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Hands-on: Apple Watch Series 5 with always-on display and new case materials

By Kenny Yeo - 15 Sep 2019

Hands-on: Apple Watch Series 5 with always-on display and new case materials

Apple Watch Series 5 now has a display that never turns off.

For 2019, Apple has given its popular smartwatch some small but meaningful updates. The latest Apple Watch ― Apple Watch Series 5 ― finally has an Always-on Retina display. For some people, this is a big deal because it means you don’t have to raise your wrist to your face to tell the time. It’s great if you want to tell the time discreetly (at a long boring meeting perhaps) or if you are holding a particularly challenging yoga position.

In rest mode, the display goes dark and the second hand disappears. This reduces the need to update the display and reduces power consumption.

This is achieved using an LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxid) OLED display with a variable refresh rate that can go down to as low as 1Hz. This means the screen doesn’t have to refresh as frequently which conserves battery. You can see this happening on the Apple Watch Series 5. Instead of the screen going completely blank as it used to do, the screen now dims and the second hand disappears allowing you to still tell the time at a glance.

Ceramic is back and it's really white.

There are new case materials too. White ceramic makes a comeback and it’s absolutely gorgeous because the white of the ceramic is so striking. Titanium makes an appearance for the first time and it’s available in two finishes: a raw brushed finish and a black PVD finish. The raw brushed finish is particularly interesting because titanium has a certain hue that distinguishes it from the aluminium and stainless steel Apple Watches. On the wrist, the titanium model didn’t feel as light as I’d expect. It’s lighter than the stainless steel model but heftier than aluminium one.

Apart from the display and new case materials, there aren’t any other noticeable physical changes in Series 5. The size of the display and general dimensions of the case are the same, which is great because the case profile of Series 4 is faultless. Though it might be wider than previous Apple Watches, it’s much thinner too and that makes it a lot more comfortable and easy to wear.

The other changes are on the inside. The Apple Watch Series 5 is powered by Apple’s new S5 processor. Apple didn’t say much about this processor except that it’s a 64-bit dual-core processor that is twice as fast as the S3 processor in the Apple Watch Series 3 from two years ago.

Note the brushed finish on the titanium model.

Processor aside, the Apple Watch Series 5 also has a built-in compass and a new compass app. Casio has this in some of its ProTrek and G-Shock watches but the compass app in Series 5 is far snazzier to look at. It even includes your coordinates, elevation, and incline, which is very handy if you are trekking outdoors or if you are just curious about your surroundings.

Prices of the new Apple Watch Series 5 starts at S$599 for the GPS only model and S$749 for the GPS + Cellular model. That’s the same as last year’s Series 4. New to Series 5 is the Apple Watch Studio that lets you customise your watch by giving you the ability to pair it with any watch band you want.

Here's the Apple Watch Series 5 in Space Black titanium.

It’s also worth mentioning now that the new titanium and ceramic cases will cost a pretty penny as they will be part of the revived Apple Watch Series 5 Edition collection. Prices of the titanium Apple Watch Series 5 starts at S$1,159 and prices of the ceramic Apple Watch Series 5 starts at S$1,899. And finally, there will also be the usual Nike+ and Hermès variants.

You can order the Apple Watch Series 5 today and they will start shipping next Friday on 20 September.