfect solution to an issue faced by many students and scholars. If nothing else, the sustainability and positive ecological impact of the pen was a major focal point, perhaps even more germane today than it was eleven years ago. The first entry in the series was a yellow demonstrator followed a few years later, in 2013, by a neon green model. Each pen came with a special ink in a matching, fluorescent shade specially formulated for the DUO. Fast forward to 2021 and we have a new release in the series. Rather than a straight re-hash of a past product, this one is a new model featuring some different design elements as well as a different shade of fluorescent yellow. Instead of one of my traditional reviews, I thought that it would be more constructive to take a closer look at just what separates the current offering from past releases. Read on to discover all of the highlights that this one brings to the paper.
The first thing that you might notice is that the packaging has changed little over time. It’s worth mentioning still because it is some of the most unique packaging to accompany a Pelikan. The inner box features writing on the exterior with examples of highlighting and notation that fits the theme of this model perfectly. Opening the box reveals the pen as well as a 30mL bottle of yellow highlighter ink, a nice inclusion which means that you can get to work right away. There is a statement on the inner flap where Pelikan cautions against using this ink in any pen other than the DUO which I suppose is necessary to protect themselves given the unique nature of the ink. Of course, you can use any other ink that you might desire in this pen as well since it otherwise operates like any of Pelikan’s typical piston fillers.
As we begin to examine the pens themselves, let’s review what the old and new both have in common. Since they belong to the M205 series of pens, each model features chromium plated furniture including a single trim ring at the piston knob, a single cap band, and a stylized beak clip. The cap tops feature a screened single chick logo and both models incorporate a double broad, un-plated stainless-steel nib. That nib can be removed and replaced with any other M2xx/M4xx nib that you might prefer. Shared dimensions between the two include a capped length of 4.92 inches, a posted length of 5.71 inches, a diameter of 0.46 inches, and a weight of 0.49 ounces. Each model is a translucent demonstrator featuring a black plastic piston assembly snap fitted to the barrel. With all of that similarity, you might be questioning just what stands out between the two pens. The truth is, there are two glaring differences.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between the two is the color of the translucent barrel and cap. The 2010 release is a much deeper, darker yellow whereas the 2021 model is much more of a fluorescent, neon greenish yellow. To my eye, it almost looks to be a hybrid between the prior yellow and green releases. The new model’s color is much truer to what I expect a yellow highlighter to look like. As far as style and function go, that puts the new DUO a bit more on point. I am a bit sour on the overall look though as the chromium conundrum seems to strike again. The 2010 and 2013 releases each included a chromium plated crown shaped clip nut surrounding the cap top. The newest highlighter on the block falls a bit flat with just a black plastic clip nut. This is the same issue that marred the final look of the M205 Petrol-Marbled earlier this year. While I’m sure Pelikan would officially say this is how the pen was always intended to look, a part of me still can’t help but wonder whether or not supply chain pressures continue to influence the design choice more than Hannover has let on. To me, the lack of chromium is a glaring omission that really stands out as a somewhat incongruous visual element though that is an admittedly subjective assessment and opinions will vary.
Looks aside, it’s easy to wonder how hybrid pens like these function in real world use. I was in my residency when the DUO was first released which was a few years before I discovered the Pelikan brand. I didn’t pick one up for myself until 2013 and used it throughout the remainder of my residency and fellowship when going over articles and studying for my boards. This is not your chisel tip BIC Brite Liner. The double broad nib is nice and smooth but still fails to give the coverage of your typical standalone single purpose highlighter, putting down a line that is roughly 1.0mm. Something closer to 1.5 or 1.9mm may have been a better choice for highlighting but perhaps a bit too bulky for notation so compromises likely had to be made. Consequently, you have to play with it to find the technique that works best for you. For me, it’s an undulating scribble across the line that I want to highlight or sometimes just a simple swipe across. Circling and underlining are the most easily accomplished gestures with this one. For note taking, the double broad nib is more than usable, but the fluorescent yellow colored ink can be a little hard on the eyes. I certainly find it serviceable but better for brief notation rather than anything more in-depth. Still, it certainly saves you from switching between writing implements when pouring over printed text. If you are looking for alternate inks that might serve the same purpose or even improve upon the experience, you could explore Rohrer & Klingner’s Helianthus, J. Herbin’s Bouton d’Or (Buttercup Yellow), or Diamine’s Sunshine Yellow to name a few (though I cannot personally provide an endorsement for any of them).
When the M205 DUO was released in 2010, it had a US MSRP of $145 and retailed for $116. A decade later and the re-release now comes with a US MSRP of $280 with a retail of $224, a 65% increase. That’s a bit higher than the M205 Petrol-Marbled and M200 Golden Beryl releases that have preceded this one, likely owing to the fact that this pen comes bundled with a 30mL bottle of ink. Still, the asking price far outstrips the average 2.23% annual inflation rate in the USA over that time but this is not a surprise and is commensurate with what we’ve seen with other releases over the years. The cost of doing business with Pelikan seems to get more expensive by the release. Of course, better deals abound from overseas vendors where this one might be had for around €110.92 ($125.26) when the VAT is excluded.
The M205 Neon Yellow DUO fills a unique and interesting niche in the world of writing instruments. It strives to pull off double duty as both a fountain pen and a highlighter. When loaded with the corresponding fluorescent ink, it does neither job perfectly, but tradeoffs are to be expected. The versatility and positive ecological impact go a long way with this one. Also, it has been my experience that it makes you consider your notation more thoughtfully and I find myself less likely to highlight indiscriminately. At the end of the day, I am a fan of the concept and, other than a slightly broader nib width option and a visual tweak with the trim, I cannot see how the design could really be improved upon. If you already own one of the prior models, this one brings nothing new to the table other than an updated look. If you just have to have them all or if you missed out on the buzz a decade ago, the new M205 DUO is worth checking out. Let me know what you think about this new pen and the DUO concept in general in the comments below.