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> Trying out an active capacitive pen with my Gemini, to see if it can replace my S-pen.
Daniel W
post Jan 2 2019, 01:19 PM
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While I'm largely looking forward - for reasons beyond this topic - to replace my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with a Cosmo (provided the camera isn't terrible), I'm not looking forward to loosing my S-pen. For plain text, the Cosmo keyboard will be better than any pen, but for manually solving simple equations, doing basic sketches or as a rudimentary mouse, the S-pen is great. For those unfamiliar, it's an active inductive (thus requiring the phone to have some extra hardware) pen with about the resolution of a ballpoint pen, miles ahead of fingers or a "rubber crayon" type stylus. I used to say that using a smartphone without such a pen is like being forced to use a very small typewriter, which will probably be very true for my Cosmo, keyboard and all.

For some time, I've been using an Adonit Dash 3 with my Gemini. It's an active capacitive pen made from brushed (probably anodized) aluminum, using battery power to cause stronger interaction with a regular capacitive touch screen, thus allowing a substantially finer tip than would be possible for a passive stylus. Below is a picture comparing some different tips:

Attached Image


As can be seen, the Dash (middle left) has a tip about as fine as a fairly blunt pencil (top left). On the top right is a fine ballpoint, below which is my Note 8 S-pen. I no longer own a "rubber crayon", but the finest such tip I got working reliably was about the size of that round blue-green eraser on the bottom right. It did help me type a bit better on a small on-screen smartphone keyboard than when using a finger (bottom left), but that was it. While the S-pen gets its power inductively from the Note, a "generic" active capacitive pen needs a battery, so it can't be as small. Here's the Adonit Dash 3 compared to my Gemini, a pencil and a small Bluetooth mouse I used to carry around:

Attached Image


So, how is the Dash to use? Well, it's a lot worse than an S-pen, that's for sure, which shouldn't come as a surprise. For one, the Gemini doesn't appear to sample its touch screen as often as the S-pen digitizer does, so unless I'm slow enough, fine details gets lost. Strictly technically, the Dash probably doesn't offer much more accuracy than a finger BUT it lets you see what you're doing. Here's a simple problem I solved with the Dash. I mostly had to zoom to 200% and pan around:

Attached Image


As you can see, it makes my handwriting look I'm five years old again. This is partly because a pen of this type can't support palm rejection, so I can't rest my hand on the glass while writing. Thus, the experience becomes a bit like when trying to write small text on a whiteboard. Here's the same problem, using just a finger, at the same zoom level (except for the title, I think I used 500% there):

Attached Image


At first blush, it's not a huge difference, but, honestly, while I, in the first case, actually SOLVED the problem, latter, my main struggle was to COPY the already known solution in a somewhat readable manner. I'm not sure if solving it using just a finger would have been viable. For reference, here's the same problem from my Note 8, using the S-pen:

Attached Image


I can't show how the Dash 3 works as a mouse. Obviously, it can't have buttons, so unless the OS you run can take a tap as a click, a long-press as a right click and a press-and-drag as a click and drag, a pen like this can't do all that much, but in Android, it's effectively a noticeably sharper finger, which has allowed me to leave my small mouse at home.

One thing I don't like, is how easy the Dash 3 is to turn on by mistake. Much like a ballpoint pen, it has a button at the top. Press once and a little green LED sequence shows that it turned on, press again and a red LED sequence shows that it's turning off. Simple as that. If the Dash hasn't been used for fifteen minutes, it's supposed to turn off, but just keeping it clipped to my shirts chest pocket apparently turned it on by mistake often enough for fourteen supposed hours of battery life to be all gone in two days. When the battery is low, by the way, it uses the red LED for the turn-on sequence. While your mileage may vary, I chose to sacrifice a suitable pen cap I happened to have, to make a sleeve:

Attached Image


The button is now a bit recessed, which solved the issue for me. That was a few weeks ago, and I haven't had to charge it since (though I haven't been using it heavily either). The Dash 3 is charged from any powered USB type A port in about 45 minutes, using this little included dongle:

Attached Image


It has a magnet strong enough to hold the pen in any orientation (the picture shows the closest they would be and still stay apart). As the dongle is mostly plastic, one may need to be a bit careful with it. I don't carry mine around, but keep it stuck to a metal part of my desk at home. Should I bring it, I'd put in inside something, not just shove it into a pocket.

