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The Good Same storage space, speed, and basic functions of Apple Watch Series 2, but for less money. WatchOS 3 is much-improved software over last year.

The Bad Lacks swim-ready water resistance and onboard GPS found in Series 2 models. Only comes in aluminum models.

The Bottom Line Apple's step-down Apple Watch has everything most people would need at a more affordable price.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Battery 6.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Software 8.0
  • Features 8.0

You don't need a smartwatch. And if you think you do, paying more than a couple of hundred dollars feels pretty hard to swallow.

The Apple Watch, in its second year, has focused on refinement. Really, the best part is the operating system, which has become easier to use, faster, and even offers better battery life. If you had an original Apple Watch, just update to WatchOS 3 and you're fine.

But if you're considering one, and you're not an athlete, Apple Watch Series 1 is the way to go. It costs less than Apple Watch Series 2, and you're only giving up a few features: GPS, swim-proofing, and a few other minor things.

I wore Series 1 for weeks after having worn Series 2, and here are the main differences -- and similarities -- between the two watches.

apple-watch-series-1-09.jpg

Can you tell which one is Series 1? (It's on the right.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

No GPS, but fine for workouts and step-counting

The built-in GPS in Apple Watch Series 2 tracks run data when running without a phone, and maps the route afterwards when you're back at your phone. You can't do that on Series 1, but you can still track runs with it and use it for workouts without your phone. The loss of GPS isn't a big deal for most people, and no, it doesn't enable away-from-phone directions or mapping.

apple-watch-series-1-10.jpg

Series 1 (bottom) is a tiny bit thinner than Series 2 (top).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Not swim-proof, but reasonably splash-proof

I can't swim with Series 1, but I don't swim anyway. Just like the original Apple Watch, it's still water resistant enough for dunks and hand-washing and yes, accidental showers with it on. You can keep the Series 1 immersed for up to 30 minutes in water, and I often get it wet with no problem.

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