Stainless Steel vs Aluminum

rockitdog

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What are the benefits to each metal? On the surface aluminum would seem to be the better choice as its lighter and less prone to scratching. Why is Stainless Steel preferred? Help me understand.
 

Relentless Power

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Jul 12, 2016
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What are the benefits to each metal? On the surface aluminum would seem to be the better choice as its lighter and less prone to scratching. Why is Stainless Steel preferred? Help me understand.
The 7000 series aluminum on the Sport model is 40% lighter than the 316 L stainless steel used on the Apple Watch. The 7000 Series aluminum is very durable, lightweight and holds up fairly well to scratches, dings and dents. However, once it's damaged, you cannot remove the scratches or any scuffs off the aluminum. It's Also very corrosion resistant.

The 316 L stainless steel used on the stainless Apple Watch has a high polished shine and is a much softer, denser metal. If it's scratches, it can be removed/buffed out by using a Cape Cod cloth. The Downside to the 316 L stainless steel is that it scratches/scuffs very easily when compared to the aluminum.

The stainless is preferred in my opinion, because it has more substantial feeling, aesthetically it's more pleasing than aluminum, and the fact that you can remove the scratches for the most part with a polishing cloth.

Some prefer the aluminum model because it's more lightweight and is ideal for fitness. Where as the stainless model can easily be paired with a variety of bands, can be dressed up or down, and just has more substantiality from my experiences.
 

MacDevil7334

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Stainless steel does scratch a bit more easily than the aluminum on the sport models. However, you can buff out most light scratches on the steel model, whereas they are permanent on the aluminum. Really though, the main reason to get the stainless steel model is not the metal on the casing but rather the screen. The sapphire crystal on the stainless model is far more scratch resistant than the Ion-X Glass on the aluminum model. That alone is worth the extra expense in my mind, as I bump my watch on things all the time and don't want the screen to scratch. The risk is even higher with an Apple Watch for me since I also wear it to work out.

Also, I think the stainless steel version just looks better than the aluminum. Much closer to a traditional watch.
 

M-5

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Jan 4, 2008
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When I first purchased the original Apple Watch, I went with the stainless steel because of the aesthetics. It was too expensive at the time however, so I returned it. A couple years later I wanted an Apple Watch again, so I went with the cheaper aluminum sport watch.

The aluminum watch was lighter than the stainless steel watch, which is nice if you use the Apple Watch as a fitness device, although I personally liked the more substantial feel of the stainless steel watch since it feels more premium. I decided to go back to a Stainless steel watch, since the early models are now much more affordable. The sapphire display is also very nice.

My SS watch has gotten a few scratches, although I was able to buff them out nicely and it was very easy to do. I also think the SS watch looks more like a traditional watch, and it matches with a much larger variety of bands than the aluminum watches in my opinion.
 

convergent

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May 6, 2008
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Stainless steel may get surface "scratches" but you can buff them out at any point. If the aluminum gets a scratch on its anodized surface then its there for good. Also, the SS matches many of the bands better and looks classier.
 
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SDColorado

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I went with the aluminum for my Gen 1 thinking the lighter weight metal would be better for sports fitness but went with the SBSS for my Series 2. Space Black is a whole different discussion due to the diamond-like coating. It resists scratches very well, but like the aluminum, if you do manage to do it, they are there to stay. A scuff or little scratch here or there gives the watch character and a "lived in" feel imho, so I don't mind either way

That said, as far as weight differences. The only time I ever notice it, is when taking it off or putting it on, once on the wrist, the weight difference goes away.

Another factor to keep in mind is the glass type for each watch. The aluminum watch uses a lighter IonX glass, that isn't as scratch resistant but may not shatter as easy. The stainless steel versions use sapphire crystal, which is heavier and much more resistant to scratches but may shatter easier in a drop.
 
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PensiveDeepThought

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May 8, 2017
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What are the benefits to each metal? On the surface aluminum would seem to be the better choice as its lighter and less prone to scratching. Why is Stainless Steel preferred? Help me understand.
why not gold? a lot of times, they are just prestige differentiations. i personally picked the black aluminum. because as an active user, i suspect that i am going to smash the watch sooner or later.. and it happened. a lot less $$$ lost.
 

Relentless Power

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Jul 12, 2016
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why not gold? a lot of times, they are just prestige differentiations. i personally picked the black aluminum. because as an active user, i suspect that i am going to smash the watch sooner or later.. and it happened. a lot less $$$ lost.
What do you mean "Why not Gold." Gold is offered in aluminum only. It has the same consistencies as the other aluminum models.
 

SDColorado

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What do you mean "Why not Gold." Gold is offered in aluminum only. It has the same consistencies as the other aluminum models.
Maybe means the discontinued gold Apple Watch Edition series? Dunno.

With Apple Care there is only a $10 difference between smashing an Aluminum or stainless vs Hermés or Edition. With the more expensive models, you get 3 years vs 2 to smash it under the warranty period :)
 

Relentless Power

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Jul 12, 2016
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Maybe means the discontinued gold Apple Watch Edition series? Dunno.

With Apple Care there is only a $10 difference between smashing an Aluminum or stainless vs Hermés or Edition. With the more expensive models, you get 3 years vs 2 to smash it under the warranty period :)
$10,000 to smash an 18 Karat Gold Apple Watch? I was just indicating that gold is only offered in aluminum currently, which is nothing more than the same consistency as the other aluminum models. Gold has a status symbol, but Gold in aluminum looks sort of cheap in my opinion. I would prefer the silver, even though I own the stainless models.

I can't speak for AppleCare on the watch, as I don't have that specifically for my Apple Watch. But it's a good thing to have.
 
