The Samsung S-pen has become one of the most revered and highly looked upon stylus on the market. Its sleek style and chiseled-like form-factor make it distinct from all other styluses.
Compared to other stylus pens on the market, the S-Pen also holds the distinction of being one of the most feature-packed stylus available right now.
But does that matter all too much to the discerning buyer, considering you have to own a Samsung Galaxy device to operate the pen? And that's where the relevance of third-party styluses comes into play.
With almost an innumerable amount of options available right now, you can, no doubt, be sure to find the right pen alright. But will it fare well in comparison to the S-Pen?
That's why I have made this article; solely to provide the best comparison of a generic Stylus and the S-Pen.
The S-Pen offers unrivaled features and comes standard with all devices that support it, save the latest Galaxy S series smartphones. A replacement S-Pen is also relatively cheap and readily available. But the S-Pen is compatible only with a few Samsung devices. A third-party stylus, on the other hand, may offer universal support and is also dirt cheap. It may not have a lot of features, like the S-Pen, but it does the job pretty nicely.
But before we get right into the battle, let's talk about the two scrappers we have at hand.
Samsung S-Pen: Many Iterations, Still at the Paramount
The S-Pen made its debut with the then brand new Note Series of smartphones back in 2011. This device was a node to the erstwhile PDA devices, which laid the path for the current generation of smartphones.
The first Note had the best available specs of the time and supported a large display, all contributing to its contention as the best smartphone of the year.
Fast Forward some ten years, the device has become defunct, but one distinct feature of the Note Series still prevails, the very same feature that adds meaning to the "Note" lineup.
The S-Pen remains as the company's only stylus offering, and it is available as three separate offerings.
Samsung S-Pen is supported on a wide range of Galaxy devices, while the S-Pen(Fold edition) is exclusive to the FOLD series of smartphones.
The S-Pen Pro is the beefier, slightly bigger brother that also has support for multiple Galaxy devices.
S-Pens are incompatible with other smartphones because of their inductive nature. More about this later.
Older S-Pens came bundled with the Note smartphones. It usually rests on the bottom right side of the phone, wherein it also charges up.
The newer S-Pens come as standalone devices, but the tablet series supports magnetic attachment on its sides.
If you have a Galaxy Tab A and are looking for an alternative to the S-Pen for the device, this article on Best Styluses for Galaxy Tab A series can help you.
Other Stylus Pens- Strength in Number
The third-party stylus market is booming as of the present as people have started migrating from traditional pen and paper jotting to the quirkier digital counterpart, note-taking applications.
The choices are many, and you're sure to get overwhelmed by the options available right now. Most of these stylus pens also come at a cheaper price range than the S-Pen.
This market also includes single-platform-only devices, much like the S-Pen. These exclusive pens are the Apple Pencil, the Surface Pen, and Wacom styluses.
Though they offer similar, or even better, specs to the S-Pen, most of them do come at a high price.
The best comparison to the S-Pen is the Apple Pencil. Compatible almost exclusively to Apple iPads, the Apple Pencil is one of those must-have accessories for the iPad.
If you want to know more about the Apple Pencil, check out this comparison between the Apple Pencil and other Styluses.
Even if the rest of the pens in this category don't offer as many features as the Apple Pencil or a Surface pen, they do fare well in regard to its fundamental purpose, writing/sketching.
But that doesn't mean these pens are absolute trash when talking about features and specs. A lot of them offer superior functionality and feature list than most first-party stylus pens.
Some also offer universal compatibility, a relatively rare feature among active pens. Passive pens form the lot of this feature as they rely on traditional touch sensitivity rather than a gimmicky circuit-based input.
With that said, let's get on with the comparison between these two categories for a more in-depth analysis of the two.
S-Pen vs. Stylus: A Comparison
Even if it's pretty unfair to compare a superior product like the S-Pen with the generic market of third-party stylus pens, I'll make the comparison a bit digestible by including some hand-picked products that stand head-to-head with the S-Pen.
Bear in mind that none of these pens will be able to match the optimizations and the level of perfection Samsung has been able to do with the S-Pen lineup.
Let's start the comparison with the most important category of them all, compatibility.
The S-Pen starts off at a disadvantage with this category. As stated earlier, the S-Pen is only compatible with certain Samsung products, like the Galaxy Tab series and the Note series.
Even though the newer S-Pen Pro is compatible with a wide range of products, it's still limited to Samsung devices. This disability is due to the inductive mode of communication/operating.
Much like the Apple Pencil, the S-Pen is an inductive stylus. This means that the screen requires a digitizer panel embedded within its glass layers to detect inputs from the pen.
When an inductive pen comes close to the screen, the digitizer panel energies through magnetic induction. The charge hence generated will be detected by the devices' processor. The processor then converts them into appropriate inputs.
This mode of input registration is much more accurate and precise than a conventional touch-based detection or even an active connection-based registration.
But not all smart devices may have a digitizer built into their screens, hence the inconvenience.
On the other hand, a passive stylus works on the common principle of pressure-based touch recognition, much like how we interact with touch screens. This grants them universal support on any device with a capacitive touch screen.
