Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G Stylus 5G: Which stylus is best?

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G stylus 5g
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G Stylus 5G face-off seems like the stuff of madness. The former phone is a premium device carrying a price tag as lofty as its feature set, delivering a folding screen and the best processor of any Android phone. the Moto G Stylus 5G, meanwhile, is a $399 budget phone that costs a fraction of the Galaxy Z Fold's $1,799 price tag and doesn't offer nearly as many high-end features.

There is one thing these phones at opposite ends of the pricing scale have in common, though — both offer the use of a stylus. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 can support Samsung's S Pen, which is sold as a separate accessory for the foldable phone. The Moto G Stylus 5G comes with a built-in stylus that enjoys its own dedicated slot within the phone.

The fact that there's two phones out there with stylus support raises a simple question — which one offers the better stylus-friendly features? After all, if it's fairly close, you could easily justify some of the tradeoffs that the Moto G Stylus 5G requires, especially if it means getting a phone for $1,400 less. (For an even cheaper model, Motorola just came out with the $299 Moto G Stylus 2022, which lacks 5G compatibility but offers a fast-refresh display and a 5,000 mAh battery.)

Here's a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G Stylus 5G stylus features — how they compare as well as if the Motorola phone's built-in stylus makes it a better value than the Samsung foldable.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G Stylus 5G specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3Moto G Stylus 5G
Screen sizeExternal: 6.2-inch OLED (2268 x 832); Internal: 7.6-inch OLED (2208 x 1768)6.8-inch LCD (2400 x 1080)
Refresh rate120Hz adaptive60Hz
CPUSnapdragon 888Snapdragon 480 5G
Storage256GB, 512GB256GB
Rear cameras12MP wide (f/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (f.2.2, 123-degree FOV); 12MP telephoto (f/2.4, 2x optical zoom, 10x digital zoom)48MP (f/1.7) main, 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 5MP (f/2.2) macro, 2MP (f/2.4) depth
Front camera10MP (f/2.2), 4MP under-display (f/1.8)16MP (f/2.2)
Battery size4,400 mAh5,000 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)7:52 (60Hz); 6:35 (adaptive)10:50
Size6.2 x 2.6 x 0.56 to 0.62 inches (closed); 6.2 x 5 x 0.25 inches (open)6.67 x 3.05 x 0.37 inches
Built-in stylus?NoYes

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and S Pen: What you can do

The S Pen works with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 much in the same way it did with previous Galaxy Note phones as well as the Galaxy S21 Ultra. You can use the stylus to jot down notes or draw on the phone's screen. And thanks to the extra screen real estate offered by the Galaxy Z Fold 3's unique design, you've got more drawing area to work with than any other phone.

The best feature with the S Pen is its ability to jot down notes without having to wake up the Galaxy Z Fold 3. If your Fold is opened, just press the button on the S Pen and touch the stylus to the phone's display — that will activate an off-screen memo feature which lets you take notes to your heart's content, without having to first fire up the phone and open a note-taking app.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 and S Pen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Otherwise, with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 on, just hover the S Pen over the phone's interior display to bring up an S Pen icon. Tap that to see a menu of things you can do with the stylus. These include creating a note, viewing all of your notes, a screenshot markup tool called Screen Write, and Live Messages which lets you take a picture or video and then draw on it. 

Galaxy Z Fold 3 and S Pen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Particularly useful tools include Smart Select, where the pen can perform more precise photo editing, and Translate for translating text. AR Doodle lets you draw something in augmented reality that will remain fixed in the real world on your Z Fold 3's display — it feels more like a party trick to me, but artistically-inclined food owners will get a kick out of it.

Be aware that you can only use the S Pen on the Galaxy Z Fold 3's main display. The exterior cover screen doesn't work with the stylus.

Moto G Stylus 5G and its stylus: What you can do

Though it costs a fraction of what you'd pay for a Galaxy Z Fold, the Moto G Stylus 5G offers remarkably similar features. There's the ability to jot down off-screen memos — just pull the stylus out of the built-in slot in the Motorola phone to get to work. If you have the stylus out when the Moto G Stylus 5G is active, a pop-up menu gives you access to a number of different stylus-based features, chiefly quick access to Moto Notes and Google Keep Notes.

Moto G Stylus 5G review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

But there's more available than just note-taking apps. You can also access a screenshot capture tool and tap a screen record shortcut — the latter is useful for troubleshooting. You can also launch Cinemagraph mode, where you can select portions of a photo to animate; the Moto's stylus is particularly helpful at making more precise selections. There's a coloring book app if you want to blow off a little steam.

