Apple Watch Ultra Review: The Best Apple Watch. Period.

This is Apple's most ambitious smartwatch to date

Apple Watch Ultra Review Smartwatch
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After testing the new Apple Watch Ultra for a full 1-month, I’m finally ready to talk all about it in this full review. This was one of the biggest purchases I made this year and to be very honest with guys, I found it very very difficult to justify its price tag at first! But call me crazy.. the more I use this product, the more I am in love with it. Apple says the Watch Ultra is for those pro endurance athletes, scuba divers, mountaineers… and other similar groups of people. But even for a casual user like me, I’m a little inclined to say that it somewhat justifies the price tag given all the features you get here!

Apple Watch Ultra Review: Specifications

Case Material Titanium, Ceramic and sapphire crystal back
Strap Style Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, Ocean Band
Color Options Silver
Dimensions 49 x 44 x 14.4 mm
Weight 61.3 gm (with strap)
Display 1.92” / 49mm, (410 x 502 px), 338 PPI
Protection Sapphire crystal glass
Properties Retina LTPO OLED panel, Always on Display (AoD), Up to 2000 nits brightness
Processor Apple S8 SiP (dual-core), W3 wireless chip, U1 chip
Memory 32GB internal storage
Battery 542mAh (Up to 36 hours*)
Charging Magnetic wireless charging
OS watchOS 9.0
Sensors Ambient light, Always-on altimeter, Compass, Blood oxygen (SpO2), Electrical heart sensor, Third-generation optical heart sensor, High-g accelerometer, High dynamic range gyroscope, Water temperature, Depth gauge
Health Tracking 24/7 heart rate, stress, SpO2 monitoring, sleep tracking, women’s health, advanced cycle tracking, ECG, etc.
Sports Modes 50+ exercise modes (auto-detection support in select workouts), Compass Waypoints, Backtrack
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.3, WiFi b/g/n (2.4 – 5GHz)
Navigation Dual-frequency GPS (L1 + L5), Glonass, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
Bluetooth Calls Yes (built-in three-microphone array, dual speakers)
Durability IP6X dust resistant, MIL-STD-810H, WR100, EN 13319
Compatibility iOS 16 or later
Price in Nepal NPR 159,999 (USD 799 in the US, INR 89,990 in India)

Apple Watch Ultra Review:

Design and Build

  • Titanium case (49mm)
  • Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, Ocean Band
  • IP6X dust resistant
  • MIL-STD-810H, WR100, EN 13319 certified

Yeah, the cheaper second-generation Watch SE and Watch Series 8 are completely fine for most iPhone users, but the Watch Ultra is like the iPhone Pro series; it has got everything! The first thing I really love about the Watch Ultra is this new badass design which feels more modern, distinctive, and ready for any adventure!

Frankly, I think the design of the regular Watch Series lineup has now started to age and it looks quite unexciting!

As a result, I have seen a lot of owners of older Apple Watch now paying a ridiculous amount to get the Watch Ultra instead. They just want to wear something that feels unique on their wrist! I also like how big the digital crown is this time, and it can come in really handy if you are wearing gloves while you are on a trek or riding a bike.

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Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 7 - Display
Left: Watch Ultra | Right: Watch Series 7

There is also an extra “Action” button on the left, which is useful for activating certain shortcuts with just a click. The Watch Ultra is also a pretty robust device! Thanks to the Sapphire crystal glass protecting the display, I haven’t got any scratches on my unit until now, whereas if I recall, my Watch Series 7 suffered a lot of tiny scratches here and there in the very first month.

Definitely bulky

Likewise, I was also expecting the Watch Ultra to be quite bulky, given its sheer size and how thick this thing is. It doesn’t feel that way on my hand but I’m sure someone with a smaller wrist won’t feel the same way. Apple has used an aerospace-grade titanium frame which is 40% lighter than steel but just as strong as high-strength steel. So while it isn’t exactly ergonomic for everyone, it is quite tough. And you can check out Techrax’s video where he does drop tests, puts it in a jar of nails, hammers it, and the Watch Ultra survives all of these tests!

It is also EN 13319 and WR100 water resistant, which means it can withstand water pressure up to 100 meters. And if you are into scuba diving, this can also provide real-time underwater measurements up to 40 meters deep. The Watch Ultra is getting the Oceanic+ app later this year too, enabling an even more nuanced diving experience.

