The Alta HR is Fitbit's best ever tracker.
When it comes to wearables no company is more well-known right now than Fitbit and with good reason. They consistently put out decent fitness trackers and let’s face it, they’ve made managed to build up a reputation and have solidified themselves as the popular brand, and that popularity has helped skyrocket them to the top of the wearables market. We’ve recently been able to spend some time with one of their latest wearables, the Alta HR, and it’s every bit as good as the original Alta model but with a major improvement. It has the heart rate sensor built in.
Now, this isn’t the only change they have made to the Alta since putting out the first model, but it is the most noticeable change. Beyond that, there are some other more subtle adjustments that have been implemented to the tracker this time around, and depending on how you look at it, it has at least one more improvement with the new clasp style that’s been used. Let’s take a look at the new tracker and see how it stacks up against the old one.
Design & Build Quality
For the most part the design of the Fitbit Alta HR is pretty much the same as the original Alta. A few minor adjustments to the look of the band have refined it just enough while still keeping the great design of the original, thus helping the Alta keep its svelte form factor which is what makes the Alta appealing in many respects. As noted, the biggest change of the Alta HR when it comes to the design is the new heart rate sensor that’s now embedded in the tracker, though in reality this is more of a functionality change than a design change. All the same though it does add some difference to the look of the new tracker so it’s fitting to add it in here. Design wise, the first real adjustment that’s been made that actually is a difference in the design department is the new clasp. On the old Alta, the clasp snapped into place and you could loosen or tighten the band just by snapping the clasp into one of the numerous holes on the other side of the band. With the new Alta HR, the clasp is basically the same as it is on a watch or a belt. It has a short pin that fits into one of the holes on the opposite side of the band and you can adjust the fit in the same way, loosening or tightening, just by fitting the pin into a different hole. Additionally, there is now also a loop that you can secure the end of the band into so the fit doesn’t come easily undone during activities, similar to a belt loop.
The actual tracker comes apart from the band the same way as it did on the regular Alta, which is by pushing up on these little levers from the underside of the tracker, and at the same time this unlocks them from the band so you can disengage the tracker, which allows you to fit it into a new band color or style, like the bangle-style stainless steel bracelet or one of the leather straps which are perfect for continuing to wear the Alta HR in a more professional, day to day setting or a night out. When wearing during more active moments, like exercise, you can keep using the silicone bands. Of course which band you choose is purely preference and the other options are merely there as a fashionable accessory option if you want to switch things up. The only downside for something like the metal bracelet is that it only comes in the small/medium size, so those with larger wrists won’t be able to wear it. I for example usually have the large size silicone band, which is what Fitbit sent me for the Alta HR, and which is the size I have for my original Alta. I was still able to wear the metal bracelet but it just barely fit me and almost pushed past the point of discomfort. Because I have somewhat smaller wrists though I can manage wearing it without it feeling too tight or uncomfortable. One last little design change that is less likely to be noticed is that Fitbit has now placed their logo on the display of the tracker at one bottom edge. This is certainly minor, but it wasn't present on the original Alta.
As for the build quality, it’s built just as solid as the last model and is still durable, as well as water and dust resistant, which means you won’t have to worry about sweat or rain, though you wouldn’t want to submerge it in water or subject it to water for unnecessarily long periods of time. The tracker does have a nice feel to it though and it actually feels a little bit more comfortable to me than the original Alta. Just like the original there is also still no buttons and all interaction is handled by tapping the display, which is how you wake it and cycle through the different activities that it tracks. You can also wake the display by simply raising your arm as if you’re going to look at it which is quite a bit easier if you want to check the tracker but your other hand isn't free. There is also a slight change to the pattern on the silicone band though you wouldn’t know it without looking closely at both models.
When it comes to the main function that the Alta HR is there to provide its users, everything is the same here except for one thing, and that’s the “HR” part of the tracker. The heart rate sensor being built in means that it can now track your heart rate continuously and you can see this information at any given time just by tapping on the display and cycling through the different stats. You can also configure what you see first upon waking the display by going into the Fitbit app and customizing things to your liking, though we’ll cover that a bit more in the actual app portion of this review.
