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Apple Watch Series 2 vs Series 1: What Should You Buy?

Apple's second-generation wearable, called the Apple Watch Series 2, offers a brighter display than the original and has built-in GPS. However, the original Apple Watch Series 1 (as it's now called) gets an upgrade to the same processor as the Series 2 and will cost $100 less. So which Apple Watch is right for you?

Design

The Apple Watch Series 2 and the Series 1 are nearly identical in size and shape, but the newer model is about 1 millimeter thicker, and a touch heavier, which isn't surprising, as it has to accommodate a GPS sensor.

MORE: Apple Watch Finds a Purpose: Fitness

For the aluminum case models, the 38mm Apple Watch measures 38.6mm tall by 33.3 mm wide, but the Series 1 is 10.5mm thick and weighs 25 grams (0.88 ounces), whereas the Series 2 is 11.4mm thick and weighs 28.2 grams (0.99 ounces). The 42mm Apple Watch is 42.5 x 36.4 mm, but the Series 1 is 10.5mm thick and weighs 30 grams, and the Series 2 is 11.4mm thick and weighs 34.2 grams.

The ceramic case is bulkier and heavier than the stainless steel and aluminum options: The 38 mm model measures 39.2 x 34 x 11.8 mm and weighs 39.6 grams, and the 42mm model measures 42.6 x 36.5 x 11.4 mm and weighs 45.6 grams (1.6 ounces). That's nearly twice as heavy as the Series 1 watch.

Display

While the screen on both Apple Watches have the same size and resolution — 272 x 340 pixels for the 38mm watch, and 312 x 390 pixels for the 42mm version — the Series 2 offers a brighter display: 1000 nits to the Series 1's 450 nits. That should make it much easier to view the new watch in direct sunlight.

Performance

With the Series 2, Apple is introducing a new dual-core S2 processor, which Apple says is twice as powerful as the S1 chip in its original watch. However, Apple is also upgrading the Series 1 with the same processor, so you should see equal performance from both versions.

Features

The Series 2 will have two features that will appeal to the fitness crowd: Water-resistance to 50 meters (165 feet), and built-in GPS, so you can use the watch to track your location without needing your smartphone.

By comparison, the Series 1 is merely splash-proof, and lacks GPS. However, both models have a built-in heart rate monitor, accelerometer, gyroscope, Bluetooth 4.0, and 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi.

Style Options

Where the Series 1 is only available with an aluminum case, the Series 2 will also be sold with stainless steel and ceramic case options. The latter will cost you: The starting price for a ceramic case is $1,249. Within each line, you've got numerous choices for band colors, styles, and materials (such as leather and metal).

The Series 2 Hermes Edition, which has a stainless steel case and leather band, will start at $1,149; prices go up depending on the band you select.

Also only available with the Series 2 is the Nike+ edition. Starting at $369, this model has a sportier fitness band available in a few color combinations (neon green being prominent), as well as some Nike-centric features including watchfaces and a connection to the Nike+ Run Club, which helps motivate you to get out and exercise through shared stats, routes, and other socially applied peer pressure.

Battery Life

Both the Series 1 and Series 2 have the same expected battery life: Up to 18 hours, according to Apple. However, in our experience with similar devices, expect the Series 2 to last a lot less on a charge when using its GPS and cranking its display to the max brightness.

Pricing

The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369 with an aluminum case and sport or woven nylon band. By comparison, the Series 1 starts at $269. Stainless steel cases for the Series 2 start at $549, and, as mentioned the white ceramic case starts at $1,249.

So, Which Should You Buy?

Unless you have a ton of money to burn or are very active, the $269 Series 1 might be the better option. With its processor upgrade, it should be just as fast as the Series 2, and last as long on a charge. Fitness-types might prefer the $369 Series 2, as it has built-in GPS, and is more water-resistant. The Nike+ edition is particularly geared towards the athletic crowd, but we'll reserve our final judgment until we've had a chance to test it ourselves.