Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: rugged superwatch is even better than before – Creative Bloq

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The Apple Watch Ultra 2 comes on the heels of what could be considered a surprise winner from last year, as for many (us included), the Apple Watch Ultra emerged as possibly the best Apple Watch ever, both in terms of features, performance and user experience. Now, along with the release of the Apple Watch Series 9, we have an upgrade to the Ultra 2 as well, gunning for that top spot among the best smartwatches around today.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: Key specifications

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Processor:S9 SiPScreen:49mm always-on Retina displayMax brightness:3,000 nitsHealth tracking:Blood oxygen, ECG, heart rate, irregular rhythm notifications, cardio fitness, temperature sensing, cycle trackingSafety features:Emergency SOS, international emergency calling, fall/crash detection, sirenWater resistance:100m water-resistant, swimproof, high-speed water sports, recreational dive to 40mBattery life:36 hours, 72 hours in Low Power ModeDimensions:41/45 x 44 x 14.4mmWeight:61.4g

Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: Design and build

(Image credit: Future/Apple)

There’s no telling the Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra apart at a glance. The device retains the same flat 49mm display, protruding right-side button array, and orange Action button on the left. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach that may continue to deter those with smaller wrists. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 (Blue) at Amazon for £780

The screen is brighter, up to 3,000 nits from 2,000 nits. In direct sunlight, the improvement is subtle, but it is clearer than the Apple Watch Series 9. This will be more relevant if you spend a lot of time in bright conditions, otherwise it’s a small upgrade.

Perhaps the more consequential design change is that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is made of 95% recycled titanium, a major improvement from the virgin material used in the first-gen model. Apple has made a serious commitment to making all its devices carbon neutral by 2030, with the re-sourced Trail Loop and Alpine Loop bands, the Apple Watch Ultra earns its Carbon Neutral certificate.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: Performance

(Image credit: Future/Apple)

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9 have a lot in common. Both pack Apple’s S9 SiP (System in Package), which promises the first true power upgrade since the Apple Watch Series 6. Apple says it has 5.6 billion transistors, 60% more than the S8, with 30% faster GPU animations and a quad-core Neural Engine with twice the machine learning power. 

Not only does the processor make a 3,000-nit display possible without sacrificing battery life, it also improves the Siri experience. Siri computing now takes place on-device, resulting in faster responses as well as some offline functionality. Say you don’t have Cellular enabled on your smartwatch, but want to leave your phone at home for a run – on the first Apple Watch Ultra, you couldn’t use Siri to launch the run workout with your voice. With the Apple Watch Ultra 2, now you can. 

Another perk of the new processor? The algorithm that powers the double-tap gesture. If you’re hanging off a cliff (which is something we imagine some Apple Watch Ultra users do for fun), you could theoretically answer calls and open apps by tapping your index finger and thumb of your watch hand together. You can conveniently double-tap to scroll through the Smart Stack, control music playback, use the Camera Remote app and more, too. And if you’ve misplaced your phone, the upgraded Ultra Wideband (UWB) chip in the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can give you directions to its location. Unfortunately, this only works if you also own an iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: Outdoor and safety features

(Image credit: Future/Apple)

While the Apple Watch Ultra has been adopted by all sorts of users, the device is, at its core, a sports watch. In many ways, it’s one of the best running watches with a Precision Start feature, a customisable Action button that can start/pause workouts and more, and dual-frequency GPS (proven as accurate as Garmin watches in our tests). All of the best Apple Watch running features suit the Apple Watch Ultra 2 as well.

We used our Apple Watch Ultra 2 test to try some of the biking features released in watchOS 10. Now, you can connect your Apple Watch to a Bluetooth-connected power meter, speed sensor, or cadence sensor to see your cycling power and your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) score. What’s more, your phone can mirror your workout metrics, so you can attach your iPhone to a bike mount and follow data from your Apple Watch Ultra 2 on the phone’s easier-to-read screen.

The built-in Depth app gets an upgrade. Now it’ll save a log of each dive so you look back at your recent sessions on the Watch, or check out your complete history of dives in the Fitness app on your iPhone.

The Ultra 2 has the same Compass app with track-back features, but now it displays current elevation in real-time and displays waypoints in a 3D view based on relative elevation. For hiking workouts (currently US only), there’s a more detailed topographic map that flags points of interest. Nearby trail info appears upon starting a hike, providing insights into the trail length, type, and difficulty.

The Compass app will also detect two new waypoints: your Last Cellular Connection (or last reception location) and your Last Emergency Call Waypoint, which will lead you to a place where an emergency call can be made on a mobile network. If you need help immediately, the Siren app rings an 86dB alarm that can be heard up to 180 metres away. As a result, the Watch Ultra 2 is the best Apple Watch yet from a personal safety perspective.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 review: Battery life

The Ultra 2 has the best battery life of any Apple Watch. Even with a brighter display, the watch boasts 36 hours of battery life with normal use. In low-power mode, you can get up to 72 hours, an increase over the 60 hours on offer in the original Apple Watch Ultra.

If you’re comparing the Ultra 2 to other sports watches, though, the battery life continues to pale by comparison. For example, the Garmin Forerunner 265 lasts 15 days with mixed use while the Coros Vertix 2 lasts 120 hours in the demanding GPS mode. For athletes who care foremost about battery life this could prove an issue. For anyone else with deep enough pockets, this is a great smartwatch.

This content originally appeared in MacFormat magazine. Subscribe to MacFormat at Magazines Direct

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