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Fitbit Alta HR Review

Price:   $150 List | $149.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Small, comfortable, discreet
Cons:  Screen isn’t responsive, finicky
Bottom line:  The heart rate sensor is a welcome addition to the Alta, but it still isn’t quite an award winner
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Fitbit

Our Verdict

Updating the prior version, Fitbit added a heart rate sensor to this model of the Alta. However, while this is a welcome improvement, the performance of the Alta HR isn't quite enough to merit it an award. This fitness tracker might be a solid bet if you want an exceptionally discreet fitness tracker without sacrificing too many features, but we did find the finicky touchscreen to be exceptionally frustrating.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Fitness Trackers and Activity Monitors of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
David Wise


Last Updated:
Wednesday
August 23, 2017

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This Fitbit Alta HR scored in the upper half of the group, but still failed to distinguish itself as one of our top picks. It scored decently well across our range of rating metrics, but we found the bulk of the Fitbit line to be much more preferable to the Alta HR. This model is an alright option if you want an exceptionally discreet fitness tracker or if you want a piece of wearable tech that is substantially more petite than the competitors.

The Fitbit Alta HR.
The Fitbit Alta HR.

Performance Comparison


To see which fitness tracker topped the rest, we bought the top models on the market and tested them side-by-side, conducting over 25 different tests to rate the performance of each wearable. These tests were divided up among five weighted rating metrics, the results of which are detailed below.

We found the Alta HR to be above average  not amazing  when it came to fitness impact.
We found the Alta HR to be above average, not amazing, when it came to fitness impact.

Fitness Impact


Meriting the most weight out of all of our metrics, Fitness Impact accounts for 30% of the total score. We compared the accuracy of the step counter, the abilities of each model to track a cycling or cardio workout, what other activities each model could track, whether it not it kept track of stairs climbed, and how much of a community is available to compete and share your results. The Alta HR scored decently well, earning a 6 out of 10 for its above average showing.

This model was quite accurate in our step counting tests, only showing an average discrepancy of about 45 steps on a mile walk — or a variation of around 2.1%.

There was a little variation between the Alta HR's step count and the true one.
There was a little variation between the Alta HR's step count and the true one.

However, it's estimated distance was always spot on, measuring in our mile walk as exactly a mile. This model didn't do a great job when it came to tracking workouts or cycling, failing to show too much additional data besides calories burned and duration. This model should automatically start tracking an activity after 15 minutes, but we always found it to be about 7-9 minutes off from the true duration. As expected with its name, the Alta HR does monitor your heart rate throughout the activity.

This fitness tracker didn't have too many other trackable activities in its suite of abilities, being limited to elliptical and a generic "Sports" listing, in addition to walking, running, cycling, and a cardio workout. This model also does not track the flights of stairs climbed throughout the day.

A competitive challenge with the Fitbit app to help you get up and get active.
Taking a virtual "Adventure" to Vernal Falls with the Fitbit app.
 

However, this product does give you access to the Fitbit online ecosystem and community. This was by far our favorite out of all the brands we tested, allowing you to compete with your friends and compare fitness stats, as well as participate in non-competitive challenges for that little extra motivation to get up and be active.

The Alta HR can help you establish habits leading to a healthier lifestyle.
The Alta HR can help you establish habits leading to a healthier lifestyle.

Health Impact


Moving on to our next rating metric, we compared the abilities of each product to aid you in building healthier habits. This set of tests made up 25% of the total score for each tracker, consisting of comparing the heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking skills of each tracker, as well as its ability to help in dieting and getting a healthier lifestyle, as well as if there is an alarm clock. The Fitbit Alta HR again did quite well, earning a 7 out of 10 for its above average showing.

Building on its predecessor, the Alta HR now includes an optical heart rate sensor. Unfortunately, this new addition didn't prove to be particularly accurate in our tests, doing a slightly sub standard job. We compared with a chest band heart rate monitor as a control, finding the Alta HR to be an astonishing average of about 33 bpm during activity. However, it was substantially more accurate at reading a resting heart rate, only varying from the chest strap by a few bpm.

The most noticeable addition to this model is the optical heart rate sensor.
The most noticeable addition to this model is the optical heart rate sensor.

Like other Fitbit models, you can enter food information in the app to help you maintain your diet, as well as calculating an estimate of the calories you've burned throughout the day.

This model also reminds you to get up and move every hour if you haven't taken at least 250 steps in that time. It also has automatic sleep tracking and a vibration alarm clock. The sleep tracking seemed reasonably accurate, lining up decently well with our recollections of the night.

The Alta HR has a claimed battery life of 7 days.
The Alta HR has a claimed battery life of 7 days.

Ease of Use


Ranking next in importance, our Ease of Use rating metric comprises 20% of the total score. We assessed the battery life of each model, how difficult it was to use the companion app and navigating menus on the device, how long it took to sync with your mobile device, as well as the water resistance and ease of putting on each device. The Alta HR did do decently well in this metric, again earning a 7 out of 10 for its solid performance.

The Alta HR did have a longer battery life than its predecessor, claimed to last up to 7 days before requiring a recharge. This model utilizes a proprietary charger that clips to the back of the watch.

The Alta HR uses a dedicated charger.
The Alta HR uses a dedicated charger.

This model syncs a day's worth of data to your phone relatively quickly — usually less than 10 seconds. It utilizes the same app as the other Fitbit models, which is one of our favorites. The app is easy to use and exceptionally intuitive, while still being loaded with features and functions.

This model definitely wasn't one of our favorites when it came to navigating the menus, with the touchscreen still being somewhat finicky and unresponsive, like the Fitbit Alta. Unfortunately, this model isn't swimming or shower proof, though it is sweat and rain proof. It's also quite easy to put on, with a watch style band that has some nice stiffness to it.

The watch-style claps makes this model substantially easier to put on compared to the original Alta.
The watch-style claps makes this model substantially easier to put on compared to the original Alta.

Ergonomics


Next in terms of weight is our Ergonomics metric, meriting 15% of the total score. We compared how comfortable each product is, its profile, and its overall aesthetics. The Alta HR again scored reasonably well, earning a 7 out of 10.

This product is quite comfortable, aided by its small size. This discreet little tracker makes it easier to forget that you are wearing one, but it is still noticeable, unlike the minuscule clip-on models. We did like the overall look of this model, with its sleek and stylish design in a handful of attractive colors. It also maintains a low profile on your wrist, preventing it from catching on too many things.

Display


Finally, the Display metric takes credit for the remaining 10% of the total score. We looked at how much information is displayed on the home screen, its visibility, and responsiveness, as well as what notifications are displayed. The Alta HR — unsurprisingly at this point — scored a 7 out of 10 for its good display, though it had a few quirks we weren't the fondest of.

This tracker displays the day, date and time on the home screen, but does not show the month. This 0.87"x0.98" screen does a decent job at being readable in dim lighting conditions, but it very hard to read in bright outdoor conditions.

The touchscreen is acceptably responsive when you get the hang of it, but can be exceptionally aggravating to use before you become accustomed to it. The Alta HR can show text, call, and calendar events, as well as the steps, distance, calories, and active minutes in further displays.

Value


This model is a decent value, but is outperformed by our top model, the Fitbit Charge 2, which has an identical list price.

Conclusion


The Alta HR is a great choice if you are searching for the most minimalistic and discreet fitness tracker possible AND need it to have a heart rate sensor. Other than that, there are plenty of other models that would probably serve you better.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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