Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Slide Pipe

If anyone ever asks me which mechanical pencil is the best, I always tell them to look at the Kuru Toga.

There have been three main variants I have used day-to-day as my favourite pencil since the first one came out in 2009:

Kuru Toga

The “Original” Kuru Toga design
Kuru Toga High Grade

The “High Grade” Kuru Toga design
Kuru Toga Roulette

The “Roulette” Kuru Toga design

From top to bottom, we have the “Original” all plastic design, the “High Grade” design featuring a smooth metal grip and a thinner overall barrel, and the “Roulette” which swapped the smooth metal grip of the High Grade with a knurled grip.

This is also the order they became available and I’ve always switched as the newer models came out. The Roulette has been the most recent design and it has been the version I have used almost exclusively since then.

(Note: there have been a few other designs, ranging from an “α gel” grip, to simple Disney designs – but I’ve mostly skipped trying those)

While the barrel design has got (subjectively) better each time, the internal workings of the Kuru Toga has always been the same:

Kuru Toga Drigram

As you can see above, the Kuru Toga takes a unique approach by rotating the lead. This drastically improves the consistency of the lines produced from the pencil and reduces the chance of breakage.

With the Kuru Toga, the outside edges of the lead are worn down first. To aid this, a special kind of lead was made to complement the Kuru Toga:

Kuru Toga Lead

Earlier this year, an updated version of the Kuru Toga became available but, unlike previous revisions to the barrel, there have been changes to writing experience too…

Uni Kuru Toga Slide Pipe Mechanical Pencil

In late 2015, a new variant appeared. The Kuru Toga “Slide Pipe” has two new features:

  1. You can retract the lead sleeve or pipe for storage
  2. The sleeve slowly slides up as you use it

This is really great addition to an already fantastic pencil mechanism.

Kuru Toga Slide Pipe

Being able to push the lead pipe up into the barrel makes the pencil much nicer for storage because the overall length of the pencil is reduced and the tip is a lot kinder to pen holders and pockets.

It makes it safer too. There have been a number of times when I’ve accidentally stabbed myself in the hand with my Kuru Toga Roulette, a less than pleasing experience – trust me.

In addition, the lead pipe slowly slides up the lead as you use it. This means you don’t need to propel the lead as often, and there’s no way that the tip of the metal pipe will ever scratch against your paper when the lead gets worn down. I hadn’t actually had this on any of my pencils before and it’s also a really great addition.

Saying that, I tend to propel the lead anyway, as I like to be able to see a larger tip. But I found that I was able to write nearly twice as long as I could with the Roulette using the same B grade Kuru Toga lead. That’s pretty amazing.

Finally, while I am pleased to see this kind of improvement come to the Kuru Toga, I must say I’m a little disappointed that they chose to only update the original design.

Kuru Toga

The “Original” Kuru Toga design
Kuru Toga Slide Pipe

The “Slide Pipe” Kuru Toga design

I have a lot of pencils I can choose from and using the same plastic design of the original Kuru Toga isn’t appealing enough to grab my top spot, I’d much rather see the Roulette design feature this new pipe.

I can only hope an updated Roulette is on the way, and I’m keeping an eye out for it.

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Upgrading to the Xbox One S

The original Xbox One was announced over two and a half years ago, but I skipped that version and continued to use an Xbox 360 for my living room entertainment.

The new Xbox One S is much smaller and slightly faster than the original, but mostly it is the same. For me this upgrade is perfect timing, as I have been waiting for a hardware refresh before making the switch from the now-discontinued Xbox 360.

Watch the Xbox One S announcement

For people who already have an Xbox One: it may be better to wait for “Project Scorpio” – which will be a significant upgrade to the Xbox coming late 2017. Microsoft have stated that all three iterations of the Xbox One will be compatible with each other – so I am not concerned about being left behind, though “Scorpio” will almost certainly support VR as well.

Watch the Project Scorpio announcement

Hardware

The industrial design of the Xbox One S is absolutely fantastic. Anyone who wasn’t keen on the “VCR” looks of the original Xbox One would agree that Microsoft has gone in a different direction this time.

Xbox One S Design

At the moment the device only comes in white, though I know plenty of people would have liked to see it in black. To me the white polycarbonate really shows off the features of design itself – it would be a lot harder to make out some of the nice touches if the device was just black and in the shadows.

Internally the biggest noticeable improvement is around storage: the disk in the launch edition is 2 TB – that’s four times larger than the disk that shipped with the original Xbox One. You need it too, as games are regularly over 80 GB.

No Kinect in the box this time

In contrast to the original Xbox One launch bundle, the Kinect sensor is not included this time. In fact, it is prohibitive to get the Kinect for the Xbox One S: you’d have to buy both the £80 sensor and a £30 adapter to make it work over USB. The adapter is free if you are upgrading from an original Xbox One – but I am not, and so I will skip this expense for now. However, skipping the Kinect does come at a cost…

At a high level the Kinect provides three main features to the Xbox One:

  • A camera array which supports video and motion capture
  • A microphone array for voice commands as well as chat functionality
  • An infrared transmitter for controlling audio and video equipment

The infrared transmitter is now built in to the front of the Xbox One S. This means I can control my TV without the need for the expensive Kinect add-on.

