Fitbit is one of those brands that continuously try to build the gap between fitness and wellbeing. With its latest fitness tracker, the Alta HR, Fitbit is offering a choice for style-holics to track their fitness and day-to-day activities with a fashionable device.
Compared to its predecessor, the Fitbit Alta fitness band now accommodates a heart rate monitor that allows you to track even high intensity workouts. Improved sleep tracking with much better insights further expands the scope of this device to improve your health. While it still lacks some features to make it suitable for athletes, the Fitbit Alta HR is a device for people with modest fitness goals
The Good and The Bad of Fitbit Alta HR
15mm slim and sleek design
Improved 7-day battery life
Heart rate monitor
Improved sleep tracking
Support for third party app notifications
Not water resistant
Small screen makes reading notification tough
No on-band controls
Poor display in bright light
Features of Fitbit Alta HR
On the design front you won’t mind much difference in the Fitbit Alta HR from the original device, but Fitbit has done a nice job at improving the functionality of this device. Now you get a heart sensor in the same size device with an improved battery life of 7 days.
The strap has now got a buckle to better fit your wrist as heart rate sensor requires a tight wrap around your wrist to function. You won’t feel uncomfortable wearing it to work or the gym. The Fitbit straps that come with Alta HR are available in two sizes-small and large. If you had the original Alta then you can also use its strap with this fitness device.
All the hardware crammed into a 15mm body make the Fitbit Alta HR very lightweight, we were impressed how Fitbit is able to build a heart rate sensor into the device without affecting its weight. We are disappointed that the Alta HR is not swim or shower resistant. Although it is resistant to rain and sweat, but with the new heart rate monitor inbuilt it was expected from the Fitbit to make it swim resistant.
With no buttons onboard, the Fitbit Alta HR continues with screen design of the original version. To swipe through menu options you need to tap the monochrome screen. The twist-to-wake gesture is consistent and works every time. The screen is yet marred with poor brightness in daylight. It gets hard to read the information on the screen in bright light conditions. Also at times, we found ourselves tapping the screen more than necessary to get the information we were looking for.
The inclusion of the new optical HR sensor makes the Fitbit Alta HR a better activity tracker though it lacks advanced features like the VO2 Max, GPS and workout modes. Absence of these features is acceptable given that the Alta HR is for moderate fitness tracking, but no guided breathing support is unexpected. However, this should not discourage you from considering this fitness tracker as a reliable device that helps you to improve your wellbeing by tracking useful metrics.
Heart tracking takes place at an interval of 5 seconds throughout the day. We closely monitored the data, the Fitbit Alta HR’s heart rate sensor collected and found it to be pretty accurate. You get useful insights like the average resting rate and heart rate zones that provides you an overview of your overall health. It is always advised to keep an eye on resting heart rate and this fitness tracker is able to fulfill this need effectively.
There is no Connected GPS in this device, yet you can use it to track your cycling and running sessions. As mentioned before, there are no workout modes so you cannot start tracking your workout from the Alta HR device or the app, but the SmartTrack feature in the device will track your activities through the day and automatically detects when you start running or cycling. You can also adjust the time before the automatic tracking kicks in, this option in available in setting menu in the app.
Testing the heart rate monitoring accuracy of the Alta HR, we matched it again chest wrap heart monitor. During the run or intensive workouts we found that the fitness tracker is able to track the highs in heart rate appreciable well but it falls back when measuring troughs. However, like the Charge 2, the final heart rate data you get in the app is adjusted by the Fitbit algorithm and you get an accurate heart rate reading. This is why we recommend that you rely more on app heart rate insights than the reading you get on the device.
During our running test we found the Fitbit Alta HR missed at some instances to read the data due to heavy sweat. It is disappointing as the device is sweatproof, but it doesn’t have the accuracy to perform during intensive workouts. That being said, we found that the misses were not shown in the reading and we think Fitbit makes use of some guess work to correct the reading. We took off the tracker and wiped the sweat off it before it started tracking again.
Step tracking is similar to the Charge 2. But it lacks the same accuracy as we found the Fitbit Alta HR to overcount the steps, not a large difference but noticeable. However, when we tweaked the stride length in the app setting, we got much better accuracy when counting steps.
Sleep tracking and insights
Sleep tracking is somewhat the forte of Fitbit devices. All the fitness trackers from the brand do quite well, but nothing more when it comes to sleep tracking. With the Alta HR, Fitbit is trying to move past the good enough mark by adding new sleep tracking features.
