Apple Watch SE review

Our Apple Watch SE review is in. Is this mid-price option any good?

Our Verdict

This is the Apple Watch to own – it has all the features you need and none of the ones you don't. It's affordable too.


  • Solid feature count
  • Good battery life
  • Sensibly priced
  • Fairly future-proof

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The Apple Watch SE is one of two options if the Apple Watch Series 6 is too rich for your tastes. At the budget end sits the Apple Watch Series 3 (available from £199) and in the middle is the new Apple Watch SE.

Prices start at £269 for the 40mm version and £299 for the 44mm model. Both are available in Gold, Silver or Space Grey with a variety of straps and loops available, so you can easily choose one to suit your style. Wanting to snap up a great price? Check out our Apple Watch deals roundup, or our specific Apple Watch SE deals page.

Apple Watch SE: Design

Apple Watch SE review

(Image credit: Future)

In most respects, the Watch Series 6 and SE are practically identical. You get 32GB of storage on both for apps, music and so on, enabling you to use the Watch solo without needing to cart around its partner phone. And again, the Watch SE is equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (and an always-on altimeter), plus you can step up to a GPS + 4G model (available from £22 per month from Vodafone, for example), making it even easier to keep in touch on the go.

Apple Watch SE: Battery life

The good news, too, is that since it uses a more 'traditional' on/off Apple Watch display, the Watch SE's battery life lasts longer than the Watch Series 6's – we regularly clocked up a day and a half of use between recharges, far in excess of the 18 hours Apple claims and more than the Watch Series 6, ahem, clocks up.

Apple Watch SE: Features

In terms of tech, the Watch SE eschews some of the features of its more expensive Series 6 sibling. While it still has a Retina display, it loses the always-on option, only waking up when you raise your wrist or tap the glass. The Watch SE also lack the Series 6's Blood Oxygen and ECG features – their absence here may or may not be deal breakers for you. The other big difference is that the Watch SE runs on Apple's S5 chip rather than the S6 of the Series 6. The S5 comes from last year's Series 5 and is no performance slouch – and that also makes it more future-proof than the Series 3, which has been kicking around since 2017.

Perhaps the best thing about the Apple Watch SE is that, like its more expensive cousin, it also runs watchOS 7. That means you get all the same features and functionality – aside from the exceptions we've previously outlined – making this a great choice for tracking your health and fitness, while also staying on top of your messages, emails, notifications and impressing shop assistants with Apple Pay.

But which one should you buy? Well, comparing the two side-by-side, having a Watch with an always-on display versus one that doesn't, doesn't feel like a massive benefit – partly because of the battery life issue, but also because most of the time, the always-on display is dimmed anyway, while raising your wrist or tapping the glass on the Watch SE to wake it seems trivial. So given the relatively lower cost, the more affordable Watch SE is the one to add to your Christmas wish list.

This review originally appeared in MacFormat; subscribe to MacFormat here.

Read more: How to make an Apple Watch app

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The Verdict

out of 10

Apple Watch SE

This is the Apple Watch to own – it has all the features you need and none of the ones you don't. It's affordable too.

Rob Mead-Green

Rob is editor of MacFormat, the UK's leading Apple magazine. Having bought his first Mac in the early '90s, he's been evangelising Apple ever since, writing news, reviews and features for MacFormat as well as for over 40 other print and digital titles including T3, TechRadar and, of course, Creative Bloq. When he's not trying out the latest hardware and software, he's out taking photos with his iPhone or trying (and failing) to re-learn the guitar.