This is Samsung's most advanced S Pen ever (though it's still not perfect)


The thin and light construction, the shiny glass design, the HDR10 video support, the premium sound experience – these are just some of the things that I liked about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 while checking it at MWC. But the new S Pen is what I really want to highlight in a dedicated post, as I believe it deserves the treatment. Why? Well, because this new iteration marks the biggest upgrade since the S Pen's introduction back in 2011. And maybe because I really, really like to draw.

Bigger ideas, bigger S Pen


One obvious change in the S Pen's design is that it is bigger than previous versions. In fact, the stylus is now very similar to an actual pen in both length and thickness. The new model feels more familiar, more natural in the hand, and even though I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time with it, I trust that prolonged use would be more comfortable. As before, the S Pen requires no batteries to operate, which is definitely a plus.

But the jump in size comes with its drawbacks. One is that the S Pen is now a bit more of a hassle to carry around, as there's no slot dedicated for it. Clipping it to your shirt is an option, but there's an alternative. You may grab a cover for the Galaxy Tab S3 where a non-elegant, but functional attachment slot is available. 

That aside, doodling with the new S Pen is quite fun, as the stylus is not only responsive, but also precise. Samsung boasts that the tip of the stylus has been trimmed down to just 0.7mm – as small as it was on the Note 7's S Pen – for extra accuracy. And a special rubbery material at its very end produces friction against the display's glass surface, thus mimicking the drag of a real pen against paper. 

No less importantly, the new S Pen recognizes both pressure and tilt angle as it is being used. Tilting the stylus produces a different stroke – usually a heavier one – depending on the angle. This feature could use some improvement, however, but I'll talk more about it in a bit.

But again, what can you do with the new S Pen?


Glad you asked! You see, the new S Pen is now less of a note-taking tool and more of a creative instrument. That's why Samsung has pre-loaded multiple drawing apps on the Galaxy Tab S3, letting you unleash your inner artist. 

Recolor is one of these apps. Think of it as a digital coloring book with a huge catalog of images. It can be surprisingly relaxing once you give it a chance, no matter how old you are, and using the S Pen makes the activity quite enjoyable.


ArtCanvas is the app for more experienced artists. It is a drawing app where you're given a variety of brushes and a rich palette of colors for sketching your own masterpieces. As expected, the software recognizes when the S Pen is tilted and alters the stroke, but I can't say that this produced the expected results – the brush didn't produce a natural stroke when tilted. I couldn't really get the hang of it, honestly, but perhaps I will once I get to spend more time with Samsung's new tablet. 


Samsung Notes is also present on the Galaxy Tab S3. As the name implies, it is a note-taking app, and notes can be either hand-written or typed. And if you're feeling adventurous, you may use the built-in handwriting recognition feature. But the coolest thing about the app is that you can start taking a note even when the tablet is in stand-by. Just don't forget to hit that "Save" button in the corner when you're done.


I want one now!


So do I, and I'm happy to say that the new S Pen will come bundled with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 tablet. But even though I don't mind, I'm not sure whether that's the right way to go. The new S Pen isn't the humble "toothpick" of old that came included with Note devices. It feels like it is made to be a proper digital drawing tool, which is great, but it also feels like an accessory that only the artistically inclined minority might really use to its full potential. With no elegant way of it being carried around, perhaps many Tab S3 owners would just leave the S Pen back in the box after giving it a quick try. On the other hand, it adds value to an already pretty capable tablet. Having the S Pen in the box could be a good reason for a buyer to pick the Tab S3 over a particular competitor's offering. In any case, the new S Pen is looking like a fun instrument, and I'm looking forward to testing it more thoroughly. 


Related phones

Galaxy Tab S3
  • Display 9.7" 1536 x 2048 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2150 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 6000 mAh

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22 Comments

1. Medoohd

Posts: 16; Member since: Mar 05, 2017

Spen amazing with tab s3

2. aman5mathur

Posts: 241; Member since: Mar 28, 2014

Whoa! Will that be in note 8? Cause it seems pretty thick to be in a smartphone u know. Maybe a thinned iteration will fit into the note 8

3. 23nikki1 unregistered

Wait.. So it's not perfect because it is hassle to carry a s-pen? Many manufacturers doesn't even bother to include a stylus in the bundle and should be bought as an extra accessory, so give'em some credit. Bundling s-pen with tab is a good move and people who doesn't use it can ignore. Whining about this is more like saying "It's a drag to carry a notebook because it doesn't have a pen/pencil holder". Even if a person is using his/her tab with a good case, they still carry tab within a bag.

4. abdoualgeria

Posts: 928; Member since: Jul 27, 2015

Sammy is back to tablets market :D

5. DavMor0069

Posts: 266; Member since: Dec 09, 2015

You could probably use the Spen from a previous not phone, if am not mistaken.

22. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

both use same tech, and it can use any kind of S-pen.. you can even use wacom pen with galaxy note :-/

6. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

2 things, Phone Arena: 1. Is it not perfect because it's not an Apple pencil? 2. If you don't plan on using any S-Pen devices, what's it matter to you if it's 'perfect' or not?

10. Talhamid

Posts: 61; Member since: Jun 13, 2009

LOL - just saw your comment after I typed mine. These are the worst kind of Apple Hos - they are PAID to pretend that nothing good exists outside of Apple world.