In addition to your heart rate, the Alta HR will also track your steps, your calories burned, your distance, and it can auto track your sleep patterns and sleep stages. It can track your other exercises too using the smart tracking recognition feature, and you still get other benefits like the ‘move reminders’ and the alerts from calls, texts, calendar alerts, and other incoming notifications from the smartphone you connect the tracker to. It's worth noting though that you have to connect to the tracker to the Fitbit app on your phone and enable the notifications function if you want alerts for them. For the most part it’s equipped to function like any other tracker from Fitbit, save from the built-in GPS feature and a few of the functions you’d find on devices like the Fitbit Surge.
Fitbit boasts about a 7-day battery life for the Alta HR on a single charge and this is mostly accurate, though I didn’t quite make it to a full 7 days before having to plug it back in. That being said I was able to wear for about five and half days, nearly six, before it needed another charge, so the battery life wasn’t too far off from what’s listed on the Fitbit website. All in all, the battery life is great and you could easily wear it all the way through a work week and not need to charge it until you get home on a Friday night. This means you can go about your daily routines and have one less device to have to worry about.
The Fitbit app has gone through quite a few changes since the app was first released for Android quite some time ago, but it really hasn’t changed much if at all since we did our review on the Fitbit Charge 2, which is one of Fitbit’s other new trackers. For those that may have been away from Fitbit for a while, the app does have a new dashboard layout so it looks a bit different if you haven’t seen it in the last six months to a year or so.
With the app you can really dive deep into the Fitbit experience and get a much more detailed look at your fitness stats, from activities like running, outdoor or indoor cycling and more to your resting heart rate and even your monitored sleep data, if you happen to use the Alta HR for tracking it. You can see each day at a glance and once you open the app you’re always presented with the current day for the dashboard main screen. An easy tap of the left arrow button towards the top corner will take you back to previous days, and if you desire more detailed information on any activity you can simply tap on it to see graphs showing you specifics. Down at the bottom of the screen you’ll be able to flip between the different pages of the app like the challenges page which is filled with motivational tools/goals you can use to keep yourself active. There’s also the guidance page which has lists of different workouts you can do for exercise, and there’s a dedicated community page which has a few different tabs like the feed, a friends tab, and a groups tab.
You can easily find friends from here and also join various groups with other Fitbit users, and if at any point you want to share specific accomplishments you can do so by tapping on the camera, trophy, or exercise icons that sit towards the top right corner. Doing this lets you compose an achievement that you’ve reached and want to share with other community members. You can add photos to these achievements, as well as trophies or badges you may have recently acquired. Lastly there is also a notifications page which is more or less a dashboard for your notifications that have come in, though you will only see stuff on this page if you have notifications set to come through to your device. There’s a messages tab on this page too, which is where you can see your conversations between you and other Fitbit users. Overall, the app is much the same as it was back in November, but if you’re new to Fitbit, the app is definitely a robust experience that allows you to get the most out of your wearable. That being said, you don’t have to use the app, as you can login to your Fitbit Dashboard from the web as well, and you can even plug your Fitbit into your PC to charge it which also allows it to sync to the Dashboard web page, but keep in mind that you will need to use the app if you want to get phone notifications on the tracker.
In many ways the Fitbit Alta HR is the same Alta from before, but with notable improvements, making the Alta HR Fitbit's best ever tracker. With the heart rate sensor now built in it’s easy to keep track of your heart rate when out for a run or any other type of exercise and the new style of clasp actually feels more secure than before. That mixed with it not having much of a design change makes for an overall great experience as the Alta design was already great thanks to its slim form factor. Since it’s also capable of being used with the same interchangeable bands that launched alongside the original Alta you can save yourself some money if you've already purchased any of those band accessories but still want to upgrade to the new HR model.
Should you buy the Fitbit Alta HR?
If you’re in need of new wearable or don’t yet have one, or if you want to upgrade to the new Alta HR because you want the heart rate aspect of it, then yes, you should buy it as it’s a great tracker. The heart rate sensor was really the only thing that I personally thought the original Alta was missing, and now that it has that it’s the best possible tracker that Fitbit could have made in my opinion as I enjoy the slim design. If you’re not in the market for a new tracker but you have thought about getting a new one, then you should also consider it as it’s one of the best Fitbit has ever put out.