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Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and Ultra hands-on: triple the fun

Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and Ultra hands-on: triple the fun

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Two incremental updates and one big newcomer

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Today was a big day for Apple wearables. Not only did Apple announce the brand-new Series 8, but it also refreshed the SE and unveiled the rugged Apple Watch Ultra. In other words, we have a totally new Apple Watch lineup.

The Apple Watch Ultra is the star of the show because it isn’t something we’ve seen before. It’s got a big honking 49mm rectangular display, which... truly is in a class of its own. Not only is it the biggest Apple Watch screen, but it’s also the brightest at 2,000 nits. As for how that wrist slab feels, it was actually lighter on my wrist than I’d expected, probably because its case is made of titanium. But make no mistake — it is a BIG watch.

Another thing that’s immediately apparent is the design tweaks Apple’s made for the extreme fitness crowd. There’s the new orange action button, a button guard, and a redesigned crown. The rim around the display is also raised to protect the sapphire crystal display — which is something we saw on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro as well. Plus, that display is truly flat.

Take a look at the new rotating crown and button guard.
Take a look at the new rotating crown and button guard.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
There’s a new, customizable “action button.”
There’s a new, customizable “action button.”
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Next up is the Apple Watch Series 8. At a glance, there’s really not too much to differentiate it from the Series 7, though I can definitely tell the screen appears bigger. Inside, there’s a new temperature sensor, though it’s not something I was able to really check out here in Cupertino. The sensor is meant to help retrospectively detect ovulation. It’s also got an updated chip — the S8 — which keeps things snappy when you’re swiping through menus. The Series 8 also has a new gyroscope and accelerometer to help call emergency services if it detects you’ve been in a car crash.

Left to right: my 41mm Series 7, the 44mm SE, and the 49mm Ultra.
Left to right: my 41mm Series 7, the 44mm SE, and the 49mm Ultra.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge
The Series 8 doesn’t look too different at a glance, but its screen definitely appears bigger.
The Series 8 doesn’t look too different at a glance, but its screen definitely appears bigger.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

The new SE is also a fairly incremental update. It, too, gets an upgrade to the S8 chip, whereas the original SE was a bit of a Frankenstein watch. It had the processor of the Series 5 mixed in with some sensors used in the Series 6 minus the EKG sensor. The new SE has the same motion sensors as the Series 8 for crash detection and is 20 percent faster than before. The screen is also 30 percent larger than the Series 3, and the sensor array color matches the front. It’s mostly still missing the always-on display and the new temperature sensor.

The back of the SE now matches the front. Otherwise, not too many changes design-wise.
The back of the SE now matches the front. Otherwise, not too many changes design-wise.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

The Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8, and SE are available for preorder today. The Series 8 and SE will ship on September 16, with the Ultra shipping on the 23rd. We’ll be putting all three through their paces, so keep an eye out for our review.

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