Apple Watch Ultra vs. Series 8

Apple Watch Ultra vs. Series 8

This post is part of the 2023 LITPro GPS Device Shootout series. To learn more about the details of this shootout, including format, devices we tested, and how we determine a winner, go here: 2023 GPS Shootout Intro.

Matchup #3 - Apple Watch Ultra vs. Apple Watch Series 8


Testing was conducted at Fox Raceway in Pala, CA. This is a Southern California track in a great location for GPS device testing. There isn’t a lot of tree cover, or mountainous landscape to obscure satellites on the horizon.

Apple Watch Ultra vs. Apple Watch Series 8 (on the wrist)

9:53AM - GPS Watches Mounted on Wrist
Lap Reference GPS Apple Watch Ultra Apple Watch Series 8 Apple Watch Ultra vs. Reference Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Reference
1 02:46.0 02:46.1 no data 00:00.1 __
2 02:25.4 02:25.5 02:29.1 00:00.1 00:03.7
3 02:20.5 02:20.4 02:23.2 00:00.1 00:02.7
4 02:18.2 02:18.2 no data 00:00.0 __
5 02:16.2 02:16.8 02:17.4 00:00.6 00:01.2
6 02:14.5 02:14.2 no data 00:00.3 __
7 02:14.3 02:13.9 02:12.3 00:00.4 00:02.0
8 02:24.7 02:25.3 02:21.2 00:00.6


9 02:11.5 02:11.1 no data 00:00.4


10 02.11.0 02:10.8 no data 00:00.3 __
Average 02:20.2 02:20.2 02:20.6 00:00.0
Largest Delta 00:00.6 00:03.7
Total 23:22.3 23:22.3



Fox Raceway route lines from RaceBox Mini S reference GPS device
Apple Watch Series 8 vs Reference GPS route lines Apple Watch Ultra vs Reference GPS Device route lines
Reference GPS on fender Apple Watch Series 8 (green) vs. reference GPS on fender (red) Apple Watch Ultra (green) vs. reference GPS on fender (red)


Head to Head Results:

On the wrist:

#1 Top-down visual ranking Apple Watch Ultra vs. Apple Watch Series 8 on the wrist (subjective):

The winner in this category is clearly the Apple Watch Ultra. The Apple Watch Series 3 through their latest, Series 8, are all capable of GPS tracking. However, while the initial accuracy of the Series 3 watch was very high, Series 4 watches marked the introduction of the "always on" screen and GPS performance tanked, particularly on a motocross track. What LITPro suspects is Apple engineers needed to find power savings to run that always-on screen and GPS accuracy was sacrificed as a result. The Apple Watch Series 4 through 8, and their SE, are faulty in this one respect, which makes the Series 3 and ultra pricey Ultra the only Apple watches of any dependability on a motocross style track (again, enduro style riding, or point 2 point style riding might be fine still). 

#2 Timing accuracy Apple Watch Ultra vs. Apple Watch Series 8 on the wrist (non-subjective ):

The winner of lap time accuracy is also the Apple Watch Ultra. With the Ultra, when compared with the reference device, the average lap was off by only two tenths of a second. With the Apple Watch series 8, we were only able to track five laps, and that was only doable with our auto generated track configuration created specifically for when GPS tracking is of poor quality.  In short, the Apple Watch Series 8 performed too poorly to even be a real contender.

On the handlebars:

* Special notes about this test *

Normal format for GPS watches is to put the device on the handlebars. But in this test, we couldn't collect data from the handlebar because Apple has a feature where if it doesn't detect a heart rate it auto pauses and goes into lock screen mode. Not even the Ultra stays in tracking mode when it can't sense a heart rate.


Wrap Up Summary:

 The Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Series 3 are really the only usable devices for motocross style tracks. If you were out in the backcountry doing longer point-to-point riding and not changing speed or direction frequently, then any of the Apple Watches would give accurate results, heart rate included. But for a motocross style track, your options from Apple are the Series 3 and the Ultra, period. Forget the Apple Watch Series 4 through 8 (and SE models).

The winner of this round is the Apple Watch Ultra!

2023 GPS Shootout Bracket
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