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The Galaxy Tab S3 is worth buying just for its S Pen

It's been years since a major tablet release from Samsung came bundled with a stylus. The last S Pen-equipped device was the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (say that in one breath). But now that the Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad Pro have become mainstays with their stylus-equipped tablets, Samsung is throwing its S Pen back into the ring.

The S Pen became an attractive reason to choose a larger Galaxy Note smartphone over smaller devices, and now that technology has been bundled with the Galaxy Tab S3. If you're considering a tablet with a stylus in tow for your next purchase, here are a few reasons to consider Samsung's latest tablet over the competition.

It's compatible with a ton of apps

The most important thing to know about the S Pen is that it's compatible with any mobile application that supports the stylus input. I tested it with apps like Microsoft OneNote (opens in new tab), Google Keep (opens in new tab), and Adobe Draw (opens in new tab) and all three applications recognized the S Pen's pressure sensitivity, though not all of them registered it fully. Drawings apps will be more precise than productivity-focused ones, for instance, because they're programmed to recognize the nuance in the direction of the S Pen. The point is, you can get professional-grade work done with this tablet.

The Galaxy Tab S3 also comes with its own Samsung Notes (opens in new tab), which is good for quick hits and jotting down random notes when other apps aren't immediately available. But I preferred to use the S Pen with OneNote, which is where I typically scrawl notes throughout the work day. I appreciated, too, that the S Pen's 0.7mm tip helps make it one of the most accurate styluses I've ever used.

Program it, however you like

Adobe Draw.

Maybe you don't want to use the actions set by default in the S Pen's Air Command — that's fine! You can program the Air Command menu as you like, whether to pin oft-used apps and services or to rearrange the order of some of the S Pen's default abilities. You can add up to a maximum of ten shortcuts or as few as one — the one shortcut to rule them all.

Easily translate words

Translate German.

Translate the language on screen with just a hover of the S Pen.

I like to read German website and I'm continuing my education in my parent's native language. It helps to have a built-in translation feature that doesn't require I copy and paste text into another app, as is typically the case with using Google Translate.

On the Galaxy Tab S3, you can enable a mode that translates the language on screen with just a hover of the S Pen over the word. The feature works in most apps with clear text, including Texture (opens in new tab), the magazine reading app. I like to use this feature when I'm reading Romanian websites because then I can translate any of the words I'm stumbling on without having to translate the entire page into English. It forces me to practice.

Make animated GIFs

GIFs.

Use this feature to extract text from an image.

This isn't a necessary feature per se but it is a fun feature to have readily available. You can hover over the screen and select Smart select from the Air Command window to create an animated GIF from a non-DRM video file. It works fine with YouTube videos and most videos displayed in the tablet browser, though you won't be able to use it inside apps like Netflix and Hulu — that's considered copyrighted content.

You can also use Smart select to crop out a portion of the screen and save it as a separate image file. This is helpful if, for instance, you need to share quick information with coworkers through chat. You can even use this feature to extract text from an image and then paste it into another note taking app. These are helpful multitasking abilities to have built into the interface.

Write with the screen off

Screen off.

The Galaxy Tab S3 doesn't actually work when its screen is off, but it does come enabled with a feature that lets you easily pen a note without having to endure unlock hell. Simply grab the S Pen, click its button, tap it to the screen, and get to writing. The note will be saved in the Samsung Notes app, where you can then export it to other applications as you need. It's a good feature to have if you're living a life that's constantly on the go.

Would you like a stylus?

Would you like a stylus with your next tablet? Got any other questions about the S Pen's abilities? Sound off in the comments!

Florence Ion is an editor and columnist at Android Central. She writes about Android-powered devices of all types and explores their usefulness in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter or watch her Tuesday nights on All About Android.

