Five Star Flex Hybrid Notebinder Review

26 Nov

Product Description:

Avery is probably the most common brand of binders available.  But Five Star is undoubtedly the coolest (the fact that I identified school supplies as “cool” probably explains a lot about what I was like growing up).  Nonetheless, when I was in middle school and high school, Five-Star supplied all of my binders and all of my notebooks.

Five Star is actually a sub-brand for Mead, which was originally part of the Mead Corporation, which traces its roots all the way to a paper company in 1846.  Over those 150 years, the company expanded, diversified, and acquired a number of other companies, including creating Mead Data Central, which developed and later sold off LexisNexis.  Mead also acquired (1986) and sold (1992) Ampad to Bain Capital, a transaction which was featured in an episode of NPR’s Planet Money titled “How Mitt Romney’s Firm Tried – And Failed – To Build a Paper Empire”.  In 2002, Mead merged with Westvaco to form MeadWestvaco, but in 2012 the company sold its office supply brands, including Mead, Trapper (the 90’s-tastic originator of the Trapper Keeper), and Five Star to ACCO Brands, an umbrella company based in Lincolnshire, IL (outside Chicago).

Five Star offers a number of binders, but its most unique and interesting binder is the Five Star Hybrid Notebinder, which holds sheets like a binder but acts and feels like a notebook.  It’s made of two thin plastic “covers” held together with a sewn fabric spine and three molded “TechLock” rings (shown in the picture on the right).  The rings aren’t connected to each other through any kind of backing, and they individually pop open so you can put in and take out sheets of paper.  Then because of the free-floating rings and the flexible fabric spine, you can fold the notebinder front cover all the way around to the back cover to save on desk space just like a notebook.

Each binder also comes with plastic divider inserts, plastic pocket inserts, and some filler paper.  They come in several colors and patterns in 1” and 1.5” sizes.

American Alternative Review:
Just like the Five Star Poly binders, the Five Star Flex Hybrid Notebinders are made in China.

Unlike the Poly binder though (which scored 1/5 stars), the Notebinder is a unique product that doesn’t use a commodity binding like every other binder out there.  And as “simple” as the design looks, it is definitely innovative, incurring a larger amount of US-based design and engineering than just the US-based graphic design of the Poly binders.

Mead and Acco are also both headquartered in the US.

1.5/5 stars

Ultimately, this is a tough one for us to call.  1.5 out 5 stars isn’t an objectively good score, indicating that the Five Star Flex Hybrid Notebinders aren’t really very “made in America”….but the Notebinders are also unique products that provide benefits that no other binders offer (mainly being able to fold all the way over to take up less space in your hand or on a desk).

So if you’re just looking for a simple binder to hold your papers, there are certainly options that are made more in the US that we’d recommend instead such as the Naked Binders or the Guided Product ReBinders.  But if you like the features that the Notebinders offer, that’s fine by us because the Five Star Flex Hybrid Notebinder is the most American-made binder-that-folds-completely-in-half that we’re aware of.

You can check them out in black, blue, green, pink, and red here.


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