The People's Apple Watch

Apple Watch Series 5 Aluminum

Elegance at a price

Apple Watch Series 5 Stainless Steel

The Apple Watch Series 5 aluminum version is the one to beat this season. It offers the same great features as the stainless steel version for much less.

from $399 at Apple

Pros

  • Price
  • Choice of with or without cellular
  • Same features for much less
  • Lighter
  • Nike+ version

Cons

  • Durability vs. stainless steel
  • Ion-X strengthened glass not as good as sapphire crystal

Durable yes, but this Apple Watch costs $300 more than the aluminum model. Thanks to the polished shine, it also shows those microabraisions easier.

from $699 at Apple

Pros

  • Stainless steel is a stronger material
  • Saphire Crystal glass front

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Scratches are more noticable
  • No Nike+ version
  • Weighs more

Like previous versions, the Apple Series 5 is available in aluminum and stainless steel (as well as titanium and ceramic, but there's more to come on that). The stainless steel Apple Watch version includes stronger case materials. But that might not matter for those that upgrade each year and want to save a few dollars.

Let's compare

From a features perspective, both Apple Watch Series 5 versions are identical. Both, for example, can track your heart rate, include a built-in ECG, and support the Compass app. Each features the same available storage for onboard music and podcasts. You can use the same third-party apps and faces on both models.

Series 5 Aluminum Series 5 Stainless Steel
Lowest Price $399 $699
Highest Price $529 $1,499
Color choices Gold
Space Gray
Silver
Gold
Space Black
Silver
Weight 30.1g (40mm)
36.7g (44mm)
39.8g (40mm)
47.8g (44mm)
Display material Ion-X strengthened glass sapphire crystal
Charging puck plastic stainless steel topped
Wi-Fi only versions Yes No
Onboard storage size 32GB 32GB

As you can see, the differences between both models mostly come down to the materials used. Whether you're talking about the casing, display, or charging puck, the stainless steel model offers better materials. The aluminum Apple Watch is a softer material, and the anodization could scratch or chip, as could its Ion-X-strengthened glass. The stainless steel Apple Watch is much, much harder, especially the black model with diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating. Still, stainless steel does have a drawback -- scratches are more noticable than the aluminum version. These so-called microabrasions can appear on glossy stainless steel soon after you start wearing one, especially on the silver version.

There's also the issue of cellular abilities. All Apple Watches with stainless steel include GPS and cellular capabilities. The latter increases the price of the watch and when the feature is activated, requires a monthly data plan. If you don't care about cellular, you pay for it anyway which is a waste. With the aluminum models, by contrast, Apple gives you a choice between GPS only and GPS plus cellular.

You should get the aluminum Apple Watch if you are:

  • into physical fitness and you want the lightest Apple Watch you can get
  • going to be rough enough with it — or likely to lose it — and want the most affordable replacement option possible
  • not sure about Apple Watch and want to try it out at the lowest cost-of-entry
  • simply loving the way the bead-blasted aluminum gold option looks

You should get the stainless steel Apple Watch if you:

  • love watches and want something heavy but not too heavy
  • want something classic on the outside but ultra-modern within
  • need a watch made out of strong materials like stainless steel and sapphire crystal

The bottom line: We think the aluminum model is best for most folks. If you're overly worried about possible damage, get an AppleCare+ subscription for peace of mind. Besides, Nike+ only comes in aluminum, which is something to also consider. If you plan on keeping your watch for more than two years, the stainless steel model might be best.

Great product, better price

Apple Watch Series 5 Aluminum

Stylish and practical

Experience all the great features of the Apple Watch Series 4 for less. Choose from silver, space gray or gold aluminum.

Beautiful but pricey

Apple Watch Series 5 Stainless Steel

Stylish choice

If you're really worried about breaking your Apple Watch, this is the one to get. Still, watch out for those inevitable scatches!

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