Now, you’re definitely going to want to wait for our full Apple Watch SE review, but as far as first impressions go, the SE leaves a pretty strong one. I’ve spent the last year or so wearing the Series 5 and really enjoying it — it’s only been in the past few years that the Apple Watch’s processing power meant you didn’t really have to worry about stops and starts and stutters. The whole experience feels pretty consistently smooth now, which you just couldn’t say in the early days.
So far, the Apple Watch SE has felt just as fast, which of course makes sense since it shares its brain with the Series 5. In other words, you can expect performance that’s in line with what was — up until just recently — Apple’s flagship wearable. I haven’t had the SE long enough to fully test its battery life, but I easily got a full day of use from the Series 5 when it launched, and the SE might last a little longer since it doesn’t have an always-on display to worry about.
That’s not bad for $280, though it’s worth noting that last year’s Series 5 occasionally goes on sale for as low as $300. If you see one of those deals, you might want to jump on that instead. I’d personally opt for the Series 5 myself, but I’m perhaps a little biased: Earlier this year, before 2020 started going down the drain, I had an atrial flutter strike out of nowhere, and it was only thanks to the Series 5’s mild concern via the ECG app that I went to an emergency room and got the all-clear. Since then, I’ve been glad to see new wearables like Samsung’s latest Galaxy Watch embrace similar features, and can’t help but be a little disappointed Apple had to cut it here.
If you’re already dutifully keeping tabs on your heart (or just aren’t particularly fussed about it), then it’s hard not to recommend the SE. It still has most of the health-focused features Apple has rolled out in the past few years, like fall detection, alerts for excessive ambient noise, and non-ECG-based heart rate monitoring. And if nothing else, the Watch SE is a great entry point for all of the new features available in watchOS 7.