Apple Watch Ultra 2 test: after a week on the wrist, big assets on the counter

Estimated read time 5 min read

Apple Watch Ultra 2 test: after a week on the wrist, big assets on the counter

At the same time last year I had my new Apple Watch Ultra strapped to my wrist, ready to face a 15K Tough Mudder obstacle course. Twelve months later, the Watch Ultra has proven to be for me the most complete watch ever manufactured by Apple. And one of the best “smartwatches”.

Over the past week, I’ve been exercising, traveling and sleeping with the new version of the Apple Watch Ultra in order to discover exactly what’s new from Apple.

But I’ll get straight to the point. If you already own an Apple Watch Ultra, there is no compelling reason to upgrade to the Ultra 2. But if you are one of those who are planning to buy an Apple Watch Ultra for the first time, you will not be able to do better with this model. Here’s why.

A very reasonable price

Given the current economic environment and the increase in prices, I am a little surprised that Apple was able to lower the price of the new Watch Ultra 2 in France compared to last year. If we take into account the titanium construction, the integrated 4G and the sapphire crystal screen, the price of € 900 is very reasonable for a high performance sports watch. This is even more true if we compare the Apple Watch Ultra 2 with other high-end GPS sports watches.

As for the new features of the model, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 integrates a faster S9 processor, a brighter screen, twice as much internal storage (64 GB instead of 32 GB) and recycled materials which, in one way or another, do not detract from its qualities as a connected accessory.

watchOS 10 was released at the time of the announcement of the Watch Ultra 2 and makes the Apple Watch a pleasant tool to use, with new functions for the side button and the digital crown (Smart Stack), as well as spacious and information-rich watch faces, optimized precisely for the Watch Ultra format.


Matthew Miller/ZDNET

More brightness outside

Naturally, I placed the Watch Ultra 2 next to my first generation Watch Ultra. And it is practically impossible to distinguish them from each other. After increasing the brightness of both, I could barely tell the difference under standard lighting conditions. Why? Because Apple uses the same ambient light sensor on both models. But outside, that is to say where you will exploit the most the technologies of the Watch Ultra, it is obvious that the Ultra 2 is much brighter (3,000 nits against 2,000 nits).

Before the launch of the Watch Ultra 2, I had some expectations about this new version. And one of my wishes was granted. Indeed, the LED flashlight of Garmin watches is a tool that I use daily. On the Watch Ultra 2, once the flashlight is turned on, simply turn the digital crown to obtain the maximum brightness, which allows the additional nits to be used.


Matthew Miller/ZDNET

It still doesn’t beat the Garmin’s LED, but it’s much more convenient than last year’s brightness feature for finding things in a dark garage or under a bed, lighting up rooms at night and finding your way around in the dark.

A mapping that is always limited

Unfortunately, the mapping is still limited on the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The most notable change is the support for offline maps, provided you have an iPhone running iOS 17. However, the Compass app has also received a subtle but significant update thanks to watchOS 10.

On the Watch Ultra 2, it now indicates the last location connectable to the cellular network or SOS call transmission point (possibly via a satellite) identified, so that you know exactly where to return if you find yourself in an area without connectivity during an outing (for example a hike). The Compass app also allows you to mark your camping spot, parking space and other useful waypoints.

Along with the Watch Ultra 2, Apple has launched new carbon neutral straps. The Alpine Loop and Trail Loop straps are available in three colors. I had the opportunity to test the gray/green Loop bracelet with the Watch Ultra 2, and all I can say is that it is extremely comfortable. I bought my Watch Ultra with an Ocean strap last year, but it is likely that I will choose the Loop Buckle this time for its ease of attachment by velcro. For more casual outings, this is the ideal bracelet.


Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Welcome mental health apps

Finally, if I appreciate the Apple Watch Ultra 2 for its long battery life, its brighter screen, its extended connectivity and its new straps, I am also delighted with the improvement of the mental health functionality thanks to the Mindfulness application (Mindfulness). It now occupies a prominent place in my list of apps, and going through these meditation sessions is part of my daily ritual.

I now frequently use the Thinking and Breathing utilities, which are slowly but surely reducing my stress and are proving to be welcome additions to my use of the Apple Watch.

ZDNET’s buying tips for the Apple Watch Ultra 2

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 will stay on my wrist for a long time, probably until the next version of the watch comes out. The improvements made by Apple this year are not crazy, but they are balanced enough that the Watch Ultra remains the best high-end sports watch for enthusiasts.

If you don’t have an Apple Watch Ultra but want to buy one, the Ultra 2 is the best option. If you can cope with a less bright screen and technically slower performance, buying last year’s version is also not a bad idea.

For me, the built-in flashlight is an appreciable tool, as is the faster processor that supports Siri. Apple’s adoption of carbon-free products is also a good thing for the environment.

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