Fitbit updated the Alta a few weeks ago with a heart rate sensor, creating what it called the slimmest wrist-worn tracker of its kind. I’ve had the chance to play with the Alta HR for about a week, and yeah, it’s tiny. So much so that you wouldn’t look totally awkward wearing the Alta on one wrist and a traditional wristwatch on the other.
Using it has been an overall pleasant experience. That it has a week of battery life is an impressive bit of engineering. In my testing, heart rate, steps, and sleep tracking were pretty much identical to the Charge 2. Awesome. But it also exactly the same as the Charge 2, and has some notable omissions:
- No Multi-Sport mode, which provides workout-specific stats
- No altimeter
- No Connected GPS (paired GPS tracking via your phone)
- No Guided Breathing
Fitbit did introduce some new features with the Alta, such as a Sleep Insights feature that provides suggestions on how to snooze more restfully based on your fitness habits. But these features are coming to other trackers via an update, so it’s not some exclusive thing.
Really, the only reason to buy an Alta HR over the Charge 2 is style. That’s not an insult; the Alta HR is about as inconspicuous as a wrist-worn tracker gets, much less one with a heart-rate sensor. For reference, that’s about half the width of the already-slim Charge 2.
But it’s also not so slim that I think it provides a meaningful alternative to the Charge 2 for most people – let alone a tracker that actually looks like a watch. The Charge 2 is still very small, gets almost as much battery (5 days), and has useful extras like GPS tracking.
My main caveat is that the Alta HR has neither any buttons nor a proper touchscreen (you can ‘tap’ on it to cycle through displays, but that’s it). That means you can’t manually start a workout, and have to rely on automated detection instead. It works fine enough for simple repetitive movements like running, but it was never able to detect when I was strength training.
That may not be too big deal considering the Alta HR is still monitoring your heart rate every second, unlike some other trackers, but it’s an unfortunate omission for those of us who like to keep every workout meticulously logged and assure the most accurate estimates. It also means you have no stopwatch function on the device, which is rather frustrating.
None of this is to say the Alta is a bad option – far from it. It’s a lot smaller than most of the competition, and having more choices is always a good thing. But unless you have the tiniest of wrists or want to wear a tracker alongside a traditional watch, you should almost certainly just get a Charge 2 instead.
If the Alta HR is to your liking though, you can pick up one up from Amazon for $150.
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Published March 29, 2017 — 00:09 UTC