My family, friends and industry folks know about my love of massively big phones. As long as my ridiculously long thumbs can traverse the screen space, it's not too big. I'm also a sucker for a stylus. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s something magical about the act of putting pen to paper, even if it’s a stylus to the screen. Which is why the Samsung Galaxy Note line has been my smartphone of choice for years, right down to my current love, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
But the rumor mill has been swirling that my beloved Note might be put out to pasture, in favor of the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3. I wasn’t too happy with the news, but after getting some hands-on time with the Fold 3, I feel better about it, especially knowing the foldable will have not one, but two styli in the S-Pen Fold and the S-Pen Pro. The first pens created specifically for the foldable, the new S-Pens come with the functionality you’d expect along with a few new tricks.
Here’s what you can expect from Samsung’s new S-Pens.
S-Pen Fold and Pro pricing and availability
Samsung has yet to release pricing information on either S-Pen, but both will be available for pre-order starting August 11.
S-Pen Fold and Pro Design
These aren’t the cute, color coordinated styli of the Note line. Both the Fold and the Pro look more substantial and business-like compared to Note’s S-Pen. For starters, both the Fold (0.3 ounces, 5.2 x 0.3 inches in diameter) and the Pro (0.5 ounces, 6.8 x 0.4 inches in diameter) are larger than anything put forth by the Note. However, the Pro is longer than the Fold, since the latter is designed to fit into a special case for the smartphone. Both the new pens are made of graphite gray plastic.
Holding either of the pens feels like you’re gripping a No. 2 pencil or a BIC pen. Both are substantially weighty, but the Pro has buttons to access Air Command features whereas the Fold, which is only a writing device, lacks this feature.
S-Pen Fold and Pro writing
I use the S-Pen on my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra primarily for note-taking, writing poetry and making lists. It’s a really smooth experience with the pen boasting 9 milliseconds of latency. It does a great job of keeping pace with my scribbles. But in my short time with the Fold and Pro pens, it seems that they’re even better.
Both the pens feel great which makes writing very comfortable. The pens glided across the Z Fold 3’s Infinity Flex display like a hot knife through butter. While Samsung didn’t disclose the latency yet, it did reveal that it’s faster than the current S Pen. I didn’t notice any lag when writing with either instrument.
And while the writing is great, the bigger deal is that the Fold got a pen at all with its unique screen. One can only imagine how it would only take one angry stab of an S-Pen to damage the screen on this nearly $2,000 phone. Fortunately, Samsung found a solution by making the pen tips retractable. That means if you press the pen tip too hard against a hard surface, like a foldable display, the tip will recede into the S-Pen’s body, protecting that precious screen.
S-Pen Fold and Pro Air Command
And here’s where the Fold and the Pro’s paths diverge. Using a Bluetooth connection, the S-Pen Pro can access Air Command functions such as Screen Write, Smart Select, Translate and Magnify. And for those times you need a stress reliever, there’s even a coloring book. The Pro can also utilize gestures in specific Samsung apps, turning the pen into a remote control. Speaking of which, it can control the camera or adjust volume.
The S-Pen Fold lacks Bluetooth, which means you can’t make use of all those snazzy features, which is a bit of a bummer. But it’s still a great writing instrument.
When I saw the original Galaxy Fold, I thought this would be awesome if it had a pen. And now three iterations later, I’ve gotten my wish. Both the S Pen Fold and Pro are great writing instruments as they feel and write like you’d expect a real pen to function. Samsung has cut down the latency even further, potentially making these the best S Pens to date.
If the Note is really retired and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 ends up becoming my next smartphone, I’m going to splurge and go for the S-Pen Pro. Although it won’t have a nifty harness to sit in, I’m a bells-and-whistles kind of lady and I want to access all the phones’ features. Plus, I’ll need a new note-taking device and paired with the Pro, the Fold 3 could very well be it.
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Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.