Apple Watch SE (2022) review: the budget model that doesn't lack (most) features
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Apple Watch SE (2022) review: the budget model that doesn't lack (most) features

Evaluation:

8/10

?

  • 1 – Not working
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Sorely lacking in most areas
  • 4 – Works, but has many issues
  • 5 – Good but leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 - Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Big and worth buying
  • 8 – Fantastic, coming close to best in class
  • 9 – Best in Class
  • 10 – Limit perfection

Price:
From $ 249

The 1st generation Apple Watch SE was the middle option between a cheap Series 3 and the latest and greatest Apple Watch. In 2022, the new 2nd-gen Apple Watch SE is still the budget model, but it does 90% of what the Series 8 can do. And honestly, it's probably the best laptop for the most part.

And what we don't do

  • No permanent display
  • You will need to recharge it almost every day
  • Unable to perform blood oxygen or ECG tests

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Design: little has changed

  • Dimensions: 40mm (40 x 34 x 10,7mm) or 44mm (44 x 38 x 10,7mm)
  • Reading: 40mm + GPS (26,4g), 44mm + GPS (32,9g), 40mm + Cellular (27,8g), 44mm + Cellular (33g)
  • display: Retina LTO OLED, up to 1 nits of brightness
  • CPU: S8 SiP Advanced Dual-Core (same as Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra)
  • Storage: Go 32
  • Building material : Aluminium

If you've ever looked at an Apple Watch, you know exactly what to expect here. Instead of the circular design of a traditional watch, the Apple Watch SE 2 is square in shape with rounded corners and edges. On the right you will find a rotating digital crown and a side button. On the left, there are cutouts for the watch's built-in microphone and speaker.

Apple also uses a proprietary watchband design that slips into the top and bottom of the wearable. Third parties make accessories that let you fit traditional bands, but it's much easier to buy new ones for the Apple Watch (just make sure you buy one for the right screen size) .

The first time you put Apple Watch SE on your wrist, you'll be surprised by how light it is. It's a solid 6g lighter than my current 7-series, which doesn't sound like a lot, but makes all the difference when it comes to something you wear every day.

Part of the reason this model is so much lighter is that the Apple Watch SE has a new nylon composite material backing that's color-matched to the aluminum frame. It's a nice touch, but you won't notice the change aside from the weight difference.

The screen of the Apple Watch SE 2022 is the same as that of the series 4-6, which has some disadvantages. On the one hand, the bezels are noticeably wider than those of the high-end models. Second, there is no always-on display.

For me, it's not a big loss. I always keep this feature disabled on my Series 7 as it drains the battery considerably. But if you still want to see the time on your watch without lifting your wrist, this can be a deal breaker.

Features: collision detection, improved sleep tracking, etc.

  • Operating system: watchOS 9 (released September 2022)
  • 50 m water resistant (swimproof), no IP rating

As you'd expect, the Apple Watch SE (2022) comes with the latest operating system update, watchOS 9, out of the box. All the new OS features, including better sleep tracking, improved workout views, and more, run flawlessly and lag-free on the watch, thanks to Apple's S8 processor (which also powers the series 8 and Ultra).

But beyond that, at its September 2022 “Far Out” event, Apple spoke at length about the second-gen SE's high-speed accelerometer and improved gyroscope. What makes them special is that they allow collision detection. I obviously couldn't test this feature, but I was happy that it wasn't limited to the higher end watches.

I also had fun playing around with the redesigned Compass app. Besides looking prettier, you can now set waypoints and enable backtracking. If you ever go on a hike and get lost, these two things will help you retrace your steps and get back to where you started.

Battery life: enough to get you through the day

Apple Watch SE 2022 showing its battery percentage
  • Autonomy announced: 18 hours

Historically, the Apple Watch's biggest weakness has been battery life. Although it has improved since the first Apple Watch was released in 2015, you still cannot comfortably use the SE 2 for several days.

In my testing, I found that I could push 2 days on the Apple Watch SE 2022, but that was without exercise tracking. More generally, I'd put the laptop down at 9 a.m., carry it through the day, and have about 60% battery left. If I left it on overnight for sleep tracking, it normally drained another 5-10% by the time I woke up.

Using the included Apple Watch charging puck and a third-party power adapter like the UGREEN Nexode 100W (because Apple no longer includes one), I was able to charge the SE from 0% to 100% in just over 2 hours.

Unfortunately, the Apple Watch SE 2022 doesn't offer fast charging, which was first introduced with Series 7 and has since been added to Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra. Slow charging isn't the worst, but I often found that sticking the watch on the charger while I showered and got ready for the day wasn't enough to fully charge the SE.

Apple Watch SE (2022) vs. Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch Series 8 next to a 2022 SE and Ultra

Apple announced 3 new smartwatches in 2022, the 2nd Gen SE, Series 8, and Ultra. But if you're considering buying the budget SE, you won't be interested in how it compares to the Ultra. Let's take a look at how the Apple Watch SE compares to the Series 8 instead.

Besides a small difference in size, the overall design of both watches is the same. Metal frame, glass screen, digital crown and side button. Turn on that screen, though, and the first thing you'll notice is that the SE's bezels are much wider. Luckily, they blend into the background if you're using a black/dark watch face.

The screen itself is equally bright on both models (both max out at 1 nits), but you lose the always-on display with the SE (as noted above). I'd rather save battery than always have my laptop screen on, but this difference might be a deal breaker for you.

Almost every other difference between the Apple Watch SE and Series 8 is sensor-related. Both have a heart rate sensor, but the 2022 SE cannot take blood oxygen measurements or perform an ECG. The SE also lacks the new temperature sensors that allow better cycle tracking with retrospective estimates of ovulation.

On top of that, both watches are powered by the same Apple-made S8 SiP advanced dual-core processor, run watchOS 9, and can track nearly all of the same basic workouts. The Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) lacks a few niceties, but it's also $150 cheaper than the Series 8.

Should you buy the Apple Watch SE (2022)?

Grid app drawer on the Apple Watch SE 2022
  • Color options: Midnight (dark blue), Starlight (light gold), Silver
  • Pricing: 40mm + GPS ($249), 44mm + GPS ($279), 40mm + Cellular ($299), 44mm + Cellular ($329)

Unless you're an incredibly active person or need the extra features made possible by the additional Series 8 sensors, I think the Apple Watch SE (2022) is a fantastic buy. After wearing it for several weeks, I realized it was capable of doing everything I counted on my Series 7 to do. It shows notifications, quickly launches the calculator or stopwatch app, and tracks my walks in my neighbourhood.

Do I want the 8nd Gen SE to be able to take blood oxygen readings or perform an ECG? Yes, but I don't mind skipping it if it means saving a significant amount of money. Of course, if features like an always-on display and temperature tracking are must-haves, go with the Series XNUMX.

You can buy the Apple Watch SE (2022) in three colors: Midnight, Starlight and Silver (pictured above). It starts at $249 for the 40mm GPS model and increases with screen size and cellular connectivity.

Evaluation:
8/10

Price:
From $ 249

This is what we like

  • 90% of the features present on the Series 8
  • Cheapest Apple Watch
  • Fantastic performance

And what we don't do

  • No permanent display
  • You will need to recharge it almost every day
  • Unable to perform blood oxygen or ECG tests

★ ★ ★ ★ ★