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As the Apple Watch family grows, picking the best Apple Watch for you gets harder. Over the last few years, there have been three different models of Apple Watch to choose from: The Apple Watch Series 8, the Apple Watch SE (2nd generation), and the Apple Watch Ultra.
Although the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 are now part of the Watch lineup, the Series 8 and SE are still two viable budget options worth considering. Apple doesn’t sell the Series 8 anymore, but you can still find it at other retailers. The SE can still be purchased via Apple, however.
Here’s a quick breakdown of both the Series 8 and SE (2nd generation) — comparing prices, features, and more — so you can decide for yourself which one fits you best. Read our full review of the Apple Watch Series 8 and review of the Apple Watch SE for more in-depth info.
Apple Watch SE vs. Series 8: Size and design
Both the Series 8 and SE look similar, although the Series 8 is slightly bigger.
The Apple Watch Series 8 comes in two sizes: 45mm and 41mm. Both sizes have an always-on display with 396 x 484 pixels or 352 x 430 pixels, respectively, and the casing can be made out of either aluminum or stainless steel. The aluminum version comes in four colors (Midnight black, Starlight tan, silver, and red), and the stainless steel version comes in three colors (Graphite black, silver, and gold).
Meanwhile, the Apple Watch SE (2nd generation) comes in 44mm and 40mm sizes and lacks the always-on-display of the Series 8. The retina displays of the new SE come in at 368 x 448 pixels (44mm) and 324 x 394 pixels (41mm), housed in an aluminum case. Both sizes come in three colors: Midnight black, Starlight tan, and silver.
Apple Watch SE vs. Series 8: Durability
Both the Series 8 and SE are water-resistant for up to 50 meters. This means your Apple Watch can survive being taken down to 50 meters underwater. Apple warns that you should keep the Watch away from “high-velocity” water like you’d see while rafting or waterskiing. And you should avoid scuba diving with it since water pressure can change rapidly.
It also cautions that the Watch’s water resistance may degrade over time, especially if it’s exposed to soap, hot temperatures, or acids and oils. Even if your Watch is under warranty, Apple can’t repair water resistance problems.
In addition to being water resistant, the Apple Watch Series 8 is “IP6X dust resistant” — it’s completely dust-tight, making it nearly impossible for dust to get into the Watch’s internal components. Like water resistance, this can wear off over time too, but is generally much more permanent.
Apple Watch SE vs. Series 8: Health features
Every new Apple Watch comes with new ways to keep track of your health and fitness. These two new models are no different.
Let’s start with the Apple Watch SE. The SE has a standard heartbeat monitor built into the case, which you can use to track your resting and active heart rates. You can also turn on heart rate notifications, which will warn you when your heartbeat gets too high, low, or becomes irregular. It also includes a cycle-tracking app for monitoring your menstrual cycles.
The Apple Watch Series 8 includes all of that. But in addition to an upgraded heartbeat monitor, the Watch’s case has both ECG and blood oxygen monitors. The Series 8 also adds a new temperature sensor, which will warn you when your body temperature gets too hot or too cold.
The Series 8’s temperature sensor can be combined with the cycle tracking app to give you retrospective estimates of when you had your period and predict when you’ll ovulate in the future. It’ll also warn you about cycle deviations, like if your period is irregular or goes for too long.
They both have the same options for tracking your workouts, daily movement goals, and sleep patterns.
Apple Watch SE vs. Series 8: Emergency safety features
Both the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE (2nd generation) have the same emergency safety features.
If you have a cell signal, you can quickly make calls from your Watch to 911 or other emergency services, even when overseas.
They also have fall detection — a sensor that detects when you’ve fallen and offers to call emergency services — and car crash detection, a sensor that does the same when it detects that you’ve been in a crash.
This year, Apple is adding a “Compass Backtrack” feature that you can use when hiking. The feature will track where you’ve walked and can give you directions to retrace your exact steps, which can save you from getting lost.
Apple Watch SE vs. Series 8: Battery life
Apple promises 18 hours of battery life for both the Apple Watch Series 8 and the SE (2nd generation). Both models also include a Low Power Mode that turns off some background apps and sensors to help the Watch last longer.
But the Series 8 has a more powerful battery that supports fast charging. This means that if you use the default chargers, the Series 8 will reach full battery capacity faster than the SE.
Both versions support Qi-certified wireless charging pads and stands.
Apple Watch SE vs. Series 8: Price
Apple Watches change in price depending on what combination of size and internet connectivity you choose. And if you’re buying the Series 8, you have to add case material into the equation too.
Apple Watch Series 8
|With aluminum case||GPS||GPS + Cellular|
|With stainless steel case||GPS||GPS + Cellular|
*Apple doesn’t sell a GPS-only version of the stainless steel Apple Watch Series 8.
Apple Watch SE (2nd generation)
|GPS||GPS + Cellular|
Which should you buy?
The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE are remarkably similar. The only bonuses you get with the Series 8 are a larger screen, added durability, and a few extra health-tracking features.
If all you plan on using your Apple Watch for is making or receiving texts and calls, tracking your steps, and checking the time, then the Apple Watch SE (2nd generation) is the perfect choice.
But if you want all of that plus a more in-depth look at your health metrics, the Apple Watch Series 8 is probably worth the price — for the aluminum version, at least.