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Apple Watch SE vs Garmin Fenix 6 (2021): Which Smartwatch Fits Your Lifestyle?

Aside from being unabashedly an iPhone companion, one of the reasons people are adamant about getting an Apple Watch is its price. The Cupertino-based tech giant knows this, and with the release of the Apple Watch SE, hopes to get more people using its flagship wearable.

Meanwhile, Garmin takes a different approach by appealing largely to a niche market of sports enthusiasts. Its top of the line multi-sport smartwatch โ€” the Garmin Fenix 6 โ€” is a feature-packed, rugged device made for the outdoors. But does that settle the score between these two different wearables? Below, we compare the budget Apple Watch SE and premium Garmin Fenix 6 to help you see which smartwatch is a better fit for your lifestyle.

Apple Watch SE vs Garmin Fenix 6 Comparison Chart

ModelApple Watch SEGarmin Fenix 6
 
Price
Sizes40mm, 44mm47mm
Display TypeOLED Retina displayTransreflective MIP
Display Size1.57″ (40mm)
1.78″ (44mm)
1.3″
Resolution324 x 394 (40mm)
368 x 448 (44mm)
260 x 260
Battery LifeUp to 18 hoursUp to 14 days
Water ResistanceUp to 50 metersUp to 100 meters
Heart Rate MonitoringYesYes
Blood Oxygen MonitoringNoYes
ECG AppNoNo
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Respiration TrackerNoYes
Hydration TrackerNoYes
Stress TrackerNoYes
Menstrual Cycle TrackingYesYes
Take CallsYesNo
GPSYesYes
Safety FeaturesEmergency SOS, International emergency calling, Fall detection, noise monitoringLiveTrack, Group LiveTrack, Live Event Sharing, Incident Detection, Assistance
Storage32GB32GB
Contactless PaymentApple PayGarmin Pay

Design and Hardware

The Apple Watch SE follows the sleek design of the regular Apple Watch. Meanwhile, Garmin’s Fenix 6 brandishes a sportier build.

The Apple Watch SE (left) has a more refined design compared to the rugged build of the Garmin Fenix SE (right).

While it sells for a more affordable price, the Apple Watch SE doesn’t cut too many corners when it comes to design. Apple’s budget wearable looks just like the regular model. You get the same squarish display with a digital crown protruding on the side. Plus, the bands are still swappable and you can choose between a 40mm or 44mm variant.

The Watch SE, however, is only available in Aluminum and the regular Silver, Space Gray, and Gold finishes. To cut costs in hardware, the device also features a regular OLED Retina display instead of the Always-On screen on the Apple Watch Series 6. While it does make sense in making the Watch SE budget-friendly, one wished it also translated to better battery life (more on that later).

Garmin’s Fenix 6 watch, on the other hand, sports a more rugged design and build that clearly states its purpose. The wearable comes with a fiber-reinforced polymer case and a lens protected by either Corning Gorilla Class or Sapphire Crystal. Meanwhile, the bezel is available in three options: stainless steel, titanium, and DLC-coated steel.

Between these two devices, the Fenix 6 more closely resembles a traditional watch, thanks to its circular screen. When it comes to display performance, however, you’ll find the Watch SE is more vivid. The Fenix 6 uses a transflective LCD screen with a 260 x 260 resolution. That’s plenty of brightness for the outdoors but still pales in comparison with what the Watch SE offers.

The Watch SE and Fenix 6 come with similar 32GB of storage. Both devices are also water proof up to 50 meters and 100 meters respectively.

Fitness and Activity Tracking

The Garmin Fenix 6 offers more in-depth activity tracking compared to the Apple Watch SE.

Apple’s Watch SE features a number of workout profiles although Garmin’s Fenix SE offers more in-depth metrics.

When it comes to fitness and activity tracking, the Fenix 6 has the advantage over the Apple Watch SE. Both watches track standard performance variables like heart rate, calories burned, respiration rate, and flights climbed. But the Fenix 6 does Apple’s wearable better just with the extensive list of metrics you can get insights from, regardless if it’s for workout at the gym or an outdoor activity.

The Fenix 6, for instance, comes with pre-loaded profiles for strength and cardio training, as well as activities like yoga and pilates. In addition, the watch includes customizable training profiles and advanced workout programs. Apple’s budget wearable isn’t too far behind. The Watch SE also features a number of workout profiles, including recent additions like Dance and Core Training. All of these are also seamlessly integrated with the re-branded Fitness App on the new watchOS 7.

Nonetheless, the Fenix 6’s support for multiple sports is still in a league of its own. Garmin’s powerful device is packed with in-depth metrics for activities most other watches will not track. For instance, the outdoor recreation profiles include extreme sports like snowboarding, bouldering, and mountain biking. With the Fenix 6, you can also get mapping and performance features for golf, running, and cycling. Indeed, the wearable comes with all the premium features people have come to expect from a GPS watch.

Health Monitoring

Unlike the Garmin Fenix 6 or even the Apple Watch Series 6, the Watch SE doesn’t include a blood oxygen sensor.

