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Home / Reviews / Wearables / Smartwatches / Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen, 2022) review: the best fit for most

Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen, 2022) review: the best fit for most

Is this still the key Apple Watch to buy?

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Stuff Verdict

Watch SE lays down the gauntlet for its more expensive siblings, offering most of the same experience for a chunk of cash less.


  • Superb performance, latest-gen chip
  • All the core Apple Watch experience
  • Better value than Series 8


  • Larger bezels than Series 8
  • Longer battery life next time please
  • Limited choice of finishes


Because of Apple’s premium-first approach it can be tempting to gloss over its lower-priced gear, as they often lack the latest generation tech. That’s the case here, with its latest entry-level smartwatch.

It was also the case with 2020’s Watch SE, which repackaged the outgoing Watch Series 5 as a lower-priced model. But the 2nd Generation 2022 Watch SE uses the same chipset as the much newer Watch 8 and Watch Ultra. It has almost all of the Apple Watch core experience. In fact, I used a Watch Series 7 prior to reviewing it and – although there were differences of course – found the SE only lacked a few bells and whistles.

The original version of this review was published on 21 September 2022

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Every smartwatch and fitness tracker reviewed on Stuff is worn 24/7 throughout the testing process. We use our own years of experience to judge general performance, battery life, display, and health monitoring. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

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What’s different from Watch Series 8?

The 2022 Watch SE is lacking a few things you get from the more expensive Watch Series 8. Firstly, it’s 1mm smaller, with a 44 or 40mm case size, though Apple says the screen real estate itself is 20% larger on Watch Series 8. That’s because the display has a larger bezel. It’s not dustproof, but it is still waterproof to 50m. The display isn’t always-on, as with Series 5 and later.

The Watch SE can’t measure your blood oxygen or take an ECG. There’s no temperature sensor (so while it can track cycles, it can’t react to temperature changes). Finally, it doesn’t have the option of fast charging but if, like me, you charge overnight then that really isn’t too much of an issue.

The Watch SE is actually slightly cheaper than its predecessor. It launched at $249/£259 for GPS and $299/£319 for GPS and cellular, which was comparable with Fitbit’s Sense 2. The Watch 8 was $150/£160 more for the GPS model and $200/£190 more for GPS and cellular. That’s quite a chunk more you’re paying for those extras.


The Watch SE is only available with a recycled aluminium case in midnight (almost black), starlight and silver colours. If you want any special editions or a stainless steel finish, then you need to get the Watch 8. As mentioned above, there is more of a black bezel around the SE’s display. That’s a shame, but you can live with it. On my midnight review model, you can hardly tell where the screen begins. However, it could seem more pronounced on the lighter-coloured models.

Otherwise the design is strikingly similar to the low-profile Watch Series 7 and 8. The only other difference I’ve noticed is that the digital crown (the rotating dial on the side of the watch) seems clickier and ever so slightly noisier to press than on Series 8. The Watch SE is very lightweight at 33g, and comfortable – depending on your strap. I’ve tried a lot of bands and still find the Fluoroelastomer sport band the most comfortable.

Performance and battery life

Battery life is cited at 18 hours and, as with Series 7 and Series 8 I found that it would easily last the waking day (7am-11pm) with at least 20% or so remaining – including at least 30 minutes of exercise. Of course, that still means you’ll need to charge it overnight, which is at odds with Apple’s sleep tracking features. You’ll almost certainly need to charge it overnight unless you get into the habit of charging al desko.

There is a low power mode which can help a little when you’re getting towards the battery being empty. This can help a bit by taking juice away from non-core functions, but just as with other Apple Watches once you’re on the last 10% you’re on a road to a blank screen anyway.

Software and fitness

So much of the Apple Watch experience is down to the software and watchOS 9 brought a bunch of enhancements including faces, more sleep tracking features and the ability to create new calendar events on the watch. It wasn’t a groundbreaking update, but Apple managed to stay quite a bit ahead of rivals in terms of what watchOS can do. WatchOS 10 brought more tweaks and additions, and the Watch SE 2nd Gen is in line to get WatchOS 11 in late 2024.

There are still disadvantages and annoyances – it’s hard to find and launch unopened apps for example, the neglected Siri is still rather slow, while water on the face of the watch can often trigger erroneous inputs.

Fitness tracking remains a key focus for Apple and this is a very capable wearable on that front – it even has the latest version of the Compass app with the Backtrack (to retrace your steps) and Waypoint (to mark your current location) features. These could be useful on a hike or in a large open area, but if you’re one of those people who would find this useful you probably already have a service to help you, like the excellent OS Maps app.

The SE boasts complete heart rate measurement as well as notifications should you have a low or high rate or an irregular heart rate. As mentioned above, the SE doesn’t have blood oxygen monitoring or an ECG, but they’re not something I’ve used regularly on my Series 7 since it launched. You’ll know if you need those features yourself. SOS and fall detection continue to be supported, now joined by crash detection. You’ll forgive me if I don’t test that!

Apple Watch SE verdict

If you’re talking value, this is still the best Apple Watch hands-down. It tracks sleep and all the exercise you need, supports Apple Pay, works great with your iPhone and… what more do most people need?

It’s way more advanced than the now end-of-life Watch Series 3 and only lacks a few features compared to the Watch Series 8. You’ll probably need to specifically want one of the extras mentioned above like the temperature sensor to take the next step up.

Got an old Apple Watch? Watch SE is now a real step up from Series 3 or older. Those with a newer Apple Watch probably won’t want to upgrade simply because most enhancements came to Series 4 or later courtesy of watchOS 9. If you’re going to keep your Watch for that length of time then the Series 8 might make a little more sense.

However, because Watch SE 2022 and Series 8 use the same chip, the SE is unlikely to lose software updates for at least three or four years, possibly more.

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

Watch SE lays down the gauntlet for its more expensive siblings, offering most of the same experience for a chunk of cash less.


Superb performance, latest-gen chip

All the core Apple Watch experience

Better value than Series 8


Larger bezels than Series 8

Longer battery life next time please

Limited choice of finishes

Apple Watch SE tech specs

ProcessorS8 SiP with 64‑bit dual-core processor
DisplayRetina display, 368 x 448 pixels (44mm), 324 x 394 pixels (40mm)
Connectivity4G LTE (cellular models), Bluetooth 5.0
Rating50m waterproof (WR50)
Size44 x 38 x 10.7mm (44mm), 40 x 34 x 10.7mm (40mm)
Weight33g (44mm), 28g (40mm)
Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home