This week I got the new Fitbit Alta HR and wanted to review it. I have been using a Fitbit Blaze, which I did a First Look Review when I received over a year ago and then a follow up after two months. I still really like the Fitbit Blaze and have been happily using it. I did take off from exercising after my surgery last year, but lately I’ve been getting back into some walking (still not going to the Y yet) and am becoming more active.
And, the Blaze is great for that. Despite that I bought a new Alta HR. Usually when I buy a new Fitbit it is because the new tracker has some great new feature that I don’t have with the old tracker. That isn’t the case with the Alta. In fact, it has fewer features than the Blaze. And, some of those features are important to me. So, why get the Alta?
Looks. That is mostly it. Well, comfort is a factor, but that is relatively minor. I love my Blaze and it does a lot of stuff. If I could have only the Blaze or the Alta HR, I would go for function over form and keep the Blaze. But, Fitbit allows you to have more than one tracker on your account. I can wear the Alta HR part of the time, then switch midday to the Blaze and then switch back and if I sync both of them I will end up with all my steps and calorie burned counted nad all my activities recorded.
For that reason the question wasn’t Blaze or Alta HR. The question was Blaze only or Blaze and Alta HR. When I looked at it that way, it was easy for me to decide on having both of them.
The Alta HR does most of what the Blaze does. It also is much smaller. It is very sleek to look at. Like the Blaze, you can switch bands if you want. It is just that the Alta HR is prettier. The Alta HR looks like the Alta which came out close to the time the Blaze came out. I wasn’t tempted by the Alta, however, as it didn’t continuously monitor heart rate and that is a dealbreaker feature for me. The Alta HR does continuously monitor heart rate. I like how it looks and it is very comfortable to wear. That is important since I wear my Fitbit 24/7 as I use it to also monitor sleep.
I really like the sleek narrow look of this. The color of the band doesn’t really come out right in the photo. The photo looks red, but it is really fuschia.
You can compare this with the Blaze:
There is just no comparison. I did get used to the Blaze. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but I did notice it a lot of the time. I don’t really notice the Alta HR. Here are some more photos of the Alta HR. This is a picture from the side:
This shows the clasp. I like that the metal is painted to match the band color:
Here is a view from the side. The green lights on the bottom are where the heart rate is measured.
This is a better look of the bottom of the unit. The band is removable as you can see from the attachments in this picture.
The display on the Alta HR does not give as much information as you can get on the Blaze. That big huge display on the Blaze can give a lot of information. The Alta doesn’t have that. But, it does have the information that I really need when I’m using it. The other information is available on the phone app or online. The Alta HR gives you several choices for clock faces. You can have the information in a vertical presentation or a horizontal. I am currently using a horizontal presentation where the first thing displayed is the date and my current heart rate:
The above is what I see when I raise my arm up or if I double tap on the display. There are no buttons on the Alta HR. I can switch what is displayed by a single tap. I have mine set up where the next tap will give me my current steps:
I can also see my calories burned, distance, heart rate, resting heart rate, battery status and the next alarm that is set. This will show my phone calls and text if I set up my phone to show that (this is occasionally a useful feature).
I also considered the vertical clock face. I thought it was a little easier to quickly see, but the narrowness of the presentation detracted from that advantage:
As you can see, the hour and the minutes are on a different line. Also, they do have to round some of the information to make it fit. With the horizontal view if I have walked 1425 steps it will show 1425. With the vertical view, it will instead show 1.4k.
So, what do I give up to wear the Alta HR?
The Alta HR does not count the floors climbed. This is not a big deal for me as my house has one story and I work from home so I rarely climb stairs. We do have a hilly neighborhood so my Blaze does record floors climbed when I walk in the neighborhood. This is one reason I will wear the Blaze when doing outdoor walks in the neighborhood.