Apple Watch Ultra - Action Button

Apple Watch Ultra also has three new band options: Trail Loop, Alpine Loop, and Ocean Band! I got myself the Alpine Loop, which I know a lot of users have complained about for either being too loose or too tight. It took a little getting used to for me as well, but I now love it. However, this Alpine loop gets dirty pretty fast. And pretty easily. But a simple wash will do the trick. That being said, there are plenty of 3rd party straps that you can choose from that fits your style and comfort.

Display

  • 1.92-inches Retina LTPO OLED panel
  • Always-on Display (AoD)
  • Up to 2,000 nits max brightness
  • Sapphire crystal glass protection

Ok, another aspect that the Apple Watch Ultra thoroughly nails is the display. It is not just bigger and brighter, but because it’s flat and not curved like the regular Apple Watch, scrolling and interacting with this display has been a delight. I can even use apps like a calculator without any struggle here.

Apple Watch Ultra - UI

Plus, the watch face called the “Wayfinder” takes great advantage of this big display.

There has never been so much information available at once on an Apple watch face before. It can host every information I’d want at a glance; from the active compass to workout details, and battery life. Like… everything. Plus, I absolutely love this blood-red night mode on this watch face, which can be activated simply by rotating the digital crown.

Performance

  • Dual-core Apple S8 SiP (7nm)
  • 32GB internal storage
  • watchOS 9.0 (upgradable)

As for the actual performance, as expected from an Apple Watch, everything is fluid here. However, there isn’t much of a performance leap coming from previous generations. And there have been times when I wished the Watch Ultra had a slightly more powerful chipset because when there are a lot of apps running in the background, I felt it wasn’t as smooth as you’d want a USD 800 smartwatch to be.

Actually, the S8 chip in the Watch Ultra is manufactured under the same 7nm process and features a dual-core CPU as the S6 and S7 chips. No wonder Apple didn’t even talk about the S8 chip during the launch event! But with TSMC’s 3nm process set to enter mass production by the end of this year, we could see the next-gen Watch Ultra be more powerful and more battery efficient.

Battery

  • 542mAh (up to 36 hours battery life)

Apple Watch Ultra - Charging

Anyway, I am thoroughly enjoying the battery backup here. On my Apple Watch Series 7, I always had battery anxiety because it would never last me more than two days. But with the Watch Ultra, I am constantly getting 3 days of battery life.

Plus, with the latest watchOS 9.1 update, there’s a new option under “Low Power Mode” in the workout settings which takes fewer GPS and heart rate readings. And with that, you should be able to get even better battery endurance when you are going on a long activity, like a hike or marathon. But do not that this feature is only available with 3 types of exercises, including walking, running, and hiking.

Health, Fitness Tracking

  • 50+ workout modes
    • With automatic detection support of a few
  • Compass Waypoints, Backtrack
  • Dual-frequency GPS (L1 + L5)
  • Heart rate, stress, sleep, blood oxygen tracking, etc.

The Apple Watch Ultra is also one of the best smartwatches out there for health and fitness tracking. Apart from the regular SpO2, heart rate, and sleep tracking, this time it has a depth gauge that gives a real-time measurement of underwater depth down to 40 meters, along with water temperature readings.

And then there’s the dual-frequency GPS that uses both L1 and L5 frequency bands for more precise reading.

Typically, most mainstream smartwatches are loaded with the basic L1 GPS signal only, which is wildly open to signal interference from physical infrastructures like buildings, trees, and such. But the L5 signal—with its higher power, larger bandwidth, and advanced signal design—effectively gets rid of L1’s weaknesses.

Does L5 GPS really make a difference?

Not that it’s perfect by any means but it should definitely deliver much more accurate location data even in challenging locations. To test it out, I took the Apple Watch Ultra and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 Pro out for a spin across the densest areas that Kathmandu has to offer. And yep, the Watch Ultra logged my workout trail a lot more accurately than the Watch 5 Pro.

