Whether you’re looking to buy your first Apple Watch or just upgrade the one you already have, there are three models to choose from — the aging Series 3, the all-around great SE and the feature-filled Series 7. For most, however, we’d recommend either the SE or the Series 7.

Other than the more than $100 cost difference, there are a few key differences between the $279 SE and the $399 Series 7 (both starting prices), like an always-on display and extra health features. So we’re putting them head-to-head to help you decide which Apple Watch is best for you.

You should get an Apple Watch SE if…

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You want all of the essential Apple Watch features
Unlike the Series 3, the Apple Watch SE is still a modern smartwatch that delivers a no-compromise experience. It’s deeply integrated with the iPhone and sports a more modern design over the previous generation — meaning it’s less boxy and has an improved display. Most importantly, though, it carries all the main features — you can text or make a call from your wrist, track activity, use any watchOS app, measure your heart rate and even track your sleep. If you’re cool without the always-on display, taking an electrocardiogram (ECG) or measuring blood oxygen, it’s the Apple Watch for you.

You want an Apple Watch for less
For those not looking to break the bank, the Apple Watch SE offers many of the same features as the pricier Series 7 at a more affordable price. You can get the SE starting at just $279 for the 40mm GPS model and from $329 for the 44mm GPS model. Apple also offers the SE with GPS + Cellular configurations.

You should get an Apple Watch Series 7 if…

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You want a larger always-on display
At 41mm or 45mm, the Series 7 is the largest Apple Watch available, adding an entire extra millimeter of display in the same case size compared to the SE. And with oversized watches all the rage for both men and women, this may be worth the extra cash. Apple stretched the screen to the very edge of the watch and minimized the bezels, which also makes it easier to interact with user interface elements like buttons and to read text on your wrist. Plus, the Series 7 features an always-on display, so you won’t need to raise your wrist or tap the screen to engage it.

You want all the health features
For those addicted to Apple’s colorful and interactive Activity Rings, you already know Apple Watches can track all kinds of activity — like steps, standing every hour and calories burned. But the Series 7 sports a new sensor for tracking and offers the ability to monitor a few other health metrics. With the Series 7, you can measure blood oxygen, heart rate and even take an ECG from your wrist. It will also offer quicker reads from an updated sensor kit on the back of the watch. Yet, as helpful as this may be, the Apple Watch is not a doctor and cannot make a diagnosis. If any of these readings worry you, you’ll want to contact a medical professional.

You want fast charging
Though the Apple Watch comes with sleep tracking, the paradox is using this feature while simultaneously finding time to charge your watch. TheSeries 7 looks to patch this by offering a faster charging cable rather than a larger battery. When paired with a 20-watt charger — like the Anker Nano — we could charge the Series 7 for under 10 minutes and get 30% to 40% battery. And in under an hour, you can hit 100%.

Bottom line


Both these watches are terrific smartwatches and well rated by CNN Underscored. But if you’re ready to purchase one, the Apple Watch SE is our pick for a budget watch and the Series 7 is our top pick for Apple users.

Here’s the TLDR, though — if you can live without an always-on display, some health features and fast charging, the SE is the way to go. We think the $279 (starting) Watch SE is ideal for first-time Apple Watch owners as well. For those who feel it’s time to upgrade and want the always-on larger display, health features and fast charging, you’ll want to consider the $399 (starting) Series 7.