Galaxy S21 Ultra S-Pen review: sleek stylus, clunky case

Illustration for the article titled Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra S-Pen is a useful stylus with an awkward casing

Photo: Sam Rutherford

For a long time, if you wanted a phone with a legitimate stylus, and I don’t mean one of those weak ones,sauce sticks with a mushy bump on top; his only real option was a Galaxy Note. However, after adding stylus support to several of its tablets and laptops, this year Samsung decided to release the stylus on its phones. as well, creating an S-Pen to Galaxy S21 Ultra. And while the S21 Ultra’s $ 40 add-on accessory not the same cohesive package you get with a Note, it is useful for the less stylus enthusiast.

One of the best things about the S21 Ultra’s S-Pen is that there is virtually no configuration. Just take it out of the box, hold it close to the phone screen, and you’re good to go – all the software you need is already built in. Y Because the S-Pen in the S21 Ultra is also a passive stylus, there is no need to worry about keeping it charged.

Similar to a Note, placing the S21 Ultra’s stylus over the right edge of the screen brings up a floating button, giving you access to almost all of the standard Samsung S-Pen functions. including traditional notetaking, Smart Select (for cropping photos from videos), Screen Write, Live Messages, AR Doodle and Translate. There’s also a handy settings shortcut that lets you customize the S-Pen’s features, like enabling Screen Off Memo (which lets you take notes without unlocking phone), display a pointer while scrolling, and more.

However, because the stylus does not have an active Bluetooth connection like it does with the S-Pen on a Galaxy Note, you cannot use the stylus on the S21 Ultra as a remote shutter for shooting. pictures or shake to use Samsung air stocks.

That said, the S-Pen in the S21 Ultra has some of its own advantages. Not only does it come with two additional pencil tips that you can swap out for a slightly different feel, the pencil itself is also slightly longer and thicker than a standard Galaxy Note stylus. This may not sound like much, but even for someone like me who doesn’t have big hands, it’s much more comfortable to hold, while also offering a handy button for things like delete. TThe super slim dimensions of the Note’s S-Pen often made it feel like I’m going to break it, while the S21 Ultra’s stylus feels more like a normal writing utensil.

The downside of this version of the S-Pen is that because it is an accessory, there is nowhere to store it when not in use, unless you opt for Samsung’s $ 70 package that includes the S-Pen and a silicone case for the S21 Ultra. On its own, the Samsung silicone case is perfectly functional and does everything a case needs: ICovers all corners, protects the rear camera housing, and has a slot for the S-Pen.

Unfortunately, for me and the other 90% of the people in the world who are right-handed, the slot for the S-Pen is on the left, which means you have to make a slightly awkward random movement or reach out to poke. the pencil the right hand for drawing or writing down-taking. I admit, it’s not a big deal, but it’s kind of clunky, and compared to a Galaxy Note, it’s just not that stylish. But that’s the compromise you have to make do for an optional accessory.

Still, even as someone who doesn’t consider himself a fan of the stylus, compleMentoring the S21 Ultra with an S-Pen transforms the experience. Thanks to Live Messages, I definitely found myself texting more, even if it’s just to doodle on friend memes. Use Smart Select to make GIF of thick seals when I see them, just because it’s so easy. And while I don’t take a lot of traditional notes, I think being able to annotate PDF files is very useful. So even if you don’t use it all the time, it’s nice to have the option of using a stylus when the situation arises.

Illustration for the article titled Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra S-Pen is a useful stylus with an awkward casing

Photo: Sam Rutherford

I really appreciate it that Samsung no longer limits the stylus to the Galaxy Note line. Pencils in phones aren’t for everyone, but they shouldn’t be strictly limited to the $ 1,000 flagships and that Moto phone.. And while the S21 Ultra definitely isn’t cheap, we expect Samsung to continue to expand stylus support to the rest of the Galaxy S line and more in the future.


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