Apple Watch Ultra Reviews: Bigger and Better, But Not a Garmin Killer Yet
Apple Watch Ultra will start arriving to customers and launch in stores on Friday, September 23. Ahead of time, the first reviews of the high-end watch have now been shared by select media publications and YouTube channels.
Inspired by the “most extreme activities” like hiking and scuba diving, the Apple Watch Ultra features a rugged design with a 49mm titanium case, a larger display with a flat sapphire crystal cover, new bands designed for the outdoors, water resistance up to a depth of 100 meters, a customizable bright orange “Action” button, up to 60 hours of battery life with an upcoming low power setting, and more.
We have rounded up both written and video reviews of the Apple Watch Ultra below.
‘s Victoria Song shared her overall impressions:
The Apple Watch Ultra is big, a lil’ chunky, and goes hard on features that the average joe won’t need in their everyday life. And at $799, it’s the most expensive watch in the current Apple Watch lineup (Hermès edition excluded). After a week of testing, I don’t think it’s going to bump Garmin, Polar, or Coros watches for the Ironman, thru-hiker, or deep-sea diving crowds, at least not yet. But it’s legitimately good for weekend warriors and intermediate athletes — and very tempting for folks who aspire to that status and a whole lot of people who just want the biggest, baddest Apple Watch they can get.
Song said in a week of testing the Apple Watch Ultra, she was “regularly blowing past” the device’s advertised 36-hour battery life in standard mode:
– This past weekend, I charged the Ultra to 100 percent. I then hiked for two hours and 15 minutes, used the compass and GPS extensively, and tracked my sleep that night. I woke up the next morning with 50 percent battery left.
– Another day, I went for a 30-minute GPS run and did another 20-minute rowing workout. I also took a short call on the watch and ended the day with 84 percent battery.
– Nilay, our editor-in-chief, managed to get 56 hours on a single charge and still had 14 percent left. He was mostly staying at home, so he wasn’t using cellular data or GPS. Still, that should give you an idea of what you’d get if you need a few rest days or aren’t interested in the Ultra’s fitness features.
‘s Lexy Savvides on pricing vs. the Series 8 and Garmin smartwatches:
Considering the $749 45mm Apple Watch Series 8 in stainless steel costs almost as much, I think the Ultra is a better overall value, given that you get additional hardware features like the Action button (which I’ve come to love), an emergency siren and extra microphones to boost call quality.
It’s also priced competitively with other sports watches that have a similar titanium construction and OLED screens, like the $999 Garmin Epix 2. The Apple Watch Ultra’s battery doesn’t last as long, and it doesn’t have anywhere near as many navigation features as the Epix 2. But it’s easier to use, has heart features like an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) app, cellular connectivity and seamless integration with the iPhone.
If you’re someone who wants a true hybrid smartwatch and sports watch, the Ultra is the one to beat.
Savvides pointed out the Apple Watch Ultra’s inability to download offline maps:
That’s something I also miss on the Ultra compared to other sports and outdoor watches — being able to download offline maps on the watch for when I’m away from cellular signal, or have topographic map options without downloading a third-party app.
‘s Nicole Nguyen said the Apple Watch Ultra is “exciting,” but “no Garmin killer” since it lacks features like recovery metrics:
So, should you get an Ultra? It’s an exciting update for current Apple Watch wearers who need more—especially battery life. But it’s no Garmin killer. Besides navigation, Garmin watches support other features important to serious athletes that are missing in the Apple Watch, such as recovery metrics and the ability to broadcast heart rate to workout equipment via Bluetooth.
‘s Sofia Pitt said the Apple Watch Ultra’s larger speaker is noticeable:
Aside from the larger battery, I really appreciate the larger speaker on the Ultra. The watch has two speakers that work together, which makes the Ultra 40% louder than the Series 8, according to Apple.
I often use my watch to pick up phone calls, especially while I’m cooking. I could hear the difference when using the Ultra compared with my Series 7. While this feature is really meant to be louder in extreme conditions for the outdoorsy type, I appreciated it for regular use, too.
‘s Gareth Beavis appreciates the new “Action” button on the Apple Watch Ultra, but wishes it was even more customizable:
One of the things we really like is the Action Button makes pausing a workout so much easier – before you either swiped the screen (hard with sweaty or wet hands) or pressed the Side Button and Digital Crown together… which could be a bit of a contortion.
Now, you can code it so the Action Button begins a workout (yes, finally – something that seems so obvious yet took this long…) and then pressing it with the Side button on the opposite edge of the Watch Ultra will pause. It’s simple, effective and a lovely natural movement.
We would prefer it if the Action Button was a bit more customizable though: you can only set it to open workouts, start a dive, open the [flashlight], start a stopwatch or use the compass features – you can use it to start a Shortcut (a set of pre-defined actions using apps on your iPhone or Watch) but they’re very limited too, when they could be so much richer.
‘s Michael Frank said the Apple Watch Ultra’s brighter display with up to 2000 nits of brightness makes info easier to read:
That larger, powerfully lit screen can show six lines of data versus five lines while using Apple’s Workout app. But the real key here is legibility. Regardless of the app you’re using or the watch face you’ve chosen, the intense display is just far easier to read on the fly, whether you’re eyeballing an incoming text or trying to parse your mile split time for a 5K.
‘s Brett Williams on wearing the Apple Watch Ultra:
There are times when I wear the standard Apple Watch and wish there was more oomph to it. I actually prefer that feeling—it takes me back to slipping on a classy analog watch made of premium materials, designed to do just a few tasks (at most) and do them well. At the same time, the Ultra doesn’t feel too heavy; when I was lifting weights or running with it on, I didn’t feel like I was fighting against extra resistance. That said, I can see how the Ultra might be a tough wear for those with smaller wrists.