7. SleeperOne

Posts: 370; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

Because there's ever been a perfect stylus, Phonearena?

8. Khyron

Posts: 397; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

wait untill tim cook brings the exciting iPENNIS and many apple's fans they will like it

9. Talhamid

Posts: 61; Member since: Jun 13, 2009

Leave it iPhone Arena to add a negative proviso to any product that is not Apple. "Though its not perfect"... As if Apple just slapped you guys on the wrist and you hastily typed it out. What else is perfect? Certainly not the iPhone 7

11. Mr.Pussy

Posts: 348; Member since: Feb 16, 2017

It's not perfect because it doesn't have Apple logo iPhonearena? We get it lol.

12. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Hey Nick, what stylus is perfect? Oh wait, its just a pen and its designed to write and for that it is perfect. Tye only reason it isnt to you is it is from Samsung. Here is why it is perfect. Samsung has vested interest in WACOM, a 5% stake and WACOM makes the best pens and pads over anyone. The best thing is they NEVER NEED TO BE CHARGED...EVER! They have over 4000 levels of pressure sensitivity. Does anyone else? On and if the option is not your size, you can get thrm in several sizes including normal sized pen/pencil and the tips are replaceable. The drawing is inmatched as far as smoothness and accuracy. In fa t it is the most accurate pen to within a singlee pixel. Unlike other pens, WACOM pens allow for to lift and drop right where you left off...period. they are fine tipped and plastic moves faster than rubber. The minute vibration of the pen makes it feel like you are actually writing on a slightly resistive surface as paper would be. Since I have an SP4 and its N-Trig pen, and a Apple Pencil with my iPad Pro, i can say the SPen is much better tool. It is 100% perfect compared to anything else. No BT pairing needed, no batteries no external power of any kind. Samsung also always includes extra top, which Microsoft did not. The WACOM tech is flawless.

15. Khyron

Posts: 397; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

if IPhonearena Review the Spen te scored with a 8 9 and 9.5 la always reserved for apple's crap

13. Michigan

Posts: 246; Member since: Nov 19, 2016

yeah! it doesn't have Tim crook head at the back! typical apple fanboy in denial to give spen 9/10.

14. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Hey PA is the Apple Pencil perfect? How about options from N-Trig? How about the Apple Pencil is the worse with how you have to charge it. You have to plug iy into a port and it sticks out 8 inches from whatever device. I guess that is perfect. Oh and laying an extra $100 must also be perfect vs including it in a product you advertise writing anf drawing with it. Oh and going and trying to find thr tiny AAAA battery for thr Surface Pen when it dies at an airport must be perfect too. How about the fact that WACOM pens are all interchangeable and how I can use the SPen from the Note 12, 3,4,5,7 all on each other devices. Just a quick tap to the display and youre ready to go. Please Nick Picker, tell us what would make the SPEn perfect? Oh and did you see Apple patent on the way theybpLn to add a carry area for an iPad attachment? Is that perfect? I too will say as I did with Apple. Tablets are large enough to either make a silo or make a dip or impression om the back to fit a full sylus in and not detract from the design. Samsung made a bad move using glass. If it was rubber ot metal, they could have easiky made a silo that the pen coukd snap in. Or why not just make the SPEN the exact same length as a pencil, make it slightly thinner and have a silo. The product itself is perfect. It can be easiky toted around. No.one in school ever bitched about notepads not having an easy way to carry a pen or pencil. What a whiner yku are. And yet none of tbis was said about anyome else. I do like that the SP4 has a way to tote with strong magnets, but it is easier to lose that way and not cheap to replace.

16. chenski

Posts: 759; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

My surface book pen is pretty perfect =p

17. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

All styli are perfect. They are designed cor a sinvle purpose. Writing. Unless it doesnt write one isnt any less perfect. But SPen takes first place for not having to be powered, working with all Samsung SPen toting devices. N-Trigs SP4 pen only works with the SP3/4 and Apples pen only qorls with 1 iPad. The Spen rom Note 3, will work with Note 4,5,7,12.2 and 10.1.

18. LiveFaith

Posts: 451; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

Did I read this right? No silo or place to hold the S-pen in the tablet. This is a horrible omission. Hardly anyone wants to keep up with another peripheral concerning a portable device. Maybe if the tablet stays in the same place all the time. But that's not true for hardly anyone. Samsung at least needs to put the smaller Note style stylus in a silo. That way the S-pen is always on board. Not having it attached is as troublesome as a TV remote or wireless mouse with a notebook. It's simply a pain to have to pick up and carry another small and easy to lose peripheral. On a tablet form factor, pen inclusion is easier than on smaller smartphones, like the Note. This is a bad design decision by Sammy.

19. SleeperOne

Posts: 370; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

Seriously, who cares if a Stylus isn't perfect? It's the most human utensil of anything used on digital medium, and I'd prefer it if Styli weren't automated like most jobs are now in Japan.

20. SleeperOne

Posts: 370; Member since: Feb 25, 2017

What I mean is I don't want a physical tool to be replaced by some dorky trial and error hand gesture.

21. Z.....

Posts: 355; Member since: Feb 01, 2017

The pen is to thick to hold.

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