Active stylus pens may not have the universal acclaim of the passive ones but still offer support for more devices than the S-Pen.
Active pens require an active connection with the host device to communicate, hence making them more accurate and precise than passive ones.
The S-Pen is sure to emerge as the clear winner in this category, thanks to brilliant and plentiful features. Let's start with the writing characteristics.
The S-Pen offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity along with native palm rejection and tilt functionality. All these features aid you best when writing or sketching on the device.
The vast amount of pressure sensitivity levels makes you register lifelike strokes with varying degrees of intensity, and the tilt detection feature determines the girth/width of your strokes.
Apart from these features, you can use the S-Pen as a remote too. From the instant you remove the S-Pen from its latch( Note series), a remote interface pops up on the screen. This interface is called the AirCommand interface.
The AirCommand interface houses almost all of the S-Pen features. Most of these features are software features.
Due to its inbuilt Sensors and circuitry, the S-Pen is capable of various gesture-based functions. One prime example is AirView. AirView allows you to slide and skip pictures/media/slides by just gesturing with the pen.
Other software features include Screen Write, Smart select, Translate and even Magnify.
The S-Pen also houses a programmable button that also paves the way for various features. Other Hardware features include an alarm to inform you of a lost Pen, Power Saver mode functionality, etc.
Other stylus pens may fall short in this category. They may not offer such extensive features as the S-Pen, but they do shine in some instances.
One such instance is in the case of pressure sensitivity. There are pens available on the market that offer much higher levels of pressure sensitivity, say in the range of 8K levels.
You can also find pens that offer more than two programmable buttons. That's all to it, no more advantages over the S-Pen.
Precision and Latency
The S-Pen is highly precise and accurate, thanks to its inductive mode of operation. The Pen also employs Bluetooth connectivity with the master device for better communication.
And since it is an inductive pen, you can see the Pen's cursor even while hovering over the display. This will help eliminate any parallax errors that may trouble other inferior stylus pens.
The Pen also exhibits very low latency, almost to an indistinguishable low. An Apple Pencil may be a bit more refined in this field but to a small amount.
Other Stylus pens, especially passive ones, will not stand up to such a level of perfection as that of the S-Pen. An active stylus will offer better precision and latency than a passive pen but still falls short of the S-Pen.
The S-Pen comes standard with both hard plastic tips and soft rubber tips.
Both tips come in the same tip size, 0.7mm, which is excellent for sketching fine lines and curves. The Pen also has a retractability function which helps the tip slide into the pen under extreme pressure.
The package also comes with additional tips and a tip removal tool, both much-appreciated offerings.
The third-party stylus market is filled with stylus pens that offer different tips, ranging from fine plastic tips to broad rubber bubble tips.
A rubber tip tends to stick to the screen and also wears out pretty quickly. Conversely, a plastic tip has better longevity and doesn't stick to the screen.
Other common tip materials include fiber, mesh, metal, and even fine brush hairs. Most of these tips are available for dirt cheap.
Battery and Power
The S-Pen uses a Supercapacitor battery to store and supply power for various functions. This battery is unlike any other battery available in the market today.
The battery charges wirelessly through the phone(Note) while tucked in the slot. It provides approximately 30 minutes of use on 40-second charging.
The newer S-Pen Pro has a USB Type-C charging port, and Samsung claims about 12 days of battery life on a 50-minute charge.
A passive stylus reigns supreme in this regard. It does not require any sort of power solutions to work, and its longevity is limited only by its tip.
Active stylus Pens also perform better in this aspect. Pens like the FiftyThree Pencil offer almost a month's use on a single charge. The Apple Pencil also has better charging times and even better battery life.
So, if you prefer battery life, either choose the S-Pen Pro or look for better alternatives in the third-party market.
After such a comprehensive comparison, it's pretty clear who reigns supreme in this bout. The Samsung S-Pen is the best stylus pen you can get for your Samsung device.
The feature list coupled with the supreme writing characteristics makes it the best option for your device. But if you want to use this Pen with any other smart device, you might find yourself at a loss.
Make sure to compare and quantify each and every product before siding with a product.
In addition to the ones I have mentioned above, most product offerings from Adonit and Wacom are excellent. Check out my article on the best stylus for drawing for more suggestions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes the S-Pen Pro compatible with other Samsung devices?
The S-Pen Pro, unlike the S-Pen(FOLD edition), is capable of working with various other S-Pen-supported devices because it has the provision to vary its working frequency in relation to the host device. The S-Pen(FOLD edition) has its pairing frequency locked to that of the FOLD devices, making it incompatible with other Samsung devices.
Are s pens interchangeable?
Yes, most older S-Pens can be used with the current generation of Samsung devices, as long as it supports S-Pens. Moreover, an S-Pen can be paired with up to 3 devices simultaneously, enabling certain features like drag-and-drop files across multiple devices.
Is there a way to find a lost S Pen?
You can set up your S-Pen in such a way that once you don't have the S-Pen docked into your device after a certain period, your smartphone will remind you of the said scenario. To do so, go to Settings>Advanced Features>S-Pen. Make sure you have enabled the Pen proximity alert option.