38 Comments
  • Ok ok ok AC talking about milking the cow are should I say beating a dead horse what is this , the 6th article with the same topic. This is click bait at I finest . Cause you no the haters are just lining to say the same damn thing they've repeated over over again already......That they can't afford this tablet and tht they don't think it's worth the asking price blah blah blah . Let me help them apple will love to sell you less for more ,so just go buy it !!! , oh and that watered down $350 iPad is just that a rehash of a older model .....Ok let the flame wars begin now
  • Grab a cookie, my friend. You're in for a wild ride.
  • I miss my note 7... is it august/sept, I want my Note 8.
  • Is there palm rejection while writing on the screen?
  • Of course. they had that feature ever since Note 1 (the phone).
  • Yes there's​ Palm rejection. This tablet is on display at your local best buy . I tried it and and it's a beast of a tablet . The pen is say better then the one in my note 5
  • I had the original Tab S. I switched over to iPad though. Mostly because of the carrier incentive and I needed the LTE function. I find myself not in much need for a tablet lately though, especially with phones being so large.
  • For that price I'd go with a lower model Surface Pro or one older model. You get a lot more functionality for a similar price. Also, you will get OS updates for years longer than you will with a Samsung tablet.
  • There not the same ones a tablet the other a computer so not sure why your comparing to two . It's competitor is the iPad. You know Samsung makes cheaper tablets pick one
  • As a Surface Pro 3 owner, if your getting a tablet primarily to sketch and draw on, I'd go with the Tab S3. I love my surface, but compared to the Note tablet I have it runs hot, is heavy, has short battery life, and the Spen is better than the surface pen.
  • I would really like to have one in a 7-8" size. When getting over 10" for a premium price, might as well get a something like a Surface Pro with a good keyboard.
  • Why not just get the many laptops that are cheaper yet then a surface pro which buy the way is $1000 , you guys price analogy makes no sense to me sure there cheaper option. Porsche 911 or Camaro they both will get you from point A to point B. Do you complain on the Porsche forms also
  • The point is a good pen experience. Surface clones and even base surface Pro or surface pro 3 can be found for deals in similar price range to the S3.
  • . Ok so by the same token why not just get a 3in 1 laptop that can be had all day long for the price of a surface book . See where I'm going with this sure there lots of alternatives . That tab s3 is designed with lightweight and portability in a premium package. The person that spends $1000 on a iPad pro but wants a Android is there Target audience. Not the penny-pinchin budget-conscious folks here on Android Central there's plenty of Chinese alternatives for you guys in the $200 bracket choose one
  • A low end/older Surface or its clones will not provide a good *anything* experience. Use one for a while, you'll understand.
  • Surface Pro 3 works just as well as SP4 and an SP3 i5 8/256 can be found for less than this with keyboard for same price. Get a lesser model for even less. For me that provides much more functionality. For some a little smaller is all they need, but the keyboard on the Galaxy is not going to be a great experience like the Surface Pro. I don't know about clones. I have SP4 and SP3. The point is a good pen experience. The S3 is definitely the best Android tablet available so if that is what you need then definitely the best option. I personally don't want an Android tablet that big and the keyboard is still cramped. Samsung Tab A is a cheaper option with active pen (drops as low as 250 on Amazon). I would have bought one of those, but only 16GB which may be fine for some but not enough for me. (SD card is good but still need 32GB onboard.) Perfect Android Tablet for me would be the Nvidia Shield with a active pen. I like front speakers and smaller size. I know there is a stylus sold for it but it is just capacitive and nothing like an active pen.
  • Picking one up this morning but am concerned on quality control. Played with one at a Samsung store last week and it had a large dead spot in the screen for the digitizer that didn't allow the pen to write.
    Likely will be buying extended warranty to be safe.
