The release of the Apple Watch Series 5 — the newest model available today — reinforces the widely held view that the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch you can buy.

Apple’s stylish wrist computer comes packed with comprehensive health and fitness features, an always-on display, and the ability of the cellular model to replace your phone for a short time. Our Digital Trends review singles out the Apple Watch Series 5 as “close to perfection.”

But there’s more than one Apple Watch available, depending on your price range and craving for the latest and greatest. Several generations of the Apple Watch, including Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4, are also still available via various channels and at discounted prices. We have a look at the Apple Watches available today to help you choose which one is the best for you.

Apple Watch models

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

There are now three basic versions of the Apple Watch. Apple sells both the Series 3 and Series 5 on Apple.com. The Series 4, which is quite similar to the Series 5, is out there on various secondary channels, and both older models are steeply discounted. Apple Watch Series 3 comes in two models: A GPS version starting at $199 and a GPS/cellular version starting at $299.

Here’s a quick spec comparison of the Apple Watch Series 3, 4, and 5.

Apple Watch Series 3 Apple Watch Series 4 Apple Watch Series 5
Processor S3 S4 S5
Operating System WatchOS 4 WatchOS 6 WatchOS 6
Body (dimensions) Aluminum case

1.52 x 1.31 x 0.45 inches (38mm)

1.67 x 1.43 x 0.45 inches (42mm)

Aluminum case

1.5 x 1.3 x 0.42 inches (40mm)

1.7 x 1.4 x 0.42 inches (44mm)

Aluminum case

1.5 x 1.3 x 0.42 inches (40mm)

1.7 x 1.4 x 0.42 inches (44mm)

Resolution (pixels) 272 x 340 (38mm)

390 x 312 (42mm)

368 x 448 (40mm)

324 x 394 (44mm)

368 x 448 (40mm)

324 x 394 (44mm)

Weight Aluminum case

38mm: 26.7 grams (GPS)

42mm: 32.3 grams (GPS)

Aluminum case

40mm: 30.1 grams (GPS)

44mm: 36.7 grams (GPS)

Aluminum case

40mm: 30.1 grams (GPS)

44mm: 36.7 grams (GPS)

Storage 8GB (GPS), 16GB (GPS and cellular) 16GB (GPS and cellular) 16GB (GPS and cellular); 32GB (GPS)
Screen Sapphire crystal glass (stainless steel and ceramic); Ion-X glass (aluminum) Sapphire crystal (stainless steel); Ion-X glass (aluminum) Sapphire crystal (stainless steel, titanium, ceramic); Ion X glass (aluminum)
Wireless LTE, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 LTE and UMTS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 LTE and UMTS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
Water resistance 50 meters 50 meters 50 meters
Display  2nd-gen OLED Retina display with Force Touch Retina LTPO OLED display with Force Touch, 1000 nits Always-on Retina LTPO OLED display with Force Touch, 1000 nits
Price GPS and cellular starting at $299; GPS starting at $199 No standard price listed and harder to find GPS and cellular starting at $499; GPS starting at $399

The Series 5 is a major upgrade from the Series 3, but only a slight update from the Series 4. The Series 3 has a smaller face at 38mm and 42mm for the women’s and men’s models, respectively. The Series 4 and the Series 5 run a slightly larger face at 40mm and 44mm, which seems to have hit the spot in terms of ideal size. Many women found a 38mm watch a tad small, while 40mm is great for both men and women.

The most significant addition to the Series 5 is the always-on display, and the Apple Watch also now comes in titanium. But many other features are exactly the same as the Series 4, and all the series use the same size watch band. Long story short, if you’re rocking a Series 4, there’s no need to ditch it in favor of a Series 5.

If you live an active lifestyle that involves a lot of running and walking, and you don’t want to carry your phone around all the time, or if you’re a speed demon who wants the absolute fastest and longest-lasting Apple Watch on the market, a Series 5 will suit your needs. If you don’t need a cutting-edge processor or want to save some cash, a Series 3 or 4 may be the right pick for you. However, the Series 4 was especially in demand and may be harder to find these days.

