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Comparing the Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE: Which Model is Right For You?

Are you trying to decide between the Apple Watch Series 8 and the new SE model? This comprehensive guide examines all the key differences between these two smartwatches to help you select the best option for your needs and budget.

As an experienced tech specialist and Apple enthusiast, I‘ve compared the Series 8 and SE across 12 categories, including design, display, durability, health tracking, battery life, performance, connectivity and price. I‘ll also provide buying recommendations based on use cases.

By the end of this detailed comparison, you‘ll have all the information needed to confidently choose the Apple Watch that‘s right for you. Let‘s dive in!

Overview of the Series 8 and SE Models

First, here‘s a quick refresher on these two smartwatch models in Apple‘s lineup:

  • Apple Watch Series 8 – Apple‘s latest high-end smartwatch with advanced health/fitness tracking and new safety features.

  • Apple Watch SE – A more affordable Apple Watch focused on core functionality like notifications and basic activity monitoring.

Both watches have a similar square design and run on Apple‘s watchOS platform. They work seamlessly with iPhone to deliver notifications, apps, calls, Apple Pay and more to your wrist.

But the Series 8 includes extra sensors and features that the lower-cost SE lacks. Let‘s explore those differences in depth across 12 key categories.

Display Size and Quality

The first big difference is in the display itself. Here‘s how the screens compare:

  • Series 8 display
    • 41mm size: 1.9" OLED display, 352 x 430 pixels
    • 45mm size: 1.9” OLED display, 369 x 484 pixels
  • SE display
    • 40mm size: 1.53” OLED display, 324 x 394 pixels
    • 44mm size: 1.78” OLED display, 368 x 448 pixels

Right away, you can see the Series 8 has a notably larger display, especially if you opt for the 45mm model.

According to Apple, the Series 8 screen area is 20% larger than the SE. This extra real estate makes content more immersive and touch targets easier to tap.

Both watches use bright, vivid OLED panels with the same pixel density (326 ppi), so image quality is excellent on both. Colors pop and details are sharp.

But the maximum brightness of 1000 nits on the Series 8 gives it better visibility in sunlight compared to the SE‘s 500 nits.

Overall winner: Series 8 for its larger, brighter display

Always-On Display

The Series 8 has an Always-On Display, while the SE does not.

This means the Series 8 screen stays visible with basic info like the time, alerts and complications even when you‘re not actively looking at it or raising your wrist.

According to Apple, having the Always-On Display enabled reduces the Series 8‘s battery life from 18 hours to 15.5 hours on a single charge.

The Always-On Display makes it more convenient to quickly check the time or your next meeting. But it‘s not an essential feature, and the SE can still wake the display with a flick of your wrist.

Overall winner: Series 8 for Always-On Display, but not a huge difference in daily use

Design and Durability

On the outside, both watches have the same classic, square-shaped design with Digital Crown and side button controls. They also both use Apple‘s proprietary watch bands.

The key differences in durability:

  • Water resistance – Both are water resistant up to 50 meters per ISO standard 22810. So you can wear them while swimming in a pool or ocean.

  • Dust resistance – Only the Series 8 is certified IP6X dust resistant. This gives it better protection from fine particles like sand or dirt when exercising outside.

  • Materials – The Series 8 comes in both lightweight aluminum or heavier stainless steel. The SE is aluminum only.

Based on durability, the Series 8 pulls ahead with its dust proofing and more premium steel option. But both watches should handle day-to-day use, workouts and accidental splashes just fine.

Overall winner: Series 8 for dust resistance and steel case option

Health, Fitness and Safety Sensors

Health and activity tracking are signature Apple Watch features – and where the Series 8 differentiates itself the most from the SE.

Here are the key sensors each model offers:

Apple Watch Series 8

  • Blood oxygen sensor
  • ECG app
  • Temperature sensor
  • Accelerometer/gyroscope
  • Always-on altimeter
  • Crash detection
  • Fall detection
  • Heart rate sensor

Apple Watch SE

  • Accelerometer/gyroscope
  • Heart rate sensor
  • Fall detection
  • Crash detection

As you can see, the Series 8 has a lot more going on in terms of advanced health monitoring!

These additional sensors allow the Series 8 to provide deeper insights into your wellbeing:

  • The ECG app can detect signs of atrial fibrillation or irregular heart rhythms.

  • The new temperature sensor helps detect fevers and can aid with fertility planning.

  • The SpO2 sensor measures blood oxygen levels and can alert you to respiratory issues.

Meanwhile, the SE still covers the basics like exercise tracking, step counting and heart rate monitoring. Both models have Apple‘s new car crash and fall detection safety features too.

