Saturday, 10 August 2013

Review of the Pocket Flex by Filofax

Flex in the centre, plus goodies it came with
[warning: long, picture-full post. Click on any picture to enlarge]

I know. I need to do about a zillion stationery reviews. I will try and get to them all soon (though there is always that problem of having bought more stationery before I’ve reviewed the current tranche... oops)

Anyway, today I’m going to review the pocket flex from Filofax. I bought this on eBay – new, with a heap of extras, though I understand it’s a ‘first edition’ and so the new version may have a different layout. This version is still available on the Filofax website (statement correct at time of publication).

The flex is a ‘new’ concept in notebooks (though personally, I doubt that there is anything much new in the world of stationery! It’s paper and bindings and you write on it. What’s new?). The idea is that you can slide the covers of notebooks into the flex cover in a variety of ways and the cover holds them together for you. The flex comes in a variety of sizes: pocket and A5 taking the same size refills as pocket and A5 Filofax paper, and slim which is not the same as a personal Filofax size (it has refills that are 150mm x 85mm c.f. a Filofax personal which is 171mm x 95mm). I bought the pocket because it was small and neat (and because the pages were the same as the Filofax pocket size and therefore potentially useful, even if the flex turned out not to be. A5 was just too big.).

Flex unwrapped

What it came with: 64 page ruled notebook (L),
pen holder (seen in the centre), jot-pad (R)
So what did I get in my package? I think it was a pretty good deal, all in all. I got the standard cover and fill (cover, plus 64 page ruled notebook, plus jot-pad, plus moveable pen holder), then I also got as extras:
a 256 page ruled notebook (£7.50)
another 64 page ruled notebook and a 64 page plain notebook (£3.50 each)
another pen holder (£2.00)
a fold-out 2013 planner (£2.50)
a contacts book (£2.00).
On at the moment, the magenta pocket flex is £11.90. My entire bundle was £12 including p+p, which, considering it would have cost £21.00 just for the extras it came with, was a pretty good bargain! [all prices from the Filofax website and correct at time of publication]

First impressions:
The cover feels very plasticky (it is plastic!) and smelled quite strongly of vinyl/plastic when I first opened it, but the smell has now faded somewhat. The way the cover is organised there are two vertical slots in each cover (one inward-facing; one outward-facing) which you can slot the different things into. Additionally, on the left-hand inside there are four card slots, and on the right-hand inside there are slots for holding the jot-pad. The visible cover is quite a nice bright pink with a texture to the vinyl. The linings of the slots are in a black fabric.

The Refills:
It doesn’t come with a diary, which is a real shame and I honestly think that Filofax are missing a trick there. However, the bundle I got has quite a lot to consider.

The notebooks:
My bundle came with two 64 page ruled notebooks, one 64 page plain notebook and one 256 page ruled notebook. The 64 page notebooks are a nice size; the 256 page version might be a bit too thick (it’s 15mm thick).
The page style in the ruled notebooks has a darker top and bottom line creating a header/footer effect, 20 line-spaces (well, 21, but the flex by Filofax logo overlaps with the bottom one). Line-spacing is 5mm. The plain version has the same header/footer lines and the last 8 pages of the plain booklet are in fact squared (~4.2mm squares). The pages are sewn rather than glued (though this still doesn’t quite make them lie flat!). The paper is thicker than Filofax binder paper (it feels like 80 gsm, but I can’t confirm it) and is a light cream colour.

Interior of the plain notebook
The paper is an epic fail! It soaks up ink like blotting paper, so the ink feathers and even a bic biro has significant bleed-through/show on the other side of the paper. How can Filofax get the fundamental aspect of stationery – the paper – so, so wrong, all the time??? I have cheap printer paper that does better than this. I’m so glad my bundle came in at a fraction of the full price. If I had paid £3.50 for a 64 page notebook that fails so abysmally in its primary objective as an object on which to write, I would be fizzing mad!

Epic pen fail: front
Epic pen fail: reverse
The Contacts booklet:
Having met the epic fail with the notebook, I have hesitated to use anything at all as yet in the contacts book as it is the same paper. Line-spacing is the same at 5mm and the there is a 25mm wide shaded section on the left-hand side. The way the letters are divided up is as pairs (AB, CD, EF etc.) until the last six letters, which are done as triplets (UVW, XYZ). There are four sides for each of the paired letters and two sides for each of the triplets. The bonus (at least for me) is that it will fit in the pocket in the back of my Baroque pocket filofax, which would free up ring-space. Should I decide to use my pocket Cavendish, it will also slot very nicely into the slot in the back cover (and with 15mm rings, this could be a useful aspect).

Contacts booklet

The pen-holder:
The one supplied with the flex matched the cover in being pink. It’s basically a piece of pink elastic mounted on a piece of cardboard the same size as the notebook covers. The one that came in the bundle is grey elastic on grey card. It holds a bic crystal loosely, likewise my Sharbo diary pen/pencil combo. A V5 hi-tecpoint fits better diameter-wise, but is too tall. A standard-sized pencil fits only loosely. I don’t appear to possess a pen that fits the slot properly which will also write in the notebook without bleeding like a stuck pig.

The 2013 fold-out planner:
A month a ‘page’, with Saturday and Sunday indicated with dark shading around the day name and date. The line-spacing is about 3.4mm. There are six months on one side of a long fold-out sheet, with the final six months on the other side. It’s probably useful to people who use year planners but I don’t so I can’t imagine using it.

The jot-pad:
The label says 32 pages, but mine has 14 sheets (28 pages). Page size = 60mm x 120mm. Entirely plain paper. The same epic fail paper. Perforated sheets to tear them off. Pointless (as far as I am concerned).

Jot-pad in situ: Does not lie flat!
It needs a strap or fastener of some form. I have seen people using a second pen-holder in the front cover and inserting a pen through both holders to keep the flex fastened (see picture). With the interior filled, this doesn’t really work brilliantly - there is only one notebook in to allow the elastic loops to match up. I would use a simple piece of knotted elastic!

two pen-loops for a closure trick
It is described on the Filofax website as having lie-flat pages, but mine don’t lie flat and nor does the cover, without bending it back on itself first.

It’s interesting and I could imagine using it for a diary and notebook combination. That could satisfy my need to see a week at a time and to be able to see a page of to do/notes in the same view (see picture).

Mock up: notebook on left; other notebook pretending
it could be a diary on the right
Normally, in pocket size, this is unworkable because a week to a page version of the diary (to have week on one side, notes on the other) is too small to use easily. However, I also like to use my planner as a wallet and this, despite the card slots, can’t really function like that – there are not enough slots and there is nowhere to put coins. I could use it for the diary/notes and carry a separate wallet, but then, I could combine those two aspects in a single filofax so there’s no great advantage. I really can see me using the contacts booklet in a pocket filofax though, to free up ring space. It’s a real shame that Filofax are so inept at producing something made of paper, considering they are a paper-based product company. That, more than anything, lets the whole thing down. The Filofax website says, “All the stationery inserts have been printed and bound to an extremely high specification”. It might have been printed and bound to a high specification, but the actual paper could double as blotting paper. And Filofax are having a laugh with those prices! I can get A6 notebooks with more pages and glorious Clairefontaine paper for £1.25. Why on earth would I pay £3.50 for such shocking quality?

Stars out of five?
Design: *** - nice idea, but it needs a strap/fastener. The jot pads or slots aren’t useful (to me)
Execution: * - if you can’t produce a paper product that you can write on properly, it’s a bit poor.

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