Apple Watch SE review: all the key smartwatch features for under $300

The Apple Watch SE is the “better” part of Apple’s new good-better-best strategy for its smartwatches. At $120 less than the premier Apple Watch Series 6, but $80 more than the budget Apple Watch Series 3, the Apple Watch SE has most of what you’ll find in the Series 6, but its lower starting price of $279 makes it a bit more palatable.

So what does the Apple Watch SE give you that the Apple Watch 3 doesn’t? You get a larger display, international emergency calling, fall detection, noise monitoring, and optional LTE. After wearing the Apple Watch SE for a week, I’ve found it to be a very good smartwatch, but it feels priced too high for the features it offers.

Apple Watch SE: Design and display

No big changes here: The Apple Watch SE’s design is basically that of every other Apple Watch that came before. The Apple Watch SE will only be available with an aluminum case (the Apple Watch 6 is also available in stainless steel and titanium), but you will be able to choose between silver, gold, and space gray finishes. Apple sent me the space gray finish, which has a nice, clean look. 

The Apple Watch SE has the same screen and S5 processor as the Apple Watch 5—which is 30% larger than that on the Apple Watch 3—though there’s no always-on display option with the SE, as there is on the Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch 5. 

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I know that Apple is trying to differentiate between the SE and the Apple Watch 6, but the lack of an always-on display, especially on a device that costs more than $250, is a real disappointment. Still, the Apple Watch SE’s screen was very responsive, coming to life with a simple flick of my wrist.

The 44mm model I tested has a screen resolution of 368 x 448 pixels; the smaller 40mm model has a 324 x 394-pixel display. It’s good that Apple offers the SE in two sizes; my wife tried on my review unit and thought it was too large for her smaller wrists.

 Apple Watch SE review


  • GPS + Cellular model lets you call, text, and get directions without your phone
  • Large Retina OLED display
  • Up to 2x faster processor than Series 3
  • Track your daily activity on Apple Watch and see your trends in the Fitness app on iPhone
  • Measure workouts like running, walking, cycling, yoga, swimming, and dance
  • Swimproof design
  • High and low heart rate notifications and irregular heart rhythm notification
  • Sync and stream music, podcasts, and audiobooks.


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