Not long ago, I was alerted to the fact that there were nice, fountain pen friendly notebooks at, of all places, Walmart. Of course, I had to investigate, so I stepped into a Walmart for what was probably the first time in many years. Once I found my way back to the office supplies I was greeted by box after box of what I was looking for: Exceed Journals. Rumor had it that these notebooks were not only inexpensive, but also had great paper. Wanting to put them to the test, I bought one and headed home to play.
I purchased the Exceed 100gsm A5 Bullet Journal. I should point out that, while there are other sizes available, this is the only standard notebook size. There are also two different paper options, a 100gsm and a 78gsm option. From what I’ve read, the 78gsm is the same as the 100gsm, but I haven’t tested it yet, so for the rest of this review my findings only relate to the 100gsm paper.
I unwrapped the 100gsm A5 Bullet Journal and was immediately impressed with how well-made it felt. The cover, while not necessarily made out of a luxurious material, has a nice feel to it. It is stiff enough to be a solid hardcover and the binding feels nice and tight. The blue color of the notebook is bright. It has a matching blue elastic closure and ribbon marker.
Opening it up, I was greeted by numerous index pages. It turns out this notebook has numbered pages, which makes it perfect for a bullet journal! The paper has a very creamy-yellow color, enough that it stands out as not being white. We’ll have to see how ink looks on it. The paper feels very smooth and seems like it will handle ink quite well.
Let’s take a look at the Exceed notebook and see what it’s all about
- Pages: 240 (120 sheets), not counting index pages
- Paper Weight: 100gsm
- Binding: Stitch
- Page Style: Lined, Dot
- Size: A5
Ink-handling characteristics (A table with the following properties can be found at the bottom of this post)
- Sheen: Low
- Shading: Low
- Bleeding: Very Low
- Ghosting: Very Low
- Feathering: Very Low
- Dry Time: Medium
- Page numbers
- Index pages
- Elastic closure
- Double ribbon page marker
- Expandable rear pocket
I have to admit, when I purchased this notebook I didn’t have high hopes for it. Even though I’d seen a good review for it, I was still skeptical. How could a notebook that was so inexpensive, made by a company that no one had heard of before, be any good? At the most, I expected it to be fountain pen friendly, but nothing special.
Things got off to a good start as soon as I opened the notebook. The color, the cover material, the extras and the paper all make a great first impression. I don’t think anyone is going to mistake this for a luxury notebook, but if I didn’t know what I paid for it I would never imagine it costs less the $10. In short, it makes a great first impression.
Let’s take a quick look at the various extras before talking about the paper. The elastic closure is nice and snug and feels like it will keep the notebook closed up tight. The ribbon markers are just the right length, but are a little crimped from being stuck inside of the book. The index has more than enough pages and the line for each entry is large enough for a good description. The expandable rear pocket feels sturdy and should hold a good number of items.
The notebook appears to be well-made. The stitch binding allows it to lay completely flat, but the cover material is a little stiff, so you might need to flex the binding a bit when you first get it.
Now on to the paper. In short, it’s fantastic. It feels very nice to write on, fairly smooth but with some texture for just a bit of feedback. While it doesn’t show a lot of sheen or shading, it does show some, so your fun inks won’t be boring! The dry times are fairly average, which means you won’t have to spend a ton of time waiting for ink to dry before you turn the page or close the notebook.
Where the paper in this notebook really shines is how well it handles ink. I did my regular testing and also wrote with some wetter pens that lay down a lot more ink. I didn’t see a single instance of feathering or bleed-through, even with heavy ink applications. Additionally, the was virtually zero ghosting. In fact, many times I couldn’t even tell if I had written on the other side of a page and had to turn it over to check. Part of the reason is that this is thick (100gsm) paper, but it also just handles ink really well.
One more thing to note about the naming of these notebooks… although this notebook is named a bullet journal, the other notebooks are also available with a dot grid (in addition to lined pages) and the bullet journal comes in lined. I guess the name just refers to the size? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I suppose it doesn’t have to.
When I first heard that Walmart had a line of notebooks with quality paper, I was skeptical to say the least. In general, I’m wary of any paper that is not made specifically for use with fountain pens, but especially when that paper comes from a large retail store. Now that I’ve tried it, though, I’m a believer. I’ll even go so far as to say that at this price point, it’s some of the best paper you’ll find in a notebook. If you want a notebook that has just about every option, as well as paper that you won’t have to worry about extreme dry times and behaves well with pretty much every pen/ink combination, this is one that should not be missed.
If you’d like a bit more information about how I test papers and notebooks, I wrote an article about my paper rating system.
Exceed 100gsm A5 Bullet Journal
Fountain Pen Love Overall Rating
Pros: Great price, great paper, page numbers
Cons: Only available at Walmart, thick due to heavier paper
Value Rating: 3.71 Stars, Cost per A5 sheet: $0.07
Who this notebook is for: Anyone who wants a reasonably-priced notebook with good paper, especially for bullet journaling.
Upgrade to this notebook from: Leuchtturm1917
Upgrade from this notebook to: Midori MD