The Alta HR does not have multi-sport where you can get real time stats during a workout while you are doing it. With my Blaze if I walk outside whatever, it will show me during the workout how many steps I’ve made, what my distance is and so on. The Alta HR does not do that. Honestly, that is not a huge deal to me for casual walking during the day or when I use the treadmill (that information is on the treadmill display). I do want that information if doing a major walk outside and will use the Blaze for that as well.
Also, with the Blaze, I can hit a button the side and tell it to start recording a workout and then hit the button when I stop. The Alta HR has no buttons and you can’t do that. Theoretically if I walk for 10 minutes or more it will record that as a walk and it will be in my logged activities later on. Same thing if I do certain other activities like the elliptical or biking. I say theoretically because the automatic exercise recognition in my experience from having it on the Blaze doesn’t always work well. Sometimes the activity isn’t recognized and other times it guesses the wrong activity. I actually turned this feature off on the Blaze. Importantly, though, it doesn’t really matter. If my Alta HR or Blaze doesn’t recognize an activity and I don’t record it on the Blaze, no big deal. I just to make note of when it stopped or started and I can manually log it online or on the app. And, even if I don’t do that it doesn’t really matter either. If I don’t log my walk, I still get credit for the steps and calories burned. I do recommend logging non-step based activities such as weight lifting in order to get more accurate calorie burn information. (In reality, I wear a chest strap heart rate monitor for weight lifting and send that info to Digifit who then tells Fitbit how many calories I burned and records it as an activity in Fitbit).
The Blaze gives me a number for my cardio fitness level. Apparently it is trying to use the information it has recorded to figure my VO2 max and give me an assessment. I’m not sure how good it is at doing this. It tells me I am doing really well and I am skeptical that I am really that good. But, regardless, I can get that with the Blaze and not the Alta HR.
The most important thing that the Blaze has that the Alta HR does not have is connected GPS. The Blaze (unlike the Surge) does not have GPS built into it. As big as the Blaze is, it is much smaller than the Surge which does have GPS built into it. However, if I have my phone with me, my Blaze can use Bluetooth to connect to GPS on my phone. When I get home I will have a nice map of where I walked. I do like this feature a lot. And, this is the primary reason I will use my Blaze when walking outside. But, for just daily walking (not fitness walking) or walking on a treadmill I don’t need that feature. And, honestly, I get also get a GPS map if I wear a chest heart rate monitor and record my workout on my phone with Digifit. That is what I used to do before the Blaze came out.
Things that the Blaze has that I don’t care about because I don’t use them: On-screen Fitstar workouts, music control, and guided breathing sessions.
Where does that leave me? I will be wearing the Alta HR about 95% of the time or more. I will use the Blaze when I walk outdoors and possibly when I am at the YMCA if I want to log an activity as it is going on if I want to see the workout data in real time. I may not use the Blaze at the Y though as I will mostly be doing weight lifting there and as mentioned above I use a chest strap heart rate monitor and Digifit for that. But, I might use the Blaze for some activities there. We’ll see.
My husband was puzzled when I said I was getting the Alta HR. I don’t think he really understood the concept of getting something of lesser functionality just for the looks of it. Maybe that is a difference between men and women. Shrugs.
That said, his Fitbit is probably one that is the sweet spot for those wanting a single Fitbit. He has the Charge 2. The Charge 2 has most of the features of the Blaze, including Connected GPS. It just doesn’t have that spiffy looking display where you get so much information in color and so easy to read. Functionally, though, the Charge 2 and the Blaze are very similar. If someone told me I could only have one Fitbit and I didn’t already own a Blaze I would probably pick the Charge 2. It has a bigger display than the Alta and is slightly larger but is much smaller than the Blaze.
But, in the end, I decided that it made sense to have 2 Fitbits. I don’t try to wear the same clothes to the YMCA that I would wear if I was going out for dinner or was going to a work related meeting. It makes sense to me that the same Fitbit isn’t necessarily optimal for every minute of the day. That is why I am really loving having both the Alta HR and the Blaze.