Apple Watch sizes and finishes

Apple Watch Series 4
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Once you’ve chosen the device you want, you’re going to need to pick the size that feels the most comfortable on your wrist. The 38mm Series 3 watch is the smallest, while the 44mm Series 4 and 5 are the largest.

When you go to the Apple Watch website, you’ll notice that the selection goes beyond simply Series 3 or 5. The Apple Watch doesn’t just come in different sizes and hardwares, but it also comes in different materials, some of which are exclusive to individual models. Below is a rundown of the finishes available for each device.

Apple Watch Series 3 Apple Watch Series 4 Apple Watch Series 5 Apple Watch Nike Apple Watch Hermès Apple Watch Edition
Silver aluminum
Gold aluminum
Space Gray aluminum
Space Black stainless steel
Silver stainless steel
Gold stainless steel
Titanium
Space Black titanium
White ceramic

The Apple Watch Nike and the Apple Watch Hermès are variations of the Apple Watch Series 5, though the Nike model features an exclusive Run Club app with audio-guided tours and fitness-oriented social features. Every Nike watch face is optimized for the Series 5 always-on Retina display. The Apple Watch Edition now comes in both titanium and white ceramic exteriors.

Apple Watch bands

Apple Watch Bands

If you think you had a hard time deciding which Apple Watch to buy, just wait until you try to settle on a watch band. Over time, Apple has introduced a variety of models while expanding the choice of accessories and wristbands — now, you can choose the band you want right out of the box. With the launch of the Series 5, Apple inaugurated the Apple Watch Studio, a brand new way to choose a strap for your new watch. You can buy any band you like for any watch you own upfront, including sport bands and loops, leather, and stainless steel. The watch studio stocks over 1,000 different watch bands.

Below is a quick table outlining the specific bands marketed for each device, and we encourage you to check out our guide to the best Apple Watch bands you can buy right now. In reality, any available band will fit any Apple Watch of any generation. You just need to choose the smaller or larger size, depending on the model you own.

Apple Watch Series 3 Apple Watch Series 4 Apple Watch Series 5 Apple Watch Nike Apple Watch Hermès Apple Watch Edition
Sport
Woven nylon
Leather
Stainless steel
Nike Sport  ✓
Hermès

Two Apple Watch models are differentiated in part by their bands: The Nike and the Hermès. The Nike Sport band is lighter than other Apple Watch bands, thanks to rows of perforations that make it more breathable and comfortable. The Hermès bands are all about fashion. This year’s crop is handmade by artisans in France from Barenia leather, Epsom leather, or Swift leather with an ultra-sophisticated Della Cavalleria print or a sleek all-black design.

Which one should you buy?

Before you make a decision, check the current price range. The table below represents base prices on the most affordable models. The real price depends on the casing materials, branding, and connectivity options.

Apple Watch Series 3 Apple Watch Series 4 Apple Watch Series 5 Apple Watch Nike Apple Watch Hermès Apple Watch Series 5 Edition
Base price $199/$229 (GPS); $299 (GPS/cellular) No standard prices listed $399/$429 (GPS); $499 (GPS/cellular) Aluminum $399/$429 $1,249 to $1,499 Titanium $799/$849; white ceramic $1,299/$1,349

Apple Watch Series 6 on the horizon

If you’re still undecided, you may want to check out the Apple Watch Series 6 news and updates to get the latest on what’s going down this fall. The Series 6 is the third Apple Watch model since the Series 4 redesign, and it’s likely the design will be similar to the previous two models. Internal updates will likely include a more powerful processor and some extra fitness tracking, including a blood oxygen monitoring feature. It may be hard to improve on near-perfection, but Apple will take its best shot very soon.

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