Apple recently updated its smartwatch range with a new standard model – the Apple Watch Series 8 – and a refresh of its cheaper Apple Watch SE. But price aside, what are the things that set these examples of timekeeping technology apart? Here’s a quick look at what each has to offer and advice to help you decide which one is best for you to wear on your wrist.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: design
While both devices follow the aesthetic playbook Apple has been using since introducing the first Apple Watch in 2015, there have been some refinements to the form over the years. Both are instantly recognizable as Apple Watches thanks to the square frame with a digital crown on the right side and the power button. But the Series 8 comes in two sizes – 45mm and 41mm – which are larger than the 44mm and 40mm offerings for the SE 2. It also has two metals for the body, with aluminum or stainless steel available, while the SE 2 only comes in first.
Here’s how they directly compare in terms of size:
Apple Watch Series 8
- 41mm x 35mm x 10.7mm; 32g (41mm, aluminum)
- 41mm x 35mm x 10.7mm; 42.3 g (41 mm, stainless steel)
- 45mm x 38mm x 10.7mm; 38.8g (45mm, aluminum)
- 45mm x 38mm x 10.7mm; 51.5 g (45 mm, stainless steel)
Apple Watch SE 2
- 40mm x 38mm x 10.7mm; 26.4g (40mm, GPS)
- 40mm x 38mm x 10.7mm; 27.8g (40mm, GPS+cellular)
- 44mm x 38mm x 10.7mm; 32.9g (44mm, GPS)
- 44mm x 38mm x 10.7mm; 33g (44mm, GPS + Cellular)
As you can see, the dimensions are very similar, with only a slight difference in weight depending on which models you choose. Both survive submersion in water up to 50 meters deep and can be used while swimming, though Apple warns that neither will do well if you’re diving or water skiing. You might want to save a little more money and go for the Apple Watch Ultra if that’s your bag.
The Apple Watch Series 8 also adds IP6X dust-resistance, so if you’re often rummaging around the attic or heading to the beach, it might offer that little bit more protection.
You can get each model in a small selection of color housings, with silver, starlight and midnight universally available, but the Series 8 also has a (PRODUCT) red option, plus graphite, silver and gold for the stainless steel version.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: Rendering
Apple has managed to shrink the bezels on the new Series 8 range, meaning you get about 20 per cent more screen than on the Apple Watch SE 2 models. That’s nothing to sneeze at when you consider how small these devices are and the amount of information they can display on those panels.
Those smaller bezels and larger case sizes mean you get these resolutions on the different panels:
- Apple Watch Series 8 (41mm): 352×430
- Apple Watch Series 8 (45mm): 396×484
- Apple Watch SE 2 (40mm): 324×394
- Apple Watch SE 2 (44mm): 368×448
Either way, you get a detailed, colorful display that can go up to a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits, which can handle sunny days with ease. They’re rugged too, with the aluminum models featuring Ion-X glass and the stainless steel variants fitted with tougher sapphire crystal bezels.
A new feature coming to the Series 8 is an always-on display, meaning you don’t have to raise your wrist to activate the panel when you want to read the time or view your favorite complications – or simplified versions of them. It’s a nice bonus, but the Apple Watch has done pretty well without it so far, and the SE 2 shouldn’t be ruled out just because it doesn’t come with the feature.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: Processor and Features
All of this year’s Apple Watch models come with the latest dual-core S8 processor, so you should see similar performance in the Series 8 and SE. You also get GPS, an always-on altimeter, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, fall detection, crash detection, and the standard ways to track your steps, heart rate, and activities.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: Health Tracking
Apple has positioned its watches as excellent ways to keep tabs on your health, and there’s a wide range of features to help with that.
There are some significant differences between the two models this year, with the Series 8 incorporating several advanced sensors including blood oxygen, ECG and temperature. There’s also a newer third-generation optical heart sensor on the Series 8, while the Apple Watch SE 2 still uses the 2nd-generation sensor. A temperature sensor is also being introduced on the Series 8 this year to help with cycle and fertility tracking.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Either Apple Watch gives you a good insight into your daily health and fitness performance, but it’s clear that the new additions to the Series 8 make it the winner in this category by a decent margin.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: Battery life
Apple states that both models will last about 18 hours on a single charge, which should get you through the day. If you find the power running out a little sooner than you’d like then the new fast-charging in the Series 8 should get you up to healthy levels a little quicker. That said, charging the SE 2 doesn’t take long anyway, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: price
Apple offers both models with a variety of straps that can drastically affect the purchase price. But for the base models, here’s what you’ll be looking at:
- Apple Watch Series 8 (41mm, GPS): $399/£419
- Apple Watch Series 8 (45mm, GPS): $429/£449
- Apple Watch Series 8 (41mm, Cellular): $499/£529
- Apple Watch Series 8 (45mm, Cellular): $529/£549
- Apple Watch SE 2 (40mm, GPS): $249/£259
- Apple Watch SE 2 (44mm, GPS): $279/£299
- Apple Watch SE 2 (40mm, Cellular): $299/£319
- Apple Watch SE 2 (44mm, Cellular): $329/£349
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: conclusion
If you’re looking for an Apple Watch that lets you know when notifications have arrived and controls the music playing on your iPhone while monitoring your health at the same time, then any watch will do – and the Apple Watch SE 2 is hard to ignore. It packs a ton of features at a very affordable price, looks great, and will be getting updates for years to come.
However, the extra features on the Apple Watch Series 8 make it a more premium product and well worth its $399 price tag. You just have to decide if you want those bells and whistles or are happy with the cheaper but still very good SE version. The larger screen and additional health sensors clearly make the Apple Watch Series 8 a superior device, with a price that reflects its premium status. If you don’t need an ECG or temperature sensor then we think the Apple Watch SE 2 is a bargain that will suit most people.