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Apple Watch SE review (2023): The best smartwatch $250 can buy

Apple sacrificed surprisingly few features on the second-gen Watch SE.

I didn’t anticipate Apple, of all companies, to offer the most affordable smartwatch you can purchase in 2022. Yet, the new Watch SE is undoubtedly the most alluring wearable on the market now that Apple has reduced the price by $30. This year’s Watch SE offers a full complement of health and fitness functions, emergency features, and surprisingly few tradeoffs for $150 less than the new Series 8. It even has the same brand-new chip as the Series 8 and has a same appearance.

Design and hardware

You’ve pretty much seen them all if you’ve seen one Apple Watch. iPhone owners are stuck with the rounded square look that the business has continued to utilize year after year, unlike the majority of smartwatches for Android users. It appears that most people have grown accustomed to the shape by this time and either accept it, learn to live with it, or stop complaining.

I am one of those who has made the decision to stop wasting my time by requesting a round face. The Watch SE is lightweight, comfortable, and well-made at least, and it has a neutral appearance. I’ve been testing a 40mm model, and it fits well on my wrist; most of the time, I hardly even feel it’s there. There is also a 44mm variant available.

Although the 40mm Apple Watch SE is one of the lightest wearables available at 26.4 grammes (0.93 ounces), other modern wearables are comparably unobtrusive. With 37.6 grammes and 28.7 grammes, respectively, the Fitbit Sense and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 weigh more than it.

I didn’t even aware there was a change until I carefully read the spec sheet, even though the SE’s underside is constructed of nylon composite and sapphire crystal rather than the ceramic on its predecessor and the Series 8 models.

The new SE is not rated IPX6 for dust protection, unlike the Series 8 and Watch Ultra, but it is water resistant up to 50 metres. It has the same S8 system-in-a-package (Sip) processor as the other two, as well as an onboard high-g accelerometer that enables accident detection, but it also employs an older heart rate monitor than the other two.

The SE’s screen is protected by Ion-X glass as its predecessor, as opposed to sapphire crystal on the Series 8. I haven’t experienced any problems with the new SE, but my first review unit of the previous generation gadget did suffer major damage after falling over my bathroom sink, with spiderweb fractures covering the display. It can be worthwhile to spend more money on a tougher smartwatch if you’re clumsy or anticipate using it carelessly.


Even in direct sunshine, the Retina display on the Watch SE is clear, bright, and simple to read. The fact that Apple consistently utilizes colorful text on a black backdrop, which is excellent for reading, has a lot to do with the latter quality. Samsung watches, like the Galaxy Watch 5, frequently have higher resolutions and more brightness, but they can occasionally have small, low-contrast characters that are difficult to see.

The new SE’s display is an LTPO OLED panel with resolutions of 394 x 324 for the 40mm and 44mm models, and 448 x 368 for the larger version, same like its predecessor. Like the Series 8 and preceding SE models, its brightness will likewise reach a maximum of 1,000 nits.

The primary distinction between this year’s Watch SE and its more expensive siblings, aside from the absence of a skin temperature sensor, is that the latter lacks an Always On Display (AOD). This simply means that in order to see information like the time, how long you’ve been exercising, or a notification that has just arrived, you’ll have to lift your wrist (sometimes rather purposefully). The Watch SE does take a moment to wake up and display me what I’m searching for, but it never felt particularly sluggish. Nonetheless, if you’re the impatient kind and have more cash to spend, this feature can make the $150 premium over the Series 8 worthwhile.

Performance and in use

The Watch SE uses the same S8 Sip as the Series 8 and Watch Ultra, which is excellent given the price. This often meant that the $250 watch was just as quick to configure fresh watch faces, measure my heart rate, start exercises, and other tasks as its more expensive counterparts. I wore the SE and a Series 8 during my tests and sometimes it was quicker to identify that I had been walking for 10 minutes or more, while other times higher-end model would be first. But, regardless of whether device notified me first, they both recorded my outdoor walks as lasting nearly the same amount of time.

It felt exactly the same as using the Series 8 to track my daily HIIT and resistance training sessions when I used the SE. The latter’s AOD kept the workout screen on so I could more easily keep an eye on information like elapsed time and calories burned. That was the only difference.

The new skin temperature sensor that Apple added with the Series 8 is the most important feature that the SE lacks. This monitors the wearer’s body temperature overnight and determines if they have ovulated based on any variations from a baseline reading. The SE doesn’t provide this ovulation-tracking capability because it lacks the necessary hardware. But, it performs all other cycle and sleep tracking functions. You can wear this to bed or to record your periods.

The SE didn’t take much longer to provide a reading than the Series 8 or Watch Ultra, despite having an older heart rate monitor. Since I had been wearing the Series 7 for a year, I honestly couldn’t detect much of a difference between the SE and it. The blood oxygen and ECG apps, which were missing, I didn’t use very often anyhow.

Battery life

Battery life is one area where the SE fell short of more expensive Apple Watches. The SE tended to run dangerously low at night if I’d been extremely active earlier, whereas the Series 8 typically lasted throughout the day with extra battery for the next morning. When attempting to meet my stand and move targets, I typically log one workout every morning and rely on the watches to automatically identify my two to five outside walks each day. The Watch SE will struggle to last until midnight if I walk for more than 10 minutes more than twice.

The SE doesn’t enable rapid charging, which is another significant difference between it and Series 7 and subsequent models, however it never took more than an hour to charge.


Very few functions were compromised by Apple for the second-generation Watch SE. It has a tone of fitness and health tracking features for a beginner smartwatch, and it also delivers safety features like crash detection and compass backtrack. You won’t miss features like the tougher screen, dust resistance, or always-on display as long as you’re not particularly clumsy or impatient. The greatest smartwatch for the money is the Apple Watch SE, which costs $250.