In the end, for me, this was $50 well spent. It solves a real problem sufficiently well. While I can't say for sure until I've actually used a Cosmo as my daily driver for a while, I think this pen will allow me to not also carry my Note 8 around just-in-case, and it has already allowed me to leave that Bluetooth mouse at home when I bring my Gemini (which I currently mostly use for e-mail on the go).







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jakfish
post Jan 4 2019, 08:11 AM
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This is a wonderful write-up. Thank you.

Jake
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Will Atl
post Jan 5 2019, 09:13 AM
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I agree with jakfish. Thank you Daniel W for this high quality and comprehensive post.

I am only receiving my Gemini next week so I cannot try for myself and I have a few questions.

I have a Note 9 and use the pen mostly for quick notes on the go (phone numbers, addresses, directions, confirmation numbers, etc)
The longest notes I ever wrote were recipes my mom described to me quickly.
The whole reason I am getting the Gemini is that I like to type much more than scribble in my horrible handwriting.
I used pens a lot with the Palm Pilot text recognition soft on which I was extremely fast (I even tried on my Note the Graffiti for Android keyboard app).

I am wondering how comfortable is to use the Dash pen to write on the Gemini screen. Where do you rest your palm for example if you can't rest it on the glass as you mentioned.
The Psion 5 and netBook stylus were quite thin long and ergonomic so your palm could stand on the surface of the table (but not for writing), but with shorter and thicker pens how comfortable it is to use them ?

It seems a pen is perfect for graphs / equations, but with the awesome keyboard of the Gemini I assume that for text it would be quicker to type, right ?
I am too waiting for the Cosmo, but more and more I think my Note 9 and Gemini will be complementary devices for different use cases.
(That is why I bought a Gemini now)
What other use cases you have for a pen with the Gemini besides graphs and equations (I use it as a mouse to play old DOS games too)
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Daniel W
post Jan 5 2019, 02:54 PM
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QUOTE(Will Atl @ Jan 5 2019, 06:13 PM) *
I agree with jakfish. Thank you Daniel W for this high quality and comprehensive post.
I'm glad you both liked it.

QUOTE(Will Atl @ Jan 5 2019, 06:13 PM) *
I am wondering how comfortable is to use the Dash pen to write on the Gemini screen. Where do you rest your palm for example if you can't rest it on the glass as you mentioned.
It's not really comfortable at all. If the Gemini sits on a table, I can rest my wrist there, but then the screen tends to wobble a bit when I write, which I don't like, so I tend to hold my Gemini in one hand, allowing me to support the screen with a finger, and hold the Dash in the other hand. I can kind-of lightly rest my wrist on the very front edge of the Gemini, though it can be hard to not press down space bar by mistake, so for the most part I don't rest the hand holding the Dash anywhere at all. It's a bit like writing on a whiteboard, where you can't really rest you hand either, as that would easily smudge existing text. The tip of the Dash is about as slippery as the tip of a Psion stylus or an S-pen, and glass is, well, glass. The Gemini comes with a thin plastic screen protector preinstalled. I haven't removed mine, and it seems to cause no particular issues with the Dash.

QUOTE(Will Atl @ Jan 5 2019, 06:13 PM) *
The Psion 5 and netBook stylus were quite thin long and ergonomic so your palm could stand on the surface of the table (but not for writing), but with shorter and thicker pens how comfortable it is to use them ?
The Dash is about 14cm long (excluding the rear end button) and 8mm in diameter, so it's about the same length as a Psion stylus and about as thick as a regular ballpoint pen. To me, it feels nice to hold. My ergonomic issues with the Dash (or similar) stems from not being able to really support my hand while using it, since the touch screen can't tell the pen and my wrist apart.

