- The Apple Watch Series 9 offers better hardware and a more premium build with stainless steel options, while the Apple Watch SE is more affordable with an aluminum build.
- Apple Watch Series 9 has a larger and brighter screen, with a modern edge-to-edge design and better readability in sunlight.
- The Series 9 has a faster S9 chip with performance improvements and additional features, but the SE’s S8 chip already handles most tasks well. Both have essential health monitoring features and a similar set of security features.
- The Series 9 has fast charging and more storage, but both models offer up to 18 hours of battery life. Prices range from $249 to $529, with additional options for stainless steel models starting at $699. Choose based on your budget and desired features.
If you’re looking to buy an Apple Watch without breaking the bank, you have two options: the Apple Watch SE and the Apple Watch Series 9. The latter is newer and has better hardware, but is it worth the extra money? Let’s find out.
Design and build
Apple Watches generally look the same. It also applies to Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE (second generation) – at least with the screen off. Both models have a boxy design with a power button and a Digital Crown on the right side of the case.
However, the differences become apparent when you consider the size and build quality. Apple offers the Series 9 in 41mm and 45mm sizes, while the affordable SE comes in slightly smaller 40mm and 44mm cases.
While you can get the Apple Watch Series 9 in aluminum and stainless steel, the SE comes in just aluminum, which isn’t bad, but it’s not as premium as stainless steel, which may matter to some. For example, the stainless variants of the Apple Watch have sapphire crystal, which is more resistant to scratches.
Another notable build difference is that the Series 9 has IP6X dust resistance, which the SE misses out on. However, both watches are water resistant up to 50 meters.
Display is one area where you’ll notice a huge difference between the Apple Watch SE (second generation) and the Series 9.
The Apple Watch Series 9, with its larger case sizes, accommodates slightly larger screens than the SE. Part of this is due to the smaller bezels, which also make the Series 9 a more modern smartwatch. Similarly, the edge-to-edge screen design provides more screen capacity for content and in turn makes using the screen a little easier.
In addition to a larger screen, the Apple Watch Series 9 has a significantly brighter screen. Compared to the Apple Watch SE, which can go up to 1000 nits, the Series 9 can reach a maximum brightness of 2000 nits, making it easy to read the screen in bright sunlight. Not only that, but it can go down as low as a nit when it’s dark.
Although both watches use an LTPO OLED display, the one on the Series 9 supports the always-on feature. As such, you can quickly check the time without raising your wrist.
Performance and features
The Apple Watch Series 9 runs on the S9 chip, the same chip that powers the top-of-the-line Apple Watch Ultra 2, and promises performance improvements and support for additional features. A major highlight of the S9 is a 4-core neural engine that allows the Apple Watch Series 9 to process machine learning tasks up to twice as fast as the S8 chip in the Apple Watch SE.
However, the Apple Watch SE’s S8 chip should handle most tasks without issue, given that it’s the same chip that powered the Apple Watch Series 8 and the original Apple Watch Ultra.
One of the standout features of the Series 9, thanks to the S9 chip, is the double-tap feature, which lets you control your laptop with just one hand by tapping your index finger and thumb together. Fortunately, you can use a similar double-tap gesture on any Apple Watch, including the SE.
Series 9 has a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip that unlocks features like Precision Finding for iPhone 15 users and HomePod integration. In addition to the newer processor, the Series 9 also gets 64GB of internal storage, which is twice as much as the Apple Watch SE.
As for other hardware differences, the Series 9 includes a bunch of additional sensors like a blood oxygen sensor to monitor blood oxygen saturation and an electrical heart sensor that lets you take an EKG.
While these features are great to have, not everyone needs them. Apple Watch SE has everything you need. This includes heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring and cycle tracking, helping you conveniently keep track of your health goals. It doesn’t skimp on the typical Apple Watch safety features either, so you get emergency SOS, fall detection and crash detection features, just like the Series 9.
Battery life and charging
Apple claims up to 18 hours of battery life on the Series 9 and Apple Watch SE. However, your mileage with the Series 9 may vary depending on how often you use its always-on display.
One area where the Series 9 gets the upper hand over the SE is fast charging. Apple says you can charge the Apple Watch Series 9 from 0-100% in about 75 minutes (using Apple’s USB-C Magnetic Fast Charger to USB-C cable). In comparison, it would take about two and a half hours on SE.
Both Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE come in two sizes and have two connectivity options: GPS and GPS + Cellular.
The GPS-only Apple Watch SE costs $249 for the 40mm variant and $279 for the 44mm variant, while the cellular variant will set you back $299 and $329 for the 40mm and 44mm sizes, respectively.
Similarly, the GPS-only Apple Watch Series 9 costs $399 for the 41mm size and $429 for the 45mm size. If you need cellular connectivity, the 41mm and 45mm versions will set you back $499 and $529, respectively.
Don’t forget you can also opt for the Series 9 in stainless steel (with different strap options), which starts at $699 for the 41mm model and $749 for the 45mm version. These stainless steel models come with mobile connectivity as standard.
Buy the right Apple Watch for your needs
Both the Series 9 and Apple Watch SE are excellent options with long-term software support and can easily last for years. That said, if you want the latest offering without compromising on features and don’t have budget constraints, the Apple Watch Series 9 is the one to get.
The Apple Watch SE is more suited to someone who is looking to buy their first Apple Watch and isn’t sure if a smartwatch is a good long-term investment for them.
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