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Taking notes with the Tab S3 vs. iPad + Apple Pencil

December 10, 2017

Before leaving Samsung, I used my employee discount one last time (in combination with a Thanksgiving sale) to get a Tab S3 to replace my old Tab S. I intended to experiment with using it to take notes and sketch out ideas at work to see how it felt compared to using an Apple Pencil with an iPad.

I’ve been using the Tab S3 for a bit over a week at work now, and so far I really like it. The Apple Pencil does feel a bit better in your hand (it’s slightly heftier, and I prefer the rounded pencil to the squarish S3 stylus), but the S3 stylus feels better when writing. It’s hard to describe exactly, but the stylus is slightly softer, so you get just a bit more friction than you get with the Pencil. It feels more like actually writing, while the Pencil feels more like sliding hard plastic on glass.

I also like that the stylus is passively sensed, so you don’t have to worry about charging it (and let’s face it, the Pencil’s charging solution just looks goofy). And despite being passively sensed, I haven’t noticed any difference in input latency with the stylus versus the Pencil.

From a software standpoint, I’m not thrilled with either first party solution. I like that Samsung Notes lets you use the button on the stylus to quickly erase, but I’m not thrilled with its approach to organizing notes (basically you get folders where each note-taking session as a file). Apple’s Notes is similarly limited organizationally, and since the Pencil has no button you get no quick erase toggle.

I experimented with Google’s Keep, but it really doesn’t support stylus input that well. Notes can have drawings, but each drawing is a separate full page document, so it gets really awkward if you’re taking lots of notes.

For now I’ve settled on using OneNote. You get notebooks, sections, and pages, each page can grow to be as big as you want. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there seems to be no way to assign the stylus button to erase; you have to manually toggle between inking and erasing. So far the improved organization beats the slightly more difficult erasing.

So far I’ve completely switched my note-taking to the S3; we’ll see if that trend continues or if I eventually get tired of having to make sure I remember to keep it sufficiently charged.

From → Hardware

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