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It seems that starting with the Galaxy Tab S3 (February/March 2017), Samsung has shifted to Apple's model: Sell tablets without a pen. Sell the pen as an optional attachment.

But something in the Note series (phones and tablets) used to be from Wacom. What is it, and is it still in the S3? And how does one navigate the future line-up? Does determining whether the words "capacitative display" appear in the tech specs settle it?

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The Tab S3 has no dedicated slot for storing the S-Pen (unlike previous tabs equipped with the same tech) and the S line is not aimed squarely at content creators, which could be why Samsung opted to not include one in the sales package.

All S-Pens are backed by Wacom tech - the battery-free pens and their precise tips are a signature of Wacom's EMR (Electromagnetic Resonance) technology. Meanwhile, most if not all modern phones have a capacitive touch screen. You have to explicitly look for "S-Pen" when you need a device with it.

As of now (Sep. 2017), most S-Pen-equipped Samsung tablets still start their model numbers with a common letter "P":

  • Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 is P60x (discontinued)
  • Note 12.2 is P90x (discontinued)
  • Tab A 2015 with S-Pen is P35x (8.0-inch) and P55x (9.7-inch)
  • Tab A 2016 with S-Pen is P58x (10.1-inch) — (discontinued)

(x for variant, e.g. 0 for WiFi, 5 for international LTE)

Tab S3 is a rare exception but it's marketed heavily around its S-Pen so you'd still know it easily.

Samsung once had a "C-Pen" denotation for a pen used on pure capacitive screens, although that's long obsolete.

  • Thanks! Weirdly, if I go to samsung.com/us/mobile/tablets , click on "all other tablets", and then checkmark "S Pen support", only one tablet remains. The Canadian site samsung.com/ca/tablets is hopeless. The UK site samsung.com/uk/tablets/galaxy-tab-a has vague promise. – Calaf Sep 12 '17 at 8:06
  • Not clear how the Galaxy Tab A 10.1 with S Pen 16GB (Wi-Fi) SM-P580NZWAXAR fits in your line-up. Could you mention the screen size for the two Tab A 2015/2016 models that are still on the market? – Calaf Sep 12 '17 at 8:23
  • That's a P580 (it's right there in your string), aka Tab A 2016 with S-Pen. The 2015 models are a 8.0 incher (P35x) and a 9.7 incher (P55x), both with a more square-ish 4:3 screen. – Andy Yan Sep 12 '17 at 8:32

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