QUOTE(Will Atl @ Jan 5 2019, 06:13 PM) *
It seems a pen is perfect for graphs / equations, but with the awesome keyboard of the Gemini I assume that for text it would be quicker to type, right ?
Provided you're reasonably good at typing, entering text via the keyboard is quite a lot faster, which is one reason I'm interested in trying to make a Cosmo my main pocketable digital device. Trying to write too quickly with the Dash mostly produces gibberish. As I wrote in my first post, it seems the Gemini samples its touch screen at a lower rate than the S-pen digitizer does. Depending on which app one uses, there can also be a slight lag in the processing of pen strokes, which also limits how fast it's possible to write. For text, I use the keyboard when possible.

QUOTE(Will Atl @ Jan 5 2019, 06:13 PM) *
What other use cases you have for a pen with the Gemini besides graphs and equations (I use it as a mouse to play old DOS games too)
Well, basically whenever my fingers aren't quite pointy enough or too much hides what I'm trying to do. I've used the Dash for some basic photo retouching, where it gave me a bit better control than "finger painting". Were I to create pixel graphics on the Gemini, without pairing a mouse, I would probably have to zoom in more and thus get less overview if I were to use a finger instead of the Dash. So far, beyond very basic sketches, the only graphics I've made on the Gemini with the Dash is this little test image:
Attached Image


I might add that the app I used in the equation examples above is "Write Beta" from Stylus Labs. It's free, ad-free and and works fine with Android Nougat and Oero (don't know about Pie yet). I like it, among other reasons, because it uses SVG embedded into HTML as its file format, so you can view your "Write" documents in pretty much any web browser. It doesn't appear to be maintained though, so I may have to look for other options.

For the "cabin by a lake" sketch, I used Photo Editor by dev.macgyver, which isn't really an art app, but the best Android Photo editor I know of, and it also supports a little freehand doodling.

I might also add that the only reason I went with the Dash in particular, was that it was the first fine-tip active capacitive pen, advertised as compatible with regular touchscreens, that I was able to buy somewhere.

Here are some other similar products (which I haven't used): Adonit Snap 2 is marketed as iOS only, because its Bluetooth remote camera shutter feature is made for iOS only. From what I've read, the active capacitive part works the same as the Dash 3. The Snap 2 is flatter, runs about seven hours on a charge and recharges via a micro USB B connector. Rather than a button in the end, this one has its power button on the side, about where you'd hold a finger. Not sure if that would be better or worse.

The Stilo 2A Stylus also has a 1.9mm tip, but runs on an AAA battery for about ten hours instead of being rechargeable. At the time of writing this, their domain Stilopen.com is for sale, which I suppose isn't a good sign. One supposed feature is has, is the ability to adjust the signal strength by twisting the tip.

Wacom Bamboo Tip looks pretty much like the Adonit Dash and, again the tip is 1.9mm. In this YouTube video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jGSQdoA_kw
it is said to be clad in a satiny soft-touch plastic, so I presume it's made from plastic, not metal. The power button is on the side, but a bit higher up than on the Snap. It has a toggle switch near the top, which supposedly switches the
signal strength between two levels, one of which is tuned for the iPad Pro and the other for most other devices. It should run about 20 hours on a charge, should shut down if unused for five minutes and recharges via a micro USB B connector.
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Will Atl
post Jan 6 2019, 09:34 AM
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Daniel W. Thank you for your response as so many great tips !

While I wait the final days to get my Gemini I will try Write Beta on my Note 9. Seems to have more features that the Samsung Notes App. and perhaps I will try the Dash or some other pen you suggested with the Gemini later.