But the other two features are not included.

I can understand the fact that the camera and motion detection technology is not built in, as most games don’t use it, but I don’t understand why the Xbox One S didn’t include a microphone array by default. Especially as being able to turn on the Xbox with your voice was one of the most impressive features of the Kinect, and the new Cortana assistant requires a microphone to work.

If they can include an infrared transmitter, why didn’t they include a microphone array too? I don’t get it.

Software

The Xbox One S comes pre-loaded with the “Redstone” version of the operating system which matches the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. It includes features like Xbox 360 backwards compatibly, background music, Windows 10’s Universal apps, Cortana, and loads of other tweaks. This update is available for the previous model too, but for me this is a massive leap from the experience provided by the Xbox 360.

Switching between apps is fast

On the Xbox 360 there was no way to pause a game and then watch Netflix for a while, the Xbox One’s software allows this with ease, allowing seamless switching between games, live television, and apps without long loading times.

Being able to use two apps at the same time is supported, but it isn’t as great as I’d like to be. Some applications don’t support snapping at all, and the interface for snapping unintuitive when compared Windows 10.

Xbox One Dashboard

As a Groove Music user the new background audio features work really well – all of the music from my Music Pass and OneDrive collections are available to stream from the same Universal app that I use on my Surface and my Lumia.

While I could access my music through a subpar app on my Xbox 360, I couldn’t multitask at the same time – there was no way I could listen to music on Groove and then go looking for something to watch on Netflix or iPlayer. As an entertainment device this makes a lot of sense, and I’m really pleased they’ve added it to the Xbox One.

Background Audio

Television

In the UK you can use a USB adapter for the Xbox One to gain access to Freeview. In my area of England this includes over a hundred television channels – including 17 in HD. This works without having to do IR blasting to a cable box, and integrates well with Microsoft’s OneGuide software.

I’m not a big television watcher, but now you have to have a TV Licence to watch iPlayer it makes sense to have Freeview as well.

At least this way everything is handled through the Xbox One itself.

Streaming

The Xbox app for Windows includes access to all of the Xbox Live features you’d expect. Including friends, messages, achievements, and (most importantly) game streaming.

Xbox App for Windows

I have been impressed by how well the streaming works – at the medium quality settings there is no noticeable lag, and the compression doesn’t look bad at all.

Personally I have no interest in installing 80 GB games directly on my Surface Book (which I use for software development) but having the option of streaming directly from the Xbox One S means that playing in another room is now an option.

Streaming TV and Games to Surface…
…and HoloLens

And yes, streaming even works with the HoloLens. In the photo below you can see me streaming Halo 5: Guardians onto the wall in my office.

Halo on the HoloLens

More to come

The Xbox One is still early in its life cycle – especially when you consider how much the Xbox 360 changed in the 10 years it was in the market. I still have more to write around the various options for controlling and using the device, and my thoughts on how the software needs to be improved… but that will come another day.

For now I’m pleased to have finally made the jump to the Xbox One platform, and I’m glad I waited for this beautifully designed Xbox One S.

Sony MDR-EX750BT Headphones

It was only a few months ago I wrote about my Sony MDR-100ABN noise cancelling headphones which have been absolutely perfect for listening to music in my home office.

I mentioned that I can split my earphone use into two main situations:

  • Indoors or working at a desk
  • Outdoors or in public places

The MDR-100ABN was squarely placed for use indoors at home, and I mentioned that I also had two additional sets of earphones that I regularly use with my phone – wired and wireless. I was very disappointed that my wired earphones broke soon after publishing that article. It was my sixth pair of Nokia WH-920 in-ear headphones I’d had, and they were less than 6 months old.

My experiences with the MDR-100ABN made me think that a s set of in-ear headphones in the same Sony range would be a good idea. I would see if I could replace both my wired and wireless headphones with a single set which I could use in all other situations.

Sony MDR-EX750BT

When looking into my options for over-ear headphones I had looked through Sony’s whole line of h.ear headphones, with particular attention to the Bluetooth offerings.

The MDR-EX750BT looked like the best fit for outdoor use, but like last time I took the same qualities into consideration before making the purchase.

Sony MDR-EX750BT Headphones

Comfort

I know a lot of people are not keen on the in-ear style headphones, but I’ve been using them for many years. It’s only recently that I started using over-ear headphones at all.

As expected the earbuds fit well and I have had no discomfort from them – even when using them to listen to music for 12 hours worth of travel.

The main electronics of the headphones go behind-the-neck. I have previously found this to be a good option for Bluetooth headsets and until battery technology improves I don’t think there is any better alternative.

The main electronics are not heavy, and you hardly notice that it is behind your neck. The exception would be if you are running, but I wouldn’t recommend using this style of earphone for running anyway.

Practicality

This time I wanted a smaller device that I could keep with me every day and use while I am at work, walking around or using public transport.