Moto 5 Stylus 5G with stylus and menu

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Dig into Settings from the Moto G Stylus' pen panel to adjust what appears when you tap the on-screen pen icon. Mostly at this point, you can add apps to launch with a tap of the stylus.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G Stylus 5G: Comparing styluses

The S Pen is noticeably longer and thicker than the stylus that comes with the Moto G Stylus 5G. The S Pen is a shade over 5 inches long, while Motorolas stylus is just under 5 inches. The Moto G Stylus is very thin, while the S Pen is about as thick as a pencil or pen. That makes Samsung's stylus a little easier to hold, especially for prolonged drawing sessions.

comparing stylus sizes and styles between the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G stylus 5g

The stylus from the Moto G Stylus (left) and the S Pen Fold Edition (right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

During my time with the Galaxy Z Fold, I've been using the S Pen Fold Edition, which — like the pen from the Moto G Stylus 5G — lacks Bluetooth connectivity. That means these styluses are essentially drawing and writing tools. They can't be used as remote controls like the S Pen Pro, which can connect to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 via Bluetooth. At $99, though, the S Pen Pro is more expensive than the $49 S Pen Fold Edition.

And that gets to the heart of a major difference between the two styluses. Samsung treats the S Pen as an optional accessory to the Galaxy Z Fold 3. You have to buy it separately, and since there's no holster for the stylus on the phone itself, you'll also need a case to keep the S Pen attached to your phone. The Moto G Stylus 5G ships with a stylus — it's right there in the name — and there's a built-in slot in the bottom right corner of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G Stylus 5G: Other features

There's more to phones than just their stylus capabilities, and it's here that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can really flex its muscles over the Moto G Stylus. Start with the obvious fact that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers a bigger display than the Moto G Stylus' 6.8-inch panel. Once opened up, the Fold gives you a 7.6-inch workspace. And we haven't even mentioned the 6.2-inch cover display on the outside of the phone, which lets you quickly access apps without having to open up the phone. Both the displays on the the Galaxy Z Fold 3 have dynamic refresh rates, while the Moto G Stylus 5G is fixed on 60Hz.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 runs on a Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip compared to the Snapdragon 480 5G inside the Moto G Stylus 5G. If benchmarks were a fight, the referee would stop this one very quickly — just to give you an idea of how big a no-contest this would be, the Galaxy Z Fold's multicore score of 3,418 on Geekbench 5 pastes the Moto G Stylus' 1,651 result. Suffice it to say, you'll get more performance oomph from the Galaxy Z Fold 3. 

You're not really buying either phone for the cameras, though when it is time to snap a photo, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is better equipped to handle the job. It's got three rear cameras — the main shooter plus ultrawide and telephoto lenses — plus a front cameras on both displays; on the interior screen, you get Samsung's first under-display camera. The Moto G Stylus provides a more conventional main and ultrawide camera setup, with those two shooters augmented by a dedicated macro lens and depth sensor.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G stylus 5g: Comparing the Galaxy Z Fold 3's birthday cake photo

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 takes a shot of a birthday cake. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When lighting conditions are favorable, the Moto G Stylus 5G can match the photos taken by the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but the moment things get darker or more challenging, Samsung's superior image processing software and optics come through. The two photos of a birthday cake taken at twilight are good examples of what each phone can do. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 shot above, does a good job with the color on the chocolate cake, even if some of the candles are a little out of focus. The Moto G Stylus has the same focus issue, and it's given the cake a reddish glow.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G stylus 5g: comparing moto g stylus 5g birthday cake photo

Moto G Stylus 5G's shot of a birthday cake (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There's one area where the Moto G Stylus 5G outshines the Fold and it comes down to battery life. Perhaps because the Fold's 4,400 mAh has to power up two screens, it didn't really impress on our battery test involving continuous web surfing over cellular until the phone runs out of power. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 lasted just 7 hours and 52 minutes — more than 2 hours shorter than our average result. And that was with the Z Fold 3's screen fixed at a 60Hz refresh rate. (With the dynamic refresh rate feature enabled, the Z Fold 3's result fell by nearly an hour and 20 minutes.)

Owing to Motorola's strong track record at producing long-lasting phones, the Moto G Stylus 5G and its 5,000 mAh battery lasted 10 hours and 50 minutes on our battery test. That just misses out on a spot on the best phone battery life list, but it's still an excellent result. Your Moto G Stylus 5G will simply last longer than a Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Moto G Stylus 5G: Outlook

Obviously, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a more complete phone, from its folding display to its powerful processor and ability to run up to three apps at once on the same fast-refreshing display. As a midrange phone, the Moto G Stylus 5G can't compete overall, nor does it really try to.

Restrict yourself to just the stylus features, though, and the Motorola G Stylus 5G matches up well to a Galaxy Z Fold 3 equipped with an S Pen. Valuable features like off-screen memos are available on the cheaper Motorola G Stylus 5G, and it's easy to jot down notes or scribble out sketches — although your dealing with a much smaller screen. Better yet, the stylus is included with the Moto G Stylus 5G, and there's a place to store it on the phone itself. For the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the S Pen feels tacked on.

Not many people would recommend the Moto G Stylus 5G over the Galaxy Z Fold 3, especially to anyone looking for a premium phone experience. But if note-taking is all that matters to you, you don't have to pony up $1,799 for a 5G phone that comes with its own stylus.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.