Rating:
8/10
?
  • 1 - Does not work
  • 2 - Barely functional
  • 3 - Severely lacking in most areas
  • 4 - Functions, but has numerous issues
  • 5 - Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 - Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 - Great and worth purchasing
  • 8 - Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
  • 9 - Best-in-class
  • 10 - Borderline perfection
Price:
Starting At $399
Apple Watch Series 8 being worn on a person's wrist
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

The Apple Watch Series 8 is 2022’s “Apple Watch for everyone” that sits above the revised second-generation Apple Watch SE and below the newly announced Ultra. If you’re considering buying an Apple Watch, this is probably the model you should look at first.

Here's What We Like

  • All the bells and whistles, still only $349
  • New Crash Detection and Wrist Temperature sensors are a step forward
  • The best choice for iPhone users who want to balance size and budget
  • Unlike the Ultra, the Series 8 should fit most wrist sizes and dress styles

And What We Don't

  • Very few upgrades compared to last year's model
  • Same battery life as the last few models
  • Fewer choices in terms of finish and colors this time around

How-To Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Improvements Made in the Apple Watch Series 8

  • Dimensions: 41mm (41 x 35 x 10.7mm) or 45mm (45 x 38 x 10.7mm)
  • Weight (Aluminum): 41mm + GPS (31.9g), 45mm + GPS (38.8g), 41mm + Cellular (32.2g), 45mm + Cellular (39.1g)
  • Weight (Stainless Steel): 41mm + Cellular (42.3g), 45mm + Cellular (51.5g).
  • Display: Always-On Retina LTPO OLED, up to 1,000 nits brightness
  • System-on-Chip: S8 SiP advanced dual-core 64-bit (same as second-generation SE and Apple Watch Ultra)
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Build material: Aluminum or Stainless Steel

The Apple Watch Series 8 only has very few new features to separate it from last year’s Series 7 (which was only a few steps removed from the Series 6). Apple again focuses on iterative improvements, making small tweaks rather than large overhauls. As a result, the Series 8 looks identical to the Series 7 that came before it.

The main visual difference concerns case materials since the Series 8 is not available in a titanium finish with Apple instead settling on stainless steel and aluminum. Titanium has been reserved for the Apple Watch Ultra this year, though there’s a Hermés special edition stainless steel Series 8 with exclusive bands and Watch faces if you’re looking for something a little fancier.

Apple Watch Series 8 aluminum 45mm with Sequoia Nike Sport Loop
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

Today we’re reviewing the aluminum 45mm Series 8 GPS model, fitted with a sequoia Nike Sport Loop. The display sports the same Ion-X front glass introduced in 2015, though the pricier stainless steel model uses tougher sapphire crystal. You can purchase the Series 8 in midnight, starlight, silver, and red in aluminum (Apple dropped green and blue this year) or graphite, silver, and gold in a glossy stainless finish. The Hermés edition comes in silver and space black.

Apple saw fit to put Crash Detection into all iPhone and Apple Watch models for 2022, the Series 8 included. New sensors inside the Watch can detect the force of a severe car crash and call the emergency services for you. The feature is enabled by default and can be used alongside the existing Fall Detection feature which offers similar protection for smaller impacts.

There’s also a new wrist temperature sensor that works with Cycle Tracking, but only if you choose to sleep in your Apple Watch. This sensor can’t give you an overall body temperature reading, instead measuring small wrist temperature changes to better predict fertility windows. Unlike the existing heart rate and blood oxygen sensors, there’s no way to take a manual reading on the Series 8 and have it recorded in your iPhone’s Health app.

Optical sensors on the rear of an Apple Watch Series 8 aluminum 45mm with Sequoia Nike Sport Loop
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

Everything else is carried over from the Series 7 including the CPU on the S8 system-on-chip (according to identifier codes). This is the same dual-core CPU that Apple has been using since the Series 6 release in 2020. In reality, this doesn’t pose a problem for the latest version of watchOS. Performance is excellent and the Series 8 feels fast and responsive, whatever you’re doing.