The Garmin Fenix 6 and Apple Watch SE boast advanced sensors for health monitoring.

It’s in health monitoring that Apple seems to have really economized. Unlike the Apple Watch Series 6, the Watch SE doesn’t come with an ECG app. The feature has been a staple of Apple’s watches since the Series 4 came out. The Watch SE doesn’t come with the long-awaited blood oxygen sensor either. And you’ll also have to make do with an older optical heart sensor instead of the second generation variant.

Thanks to the watchOS 7 however, you will get Apple’s native sleep tracking app. Simply called Sleep, the feature includes alerts, sleep trends, and sleep analysis for those who need to evaluate their bedtime routines. Taking a cue from the times, the Watch SE will also come with hand-washing detection care of the upgraded OS. And of course, there’s noise monitoring too, together with the acclaimed Fall Detection feature.

Garmin’s Fenix 6, on the other hand, doesn’t come with an ECG app. But it does offer SpO2 monitoring. This is particularly useful in generating insights like Garmin’s Body Battery metric. Just like Apple’s watches, the Fenix 6 also monitors abnormal heart rates, and for women, tracks menstrual cycles. Relaxation reminders are similarly available alongside all-day stress tracking and Garmin’s own version of incident detection and assistance.

Smart Features and Battery Life

The Apple Watch SE has more intuitive smart features although the Garmin Fenix 6 enjoys a longer battery life.

With the watchOS 7, the Apple Watch SE comes with new watch faces. On the left, the Fenix 6 in battery saver mode.

The Apple Watch SE largely benefits from the Apple ecosystem. The device seamlessly integrates with your iPhone so you can enjoy a number of cool, smart features. The GPS + Cellular model of the Watch SE, for instance, allows you to take and answer calls using the watch itself. On the Fenix 6, you can also accept and reject calls although it’s only compatible with Android. In addition, you’ll need to use the paired smartphone to actually talk to a caller. Both watches support smart notifications, customizable watch faces, as well as contactless payment solutions.

In terms of battery life, the Garmin Fenix 6 does have the edge. The company claims you can use the watch for up to 14 days without having to charge it. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch SE still gives the same 18-hour battery life, even without the always-on display. So is Garmin the winner here? Well, the fine print suggests it’s not that simple.

If you only use the Fenix 6 as a smartwatch, then you will get about two weeks of battery life, give or take. However, with GPS and music, you’ll get a more realistic 10 hour to 36 hour performance. There is a battery saving mode which can give you an impressive 48 days of batter life. And the Solar variant of the watch offers extra power as well. But given how people tend to use smartwatches, don’t expect you’ll always last 14 days between charges using the Fenix 6.

Verdict

The Apple Watch SE is a budget alternative for iOS users while the Garmin Fenix 6 is designed for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Apple Watch SE is meant for iPhone users who still aren’t convinced they need a smartwatch โ€” either because they don’t really want one, or because they find the regular models expensive. With this in the mind, the Watch SE seems like the perfect introduction to Apple’s wearables. It’s a little more affordable, so as an investment it shouldn’t hurt too much if you find yourself not really using it as much as you intended. However, you need to keep in mind the Watch SE does cut some corners when it comes to health features. But if you’re not a huge fan of blood oxygen monitoring or ECG anyway, then these trade-offs shouldn’t be a huge deal.

In contrast, the Garmin Fenix 6 is a watch for a different audience. Although compatible with the iPhone, iOS users will likely benefit more from an Apple Watch, regardless of the model, compared with the Fenix 6. But if you’re an outdoor and sports enthusiast who needs a watch that offers in-depth metrics for a range of activities, the Fenix 6 is it. Garmin’s premium wearable is an impressive blend of feature and functionality. It also comes with more health monitoring tools compared to the Watch SE. If you need an all-around device to keep you company in your adventures, then the Fenix 6 is worth a look.

FAQs

๐Ÿ“Œ What’s the difference between the Apple Watch SE and Garmin Fenix 6?

The Apple Watch SE is a more affordable version of Apple’s flagship wearable. While it largely carries the same design as regular models, the Watch SE doesn’t come with the standard ECG app and the newer blood oxygen sensor. Meanwhile, the Garmin Fenix 6 is a multi-sport watch designed for sports and outdoor enthusiasts. It comes with basic smart features, alongside support for a broad range of activities.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does the Apple Watch SE come in Blue and Red?

No, the Apple Watch SE doesn’t come with new Blue and Red case colors available with the Apple Watch Series 6.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Garmin Fenix 6 better than the Apple Watch SE for fitness?

Garmin’s Fenix 6 offers more insights when it comes to fitness metrics.

๐Ÿ“Œ Can I use the Garmin Fenix 6 for calls?

The Garmin Fenix 6 doesn’t come with a microphone or loudspeaker, so you can’t take or make calls using the watch itself.

Last update on 2022-08-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Mari Bassig

Senior Editor, writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, social media, and music.