Thank you

On a side comment, you mentioned your desire for the Cosmo to replace Gemini+Note.
The more I think of it for me, perhaps the Gemini will have the PDA / small computer role, and the Note the phone / camera role. So complementing each other.

Besides carrying around 1 device instead of 2, what other reasons push you to think of the Cosmo as the only device to carry ?
The Note has positives such as the screen, stylus( you covered), camera, comfortable as a phone / communicator device.
The Gemini gets you to be productive as a mini laptop with your choice of OS
(And if something happens to one of the two you can make do temporarily with the other)

Don't you think they complement each other, rather than replace each other ?

I have backed the Cosmo, but now having second thoughts as perhaps the Gemini is more than enough for my intended use cases
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Daniel W
post Jan 6 2019, 03:51 PM
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My personal reasons for wanting to go Cosmo-only, is a fair bit outside the original topic of this thread, but as I don't have much more to say about those pens, here goes: Currently I am carrying both devices, using the Gemini for forum posts, lists, notes, mobile e-mail and other text centered stuff, and the Note for pretty much everything else. Apart from the inconvenience of carrying two devices, I've fairly often found myself having the wrong stuff on the wrong device at the wrong time.

For example, I currently use my Note for SMS/MMS, as it has the SIM for my main phone number. I've never been very fond of typing on glass and knowing I have a good physical keyboard on the other device, makes it outright frustrating, especially as my writing style tends to be filled with jargon, word-jokes, mixed languages and other traits making auto-correction counter-productive. I could maybe work around that with a data SIM tied to the same phone number in the Gemini, but my operator doesn't offer those, and I'm using the Gemini as a spare device for an e-id app, which requires it to have a different phone number.

Instant messaging on the Gemini works well, until I need to send the same text to somebody else via MMS. Yes, I could use Dropbox or Google drive to more or less cut and paste via the cloud, but that's still an extra step. Snapping a photo on the Note, only to Bluetooth it to the Gemini, to post something here, gets old pretty quick. Yes, I could upload the photo to some online service and link to it, but I like keeping most of my photos (and other files) off-line for privacy reasons, so I'm not set up to just tap once to upload a photo. All in all, I could probably work around most multiple-device issues, should I want to keep using both.

Should I get mugged or just forget my stuff somewhere, losing a Note AND a Cosmo is a bit more than I'm comfortable with losing in the same day. The Note 8 fast-charges via Quick Charge 2.0 while the Gemini (and likely Cosmo) uses PumpExpress+ (both, curiously enough, two major versions out of date). As I tend to carry a charger, just in case, I had to chose which device I can fast charge, or carry both. Not a biggie, but it adds to the EDC kit. Would I want fast car charging, I'd, again, need one charger for each standard. I want to keep my devices reasonably protected, so each of them has a case, adding up to the total bulk, pushing me towards trying to leave one of them safely at home.

I am also getting a bit fed up with Samsung. Yes, they offer very capable products, with extra everything, but they seem to think that more is always better. As you know, for virtually every major built in Android app, there will be a Samsung counterpart too, which can be hidden, but not removed. So now I have three web browsers on the Note, the one Samsung forced upon me, the one Google forced upon me and the one I'm actually using. [Edit:Concerning web browsers in particular, the Gemini does the same, because Google, but overall, there's more extra bloat in the Note.] Samsung Notes, for example, is kind of nice, but has a proprietary file format, so I can't open something I drew there in, say, Inkscape on a PC and keep working. It also can't even draw a straight line, so it's not for me, yet I'm unallowed to uninstall it from my own device.

I do like S-Health, but I'm only interested in the step counter and maybe the pulse meter, noting else. Until recently, I was allowed to have my way, but with the latest update, Samsung won't even let me into the main S-Health GUI, lest I approve of them siphoning some health data over to their servers, and, No! I'm just not sharing that with them, especially not if they think they're somehow entitled to demand it from me. So now I'm locked out. Yes, I could probably force a downgrade to an older version and then refuse to update. I've been there, done that, with my Note 3, but over the years, I've grown wary of such things. If I am going to depend on a device, I want to be reasonably in charge of it myself.