The battery life is rated for the same 18 hours as the previous model, which is pretty accurate based on my use. When tracking up to 3 hours of workouts per day, I was still finishing 9am to midnight stints with around 40% left on the dial. That’s with everything enabled, lots of tinkering with sensors and the compass, and full use of the always-on display.

A Great Balance of Features, Size, and Price

  • Navigation: L1 (single channel) GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, Beidou, always-on altimeter, compass
  • Optical sensors: third-generation heart rate sensor, ECG heart sensor, blood oxygen sensor, wrist temperature sensor
  • Other sensors: High-G accelerometer (Crash Detection), high dynamic range gyroscope, always-on altimeter, ambient light sensor, microphone

Price-wise, the Series 8 sits in the middle of the pack. The 41mm aluminum GPS model costs $399 and the 45mm variant costs $429. If you want a Series 8 with GPS+Cellular, you’re looking at $499 for the 41mm model, or $529 for the 45mm. Stainless steel adds an extra $350 to the starting price, at $749 for the 41mm and $799 for the 45mm. Both stainless models come with GPS+Cellular as standard.

Spending more means going for the much larger Apple Watch Ultra, with its 49mm display, GPS+Cellular across the board, Ultra-specific Watch straps, and a $799 price tag.

For Ultra money, you get Ultra features. The upgrade gets you a larger titanium case, 100 meters of water resistance (up from 50), a 2000 nit display (up from 1000), better microphones, more accurate dual-channel GPS, a programmable action button on the left edge of the case, an 86 decibel siren for flagging down a search party in blizzard conditions, double the battery life, and some swanky new bands.

Apple Watch Series 8 being worn during a resistance training exercise
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

Considering the $50 price difference between a stainless steel Series 8 and an Apple Watch Ultra, the rugged model might seem like a no-brainer, but there’s more to the decision than price alone. The sheer size of the Ultra is enough to make you think twice—this is a Watch you’ll want to try on before you buy.

The Ultra isn’t just wide, it’s thick and heavy too. The chunkier design means it can look out of place if you lack the forearms to pull it off. By comparison, the Series 8 feels light and barely noticeable on your wrist. You either need to see serious value in the rugged design and additional features, or be a big fan of large lumps of titanium on your wrist.

If you expect your Watch to blend into the background while you’re wearing it, the Series 8 is the better choice. If money is your main concern, the second-generation Apple Watch SE might also be worth considering.

2022’s Apple Watch SE starts at $249 for the 40mm GPS model, or $279 for the 44mm variant. Opt for GPS+Cellular and those prices rise to $299 and $329 respectively. On paper, the SE is a highly capable wearable (read our full review), but it’s evident that Apple has cut a few corners to shave $150 off the asking price.

Apple Watch Series 8 using the Timer app to countdown from three minutes
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

Most noticeable is the lack of an always-on display, with larger bezels around the edge of the screen that results in 20% less screen real estate. It’s noticeable when comparing models side-by-side, and the nature of an always-on display is something you don’t think you’ll miss until you get used to it. Since the SE uses the same display technology as the Series 4, there’s no IP6X dust resistance either.

The SE lacks features like the blood oxygen sensor introduced with the Series 6, the new temperature sensor found in the Series 8, and the ability to take ECG readings which first debuted alongside the Series 4. Almost everything else is the same as the Series 8, including the rated battery life, the 1000-nit brightness on the display, 50 meters of water resistance, and the same S8 chip and Crash Detection features found on pricier models.

In 2022, Series 8 feels generations ahead in overall features. The SE doesn’t feel like much of an upgrade if you’ve had an Apple Watch for a few years, but it still makes sense as a budget option, and will surely impress first-timers. That said, it’s hard to recommend it over the Series 8 for all but the tightest of budgets.

The Best Apple Watches of 2022

Best Apple Watch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS, 41mm)
Best Apple Watch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS, 45mm)
Best Budget Apple Watch
Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen, 40mm)
Best Budget Apple Watch
Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen, 44mm)
Best Apple Watch with Cellular
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS + Cellular, 41mm)
Best Apple Watch with Cellular
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS + Cellular, 45mm)
Best Apple Watch for Durability
Apple Watch Ultra
Best Starter Apple Watch Band
Apple Braided Solo Loop

A Solid Upgrade If Your Apple Watch is Showing its Age

  • Cellular data: LTE and UMTS (GPS+Cellular model only)
  • Wireless data: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 5.3
  • Audio: Apple W3 wireless chip
  • Power: USB-C magnetic fast charging over induction (0-80% in 45 minutes)

With seemingly so few new features and major improvements, the Series 8 is probably not worth the investment if your existing Apple Watch is only a few years old. When looking to upgrade, you should take the last few years’ worths of upgrades into consideration considering Cupertino’s gradual approach to Apple Watch progress.

