Pilot S3 Mechanical Pencil Review

The S3 is the lowest entry in the “S-series” by Pilot, which culminates in one of my favorite pencils:  The Pilot S20.  How does the lowest end in the S-series do?

Pretty well!


One thing that Pilot does really well is not messing with designs that aren’t broken.  Even though the body and eraser cover are made of plastic, the S3 has very similar contouring and an identical styling lead sleeve and tip.  The S20 has a slightly more convex curve to it, and feels better in my hand, but the S3 still feels great when writing.  The styling of the pocket clip is also the same as the S20.


Behold the side-by-side comparison.

The S20 tip and pocket clip are brushed aluminum and the S3 has polished steel.  The erasers are identical.  The eraser cap is plastic in both cases but the S20 has a lead hardness indicator.

The internal mechanism on the S20 is brass and it is plastic on the S3.  The S3 dispenses about 6-7 mm on ten clicks and has a very satisfying click noise when the plunger is pressed.

Some more photos of the S3:




The other two entries in the “S-series” are the S5 (rubber grip on an S3 body) and the S10 (knurled grip and lead hardness indicator on cap).

So how does the S3 stack up to the rest of the collection?

Writing Experience: Great (comfortable grip just like its older brother, the S20)

Quality: Good (at the top of quality for “cheap” pencils)

Features: OK (pretty much just a mechanical pencil with a tiny eraser)

Price: Cheap (5 USD on jetpens.com)

Pros:  Feels a lot like the S20 in the hand (big compliment) and solid construction for the price point

Cons:  drafting eraser, no additional features, plastic interior

Top Ten?  No, but I think this is a good time to debut an “honorable mention” category that exists outside the Top Ten.  The Honorable Mentions will follow the Top Ten and will be listed in alphabetical order.  I like the HMs, but they’re not different enough from each other to justify ranking them, IMO.  There will be five and will be switched around and be replaced when I find a gem that doesn’t quite fit in the Top Ten.

1) Pentel Sharp Kerry

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Great, Features: Great, Price: Moderate

2) Pilot S20

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Great, Features: Good, Price: Expensive

3) Rotring Rapid Pro

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Superb, Features: Good+, Price: Expensive

4) Tombow Zoom 505sh

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Expensive

5) Pentel Sharp P205

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Cheap

6) Pentel Twist Erase GT

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Good, Features: Great, Price: Cheap

7) Tombow Mono Graph Shaker

Writing Experience: Good, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Cheap

8) Pentel Graphgear 1000

Writing Experience: OK, Quality: Good+, Features: Great, Price: Moderate

9) Uni Shift Pipe-lock

Writing Experience: Good, Quality: Good, Features: OK, Price: Moderate

10) Alvin Draft/Matic

Writing Experience: Good, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Moderate

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):  Pilot S3, Rotring Tikky, Steadtler Triplus Micro 774, Uni Kuru Toga, Zebra M-301

2 thoughts on “Pilot S3 Mechanical Pencil Review

  1. Chandon

    I’ve just come across your site (via your comment on the Dave’s Mechanical pencils site), and find your pencil reviews to be very well written and interesting. I am a big fan of the S3 range, as they are a very well made pencil for the money. I also like the fact that it comes in so many different sizes. To the best of my limited knowledge, it is one of the few mechanical pencils that you can buy in a 0.4 mm lead size, which is an added bonus. Keep up the reviews, as I find them very good. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. klecser Post author

      Thank you for your kind words. You bring up a critical point about the S3 that I definitely should have mentioned in my review. 0.4mm can be very difficult to find outside of Japan and I hear that it hits the “sweet spot” for lead diameter for a lot of enthusiasts. I think it speaks volumes about Pilot as a manufacturer that one of their “low end” pencils has such high quality and all for a very reasonable price!



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