Fitbit Alta HR review: my honest verdict on this new fitness tracker
I was half-tempted to do my Fitbit Alta HR review on YouTube – as I feel like the young people these days search for reviews more on YouTube than on Google. Then I remembered that, if I did that, I'd have to get dressed into something semi-decent and put some makeup on and, to be perfectly honest, I'm having a delightful Bank Holiday Monday and not in the mood. (I apologise.) This Fitbit Alta HR review, that all being said, has been a long time coming. I (full disclosure) received my Fitbit just over a month ago, at an event at Fitbit HQ for Workplace Wellness Day, and I promised to do a review after a fortnight. Well, two weeks turned into three, then four... And here we are. (Just in case that wasn't clear: I did not pay for my Fitbit Alta HR. That has zero bearing on my review; I do not accept payment in fitness trackers!)
Still, better late than never, right? And this way, you know that my Fitbit Alta HR review comes to you with a decent testing time behind it.
(Not) like a virgin
I come to this Fitbit Alta HR review as a bit of a Fitbit connoisseur. I was lucky enough to receive my first Fitbit at a Life Style Sports event a few years ago – that was the Fitbit Flex, one of their earliest and most basic models. At the time, I think it pretty much only gave you your daily steps count and I'm almost positive it didn't allow you to change your goal – everyone's was set at 10,000 steps per day.
After my Flex, I was a bit of a Fitbit convert, so I bought myself the Fitbit Alta maybe a year or two later. I wore it, on and off, for a few months and then, one fateful day, I lent it to My Stephen. I never saw that fitness tracker again. (To be clear: he claims that he gave it back to me, an event of which I have zero memory. We'll probably find it down the back of the couch in 2030.)
So I was delighted to receive my third Fitbit fitness tracker – and, in fact, I've added to the family since then, forking out €110 on the Fitbit Aria smart scale a week later. (I ordered my scale directly from Fitbit, paid by PayPal and it arrived within three working days, which was pretty brilliant.)
So, to the Fitbit Alta HR review
I haven't taken my Alta off my wrist since I got it – except to charge it – so that should be a pretty good indicator as to whether I like it or not. Having received it as a gift, I didn't have that kind of guilt that said "you should get your money's worth out of this" and, if I'd found it irritating, or unnecessary, I would've had no hesitation in giving up on it after the first fortnight.
I really, really like this fitness tracker. I have always quite liked tracking my steps – so that's one part of it – but there are a variety of different functions that I really like about the Alta HR.
What's heart rate got to do with it?
The heart rate monitor records your sleep patterns, so you can get a read on where you're going wrong and where you're going right. Each morning, I check in with my Fitbit to see how I'm sleeping; as a recommended daily dose, we should be getting between 15 and 20% deep sleep per night. I'm still hovering around the 15% mark, although I have noticed that, on days when I am more active (duh), I sleep better.
Not only that, but I can tell you that, when I exercise later in the day, I sleep better than on days when I exercise first thing. (This hasn't changed my exercise habits just yet because I don't love exercising after a day's eating – but it's interesting to know!)
You can also, of course, use the heart rate monitor to monitor your activity levels during your workouts – although this isn't quite as reliable as you'd think. On one of my higher intensity weight lifting workouts, I borrowed my trainer Niamh's heart rate monitoring chest strap, and the difference was quite remarkable. Where my Fitbit might tell me that my heart rate was hovering around 102, my chest strap was saying it was at 151 – that's a pretty big difference.
For elite athletes, therefore, or those really hoping to accurately monitor their heart rate during a workout, the Alta HR isn't going to cut it – but, if you're an elite athlete, you probably already knew that! The further away you get from your heart, the less accurate the "signal" is going to be, so it stands to reason that a fitness tracker worn on the wrist won't be 100% reliable.
The visuals ain't bad, either
I do own a few watches but, I'll confess, I haven't worn them in over a year – because the batteries ran out. (Note to self: replace watch batteries!) So the Fitbit Alta HR fills that gap nicely; with a quick flick of the wrist, it flashes up the time and you can then tap through to see your steps, heart rate, distance travelled, calories burned and active minutes so far that day.
I've always liked the Logan's Run feel of a wristband tracker anyway – and, when I received my Alta HR, I was also given a pink strap that I could sub in for the black although, to be honest, I think the black is pretty sleek.
On another, no less shallow, note, I love how, when you reach your daily goal – which I have set to 12,500 steps although I should rethink that on weekends – it all starts to flash and show fireworks and congratulate you with a nice vibration that I appreciate.
The dark side
That vibration will also become your worst enemy; on the hour, every hour, it'll vibrate if you haven't had any active moments. And so far, it has vibrated a lot.
The weird thing is, while my Fitbit has really motivated me to walk a lot more – I've started volunteering to go to the shop, which I would never have done before – not once have I felt the vibration and thought, ooh, I should get up! It just drives me mad. I honestly stare at it angrily every single time it does it – as if lasers might suddenly shoot out of my eyes and burn it to a crisp. (I am aware that this would also burn me, so it's a good thing I haven't realised my DC Comics style powers just yet.)
Another slight problem is that the display can be tricky to see in bright sunlight, although being – as we are – deprived of such a thing most of the time, it's probably not a massive worry.
My Fitbit Alta HR review: conclusion
Ultimately, I genuinely really like this product. It's pretty inconspicuous as fitness trackers go, it has a variety of different functions – step counter, heart rate monitor, alarm clock, daily congratulator – that it does well and it's not massively expensive at €149.99.
However, if you're super sporty and you're looking for something to help you reach the next level of your athletic endeavours, I definitely wouldn't rely on the Alta HR's heart rate monitor for your HR needs.
As for the scale, I got it because I felt like I was going too far in the direction of "ignore the scales!" and want to keep a closer eye on my weight. Based on your height, weight, BMI and using something called bioimpedance analysis, it also estimates body fat percentage, but as mine has varied wildly from day to day, I wouldn't trust that side of things hugely. I do like that it syncs to my phone, allows for up to eight users and, again, looks quite sleek, but I'm not sure it's worth the spend. (In other words: I wouldn't buy it again, but I paid for it and so, by God I'm going to use it.)
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