Reviews

Fitbit Alta HR Activity Tracker – User Review | GadFit

April 3, 2017

The new Fitbit Alta HR ($149.95) was built in the image of the tremendously popular Fitbit Alta; it’s the number 1 selling activity tracker on Amazon.

The hardware has stayed largely the same with the only difference being the addition of the optical heart rate sensors. This streamlining of design allows the new Alta HR to tap on to the accessory line that the original Alta birthed.

On the software features front, the new Fitbit Alta HR can categorise quality of sleep into the various sleep stages with heart rate variability and accelerometer data. This is on top of providing all day resting HR records and HR measurement during exercise.

The new features will merely warrant a $20 increase in price over the original Fitbit Alta. Sounds like a reasonable upgrade to me.

After a week with Fitbit’s newest activity tracker, here’s what I have to say.

FITBIT ALTA HR IN SHORT

Pros

  • All day activity tracker. Counts steps, distance, calories, and active minutes
  • Wrist based heart rate monitoring with Fitbit PurePulse tech
  • Resting heart rate and heart rate measurements during exercise
  • Auto sleep tracking and sleep stages metrics
  • Vibration enabled for alarms and smart notifications
  • SmartTrackAuto Exercise Recognition
  • Reminders to move
  • OLED display
  • Changeable wrist straps
  • Wireless syncing
  • Battery life listed as up to 7 days
  • Robust mobile app platform
  • Splash-proof; not suitable for swimming. Remove during shower

Cons

  • Lack of GPS or connected GPS
  • Not suitable for swimming
  • Workouts cannot be started or stopped manually
  • No guided meditation
  • No cardio scores compared versus Charge 2

As usual, I’d suggest you brew a cup of coffee or tea, sip slowly as you read through the review and enjoy the pictures. Drop me a note if there are any queries you may have which I didn’t manage to answer.

LOOK AND FEEL

The Fitbit Alta HR appears identical to the original Alta with the differing feature being the optical heart rate (OHR) sensor bump on the back of the fitness tracker.The changeable straps gives wearers options for accessorising; a design consideration which is rarely seen in most activity trackers these days.The strap is rigid in feel and only mildly stretchable. Fitbit recommends the user wears it loosely during all day wear; the Fitbit Alta HR should be able to slide up and down the wrist area easily. Then tighten up during exercise.

The screen is activated by wrist flicks and taps. The taps are not as responsive as I’d like it to be. I tend to over-tap and have to go round the entire carousel of stats before reaching the stat I was looking for. Hits and misses here with regard to tapping.The screen turns off after a few seconds but comes on easily with a wrist flick. Screen visibility under bright sunlight is a struggle so I regularly find myself using my palms to cover the display to check out the stats.

Visibility in the night or low light conditions is fine.fitbit alta unboxingThe activity tracker lasts up to 7 days on a single charge and is rain and splash proof only. This means your perspiration and the occasional caught-in-the-rain ventures should do no harm. Anything more is a big no-no.

FUNCTIONS

Having used fitness focused activity trackers from the likes of Garmin, Polar and even Misfit Wearables, I dare say that Fitbit’s all day activity tracking platform is pretty much ahead of the competition at present.The company gets the essentials done right with a robust mobile app that features comfortable user friendly experience and clean data presentation.

Fitbit did add some bells and whistles over the last few years but the mobile app layout has largely remained the same. I should know, I’ve been with them for 5 years straight now.The addition of the optical HR sensors beefed up the “fitness” portion of activity tracking, with the advanced sleep stages tracking augmenting the usability of the device aside from steps and distance counting.

All Day Activity Tracking

As an all day activity tracker that counts steps, distance, calories, and active minutes, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the Fitbit Alta HR’s performance.

When the user go about his or her day and clocks active periods, the Fitbit Alta HR can automatically recognise and log those sessions into the mobile app.

Also, once the Fitbit Alta HR senses that the user has been sedentary for extended periods of time, it’ll vibrate and flash a reminder across the display.

Heart Rate Measurement

The Fitbit Alta HR’s heart rate measurement performance was compared against that of Polar’s newest and most accurate chest strap HR monitor, the H10.

Since there isn’t an official function to download the HR data from Fitbit yet, I had to take a screen shot of my HR graph as listed on the Fitbit web platform before placing it beside the screen grab of that from Polar Flow.

During my 45 minutes slow test jog, I did see a single unexplained HR spike when comparing the Fitbit Alta HR measurements against the HR readings from Polar’s H10 chest strap HR monitor. The nuances of HR fluctuations as seen on the graph recorded by a chest strap HR monitor is also absent on the Alta HR, which should be surprising.

Aside from that, the HR readings from the Alta HR are usually within a few beats from that of the Polar H10. Fitbit Alta HR accuracy vs Polar H10 HR readingsYou might have noticed that the Polar HR graph is lengthier in duration.The reason is because the workout session has to be “recognised” by the Fitbit Alta HR before recording commences; there’s no way to manually start or stop a workout on the activity tracker.

Sleep Tracking and Stages

The sleep quality tracking aspect got a boost with Fitbit’s new advanced sleep tracking metrics. Based on my experience,  I thought the sleep duration recording is spot on. Fitbit ALta HR sleep trackingWhat I think Fitbit does well is track trends over time. Same with resting HR, same with sleep stages.

With regard to sleep stages tracking, we’ve yet to see any scientific papers validating the use of the Alta HR as a viable alternative to polysomnography. Personally, besides user experience and feedback, I’m usually sold if the company is willing to provide validation studies of sorts. In the case of sleep stages tracking, I’ll reserve my judgement.

Smart Notifications and Vibration Alarms

The Fitbit Alta HR can display messages, incoming calls and calender events. Beyond that, don’t expect mobile app notifications from popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. In short, notifications is passable but subdued.

There’s also a vibration motor that buzzes whenever there’s notifications, set alarms, goals reached, or sedentary alerts.

FITBIT ALTA HR IN A NUTSHELL

The Alta HR is probably Fitbit’s way of milking the Alta line with a tried and tested formula while consolidating efforts in producing their rumoured smart watch and app ecosystem.

I highly doubt fitness focused users from the likes of Garmin, Polar, Suunto who relish performance data will switch camps. Smart watch aficionados will likely experiment with the variety of Android Wear 2.0 devices and the Apple Watch camp have their own loyalists.

The Alta HR’s target audience is probably the same group that has purchased the company’s products in the last few years and looking for an upgrade.Fitbit Alta HR end featureFor an all day activity tracker, Fitbit’s Alta HR does an excellent job. The inclusion of HR measurements and advanced sleep tracking does give it an edge over its competitors again. With that in mind, let’s not forget there are comparable alternatives in the same price range such as Garmin’s Forerunner 35, Polar’s M200 and even the upgraded Apple Watch 1. The only consideration is that none of those options will wear like an accessory.

You can purchase the Fitbit Alta HR from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Thanks for reading!

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