I‘d only get the SE if you want basic activity stats and don‘t care about advanced health data. The Series 8 is far superior for complete health monitoring capabilities.

Overall winner: Series 8 for advanced health and safety sensors

Battery Life

According to Apple, both watches deliver around 18 hours of battery life based on typical daily use.

The Series 8 does have a new low power setting that extends battery life to 36 hours by turning off non-essential features. The SE doesn’t seem to get the same extended battery life benefit according to Apple.

18 hours is decent but you‘ll still need to charge nightly. I wish Apple would push battery life to 2-3 days without needing low power modes. It‘s the biggest drawback to the Apple Watch in my experience.

But thanks to fast charging, you can top up either watch pretty quickly – up to 80% in 45 minutes.

Overall winner: Tie given similar regular battery life, but the Series 8 has better longevity in low power mode. Still room for improvement on both.

Processing Power and Performance

The Apple Watch Series 8 and SE both use Apple‘s latest S8 SiP (System in Package) chipset.

This improved chip makes the watches up to 20% faster at launching apps and displaying information compared to the previous models.

So you can expect equally snappy performance on the Series 8 and SE when scrolling through menus, running apps, checking notifications and more.

Both also come with 32GB of internal storage to save music, apps, photos and other content.

Overall winner: Tie since they share the same S8 processor and 32GB storage.

Connectivity, Sensors and Features

For wireless connectivity, both models include WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC payments.

They also share built-in sensors like compass, always-on altimeter and accelerometer. And useful features like Emergency SOS, Fall Detection, Find My watch, handwashing timer, and noise monitoring are present too.

A few differences:

  • Cellular – The Series 8 offers a cellular model but the SE does not. Cellular lets you use apps and take calls on your watch even when iPhone isn‘t nearby.

  • International emergency calling – Only the Series 8 supports emergency calls in over 150 countries, even without an active plan. Could be vital when traveling abroad!

  • Fast charging – Again exclusive to the Series 8 is faster charging that can reach 80% battery in 45 minutes.

Overall winner: Series 8 thanks to cellular option and improved emergency calling/charging.

Price and Value Comparison

Of course, price plays a role in choosing between the Series 8 and SE. Here’s how they compare:

Apple Watch Series 8 Pricing

  • 41mm GPS model: Starts at $399
  • 41mm Cellular model: Starts at $499
  • 45mm GPS model: Starts at $429
  • 45mm Cellular model: Starts at $529

Apple Watch SE Pricing

  • 40mm GPS model: Starts at $249
  • 44mm GPS model: Starts at $279

As expected, the SE costs significantly less at around $150 – $200+ less than the equivalent Series 8 model and size.

That lower price comes from dropping advanced health sensors and smaller upgrades we covered earlier.

But the SE still gives you core Apple Watch functionality like notifications, activity and sleep tracking in a more affordable package. It‘s the best option for basic smartwatch needs on a budget.

Meanwhile, the Series 8 provides more complete health monitoring and premium features to potentially justify its higher costs – especially if you‘ll use the advanced sensors and cellular connectivity.

Overall winner: SE on price, Series 8 on value depending on if you need the additional perks and health tech.

Which Apple Watch Should You Buy?

With all the differences covered, here is my advice on deciding between the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE based on your needs:

Get the Apple Watch SE if you:

  • Only need basic activity, sleep and heart rate tracking
  • Don‘t care about advanced health sensors like ECG or blood oxygen monitoring
  • Want to spend the least possible on an Apple Watch
  • Are satisfied with smaller 40mm and 44mm size options

Get the Apple Watch Series 8 if you:

  • Demand the most comprehensive health metrics from ECG, fall detection and crash detection
  • Want blood oxygen or temperature sensors for deeper health insights
  • Plan to use cellular connectivity when away from your phone
  • Prefer the always-on display and larger 45mm case size
  • Don‘t mind paying more for premium features and health data

Both are excellent smartwatches in Apple‘s ecosystem. But the SE only makes sense if you‘re on a tight budget and don‘t need health capabilities beyond the basics. For full-featured health tracking and monitoring, go with the Series 8.

The Bottom Line

While the Apple Watch SE and Series 8 share similarities around core functionality, the Series 8 justifies its higher cost through more advanced health sensors, safety features, larger always-on display and cellular connectivity.

But the SE remains the most affordable entry point into Apple Watch, packing tremendous value into its $250 starting price for basic activity and notification needs.

Hope this detailed comparison helped explain all the differences between the Series 8 and SE models! Let me know if you have any other questions.