Go big or stick to the basics? Apple Watch SE vs Series 8 vs Ultra

Apple just unveiled three new smartwatch models, and they cover a wide range of features and pricing. There’s the entry-level Apple Watch SE ($ 249), the standard Apple Watch Series 8 ($ 399), and the all-new extreme environment-focused Apple Watch Ultra ($ 799). Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Fit and finish: aluminum, stainless steel or titanium

The Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 8 are both available in two sizes (40 and 44mm for SE, 41 and 45mm for Series 8), while the Ultra is only available in one (relatively huge) model. from 49 mm. That big case might be a bit bulky if you have smaller wrists, especially since the Ultra’s titanium body is also by far the heaviest at 2.2 ounces. The SE is only available in aluminum, while the 8 Series is available in aluminum or stainless steel. The aluminum will keep the watches much lighter, between 0.9 and 1.4 ounces, while a 45mm stainless steel 8-series is quite heavy at 1.8 ounces.

Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch Ultra

Left to right: Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Ultra

The Ultra is only available with a titanium finish, although it comes in three versions with very different wrist straps in multiple colors. The Apple Watch SE is available in black, white or silver finishes, while Series 8 adds (Product Red) to the mix for its aluminum models, as well as graphite, silver or gold stainless steel versions. Of course, there are dozens of different wrist straps available for SE and Series 8 in different styles of silicone, nylon, and other materials.

Duration: safe for diving or safe for scuba diving

The Ultra’s titanium body might be chunky, but it’s also by far the sturdiest of the three Apple Watch models. It is IP6X dustproof, tested to MIL-STD 810H and has EN13319 certification, with a recreational diving rating of up to 40 meters and water resistance up to 100 meters.

However, the SE and Series 8 are not slouches. Both are water resistant to 50 meters and the Series 8 shares the same IP6X dust protection rating as the Ultra.

Display: size, resolution and brightness

The 49mm Ultra is the largest watch of the bunch, so it also has the largest screen with a resolution of 410 x 502 pixels. The 45mm 8-series follows with a resolution of 396 x 484, while the SE predictably has the smallest and lowest resolution screen at 324 x 394 for the 40mm model.

However, the difference between the clock screens is greater in size. The SE and Series 8 can emit up to 1,000 nits of brightness, while the Ultra can reach double that at 2,000 nits. This should make the Ultra’s big screen even easier to see in the snow, surf and sunlight.

Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch Series 8

The SE has a distinct disadvantage over the other models in that it doesn’t have an always-on display. Our smartwatch expert Angela Moscaritolo considers an always-on display a must-have feature for smartwatches, as it allows you to discreetly check the time when your wrist is down.

Sound: Louder speakers distinguish the Ultra

Smartwatches aren’t the best devices for listening to music or talking to people (although you can always pair a few Bluetooth headsets with one), but all three Apple Watches come with speakers and microphones for making calls and using the surprisingly fun walkie. – talkie function.

Both the SE and Series 8 have what Apple helpfully describes in their specs as “microphone” and “speaker”. The Ultra, meanwhile, has two speakers that Apple says sound 40% louder than the Series 8 and a three-microphone array that forms the beam to provide wind noise cancellation.

Health and safety features: stay safe at home, on the road and anywhere

Whether you want to track your heart rate, track your monthly cycles, or let someone know if you fall, all three Apple Watches have you covered. Beyond that, however, the SE lags considerably behind the other two. While the SE has heart rate monitoring, the Series 8 and Ultra offer blood oxygen monitoring, ECG, and temperature sensing, along with retrospective ovulation estimates that can help you figure out when you are most fertile.

Apple Watch Ultra sensors

Apple Watch Ultra sensors

Outside of personal health, all three Apple Watches feature incident detection, which lets you call for help or alert emergency services and contacts if you’re involved in a car accident. Cellular models also support international emergency calls.

The Ultra adds another potentially useful feature if you run into trouble away from the road: a built-in 86dB siren that Apple says can be heard up to 600 feet away.

Navigation and activity functions: new GPS for better tracking

All three Apple Watches support the established and most common GPS L1 signal for tracking, whether you have a cellular model or not. The Ultra adds the new L5 GPS frequency, providing greater coverage and accuracy. The L5 GPS has only been in use for about a year, but according to Apple the dual-frequency system on the Ultra will improve accuracy in dense cities thanks to the L5’s better signal processing.

Apple Watch Ultra

Apple Watch Ultra

Outside of GPS, all three watches have always-on altimeters and compasses to help you figure out where you are. The Ultra, once again, takes it one step further with dive-specific features like a depth gauge, water temperature sensor, and a full dive computer app.

Price: the biggest differentiator

This is where you will see the most obvious distinction between the three watches. The SE starts at $ 249 for the GPS-only model in 40mm, or $ 299 for the GPS and cellular model in 40mm, with the 44mm versions adding another $ 30 to that.

Series 8 starts at $ 399 for GPS only or $ 499 for GPS and cellphone in 41mm, again with a $ 30 premium for the largest 45mm size. This is for the aluminum versions, at least; stainless steel models are only available with GPS and cellphone, starting at $ 699.

That might sound like a lot for a smartwatch, but the Apple Watch Ultra beat it. It is only available in one size and only in GPS and cellular and costs $ 799.

Which watch for whom?

It seems pretty clear that Apple is setting three distinct Apple Watch tiers for different types of users. Series 8 is the standard Apple Watch, the feature-packed model for iPhone fans who want everything Apple can reasonably offer, but aren’t extreme athletes or adventurers. The SE is the introductory Apple Watch, aimed at older children and family members who may benefit from some of the features, but may be better served if their watches are set and monitored by family members. Meanwhile, the Ultra is the high-end Apple Watch that specifically targets divers, climbers, cross-country runners, and other active users who will get the most out of those extra navigation and fitness features.

We’ll be testing each of the new Apple Watch models soon, so be sure to check back for our full reviews.

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