Cross Morph DigitalWriter Duo Stylus/Pen

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, January 2005, send e-mail
Manufactured by: A. T. Cross, go to the web site
Available from: StylusCentral, go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$29.99 (available for less at retailers including StylusCentral)

A. T. Cross, the current doyen of U.S. writing instrument ingenuity, keeps coming up with genuinely interesting designs. The Morph DigitalWriter Duo has a ballpoint pen on one end, a PDA stylus on the other, and touts the ergonomic design and adjustable silicone grip of the original Morph. With a relatively sophisticated look using translucent silver-grey silicone in combination with chrome barrel, tip and clip, this model looks and feels substantial. Considering the competition in the marketplace these days however, any stylus/pen combo had better be a really good writing instrument first and foremost in order to be able to drag attention away from the competition. The Morph DigitalWriter Duo Stylus/Pen is currently Cross's best selling stylus/pen.

The lower section of the front barrel contains three wires inside a cylindrical silicone wrapper which is affixed top and bottom to the barrel. A dial located at the top of this barrel section can be rotated to flex the wires inward or outward in order to create a triangular, variable size silicone-wrapped grip with smooth contours. There is a slight triangular feel to the morphing grip even when it's fully reduced. The pen is supplied with a full size Cross ballpoint refill and a chromed steel pocket clip. The Morph Stylus/Pen has a substantial feel and a good hand without a lot of weight. It looks heavy with it's chromed barrels and large diameter grip, but initially feels light as a feather. Continuous use accustomizes you very quickly and you'll be amazed at how quickly it begins to feel much like a standard writing pen. It takes a few days of practice to become facile at spinning the pen end for end in order to quickly switch to the stylus tip. On the other hand, if you're a Pentrix fanatic this should be easy.

In regular daily use the Morph doesn't draw much attention until you make a grip adjustment. Anybody who sees you do it will immediately stop what they're doing to quiz you about the pen. In regular use you won't be adjusting the grip very often, although extended daily use for note taking and Graffiti will usually give you a reason to make some adjustment to relieve natural hand fatigue. You can't do that with a traditional pen design. After about 5 weeks of daily use, the Morph Duo Stylus/Pen shows few ill effects from my careless, drop-prone treatment. More important, the exposed stylus tip remains in great shape, with no flaws or abrasions visible under strong magnification.

Cons: Rear barrel is a friction fit assembly which means you literally pull it off the front barrel to get at the refill—an awkward process. Like their Matrix Multifunction Pen model, A. T. Cross is making these things with a big, fat stylus tip. I think that because Cross insists on using exposed stylus tips in their stylus/pen designs, they've settled on fatter tips in order to avoid the breakage that would likely result if a typically slim stylus tip was left exposed. That's a good decision as far as it goes, but it really doesn't address the fact that the stylus tip, while made of a very durable and screen-friendly composite, is too fat to be of accurate use in many Palm OS and Pocket PC games and in programs and utilities which feature small icons, narrow scroll bars and small selection areas. Using the stylus tip in inclement weather and humid indoor conditions proved somewhat uncomfortable mainly because the slick, chromed rear barrel offers no secure grip. The pocket clip occasionally interferes with finger positions when using the stylus, necessitating grip adjustments.

Pros: The chromed aluminum, steel, nylon and composite construction is lightweight and strong. The morphing grip appears to be extremely tough, very difficult to damage, yet amazingly soft in the hand, providing an absolutely sure grip in all conditions including sub-zero weather, extreme heat and humidity, wet conditions (and wet hands) and many other uncomfortable but common environments. Excellent ink capacity from the full size refill. Ink flow is excellent, with no clumping and no significant line thickness changes even with widely varying hand pressure. Typical Cross smoothness when writing on a wide variety of papers, making it a very good pen—one of the top 5 in this category. The stylus tip is also an extremely smooth writer and works extremely well on a variety of screen surfaces and screen protector films. Despite its exposed position at the top of the rear barrel, after a month of regular use in and out of pockets, tossed into briefcases, dropped on the floor innumerable times and generally unfairly abused, the stylus tip is undamaged (we looked at it under magnification) and still treats our PDA screens gently. It's gutsy as hell to position a stylus tip in such an exposed location, but Cross seems to have it figured out. It's a nice stylus/pen that serves a variety of needs. Recommended.

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