Fitbit is getting this fitness tracker to focus on sleep as much as on overall wellbeing. Now with a heart rate tracking sensor, the Fitbit Alta HR is tracking sleep better and providing deeper insights over simplistic data that most other Fitbit trackers provide. This fitness tracker is not only able to track the duration of your sleep but also its quality. For this purpose it brings pulls data from heart rate monitor and the accelerometer. For instance, in the REM sleep your heart rate is varying frequently, but your body is still. Inferring the quality of sleep from these factors helps the Alta HR to track sleep accurately.
You will notice the difference in the sleep insights provided by the app. The conventional bar chart representation of your sleep data is now supported by deeper insight that informs you how often you moved between, light, deep and REM sleep along with the duration of this phase. Fitbit helps you understand what this insight means, by detailing how each sleep stage affects your health. And yes, there’s a Benchmark option in the app that allows you to compare your sleeping stats with other people of the same age and gender.
We were impressed how useful Sleep Insights, the little tips that you will find Fitbit throwing up in the morning at times, are. These tips are not the general yada yada, but potential helpful tips that are based on your lifestyle and sleeping habits. In the long term these can really help you with improving your sleep quality.
While the Fitbit Alta HR hits almost a perfect score in sleep tracking, the silent alarm function of this feature needs work. We understand the motive behind this function-to wake up to a gentle buzz. It is a useful function to wake up early in the morning without disturbing your partner with the blaring sound of alarm. The problem is most of the time the vibration of the Alta HR’s alarms is not strong enough to wake you up. If you are a light sleeper then it’s different, but for most people it simply doesn’t work. Unfortunately, you cannot adjust the vibration level in this device. What’s even worse is the alarm hits only thrice before it snoozes, that makes it easy to ignore the alarm.
Notifications and Battery Life
You will get notifications for calls, texts and calendar event alerts in the Alta HR. The problem is due to the small screen and poor display in bright light, the message notifications are not very useful. As far as call alerts are concerned, it is useful to have notifications on, as the Fitbit Alta HR will notify you if you can’t hear your phone ringing. Like most other Fitbit devices, this fitness tracker also supports notifications for a number of third party applications like the Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. Again the problem is reading these messages on a small screen and scrolling through them on the screen when reading them in your phone is a lot easier. But, the real notification value of the Alta HR is for fitness alerts. The device will poke you every hour if you haven’t met the minimum 250 steps per hour goal. You can adjust from the setting, how often the fitness tracker alerts you and on which days of the week.
What we take as the best improvement in the Fitbit Alta HR, is the battery life. The inclusion of heart rate monitor made way for more battery consumption, but Fitbit done an excellent job at juicing the battery of this device even more. Unlike the original Alta’s 5-day battery backup, the Alta HR has been claimed to keep awake for 7 days with a single charge. In our benchmark, we were able to keep this device working for six days and 18 hours.
While there are other fitness trackers like the Withings Steel HR with a 25-day battery life, cramping more battery life in a 15mm body is no easy feat. Fitbit has done appreciable improvement on battery life with this fitness tracker.
Reasons to choose Fitbit Alta HR
We found that of all the fitness trackers we have tested, the Fitbit Alta HR is still by far the lightest and most comfortable device. The bands for the device are reliable and hold the core module in place nicely. There are many colors to choose from that further, expands the tracker’s style statement. Even on using this tracker roughly, we are satisfied that it is durable.
Unlike most affordable fitness trackers, the Alta HR provides accurate enough data on resting heart rate, step and distance tracking. This is the main goal of a fitness tracking in the low-cost segment, to be reliable enough for day-to-day use.
If you are bored of the rubbery and chunky fitness trackers, then for almost the same price you get the Fitbit Alta HR which is made to accessorize your wrist. All day heart rate monitoring and a 7-day battery life make this fitness tracker many times better than its predecessor. You will definitely improve your sleep quality with better sleep tracking and a lot more useful insights. A great app is another reason to consider this fitness tracker. With a community of over 23 million active users, Fitbit offers you the opportunity to set up weekly challenges with your friends and family through the app. This is a major reason why people are attracted to Fitbit app-it keeps them motivated and active.
Overall, as a package the Fitbit Alta HR is a well suited day-to-day fitness tracker that you can wear during work, play and exercise.
Fitbit Alta HR keeps up to the expectation of being an average overall fitness tracker. It delivers what it promises-consistent and reliable heart rate monitoring, daily activity tracking and insights to make healthier choices. Additionally, this fitness tracker has got a lot more stamina than other Fitbit devices and can last up to a week.
Stylish design and affordable cost, is what makes the Fitbit Alta HR a worthwhile consideration if you are looking for a fitness tracker that works better and looks even better.