Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

Which feature-packed tracker should you choose?
Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit has released a whole bunch of new fitness tracker options in the past six months, making the decision of which Fitbit to choose a little trickier. If you've settled on the Fitbit ecosystem and you're looking for an all-rounder with a display then both fit the bill.

The $149 Fitbit Alta HR and $149 Fitbit Charge 2 are also essentially the same price depending on where you are in the world - as the Alta HR is more expensive than the non-HR version. But they're aimed at different people who spend their time in different ways.

Read the full verdicts: Fitbit Alta HR review | Fitbit Charge 2 review

Here's our breakdown of how the two Fitbits compare in terms of design and comfort, features, activity and sleep tracking, battery life and more.

Fitbit Alta HR vs Fitbit Charge 2: Design

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

On aesthetics alone, the Alta HR (above) is likely to win more fans than the Charge 2. The slimmer profile means the fitness tracker can be worn with dressier outfits and alongside a watch on your wrist.

The same size as the non-HR Alta, which is impressive technologically, it also, in our opinion, looks and feels more like an accessory designed with women in mind. Which isn't to say some of the Luxe leather strap options won't look suave on men's wrists too.

The Alta HR is sleeker, lighter and 25% slimmer at just 15mm wide but the overall design is very similar on the Charge 2. Both offer a small-ish black and white OLED display, polished silver body and textured elastomer straps that you can swap out for a decent range of different colours, finishes and materials. (One small point - the Charge 2 has a stainless steel clasp, the Alta HR doesn't.)

The Alta has designer accessory collaborations from Public School and others on top of the Fitbit bands so if you're fashion focused, that's the better bet.

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

The main impact of the overall designs on how you'll use each tracker is that if you want a bigger screen, to easily glance down at, then go for the Charge 2 and make do with the larger device.

On the Alta HR, there are no buttons so all interaction with the device is done by tapping on the touchscreen. Since Fitbit screens tend to need an extra tap to register, you might prefer the Charge 2 as controls are via a combination of tapping, swiping and pressing the side button.

Both the Alta HR and Charge 2 have the exact same water resistance recommendation from Fitbit: both are sweat, splash and rainproof but not to be worn in the shower or swimming. If it's waterproofing you're after, go for the Flex 2 instead.

Fitbit Alta HR vs Fitbit Charge 2: Features

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

The Charge 2 offers a lot of features that you won't find on the Alta HR and any one of them could be a deal breaker.

So on the Charge 2, you get ConnectedGPS - which uses your phone's GPS, VO2 Max, workout modes and Relax which uses the HR sensor to track guided breathing exercises.

We assume the breathing feature could be added as an update for the Alta HR but it's a shame not to see it on this lifestyle device as we reckon it would be a good fit. As for the sports features, this will depend on what you want to get out of your Fitbit - remember these two trackers are the same price so it really is a question of form versus function.

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

As the name suggests, the Alta HR does have a heart rate sensor like the Charge 2. Sleep tracking, which now brings heart rate data into the insights, is available on both trackers if you want to wear your wearable in bed. And of course both use the Fitbit app and ecosystem with its graphs, dashboards, leaderboards and new features like Adventure challenges.

Read this: A beginner's guide to fitness tracking wearables for women

Neither of these Fitbit trackers is trying to masquerade as a smartwatch but it's worth noting the smartwatch-like features. Both trackers handle notifications, including from some third party apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, though we prefer reading them on the Charge 2 as a clipped message than on a slant as they are displayed on the Alta HR.

For phone calls, you can see who is calling and this is fine, working well on both device's displays. Plus both trackers also send you Reminders to move alerts every hour throughout the day.

Fitbit Alta HR vs Fitbit Charge 2: Activity tracking

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

Let's start with the Charge 2. It's generally accurate day to day though one of our reviewers did find that it slightly over-counts steps and misses some stair climbs in testing. SmartTrack automatically recognises running, cycling and other activities and VO2 Max - labelled as Cardio Fitness Level in the app - is a proper fitness metric which is a little high compared to other devices but accurate enough to be useful.

Fitbit Alta HR
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Resting heart rate from PurePulse is bang on and once the sensor has locked on - which can take up to 10 minutes - HR data from steady runs is useable too. For HIIT workouts, though, we found the Charge 2's heart rate monitoring unreliable.

Over on the Alta HR, in some ways the devices are very similar. Step counting is accurate if slightly high. Again, resting heart rate throughout the day is generally very accurate and will work well for casual users.

You can't start a workout like you can on the Charge 2 but SmartTrack is on board here too and does the job. There's no GPS but distances are pretty well estimated. As for heart rate during runs, the Alta HR was within 5bpm of our chest strap - we'll update the comparison when we've hit the gym with it.

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2: Sleep tracking

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

In terms of sleep tracking, both the Alta HR and Charge 2 struggle slightly with waking up times but the Charge 2 gave very similar readings to our dedicated Beddit 3 in testing. So far, we haven't noticed any difference in accuracy between the two.

And both trackers are otherwise getting more and more useful thanks to Fitbit's recent overhaul. The sleep upgrade, called Sleep Stages, are on the Alta HR now and land on the Charge 2 in April.

Tracking now combines the accelerometer and heart rate sensor to improve accuracy of detecting light, deep and REM sleep. And in the app, you now get Sleep Insights, i.e. tips each morning based on your sleeping habits. These are a mix of generic and genuinely insightful now but Fitbit says they will get more useful over time.

Fitbit Alta HR vs Fitbit Charge 2: Battery life

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

On paper Fitbit puts the Charge 2 as up to five days and the Alta HR on up to seven days battery life. But in testing we found that we generally get six days from the Charge 2 and six days for the Alta HR. In both cases that's with everything (notifications, heart rate, sleep tracking) turned on.

We're sure you can easily get seven days out of the Alta HR, though, as it does always depend on how you use these devices. But the difference isn't so great that it should swing your decision away from the Charge 2.

Fitbit Charge 2
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Fitbit Alta HR vs Fitbit Charge 2: Verdict

So the Fitbit Alta HR and Fitbit Charge 2 are further apart than they seem at first glance - despite the same price, same heart rate tech and similar battery life.

But the fact is that the Charge 2 over promises and compromises on design. It's not a powerful workout companion and serious fitness fans could feel short changed. The Alta HR sheds the pretence of being the workout fanatic's friend. It does what Fitbit does best: performs as a top lifestyle tracker that offers insights into steps, sleep and heart health, while looking great.

For steps, sleep and alerts and the price, there's very little between the two devices. So you'd do well to make your choice based on which tracker you want to wear.

Let us know in the comments which Fitbit you choose and why.

1 Comment

  • BobM2 says:

    The HR sensor on the Charge 2 is dangerously inaccurate. During exercise, I find it under reports by 20,30 or more bpm. If you're aiming for an HR of 150 bpm, you could actually be hitting 180, which for many people would be dangerously high. 

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