Fitbit’s Alta HR looks great — but leaves some activity tracking potential on the table

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The Alta HR and new sleep tracking give Fitbit some new features .

Image: lili sams/ mashable

Fitness trackers have historically been kind of, well, ugly. That changed last year with the Fitbit Alta, a sleek device that compromised a bit on fitness functionality.

The company’s back with an upgrade, the Alta HR, which aims to give fashion-savvy workout warriors an appealing device with better features. It contains a version of Fitbit’s PurePulse heart rate monitor technology, previously found in the bulkier Charge 2 band and Blaze smartwatch.

The Alta HR largely accomplishes its goals, but it leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to down and unclean fitness tracking. The heart rate monitoring is a welcome addition but the device doesn’t offer much beyond measuring your vitals.

Fitbit’s latest sits well on the wrist without the extra bulk that bogs down other feature-packed trackers. It’s a full 25 percent thinner than the Charge 2, and the company is touting it as the slimmest wrist-based heart rate tracker on the market.

It’s light, and the clip-on straps can be easily swapped out in just a few seconds to switch up the seem. Along with the standard silicon band, I was provided a classic brown leather option to dress it up outside the gym.

The Alta HR seems good but if you’re accustomed to wearing a watch everyday like I am, you’ll have to pick one or the other. I usually wear Fitbit’s most basic tracker, the Flex 2, on the same wrist as my watch, but the Alta HR’s just a bit too big to sport both comfortably, and the OLED display makes a static watch face superfluous.

It might not look great with watches, but the Alta HR mixtures well with other jewelry.

Image: lili Sams/ mashable

It’s not a smartwatch, but the Alta HR receives notifications like one, buzzing on your wrist when you get a text, bellow or calendar notification. Texts are beamed to the screen, but its small-scale sizing isn’t conducive to actually reading. Most of the time, I checked who texted me on my wrist, then read the message on my phone.

Notifications are put to better utilize when they get you up and moving. The device goadings you to reach your goals throughout the day, with specific requests to knock out paces, and you’ll get a call to action after long periods of inactivity. The notifications get old after a while, but you are able to turn them off or manage them in the Fitbit app’s determines.

Fitbit talks a big game about the Alta HR’s battery life, claiming it’ll last for up to a week between accusations a 40 percent improvement over the original Alta, even with the addition of the PurePulse tech. When I wore it, the battery lasted a full 10 periods, and it maintained on chugging for an entire period after advising me that the power was running low. It’s possible that the battery life could degrade over time, but forgetful chargers will be very happy with the battery.

Forgetful chargers will be very happy with the battery

On the road

When I took the Alta out on a jog for the first time, I was ready to push the tracker through its paces for some next-level insights. I had a full charge, a baseline heart rate reading to work with and a six-mile road to run.

My Alta HR shut down before I hit the four mile mark.

It was 37 degrees outside, and cold temperatures often dedicate batteries problems, so it wasn’t altogether unexpected. And the next time I ran, it lasted all the way throughso perhaps it was a blip. I was able to pull up my heart rate mid-route to ascertain my progression, watching the levels rise and fall throughout the running.

I also wore the Alta HR through a few Muay Thai training sessions. I was worried about the screen at first, since Thai boxing is most definitely a contact sport but I was able to fit it under my hand wraps and gloves comfortably and had no issues even when I was sparring.

My heart rate spiked during a Muay Thai educate session.

Image: screenshot/ fitbit

Heart rate data is great to have but the Fitbit app doesn’t follow through with many actionable insights. To learn how to apply that knowledge to my workouts, I needed to go elsewhere, which isn’t ideal for exercisers who want a one-stop store to build the best possible use of training programs.

Heart rate data is great to have but the Alta HR doesn’t follow through with many actionable insights

What’s actually missing here are some of the most useful fitness tracking features available on the Accusation 2, like VO2 max rating analysis, targeted activity logging and, oddly enough, the Relax mode. The omission of the guided breathing workouts sticks out, especially given the Apple Watch’s “Breathe” app.

Sleeping in style

Fitbit is also rolling out some advanced sleep features: Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights. Sleep Stages isn’t just for the Alta HR the new tracking feature is reaching all Fitbit machines with the PurePulse, so Charge 2 and Blaze owners will also receive the update.

With Sleep Stages, the wearable’s sensors hone in on the distinct high levels of sleep throughout each night, giving you even more detailed coverage of your remainder. You’ll know around how long you spent in light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep, and over time you’ll start to notice your tendencies and spot patterns.

In a week of use, I wasn’t able to compile a ton of data but I could compare individual nighttimes against benchmarks for other men my age. The conclusion: I need to sleep more.

The Sleep Stages feature breaks down remainder at an even more granular level.

Image: lili sams/ mashable

Unlike Stages, Sleep Insights are available across Fitbit’s entire product line with sleep tracking roles. The observations are becoming more general and, in my own experience thus far , not as personalized or useful as advertised. But I’ve only had access to the feature for a week, so there’s bound to be some growing soreness as the organizations of the system reads more about my sleep patterns. With more logged nighttimes and data, I’m betting Insights will become much more useful.

The Alta HR comes up just a bit short for workout junkies that actually want to get to the next level of fitness monitoring, especially when you could be using the powerful toolkit offered by the Accusation 2 at the same cost level of $150. If you are able to manage the bulk, you’ll be better off taking that option.

Casual trackers will have a better experience, since the Alta HR gives you access to far more training data than its predecessor( or other machines without heart rate monitoring, for that matter ). It leaves them in the lurch where reference is actually arrives time to apply the data for IRL ensues, though, so you’ll have to learn a bit for the heart rate tracking to be really worth the upgrade.

Fitbit Alta HR

The Good

Looks and feelings great Extra long battery life Slimmest wrist heart rate tracker on the market

The Bad

Limited fitness tracking options Few actionable insights Same cost as Accusation 2 with less to offer

The Bottom Line

The Alta HR seems and seems great, but its fitness tracking roles could offer more insights.

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