Fitbit Alta HR first look: New tracker plays to Fitbit's strengths

We go hands-on with the new Fitbit Alta HR
Fitbit Alta first impressions

Fitbit's line-up of fitness trackers was looking pretty complete, so the addition of the Fitbit Alta HR came as somewhat of a surprise. The company has been busy pitching the benefits of heart rate tracking to fitness fans, gym goers and runners, but now it's going back to its core.

Heart rate tracking is now commonplace on every sports focused device going, but for Fitbit, the opportunity lies in getting every day users, and especially women, to get excited about bpms. Goals for the Fitbit Alta HR include using heart rate to aid weight loss via effective calorie burn data, better sleep and better awareness of resting heart rate, where recent devices have focused on getting the most out of your training.

Essential reading: The best fitness trackers 2017

It's a different focus for a different set of users. It's predominantly female focused, and designed to appeal to users who have more of an eye on fashion. It's also for that person also might want to wear their Fitbit and still continue to wear a watch as well.

Fitbit's greatest achievement?

Fitbit Alta HR first look: New sleep features are just what the doctor ordered

The Fitbit Alta HR is barely distinguishable from the original. Fitbit's boasts about the slim build of the original Alta were less impressive, given that it did little more than basic step counting. But now we're more open to giving the company credit for the Alta's HR's build. It's super slim, yet Fitbit has used a new chip to make more space for the battery, upping longevity to seven days on a single charge.

But from a technological perspective, it's perhaps one of Fitbit's greatest achievements, aside from last year's waterproof Fitbit Flex.

The screen tech hasn't changed, and you still tap to cycle through menus, with heart rate now appearing alongside steps, calories and all your other fitness data.

One more change for the better is the strap. Because heart rate requires a nice tight fit to the wrist, Fitbit has changed to a buckle-style clasp on the Alta. It's a change we're all for, as it's the most secure and easy-to-fasten way to don your fitness tracker.

If it's a little hard to get excited about the Alta HR, it's because it's such an incremental update to a recent product. But from a technological perspective, it's perhaps one of Fitbit's greatest achievements, aside from last year's waterproof Fitbit Flex 2.

Fitbit getting smarter

Fitbit Alta HR first look: New sleep features are just what the doctor ordered

The key upgrade that comes with the Alta HR is sleep. We've been very critical of the lightweight sleep analysis offered in Fitbit's app for over a year now, and it seems that after turning its attention to those using their Fitbit to get sweaty over the last few years, sleep tracking is back as a headline feature.

Fitbit also seems to have acknowledged that it's not just more data that makes sleep tracking effective. Data and raw numbers are actually the least helpful element of working out how you can feel more rested. Actionable insights have been way too slow to appear in deep tracking, but that's exactly where Fitbit has focused.

The Fitbit app will offer tips on sleeping better, based on your stats on how quickly you fall asleep, how rested you are, and when you wake up. What's more, it will correlate your sleep quality with exercise. That's more useful when it rolls out to fitness focused gadgets like the Fitbit Surge and Blaze, but it's a big step in the right direction.

It's aping the success of Jawbone, slightly, which always excelled because of its app. Finally, it seems Fitbit could beat its now lifeless rival in both the hardware and software stakes.

An identity problem

Fitbit Alta HR first look: New sleep features are just what the doctor ordered

The only issue with the Fitbit Alta HR are the metrics that Fitbit chose not to include. The omission of VO2 Max, workout modes, ConnectedGPS are understandable. If you want a proper workout device, choose a bigger, badder device in the range. But the omission of the guided breathing is a really strange choice. As a general wellness product, Alta HR is the obvious choice for breathing and stress relief. And the heart rate variability analysis performed by the Alta HR to track sleep cycles is exactly the same technology as the breathing exercises.

We also feel that Fitbit's line-up is getting pretty crowded. The range starts at $99.99 for the Fitbit Flex 2, with the Alta at $129.95, Alta HR at $149.95, Charge 2 at $159.95 – which is barely a step up in price to get access to Fitbit's full set of fitness analytics, albeit in a bigger band. The Blaze is then $199.95, but with a poorer fitness tracking story than Charge 2, which makes no sense. Blaze was always an underwhelming product, that's begging for an update.

The line-up just about makes sense, if you're acutely aware of Fitbit's line-up. But if you're new to fitness trackers then it must be almost impossible to decide between them.

Fitbit has always been a questionable buy for the fitness fanatic. And we've struggled to recommend its products over those by Garmin and Moov because of concerns over accuracy, lack of GPS and weak analysis. The Fitbit Alta HR has a clearer message and purpose.

This is not for gym-goers and sports fanatics. It's for those who just want to be healthier, which is in some ways takes Fitbit back to its origins – but with the latest technology, and that's a compelling sell.

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1 Comment

  • cinda-13 says:

    Can it be set to buzz or make a sound if you go over a set heart rate like some trackers?

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