With a Planet Computers device I can, should I feel a need to, get the unlocked bootloader, become root and change stuff. I feel that's something I should be allowed to do on hardware I own, presuming I accept the associated risks. In my view, even vanilla Android has a fair bit of bloat, so being able to, say, run Sailfish instead of Android (and still use the phone features) feels nice. I'm not saying I'm going to. I just like having the option, without having to void my warranty. As hinted above, I'll probably keep the Note, as a backup device, lest someone near me would need it more, but I'm growing reluctant to depend on a device I'm staring to feel I don't really own, but rather has licensed the right to use, pending a set of Samsung Terms Of Service, which may change at any time. [Edit:I will still have to live by the terms of Google, obviously, but that's one overlord less, at least.]

QUOTE(Will Atl @ Jan 6 2019, 06:34 PM) *
Don't you think they complement each other, rather than replace each other ?
I have backed the Cosmo, but now having second thoughts as perhaps the Gemini is more than enough for my intended use cases
I'd suggest you try your wings with the Gemini to see how well it will fly for you. Maybe set it up with everything you need and try to use it as your main phone for a little while and see what you think. If you'll keep carrying another phone, the Gemini may be all the PDA you need. In my opinion, it's fast enough for most tasks and in a pinch, it's a workable phone too. As I'm a night owl (by insomnia, not choice) I've personally found the lack of a backlit physical keyboard limiting. That could be one thing to consider before cancelling your Cosmo. Then again, maybe I'm just spoiled. Both my personal laptop and my PC at work have backlit keyboards. As a significant amount of my photos has to do with things I write about, I'd like to have a proper camera in the same device that has the keyboard (not a huge deal, but I'm lazy). I do have the Gemini add-on camera, which I mainly see as a $50 barcode reader (I've written about it here).

[Edit:To not come across as anti-Samsung: I think their business model is ok, just not the best match available for me. Also, switching brand after using Samsung since the Note II, will hopefully force me back into discovery mode. I've noticed I'm growing lazy lately. Should, in the end, something prevent me from going Cosmo-only, at least I'll know better WHY I'll be buying a Note 11.]
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Will Atl
post Jan 7 2019, 07:30 AM
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Thank you for the super comprehensive answer.

Good advice. Yes, I was planning to use both Note+Gemini for a while before pulling my support of the Cosmo.

The reason I thought them complementary is because my intended use case for the Gemini seems very distinct to the Note usage:
- To tackle the things I am not really comfortable doing on my phone such as writing email, writing notes that might evolve into short stories on the PC.
- As a laptop replacement for short 1-2 day trips so I do not go around with a 15" laptop during the day leaving it at home or in the hotel.
- On the go coding (for fun)
- Tinker around with Linux just for the heck of it
- Play some old dos games better suited for keyboard (text adventures) without needing a full laptop to do so (using the Note & pen for the maps, ha)
- Limited web browsing

So at this moment I do not think I want the Gemini to take pictures, use it as a phone or SMS. Also, I do read a lot using my Note and I imagine the Gemini to be a bit cumbersome for that with the keyboard kind of in the way to be able to hold it with one had in a vertical orientation.

In the past I tried the Blackberry KeyOne and I loved it but was not comfortable because of the smaller screen and my eyesight is not as good as it was, so that is why I bought the phone with biggest and best quality screen I could (always forget to have the reading glasses at hand - now trying contacts so perhaps less of an issue now). I imagined that in the future I would replace my Note 9 with a Key 2 as the keyboard seems awesome for a phone (or future Key 3).

But I asked because nothing beats real world usage. For example I had not though about some of the things you mentioned: forum posts, needing to carry separate chargers, backlight keyboard - that one seems key (pun unintended).

Thanks for the info. I will try what you suggested. Thank you again.
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