This $ 70 S Pen / case combo won’t turn your S21 Ultra into a Galaxy Note


It seems more likely than ever that the Galaxy Note line as we know it is on the way out, and that’s certainly bad news for S Pen fans. Or will he do it? With the launch of this year Galaxy S21 UltraSamsung is apparently trying to give its fan-favorite stylus a life beyond the Note – but you’ll have to find one yourself.

If you have a old galaxy note hang out, you’re golden – just take out that S Pen and draw. If you don’t, you can buy a brand new one for $ 40 from Samsung or shell out an additional $ 30 for a silicone case / S Pen set. This last option seems like the more complete option as it gives Samsung’s stylus a place to live, but after living with it for a week … well, let’s say it’s been a mixed bag.

Be careful, this is not because of the S Pen itself. I actually really like this stuff – it’s one of the most comfortable S pens I’ve ever used. This convenience is all thanks to the size of the S Pen. At just over four inches long, its weight and feel have more in common with a classic ballpoint pen than the small stylus built into Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphones.

Gallery: Photos of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra S Pen case | 7 photos


This $ 40 S Pen comes with everything you need to properly play with the Wacom invisible digitizer inside the S21 Ultra’s massive display. That obviously means you can write with it, but you can also hold the S Pen over the screen and press its button to bring up a palette of handy options and shortcuts. It’s a lot like the old-fashioned S Pen experience, which is good if you’re the type of person who primarily jots quick reminders and grocery lists. (For other fun features like support for aerial gestures and camera control, you’ll have to wait until the more expensive S Pen Pro arrives later this year.)

The S Pen is also fast, which frankly came as a surprise. When I was working on our S21 Ultra test, I noticed that the running latency – that is, the time lag between the onset of a stroke and seeing it on screen – was not as low only on devices like the Note 20 Ultra. I wrote that after testing the S21 Ultra with a Lamy S Pen, Samsung gave in after a launch event, but the issue seems to be gone with this first party stylus. Our review unit didn’t receive any software updates after the release, so I’m comfortable noting this difference with the S Pen I was using.

Chris Velazco / Engadget

If you only need to use the S Pen for writing, you’re in good shape here. Having said that, I hesitate to recommend it to artists. Over the past few years, Galaxy Notes has been able to detect the angle at which the S Pen is held to produce properly angled strokes. This still happens on the S21 Ultra with this slightly less intelligent version of the S Pen, and from what I can tell, the effect works just as well here as it does on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. There are probably some extreme cases here that I’m not fully responsible for, but the experience still seems pretty close.

So like I said, the S Pen itself isn’t the issue here. This is the business that leaves me wanting. On the one hand, it suffers from all the problems other silicone cases have: it quickly picks up lint and dust and hangs inside your pocket. It seems even more inevitable here due to the size of the S21 Ultra when inside that case. It was already a bit bigger and heavier than last year’s S20 Ultra, but this case makes it even heavier. I understand that was inevitable – after all, the case has to hold a physically larger S Pen all the time. Still, people accustomed to the Galaxy Note’s easy-to-grip frame may find this packaging unwieldy.

Samsung Galaxy S21 + in use

Chris Velazco / Engadget

It’s also worth noting that, thanks to all of the buttons on the right side of the S21 Ultra, the S Pen slips into a slot on the left side of the case. This is great news for lefties, but not so much for everyone; I haven’t been able to practice removing the pen with my left hand yet, so using this stylus / holster combo still requires a little awkward juggling. Fortunately, the S Pen is fairly easy to remove and reinsert when you’re done.

Despite the weight of the case, it feels surprisingly shoddy in some places. Specifically, the trim just around the charging port cutout looks very fragile; I could definitely see it grab onto something and shatter when you took it out of a bag. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there aren’t any other S21 Ultra cases available that also comfortably house the S Pen, so people looking to turn their new flagships into ersatz Galaxy Notes just need to do. with.

In all fairness, I’m not sure what Samsung could have done to make this package more user-friendly – other than choosing better materials, that is. The size of the S Pen requires an oversized case, and like I said, it’s the only game in town right now for anyone who wants to use an S Pen with an S21 Ultra without losing it. Let’s be clear, though: As nice as the S Pen can be, this stylus / case combo is nowhere near as thoughtful or stylish as a proper Galaxy Note, and probably wouldn’t win over Samsung die-hards. For that reason alone, I hope Samsung doesn’t completely kill its line of advanced user phablets – hopefully this ship hasn’t sailed yet.

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