Ultra 2 reviews: Small upgrades strengthen 'ultimate' Apple Watch | Cult of Mac

Ultra 2 reviews: Small upgrades strengthen ‘ultimate’ Apple Watch


Apple Watch Ultra 2 debuted with modest but welcome upgrades.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 debuted with modest but welcome upgrades.
Photo: Apple

Apple Watch Ultra 2 reviews are out, and they’re positive. Modest upgrades like a brighter display, double-tap gesturing and a faster processor might not make current Ultra owners shell out for the new one, but it’s highly recommended to anyone else who wants the best rugged smartwatch.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 reviews praise modest upgrades to best rugged smartwatch

Apple strapped on Watch Ultra 2 for the first time on September 12 at its Wonderlust event, with preorders starting that day. As Cult of Mac and some reviews noted, it follows the first edition by only a year, so radical changes would be a shock. And the incremental changes are a hit with reviewers.

“It’s the ultimate Apple Watch,” said Tom’s Guide in its headline. And it went on to name the updated wearable’s main highlights:

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a modest update over the original, but a brighter display, support for the double-tap gestures and future-proof processor are welcome improvements. While we still crave a longer battery life, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is one of the best smartwatches you can get now.

More pros than cons

And that review’s “Pros” far outweighed its “Cons” for Apple Watch Ultra 2, and reflect much of what other reviews said:


  • Made of 95% recycled titanium
  • Brighter display than before
  • Faster S9 processor
  • Easier to find iPhone with watch
  • Supports the double tap gesture
  • Great new Modular Ultra watch face


  • Must have iPhone 15 for UWB features
  • Battery life could be better

For its part, Wired‘s review starts off with a description of accidentally turning off Backtrack during a long wilderness trail run, but ends up finishing strong with positive points.

Faster S9 chip has its benefits

Here's Apple's quick look at Ultra 2's upgrades and features.
Here’s Apple’s quick look at Ultra 2’s upgrades and features.
Photo: Apple

The faster S9 chipset “powers some of the basic Siri interactions right there on the watch,” the review said. You no longer have to wait for simple voice commands — start a workout, set an alarm, log your weight — to travel up and down from the cloud.”

“Machine learning tasks are also completed twice as quickly than on the original Ultra, which theoretically extends the battery life of the watch,” it added.

The review noted the chip’s power enables the Double Tap gesture, among others. When you tap your thumb and index finger together twice, the gesture can replace the primary watch button on any screen (like when your other hand is holding on to something for dear life).

The review applied the magazine’s classic rating system:

Wired: Onboard processing for better battery life and improved data privacy. Helpful haptic features. WatchOS 10 includes offline maps and new hiking and cycling features. Fun new watch face. Precision locating rules.

Tired: No offline maps without the phone??? Battery life still nowhere near industry standard for sports watches. Carbon neutral claims are iffy. Constant toggling between functions is annoying. 3,000-nit display doesn’t make a huge difference.

Brighter screen

CNET loved Ultra 2’s brighter screen and faster responses, though it called them “nice but not necessary upgrades.” And it added the new wearable “has less of a wow factor compared with the first Ultra.” But that’s only because it’s familiar now.

“For hikers and cyclists in particular, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 has a lot to offer,” the reviewer said, “but that’s more a reflection on WatchOS 10 than the hardware itself.”

The review described some of Ultra 2’s other plusses:

The new Ultra’s display maxes out at a brightness of 3,000 nits. That is shockingly bright; for reference, the iPhone 15 has a max-2,000-nit display. You can also configure the watch with its new Modular Ultra watch face, which lets you set an additional real-time metric along the bezel of the watch — pick between seconds, elevation, or depth if you’re diving. There’s a second-gen ultra wideband chip inside the latest model that makes the precision finding features more accurate, so it’s easier to locate your lost iPhone using your watch.

But on par with other reviews, CNET‘s likes outnumbered its dislikes:


Incredibly bright screen
More accurate dictation and on-device Siri
64GB storage means more space for music and apps
WatchOS 10 brings great new cycling and hiking features

Don’t like

Double Tap not available at launch
Battery life is the same as first Ultra
Limited recovery metrics

Best of the best, but not a must-have if you’ve got a recent Apple Watch

The Verge weighed in with a positive review as well, noting that Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9 are the best smartwatches ever. And yet, because the upgrades are largely incremental, people with recent Apple Watches like the first Ultra and Series 8 may not need to buy them.

The review praised the addition of Siri voice assistant processing directly on the watch rather than through the cloud. Tests of the improved Siri showed positive results, but not remarkable ones.

And of course, The Verge‘s rating system does its own thing:

The Good

The Modular Ultra face is a data nerd’s dream
Precision Finding
Minor Siri and screen brightness improvements
Double-tap gesture is great

The Bad

No pink
The minor changes feel even more minor with the Ultra
Need iPhone 15 for Precision Finding

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 starts at $799 (GPS + Cellular version). Available now for preorder, it ships September 22. First-time Apple Watch buyer can get three months of Apple Fitness+ access for free.


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