No matter which Apple Watch you buy, the internal hardware is the same: they may look different, but performance will be identical across the board. But there’s more of a difference than just the appearance, as the outer materials have notable distinctions, as well.
Most notably, the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition have a sapphire crystal atop the flexible OLED panel, which promises better scratch resistance and greater durability than the Ion-X strengthened glass seen on the Apple Watch Sport. You pay a little more for something better, right?
According to testing done by DisplayMate, that’s not the case on every front. It seems that the sapphire glass of the standard Apple Watch and the Edition has a reflectance rating of 8.2%, whereas the Ion-X glass is just 4.6%. In other words, the higher-end models may reflect just short of twice as much light, making the otherwise identical panel within appear washed out in direct sunlight scenarios.
Granted, DisplayMate didn’t test the Apple Watch Sport itself - the findings come from testing the iPhone 6, which uses the same type of strengthened glass. But Dr. Raymond Soneira's full report is meticulously detailed, and worth reading if you love digging into the nitty-gritty of display tech.
Ultimately, the report concludes that the display is excellent and well-designed no matter which Watch you use, and most of the time, they’ll probably look quite similar. But it’s surprising to know that on the whole, the entry-level Apple Watch Sport apparently has the most capable screen of them all.