Apple Watch Series 3 vs SE vs Series 6: Pick the right watch for your wrist

Apple is selling three different Apple Watch models this year, and they all look kind of the same. But when you dive into what each delivers, you’ll find that there are very distinct differences between them that go much deeper than their price differences. Now that we’ve had a few months to use them all, here’s how the models stack up and which one you should buy.

Design and display

Apple hasn’t strayed very far from the original 2015 square design, so you’re not going to notice a huge difference between the three watches, even though the Series 3 is slightly smaller than the SE and Series 6:

  • Series 3 (38mm): 38.6 x 33.3mm x 11.4mm
  • Series 3 (42mm): 42.5 x 36.4 x 11.4mm
  • SE/Series 6 (40mm): 40 x 34 x 10.7mm
  • SE/Series 6 (44mm): 44 x 38 x 10.7mm

The SE and Series 6 are also slightly heavier than the SE by about 3 grams, but your wrist really won’t notice the difference. Apple has the best and most recognizable watch design in the smartwatch industry, so any of the three will look and feel great on your wrist.

Where they differ, however, is with the display. The Series 3 has Apple’s older display, so it’s smaller (38mm model: 563 sq mm; 42mm model: 740 sq mm) and has square corners. The SE and Series 6 have larger displays (40mm model: 759 sq mm; 44mm model: 977 sq mm) with rounded corners to match the display body.

apple watch se faces Apple

The Apple Watch SE has the same display as the Apple Watch Series 6.

While the SE and Series 6 have identical display specs, only the Series 6 has an always-on option, which lets you see the time even when your wrist is lowered. Apple also says the always-on display is 2.5-times brighter than last year’s model, which will certainly help in bright light.

Our pick: While the sizes and designs are very similar, the displays make all the difference with the Series 6 and SE. We’d go with the Series 6 and the always-on display, but if you don’t mind raising your wrist to see the time, the SE’s screen is just as good. 

Colors and bands

While all three watches are available in silver and space gray aluminum like always, you have considerably more options as you go up the line. The Apple Watch SE adds a gold color, while the Series 6 has new blue and Product(Red) hues.

If you upgrade to one of the cellular models, you can get silver, graphite (DLC), or gold (PVD) stainless steel, or natural titanium or space black titanium. Additionally, the Series 6 and SE are available in Nike (silver and space gray aluminum) and the Series 6 offers a Hermes edition in silver and space black stainless steel.