Apple Watch Series 3 vs SE: Is it worth buying the Apple Watch 3?

Series 3 or SE? We compare the most affordable Apple Watch models to find out if the SE is worth the extra money and if the Apple Watch 3 is a good option.

No, you don’t need to spend more money on an Apple Watch Series 7. There are other Apple Watches, from the previous series, that offer similar features and cost considerably less money.

In this article, we’re going to compare the two most affordable Apple Watch models available right now: the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Apple Watch SE.

Screen: the Apple Watch SE wins

Let’s start by looking at the part of the watch that you’re going to use the most, that is, the screen.

Since the Apple Watch Series 3 is a little older, having first been introduced in 2017 versus the 2020 debut of the Apple Watch SE, the display isn’t quite as advanced as its stablemate.

They both offer two different screen sizes:

  • The Series 3 is available with a 42mm or 38mm case.
  • The Apple Watch SE has a slightly larger 44mm or 40mm case.

This is further enhanced by the fact that the SE uses more of the panel, meaning 30% more screen real estate than the Series 3, as you can see in the image below.

Apple Watch SE wins

This provides the following resolutions for the two sizes of each model:

  • Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm) – 272 x 340
  • Apple Watch Series 3 (42mm) – 312 x 390
  • Apple Watch SE (40mm) – 324 x 394
  • Apple Watch SE (44mm) – 368 x 448

On either device you’ll get up to 1,000 nits of brightness, meaning you can read outside in bright sunlight, and everything looks great thanks to the OLED screens.

However, the SE has the added benefit of LTPO technology in its panel, allowing you to have those larger, higher-quality screens without sacrificing battery life.

The glass on both devices is Ion-X, which should protect against scratches and cracks even if you treat the Watch a bit roughly.

Casing and design: Similar in both models

Apple maintains the same design language on both devices, albeit with a few minor differences. All models have the square chassis that we already know, but there are differences in size between the two models, as you can see below:

  • Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm) – 38.6 x 33.3 x 11.4mm; 26.7g
  • Apple Watch Series 3 (42mm) – 42.5 x 36.4 x 11.4mm; 32.3g
  • Apple Watch SE (40mm) – 40 x 34 x 10.7mm; 30.49g
  • Apple Watch SE (44mm) – 44 x 38 x 10.7mm; 36.2g

The Digital Crown is another classic part of the Apple Watch design, appearing on every model released so far. However, the Apple Watch SE takes the cake in this regard, as it has haptic feedback, which makes it easier to be precise when scrolling through menus.

Both are made of aluminium, and the SE uses 100% recycled material. But only the latter has the option of ceramic and sapphire crystal material on the back, while the Series 3 features a composite design.

Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm)

Both are safe in the water, up to 50 meters deep, and you can have either in space grey or silver, but the additional gold option is reserved for the SE only.

Health and wellness tools: Win the Apple Watch SE again

One of the main reasons to buy an Apple Watch is for the general health and wellness monitoring features it includes. Both models are very useful in this regard, but it will not be a big surprise that the new Apple Watch SE has more capacity than the old Series 3.

Apple Watch SE (44mm)

First, these are the tools that are available on both models:

Heart rate monitoring, with low/high rate and irregular rhythm warnings. Ideal for you to realize that you may need to go to the doctor. Note that Series 3 uses a first-generation optical heart rate monitor for this, while the SE uses an improved second-generation version.

You’ll also find emergency features on Series 3 and SE, making it easy to quickly contact emergency services if you’re in trouble.

Moving on to the main differences, only the Apple Watch SE has fall detection, and noise monitoring (to warn if the sound of your surroundings may be dangerous to your hearing), in addition to international emergency calls. The latter is possible thanks to the cellular models of the SE available. Now, you may remember that the original Series 3 was the first to have cellular versions, but the current ones for sale from Apple no longer have this capability.

Apple Watch Series 3 vs Apple Watch SE features

There are a ton of features that both models share, like gyroscopes, ambient light sensors, speakers, microphones, Apple Pay, accelerometer, GPS, and altimeters.

The SE typically has improved versions of these sensors, but either one will be able to track your movements, track workouts, let you interact via voice commands, pay for things, and generally deliver the Apple Watch experience.

Apple Watch Series 3 vs Apple Watch SE features

Performance is slightly faster on the Apple Watch SE, as it features an S5 SiP processor, which Apple claims is about twice as fast as the Series 3’s S3. The latter also has an older W2 wireless chip, while the SE receives the update to the W3 that is also found in the Apple Watch Series 7.

Storage also improves on the SE, with 32GB onboard, but the Series 8 only has 8GB, which seems pretty paltry by comparison. Bluetooth is also more powerful on the SE, using version 5.0 instead of 4.2 on the Series 3.

This could be important if you want to use that extra storage to keep music on the device and listen through wireless headphones like AirPods.

Apple Watch Series 3 vs Apple Watch SE Price

As you would expect from the variations in features and components, the prices of these devices are different. Obviously, as with any Apple Watch, you can choose from multiple straps that can change the final price, but for reference, here’s the comparison:

  • Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm) – €219
  • Apple Watch Series 3 (42mm) – €249
  • Apple Watch SE (40mm) – €299
  • Apple Watch SE (44mm) – €329

Verdict

The Apple Watch Series 3 is a decent (and above all cheap) option if you want to wear an Apple Watch on your wrist, but it may already be getting a little dated. If you can make the extra 70 euros that the Apple Watch SE costs, it is worth opting for this second model.

Not only does it come with a new processor and several improved sensors, but there are added features like fall detection, extra storage, and better Bluetooth capabilities.

In addition, the mobile option allows you to leave the iPhone at home when you go for a run or simply do not want to carry an object as valuable (and breakable) as an iPhone in your pocket.

Both are good models, after all, they are both Apple Watch, but the Apple Watch SE is definitely the better option.

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