AppleWatchUltra - vs - Galaxy Watch 5 Pro - Workout Route
Red: Watch Ultra | Blue: Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

As you can see, under fairly open city space (mostly on the right side of the map), their GPS data is basically the same. But when entering congested areas with extremely narrow walking lanes (near the Aspatal Marg and Gangalal Marg in the map), the Watch Ultra stays on the course just fine, while the Watch 5 Pro’s workout route is all over the place.

Compass Waypoints and Backtrack

Another neat addition about the Apple Watch Ultra that I enjoyed while I was on a hike is “Compass Waypoints”. With this, I can pin important locations like where I’ve set my tent or camp, for example. And I like how you can color code and customize different waypoints as well.

AppleWatchUltra - Design 2

Then there’s the “Backtrack” feature that records your steps to help you return to your original location in case you happen to get lost. And you don’t have any cell reception to call others for help either. By default, you’ll need to manually start it but Apple mentions that the Watch Ultra automatically starts logging your trail if it detects that you’re in a somewhat remote area with weak Wi-Fi or cellular signals.

And I’m not convinced that this is how Apple should be moderating such a critical security feature. I mean, it should be preemptively tracking my steps during workouts or at least give me an option to automatically enable it all the time, right? And not just when the watch thinks I might be in uncharted territory?

Anyway, I just couldn’t get automatic backtrack to work on my unit even in places with incredibly remote Wi-Fi signals showing up and where my phone was getting just a single bar of network. Not just me, but other reviewers have faced this issue with automatic Backtrack on their Watch Ultra too. So hopefully Apple is working on an update to fix it ASAP.

Impressive call quality, haptics

Moving on, the call quality on this watch is absolutely fantastic though. I’ve tested a bunch of smartwatches that can take phone calls but the Watch Ultra is on a whole different level. The onboard dual speakers get super loud and its triple microphones do a super job at picking up my voice as well. And you know what else is best-in-class here? The haptic feedback.

AppleWatchUltra - Wearing

Besides this, the Apple Watch Ultra is also loaded with a loud 86dB siren for emergencies in case you’re lost or injured, and you want to alert others around you. Its SOS sound pattern can allegedly be heard up to 180 meters away. And testing it outdoors, the watch could be heard roughly 150 meters as well.

Apple Watch Review: Conclusion

Okay, so that was all for our review of the new Apple Watch Ultra. At USD 800, this thing is definitely a lot heavy on the wallet, whereas it’s also quite an overkill—even feature-wise—for most people. And the regular Watch Series 8, the second-gen Watch SE, or even last year’s Watch Series 7 (which is currently available at great deals in different markets) should be perfectly fine if you want the latest Apple Watch experience without all the bells and whistles.

But at the end of the day, this is an Apple product after all. So some folks are gonna buy the Watch Ultra simply because it’s the best watch Apple has to offer.

And it’s somewhat of a statement piece too. Just look at it. As I mentioned in the very beginning, it has this really badass design that clearly stands out from other Apple Watches. And I’ve seen many Watch Series 5, 6, and 7 owners upgrade to the Watch Ultra instead of Series 8 for this very reason. Plus, its robust build quality and great battery life are just cherry on top as well.

AppleWatchUltra - Crown

On the other hand, Apple is also set out to win over the pro endurance athletes with the Watch Ultra. I’m nowhere near qualified enough to evaluate it from that perspective. But from what I can gather, it comes pretty close. The Apple Watch Ultra successfully combines the versatility of a full-fledged smartwatch with sophisticated tracking features for even the most challenging outdoor activities.

  • Watch our video review of the Apple Watch Ultra

Apple Watch Ultra Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Great fitness tracking options
  • Dual-frequency GPS works wonders
  • Tough build quality
  • Sharp, bright OLED display
  • Decent battery life
  • Excellent microphone and speakers

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not much of a performance upgrade
  • Too bulky for many
  • Automatic Backtrack doesn’t work well
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design and Build
Display
Control
Battery
Health, Fitness Tracking
Assorted Features
Companion App
Value for Money
apple-watch-ultra-reviewApple Watch Ultra is Apple's most ambitious smartwatch to date. And it's kinda like the Swiss Army Knife of smartwatches that does it all too. From its rugged design and nice battery life to all the health and fitness tracking options, the Watch Ultra is easily one of the most impressive smartwatch you could find right now. But of course, all this comes at a price. Quite literally.