  • So is this the same S Pen that comes on the Samsung Chromebook? If so, a comparison test might be in order. If the Chromebook comes with a bigger screen and a smaller price, why would I buy the tablet? Also, I'd be interested to see and 8" version of this. I'm currently considering the new Lenovo Tab 4 8+, which looks like i'ts going to cost about half of what the S3 costs. So, choices.
  • For the same reason anyone buys a tablet, the form factor. A chromebook, or any other 2 in 1 with a 360 degree design that flips the keyboard back, will never be a light or convienent to use in tablet mode as an actual tablet.
  • The digitizer question is a very valid concern. Take a look at the links in the comment section of this post over at Chromeunboxed, it may help a bit. https://chromeunboxed.com/hp-chromebook-x360-convertible-full-specs/ From what I can tell from briefly using both the Tab S3 and the Samsung Chromebook Plus is that the S3 has much less lag when the pen is used. I am not sure if this is related to the processor directly or not.
  • GIF maker.... Damn, I miss that......
  • I will mot but a tab s 3 the price is ridiculousy high plus it not much better than the s2 witch by the way is way to high priced there are very good alternatives out there
  • No the operative word is there are cheaper alternatives there's a difference.
  • I've owned the Galaxy Note 10.1(2014) 4G LTE for several years now. Till this tablet there was only one true competitor, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. I haven't actually seen this one yet, but I'm severely tempted. I'll get over to Best Buy this afternoon. Let's just say I'm intrigued. By the way, the analogy to cars is warranted. Wouldn't you rather have a Ferrari than a Yugo? This sounds like it's going to be a Ferrari.
  • More annoyed than ever that Amazon didn't deliver this on day 1 and won't let me cancel my order so I can go to Best Buy and pick one up.
  • Haha you see sometimes its better to just go old school and visit your local best buy in out done just saying and they price match .So not sure why you wouldn't go to Best buy in the first place
  • There isn't even a price difference-- I just didn't want to have to burn my lunch hour going over to pick it up, I wanted Amazon to deliver it right to my desk. Ugh, they're now offering free overnight delivery tomorrow or Sunday, yet I pre-ordered and paid for one-day delivery and it's taking 3 days? BS.
  • Can you refuse delivery?
  • I just want to know about the Verizon variant!
  • The LTE version will be more expensive haha , you down for that just saying
  • When you factor in the cost of Sunday NFL Ticket, InterNet only ($199-$359), and no data usage for watching games or the Red Zone Channel, it helps to overcome the Verizon Premium cost. :)
    I usually watch all six hours of the Red Zone Channel, when I can, then the Sunday and Monday and Thursday night games. All that for Free on Verizon. For those of us who have totally cut the chord, a good tablet with a Verizon SIM Card is a blessing during football season.
  • I am OK with the increased cost. This will be my 4th tablet with either LTE or 3G (many years ago). I am currently using a Tab S 10.5 with VZW. My job doesn't have WiFi and I work 12 hour shifts. This definitely helps when I need to do something at work.
  • Ok was just bring up cost , only because of all the penny Pinchers here in AC that are complaining about the price of the wifi version. To me it's every bit as good as any iPad . So for me it's more then worth it ,if I didn't have my tab S 10.5 I'd be all over it myself
  • I have noticed the complaints. I am personally thankful that there is a high end Android option so I don't have to go iOS 🤤 or Windows. There are many low to mid range options. If people want that, don't buy the Tab S3!
  • I miss my Note 7 and I have the guys at AT&T on the hunt for one of these with cellular ability so I can switch from my iPad. I miss my S Pen and the fact that it could so much for me
  • I've been using the 2014 version, and happy with it. I'm glad to see that there's finally a new version. But: 32 GB? Really? The same as the version from 3 years ago? Memory is cheap, isn't it? Why limit it to such a puny amount in such a pricy tablet?
    And before any attempts, adding an SD card isn't the same, at all, due to the way Android and its apps handle it.
  • I bought a Galaxy Tab A 9.7 last year, and on the box, it clearly states: SAMSUNG
    Galaxy Tab A
    with S Pen I don't think 2014's Galaxy Note 10.1 was the last tablet with an S Pen.
  • All of this I do with my Tab A 9.7; with S pen.