It’s always a gamble when it comes to battery life for these kinds of devices and like with the MDR-100ABN I have been pleasantly surprised at how long they work. I’ve easily gone for a full day out with it wirelessly connected to my Lumia 950 XL – using it for music for a good proportion of that time.

Unfortunately the MDR-EX750BT also don’t support Bluetooth multipoint. Ideally I’ve love to be able to seamlessly be able to switch audio from my Lumia and Surface without having to go through the effort of pairing again. Maybe next time.

For times when I don’t want to use the battery, I can use a provided Micro USB #x2192; 3.5mm Audio cable. I think I would have preferred a standard audio cable, but everything works as you’d expect so I am not going to complain too loudly.

Freedom

Bluetooth connectivity is fast becoming a must-have for my headphones and the biggest factor is the freedom that it affords. Knowing I can walk to another room without having to unplug cables is really liberating.

An additional freedom is offered hear by easily keeping them on at all times and just plugging in when required. They hang from your neck and provide easy access while the phone is either in my pocket or on a desk.

Audio Quality

Audio quality is always something I want, but for me it’s a “I’ll know it when I hear it” kind of deal – and in this case, I know that it sounds good. Some of the Bluetooth headphones I have used in the past sound obviously compressed, but I can’t tell much difference between this headset and wired headphones.

Noise Isolation

I would have loved to have had the same active noise cancellation technology I have enjoyed on the MDR-100ABN, but I have yet to find some behind-the-neck style Bluetooth headphones that have it.

It’s not a problem though, as the in-ear style headphones isolate external sound by design.

The in-ear style is also better for isolating sound leaking out of the headphones. Unlike my over-ear headphones I use at home, I use these in-ear headphones out in public and in quiet environments like offices.

Final Thoughts

For now I have consolidated on two sets of headphones, both are wireless but support wired as backups. Both meet my requirements in different ways, and both work great with my Surface and Lumia.

Sony Wireless Headphones

Zebra Sharbo X ST3

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine got back from Japan with a very healthy supply of stationery, and I was fortunate enough to receive a number of shiny new pens and pencils to try out. (Thanks Jordan!)

sharbo-x-st3

The Zebra Sharbo X ST3 was one of these gifts, and I quickly decided it had to be the first I would write about.

I have already been using a Sharbo X LT3 for the last six months, so I know how great the Sharbo X line of multi-pens pens can be. Of course, I was not disappointed.

The beautiful glossy-white painted finish is different to my standard choice of black, and having something out of the ordinary has made this pen stand out even more as one of my favourites.

sharbo-x-surface

All Sharbo X multi-pens can be filled with compatible D1 refills ranging from gel, ball point, emulsion and pencil and stylus. The ST3 is in the same price range and extremely similar to the LT3. There are a few differences though:

  • The ST3 is thicker than the LT3, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I’ll discuss below
  • The threading in the ST3 is plastic, compared to the brass in the LT3
  • The logos and labels on the barrel have a slightly different style
  • The clip joins to the barrel in a slightly different way

sharbo-x-st3-lt3

The thicker body may mean that it probably fits a wider variety of D1 refills – when I first got my LT3 the thickest of my refills actually scraped on the inside of the barrel.

sharbo-x-insides

Above you can see how the side of the LAMY refill has rubbed off inside the LT3 (front), and it seems that the ST3 (back) will not have this problem.

I also have a feeling that the thicker barrel will allow me to write for longer periods of time. The LT3 is a bit skinny for extended use, and over time I noticed that it is less comfortable to use than my Jetstream Prime, even though there are only a couple of millimetres difference in the circumference.

For my refills, I have gone for the same setup as a my LT3:

  • Position I: 0.5 mm B Nano-Dai Lead
  • Position II: Black 0.7 mm Jetstream
  • Position III: LAMY Orange Highlighter

Overall I’m thrilled with this pen and it has already made its way into my all-time favourites. For the moment I am using it in place of my LT3, but I am not sure which one I will use as my daily pen moving forward. As they’ve both got the same setup I can easily swap between them or keep them in different bags.

sharbo-x-color

Pros

  • Sturdy construction and no rattle
  • Standard D1 refills with the trademark Sharbo twist selection
  • Great pencil implementation with lead width selection, knock, and eraser
  • Feels incredibly well made and expensive
  • Beautiful white finish

Cons

  • Not the cheapest multi-pen body, your budget may vary
  • D1 refills are small and don’t hold much ink, especially gels
  • You cannot swap the pencil out for another component
  • Thicker than a standard pen
  • The white finish can be an ink magnet!

Follow @desk_of_jules on Instagram for more stationery photos!

More Stationery Photos on Instagram

My stationery addiction is a big part of my life – of course the whole point is to be productive, but it often looks gorgeous too.

I have decided to create an account on Instagram purely for the purpose of sharing more photographs and information about the stationery I love and use every day. Check it out if stationery is your thing!

Follow @desk_of_jules on Instagram.

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7EEBC853-97F2-48DA-B5B0-38534A47221E

1723D166-F10A-41F7-A79C-2044F960D974

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