Series 7 and Series 6 owners should wait. Unless the presence of better cycle prediction or Crash Detection on a Watch is a huge draw, there’s not much to see here. Coming from a Series 4 or Series 5, there are some good arguments to be made in favor of upgrading, including better performance, a larger and always-on display, new sensors for blood oxygen and wrist temperature, and Crash Detection.

A close-up view of the optical sensors on the back of the Apple Watch Series 8
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

Coming from a Series 4, we can say that almost every level of the Apple Watch experience has been improved. The Watch is more responsive now, particularly when launching apps and talking to Siri using the “raise to speak” feature. The Series 4 still doesn’t feel slow (even on watchOS 9), but performance is improved overall and things load a little bit faster across the board.

The larger, brighter, always-on display is probably the most outwardly noticeable upgrade. If you’re coming from a model that lacks the always-on display, you’ll be delighted by the way Apple pulls it off. By updating the watch face once per minute and Workout displays once per second, elements like time, heart rate, and Watch face Complications are always close enough, ideal when you’re just catching a glimpse.

The third-generation heart rate sensor added alongside the Series 6 provides more accurate and faster readings than the older models, which means less waiting around for the Workout display to update during vigorous exercise. There’s also a compass (and a new Compass app in watchOS 9) that was absent from the Series 4, which is great for getting directions to your parked car or quickly orienting yourself with Complications (on-screen widgets).

An Apple Watch Series 8 recording a Traditional Strength Training exercise using the Workout app
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

It’s not all roses, though, with battery life effectively the same as a new Series 4 (or similar era Watch) at around 18 hours of standard use. Coming from a Watch that’s 4 or so years old, you’ll notice an improvement here since the cells are fresh and haven’t yet lost any capacity to age.

The Best Apple Watch Bands of 2022

Best Apple Watch Band for Running
Nike Sport Band
Best Apple Watch Band for Weight Lifting
Nike Sport Loop
Best Apple Watch Band for Swimming
UAG Active Watch Strap
Best Apple Watch Band for Large Wrists
Carterjett Tire Tread Band
Best Apple Watch Band for Small Wrists
Apple Braided Solo Loop
Best Designer Apple Watch Band
Hermès Attelage Double Tour Band
Best Leather Apple Watch Band
Nomad Modern Band
Best Apple Watch Band for Sensitive Skin
Apple Sport Loop
Best Metal Apple Watch Band
Apple Milanese Loop

Should You Buy the Apple Watch Series 8?

The Apple Watch Series 8 offers the best bang for your buck to those who want the latest and greatest features in a svelte package. It’s got all the bells and whistles to satisfy all but the most intrepid explorers, and it comes in two sizes that should work for almost anyone. You can save money with an aluminum GPS model, or splash out on a stainless steel case and bouge it up with proprietary bands and cellular connectivity too.

If you’re questioning whether you should pick the Ultra instead, you probably shouldn’t. For a slim and lightweight Apple Watch experience that doesn’t sacrifice features, the Series 8 won’t disappoint.

When we reviewed the revised Apple Watch SE we concluded that it works well for most people, especially first-timers. But if you want the best (with a steeper price point), the Series 8 is the one to go for.

Rating:
8/10
Price:
Starting At $399

Here’s What We Like

  • All the bells and whistles, still only $349
  • New Crash Detection and Wrist Temperature sensors are a step forward
  • The best choice for iPhone users who want to balance size and budget
  • Unlike the Ultra, the Series 8 should fit most wrist sizes and dress styles

And What We Don't

  • Very few upgrades compared to last year's model
  • Same battery life as the last few models
  • Fewer choices in terms of finish and colors this time around
Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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