- Instant feedback
- HR sensor
- Customisable design
- Not water resistant
- Sensors can be tricked
Our Fitbit Alta HR review takes a close look at the latest Fitbit fitness tracker, complete with digital display for real-time feedback of your stats. What’s the difference between the Alta HR and the Charge 2, and is this your ideal exercise partner?
Fitness fans will almost certainly know of the Fitbit brand. In 2016 we saw quite a few new wearable trackers launched by the American company, including its first foray into the realm of smartwatches. And while the Fitbit Blaze watch was rather flawed, the Flex 2 and Charge 2 trackers were easy to recommend to casual pavement pounders.
The Alta HR is Fitbit’s first tracker of 2017 and one of its more advanced models. You get a proper display for checking your daily progress and a heart rate sensor to test your recovery rate. As usual you get full support from the Fitbit mobile app too, for recording your efforts over time.
Here’s our in-depth Fitbit Alta HR review, after using it as our personal tracker for a full week.
Fitbit Alta HR review: Design
Fitbit’s Alta HR tracker uses a very familiar design to previous models, but in a more slender fashion. Like the Charge 2, the Alta HR is a dinky slab of plastic that’s worn on the wrist thanks to a detachable strap. It’s quite a chunky little device, but lightweight too. You’ll forget you’re even wearing the thing soon after you slip it onto your arm.
As standard, the Alta HR comes with a simple plastic strap in a choice of sizes. This is comfortable enough to wear indefinitely, without irritating the skin - even when you’re getting a serious sweat on. You get a selection of colours too, including the quite vibrant coral and fuchsia models. The plastic material looks quite cheap, but you can always swap it out for the leather or metal bands if you want something with a smarter appearance.
Sadly the Alta HR isn’t water resistant, just like the hydrophobic Charge 2. If you want a Fitbit tracker that can measure your swim sessions, check out the simple Flex 2 instead.
Fitbit Alta HR review: Setup and features
Setting up the Fitbit Alta HR is an easy enough procedure. Just download the free Fitbit app to your phone of choice (iOS or Android) and this leads you through the short and simple pairing process.
Your Fitbit will connect to your mobile and then can be configured directly through the app. This includes choosing the main ‘clock face’ from a small selection, setting up any silent alarms, enabling (or disabling) notification alerts and choosing your daily goals.
You can also set the Alta HR to sync with your phone automatically throughout the day (as long as they’re in range of each other). Alternatively, you can sync manually to save a bit of battery life.
The Fitbit Alta HR automatically logs any steps you take throughout the day and also attempts to record any exercise sessions with no input from yourself. As usual this is reasonably accurate, but can be thrown off by household activities such as cooking and cleaning. Cooking a risotto for instance was logged as over 1000 steps.
We recommend wearing on your non-dominant arm and taking the Alta off when you’re just kicking around the house, to avoid confusing the thing. Even informing the Fitbit that it’s sat on the dominant wrist via the app doesn’t seem to help much.
Fitbit’s app is improving all the time and now offers a comprehensive overview of your daily activities, resting heart rate, sleep quality and so on. You’re offered general advice on your health, while you can also record your dietary information. As usual you can also win badges y completing challenges and stay motivated with the help of friends.
Pretty much all of these features are also offered by the cheaper Flex 2, but the Alta HR’s main advantage is that long and thin display. This allows you to check your main stats at any time with a raise of the wrist or a double-tap of the screen. That wrist raising mechanism seems to actually work pretty well, even if it’s far from perfect, but the biggest improvement compared with the Fitbit Charge 2 is the sensitivity of the tap-to-wake action. With the Charge, you’d have to practically punch the screen to bring it to life. But the Alta HR is much better, waking every time you give it a sharp double poke.
Fitbit Alta HR review: Battery life
Fitbit reckons you’ll get roughly five days of use from the Alta HR between charges, and that estimate’s pretty much spot on. Our testing gave us just under five days of constant use before the juice ran out. That includes sleep tracking at night and the occasional check of the display, although for the most part we let the Alta HR simply record our activity and sync automatically.
That’s pretty much the same result as other Fitbit trackers, and a solid effort all things considered. After all, in addition to the step tracking, the device’s heart rate sensor regularly measures your pulse and records it to the app. If you want to check the tracker’s battery life however, you’ll need to head to the app - and the report is sadly vague (high, medium or low).
Charging the Fitbit’s battery is achieved by clipping the tracker onto the proprietary charger. This USB cable sadly doesn’t come with a plug adapter, so you’ll either need to plug the Alta HR into a computer (or some other device with a USB port) or find a plug from somewhere else.
Fitbit Alta HR review: Verdict
The Fitbit Alta HR doesn’t offer much of an improvement over the existing Charge 2, and in fact you might struggle to notice any real difference at first. However, the more compact design and improved screen sensitivity is definitely a step up over last year’s tracker. You get all of the features you’d expect from a smart tracker, including a feature-dense app and heart rate sensor, while the ability to change up the design is always appreciated.
In fact, if the Alta HR was water resistant and smart enough to recognise stationary activities (perhaps through your phone’s GPS), we’d have no hesitation in recommending it to more serious fitness fanatics. As it is, this tracker will best serve any casual users who want a bit of motivation to get out and get fit.
Check out the Fitbit Alta HR in action in our video unboxing and hands-on review below.