(Pocket-lint) - Apple announced three smartwatches during its September launch in the form of the Apple Watch Ultra, the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE.
The Apple Watch Ultra is more rugged and larger than the Series 8, designed for more extreme environments and sports. It is also significantly more expensive though so do you need it, or is the Series 8 enough?
Here is how the Apple Watch Ultra and the Watch Series 8 compare.
Watch Ultra vs Series 8 design
- Ultra: 49 x 44 x 14.4mm, 61.3g
- Series 8 (41mm): 41 x 35 x 10.7mm, 32g (aluminium), 42.3g (stainless steel)
- Series 8 (45mm): 45 x 38 x 10.7mm, 38.8g (aluminium), 51.5g (stainless steel)
The Apple Watch Ultra and the Watch Series 8 share similarities in their design, but the Watch Ultra is larger and chunkier than the Series 8. Made from titanium, it is designed to be able to withstand more extreme environments.
The Digital Crown on the Watch Ultra is more tactile than on the Watch Series 8, allowing it to be used when wearing gloves, and the function button below is more prominent too. There is also an extra programmable Action button on the left side, along with a dual speaker.
The Watch Ultra also has a flat display, designed to protect the screen. It's also only available in a 49mm casing option, so this needs to be considered for those with slightly smaller wrists.
The Series 8 meanwhile, is made from either aluminium or stainless steel, depending on the model and it comes in 41mm and 45mm case options, so quite a bit smaller than the Watch Ultra. It is also more streamlined in its design, with a curved display and a more understated Digital Crown and side button.
The Watch Series 8 is water resistant to 50-metres, while the Watch Ultra is water resistant to 100-metres. Both are IP6X rated, though the Watch Ultra is also MIL-STD-810H tested. There is also a built-in siren on the Watch Ultra, along with International Orange accents, while the Series 8 is more muted in its finish.
Watch Ultra vs Series 8 display
- Ultra: 1164sq mm, 502 x 410 pixel resolution, 49mm casing, 2000nits
- Series 8 (41mm): 904sq mm, 430 x 352 pixel resolution, 41mm casing, 1000nits
- Series 8 (45mm): 1143sq mm, 484 x 396 pixel resolution, 45mm casing, 1000nits
Both the Apple Watch Ultra and the Watch Series 8 offer an Always-On Retina Display so there is always some information being shown on the screen, even when your wrist is down, rather than just a black rectangle. The Watch Ultra has a larger display than the Series 8, and it is brighter too.
The Watch Series 8 offers up to 1000nits brightness, while the Watch Ultra has up to 2000nits brightness, meaning the Ultra should be better in direct sunlight.
The bezels around the Watch Ultra's display are slightly wider than the Watch Series 8, though both offer a full screen experience. In terms of resolution, the Watch Ultra has a 502 x 410 pixel resolution, while the Watch Series 8 has a 430 x 353 pixel resolution on its 41mm model and 484 x 396 pixel resolution.
Both the Watch Ultra and Series 8 both offer punchy colours and black blacks, though the Watch Ultra has a Night Mode too when on the Wayfinder face, which is accessed by swiping the Digital Crown upwards, switching the face to red.
Watch Ultra vs Series 8 models
- Ultra: 49mm, Titanium, GPS & Cellular
- Series 8: 41mm, 45mm / Aluminium, Stainless Steel, Nike, Hermes, GPS or GPS & Cellular
The Apple Watch Ultra comes in titanium only, as we briefly mentioned. This is Natural Titanium so there is only one colour option available too, as well as one size option of 49mm. The Watch Ultra also only comes in GPS & Cellular, with no GPS only model.
The Apple Watch Series 8 meanwhile, has a lot more options. Not only does it come in aluminium and stainless steel models, but there are four aluminium colours to choose from and three stainless steel colours.
The Watch Series 8 is also available in GPS only and GPS & Cellular models and there are Nike models and Hermes models too, with the same hardware but different Watch faces and different straps.
Watch Ultra vs Series 8 models hardware
- Ultra: S8, W3 chip, U1 chip, built-in siren, Dual-precision GPS, Depth Gauge, up to 36-hours battery
- Series 8: S8, W3 chip, U1 chip, L1 GPS, up to 18 hours battery
The Apple Watch Ultra and the Watch Series 8 both run on the S8 processor with 64-bit dual-core processor, the W3 chip and they also both have a U1 chip on board too.
They also both offer many of the same sensors, including a body temperature sensor, a bloody oxygen sensor, optical heart rate sensor and electrical heart rate sensor. The Watch Ultra has a built-in 86dB siren as we mentioned though, and it also has a Depth Gauge, which the Series 8 doesn't offer.
There are also dual speakers on the Watch Ultra, as well as a three-mic array with beamforming, while the Series 8 has a single speaker and microphone. Both have a Compass on board, always-on altimeter, gyroscope and an accelerometer offering up to 256 g-forces.
The Watch Ultra offers precision dual-frequency GPS (L1 and L5), while the Watch Series 8 offers L1 only. The Watch Ultra also has a dive computer in the Oceanic+ app, and EN13319 certification.
In terms of battery, the Watch Ultra has a 36-hour battery life, while the Watch Series 8 has an 18-hour battery life. Both have a low-battery mode, which reduces some features, but the Watch Ultra takes this mode one step further and will offer a 60-hour battery later this year.
Watch Ultra vs Series 8 models software
- Both: watchOS 9
Both the Apple Watch Ultra and the Watch Series 8 run on watchOS 9, so they offer a similar user experience, along with many of the same features.
Both have an ECG app and a Blood Oxygen app, and they both offer features like Fall Detection, Car Crash detection, high and low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm notifications and cycle tracking with ovulation estimates.
They also both have Compass Backtrack, advanced sleep tracking with sleep stages and access to the Apple Watch app store, among the usual Apple Watch features like smartphone notifications and multiple exercise modes.
The Watch Ultra does have a couple of extra features over the Watch Series 8, like the siren, Night Mode on the Wayfinder face and the programmable Action button, as well as the ability to use it as a dive computer, but on the whole, the features transfer across both devices.
Watch Ultra vs Series 8 models conclusion
The Apple Watch Ultra and the Watch Series 8 share many of the same core features, though the Watch Ultra has a few extras, along with a larger and more rugged build.
For those into more extreme sports, or hiking, the Watch Ultra is the model to get out of these two devices. It offers a longer battery life, a design that's fit for purpose and features that will come in handy.
For the everyday user though, the Apple Watch Series 8 will likely be more than sufficient. It is also offered in more options, in terms of materials and colours, and it is cheaper.