Review: Fitbit Alta HR

The Fitbit Alta HR has many functions its big bro, the Charge 2 HR, has in a better body and price. Is ditching the button, altimeter and connected GPS good value? Depends on you

Fitbit Alta HR
The Alta HR in a classic black band

Having published a long-term review of the Fitbit Charge 2 HR in February, I recently spent a few weeks with the brand’s latest heart rate-tracking wearable: the Alta HR. 

Shape of my heart (rate)

After completing an 80-minute game of football wearing the Alta HR on my wrist, a line graph on the companion app displays spikes in heart rate corresponding to on-pitch activity after the match. Sprints forward, dashes back and scoring a goal are all indicated by peaks, while sharp dips identify periods spent as goalkeeper.

Fitbit Alta HR
Goals scored and sprints forward are represented by peaks in the heart rate graph, while the dips were periods spent in goal

After setting up an account, you can look at graphs that show a trend of your workout effort and discipline on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly basis through Fitbit’s iOS or Android app. Should you lose, break or upgrade your Fitbit device, fear not; the archived data is saved in Fitbit’s cloud. It was a relatively simple process for me to switch from the Charge 2 HR to the Alta HR and back again through the app.

Fitbit Alta HR
With a Fitbit account, you can study trends to see how much exertion you put in over time

Two steps behind (the next badge)

For motivation, you’ll receive notifications and emails for crossing certain milestones with your device – my most recent was the Urban Boot (15,000 steps in a day), earned for a fourth time yesterday. Depending on your settings, friends and rivals may also get a notification when you get a fresh pat on the back. You can show off with ease thanks to a large embedded share button that lets you post the achievement as a picture to the social media of your choice. 

The achievements may be anything from a certain number of steps taken, calories burnt and distance covered. However, you won’t find get anything for climbing lots of stairs – the Alta HR doesn’t have the Charge’s altimeter, likely a compromise based on the Alta’s slimmer, lighter build and lower price than its big brother.

Fitbit Alta HR
The app motivates you through easily shareable achievement badges. Your friends may also be alerted by a notification

Witness the fitness 

Over time, the Alta HR calculates a cardio fitness level score based on a user’s resting heart rate, age and weight. A higher score indicates that your heart needs to exert itself less to deliver the required oxygen to your muscles during exercise. Healthy loss of weight accompanied by a more strenuous workout regime is the best way to improve the cardio fitness score.

Fitbit Alta HR
Resting heart rate is Fitbit’s metric of a user’s overall level of fitness. Based on this, a cardio fitness score shows you where you stand on a scale benchmarked against averages for your age and gender

Sleeping with the Alta 

Like other Fitbit models, you can wear the Alta HR at night to measure sleep quality and restlessness. One of the Alta’s key selling points is its ability to track sleep stages – the time spent in light, deep and REM sleep. This feature, which is also available on the Charge 2 HR, was included in a recent app update. Previously, the devices only measured a wearer’s restlessness and minutes awake. Alongside your daily graphs, the app’s algorithms provide a piece of automatically served advice, which you can rate based on how useful it is for you. 

The silent vibrating alarm is nicer to wake up to than a harsh smartphone tone in the morning.

The Alta HR has a slimmer profile than the Charge 2, so it’s less noticeable when trying to drift off. The compromise? No button. You need to tap the screen to toggle or snooze alarms as well as switch between metrics such as heart rate, steps and calories. The Alta HR automatically tracks exercise and you can log workouts on the app after completion, but you can’t command it to start tracking a workout without your smartphone. There’s no connected GPS either.

That body

Bands are interchangeable, which is useful for different occasions – brown leather for an evening out and rubber in the gym. The device is splashproof but cannot be taken underwater.

Alta HR
The Alta HR in a brown leather band. It’s easy to switch these for different occasions

Despite missing a few convenience features, the Alta is great in bed and better looking than other fitness wearables with a display. For those who want to know what part of a workout takes the most out of them, the Alta HR delivers.