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SDColorado

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I have not needed it yet for an AW. I had it on my Gen 1 and so far no issues. I did purchase it again for the SS Series 2. $49 seemed a cheap enough piece of mind for the option of a damage replacement.

My wife and I have both had to use Apple Care a couple of times on phones and I had to have the display replaced twice on my 13" MBP due to delaminating issues. I don't really know if I have saved money or lost it over the years, but I have been happy to have it when I needed it. Like most insurance, it always seems expensive until you need it :)

 
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Ricktye

macrumors newbie
Jun 24, 2012
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While the sapphire crystal is indeed harder, it performs poorly compared to the Ion-X glass.... A choice each user will have to make for himself, hardness or a better display.

Stainless steel does scratch a bit more easily than the aluminum on the sport models. However, you can buff out most light scratches on the steel model, whereas they are permanent on the aluminum. Really though, the main reason to get the stainless steel model is not the metal on the casing but rather the screen. The sapphire crystal on the stainless model is far more scratch resistant than the Ion-X Glass on the aluminum model. That alone is worth the extra expense in my mind, as I bump my watch on things all the time and don't want the screen to scratch. The risk is even higher with an Apple Watch for me since I also wear it to work out.

Also, I think the stainless steel version just looks better than the aluminum. Much closer to a traditional watch.
 

MacDevil7334

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While the sapphire crystal is indeed harder, it performs poorly compared to the Ion-X glass.... A choice each user will have to make for himself, hardness or a better display.
I'm assuming you're referring to screen reflectivity here? If so, that is definitely true but is easily counteracted by the brighter screen on the Series 2. I'd gladly take the scratch resistance over a slightly less reflective screen.
 
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Relentless Power

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While the sapphire crystal is indeed harder, it performs poorly compared to the Ion-X glass.... A choice each user will have to make for himself, hardness or a better display.
Hardness over a better display? What's consider a better display reference the Ion-X Glass? I understand the reflectivity argument. But "Better" is subjective based on what your defintion of that is. As far as durability is considered, I would say the saphirre display trumps the Ion-X Glass.
 
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SDColorado

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Hardness over a better display? What's consider a better display reference the Ion-X Glass? I understand the reflectivity argument. But "Better" is subjective based on what your defintion of that is. As far as durability is considered, I would say the saphirre display trumps the Ion-X Glass.
I would also say that the photos in the tests above, do not represent real world viewing conditions. Having a Gen 1 sport and series 2 SBSS, both displays look fine in real world use.
 

Relentless Power

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I would also say that the photos in the tests above, do not represent real world viewing conditions. Having a Gen 1 sport and series 2 SBSS, both displays look fine in real world use.
My experiences disagree with yours. I also owned the Sport model at one point. I personally was not impressed with the durability of the Ion-X display with scratches. When I upgraded to the stainless model, I have had zero scratches on the display after multiple accidental encounters. The Ion-X Glass would be no where near the condition of my sapphire display after the duration I have owned it. But I understand it varies on the exposure and how it happened.
 

Thai

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Feb 2, 2016
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I think most first timers to smart watches will get the cheaper model to try out. But, for me, there is no doubt...SS/sapphire all the way. Now, if Apple offers black ceramic/sapphire combo in future, then i will jump for that!
 

SDColorado

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My experiences disagree with yours. I also owned the Sport model at one point. I personally was not impressed with the durability of the Ion-X display with scratches. When I upgraded to the stainless model, I have had zero scratches on the display after multiple accidental encounters. The Ion-X Glass would be no where near the condition of my sapphire display after the duration I have owned it. But I understand it varies on the exposure and how it happened.
I really was referring more to the clarity and readability of the display, not the durability. The linked test makes it appear that the SS model looks horrible in bright light due to the reflectivity of the sapphire crystal, but the reality is, it looks great and not discernibly different from the IonX in real world use.

Durability wise, the Sapphire Crystal holds up to daily wear better.
 
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Relentless Power

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I really was referring more to the clarity and readability of the display, not the durability. The linked test makes it appear that the SS model looks horrible in bright light due to the reflectivity of the sapphire crystal, but the reality is, it looks great and not discernibly different from the IonX in real world use.

Durability wise, the Sapphire Crystal holds up to daily wear better.
My mistake. I thought you were referring to the durability between both displays. Then, yes I do agree with you.
 
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SDColorado

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My mistake. I thought you were referring to the durability between both displays. Then, yes I do agree with you.
Sorry for the confusion. I was referring to the photos in the linked test of the displays, that made the sapphire crystal look very washed out and hard to read. I had seen that same test prior to buying a SS model and other similar photos, that honestly steered me away from thinking I wanted one. But after seeing one in the store and knowing I had 14 days to return it, if I didn't like it, I took a chance on one. The display is bright and clear even on sunny days. I am very pleased with it, despite the initial worries.
 

KarimLeVallois

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Feb 22, 2014
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Sorry for the confusion. I was referring to the photos in the linked test of the displays, that made the sapphire crystal look very washed out and hard to read. I had seen that same test prior to buying a SS model and other similar photos, that honestly steered me away from thinking I wanted one. But after seeing one in the store and knowing I had 14 days to return it, if I didn't like it, I took a chance on one. The display is bright and clear even on sunny days. I am very pleased with it, despite the initial worries.
That test I linked was for the Series 0 (and has not been updated for the Series 2, unless I'm being blind) and is nowhere near as obvious on the Series 2 with the much brighter display. I have both a SS and Sport Series 2 and I can't really notice much difference in direct sunlight.
 

The Game 161

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Basically £300 cheaper than SS and does all the same things. I have a first gen SS but really as nice as it looked price wise going with the cheaper option made more sense with how I use mine
 
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