Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. the Apple Watch Series 9 – IGN

One’s chunky; one’s normal – that’s the most obvious difference between Apple’s new Watch Ultra 2 and Watch Series 9. How each watch looks and feels on your wrist is likely the biggest reason why you would for one over the other – the difference is just that noticeable. But if you care about specs as much as size, we’ve going to break down the key differences between Apple’s best smartwatches so you can buy the best device for your needs (and budget).

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Series 9 – Price?

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the larger of the two devices, clocking in at a vertical display size (or height) of 49mm and a width of 44mm. And that’s the only size it comes in, unlike Apple’s Watch Series 9, which has two versions that offer 41- or 45mm heights (and 35mm or 38mm widths, respectively). Moving from an older, 45mm Apple Watch to the Watch Ultra 2 doesn’t feel like a huge leap, but it’s still a noticeable size upgrade on your wrist; moving from a 41mm Apple Watch to the Watch Ultra 2 will likely feel jarring.

Both Apple Watch Series 9 versions have the exact same depth, or the thickness of the watch as it rests on your wrist: 10.7mm. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is larger at 14.4mm – not a big amount on paper, but one of the more obvious differences that sets it apart from Apple’s “standard” Watch lineup. The other is the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s weight: 61.4g, or just over 2.15 oz. The Apple Watch 9 is anywhere from half to two-thirds that, depending on which version of the watch you’re comparing (regular, GPS, GPS and cellular, 35- or 38mm, et cetera).

In short, the Watch Ultra 2 is a hefty upgrade compared to a “normal” Apple Watch, and the Apple Watch Series 9 should feel very, very similar to previous versions.

How fast are the new Apple Watches?

Both the Watch Ultra 2 and Watch Series 9 devices use Apple’s latest S9 SiP chip (short for System-in-Package, or a style of chip design that layers circuit boards and components on top of each other to save space). According to Apple, you’re getting 60 percent more transistors on the chip and a GPU that’s allegedly 30 percent faster than what you’d find on its predecessor S8 chip. A four-core Neural Engine doubles the performance of various machine learning tasks and gives you access to on-device Siri responses and a new “double-tap” gesture. Each watch’s new second-generation ultra wideband chip can also help you locate your other, similarly equipped Apple devices by using “Precision Finding.”

In real world use, you’re unlikely to notice any big difference in everyday use between any of Apple’s newer Watches and the first generation Watch Ultra or Watch Series 8 devices. Your apps will load just as fast as before, your fitness tracking will feel pretty similar, and navigating through the watch’s interface (or faces) will still feel speedy and responsive. The Watch Ultra 2 and Watch Series 9 are upgrades, sure, but Apple’s previous devices were already plenty fast. (On-device Siri responses are incredibly useful, however, and probably the upgrade you’re most likely to enjoy if you tend to talk to your Apple Watch or if you often find yourself without a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.)

How bright are the new Apple Watches, and how big are their batteries?

If you’re looking for an Apple watch that gives you the best chance to read what it says on the brightest of days, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 tops out at a full 3,000 nits of brightness, which is all of 1,000 more nits than you’ll find on any of the Series 9 watches. Its maximum brightness is also 1,000 nits more than the original Apple Watch Ultra, and a whopping 2,000 nits more than Apple’s Watch Series 8 devices.

However, cranking the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to its maximum brightness and leaving it there could impact your battery life, especially if you’re not letting the watch automatically dim soon after you’ve poked it or glanced at it. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 shares the same estimated battery life as its predecessor: 36 hours. However, the Watch Ultra 2 gets 12 extra hours of battery if the watch is on low-power mode, bumping up to 72 compared to the original Watch Ultra’s 60 hours.

It’s unclear just how Apple’s performance optimizations balance out against the watch’s higher maximum brightness. Our advice? Try not to crank the display unless you need to. Even at half-brightness, or its default setting, the Watch Ultra 2’s screen should be easily readable most of the time.

As for the Apple Watch Series 9, you get roughly half the estimated uptime, or 18 hours, according to Apple’s internal testing. And that matches what you’d find on the Apple Watch Series 8; Apple hasn’t delivered a big battery upgrade between the two generations.

What other new upgrades did the 2023 Apple Watches get?

The Apple Watch Series 9 has a slightly improved optical heart sensor (Apple’s third-generation version) over the Watch Series 8, which should help make for more accurate readings during your many workouts. This is also the same sensor that you’d find in both the Apple Watch Ultra and Watch Ultra 2.

Both the Watch Ultra 2 and the Watch Series 9 get a storage boost between generations, moving from a total capacity of 32GB to 64GB compared to their predecessors. Unlike a smartphone, you don’t get to configure how much storage comes on your Apple Watch when you’re shopping.

All of Apple’s latest watches require you to have a newer iPhone than their predecessors. You’ll need to have at least an iPhone Xs or later running iOS 17 to connect the Watch Ultra 2 or Watch Series 9 devices. The original Watch Ultra, as well as the Watch Series 8, were compatible with an iPhone 8 at minimum (running iOS 16).

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