FitBit Alta HR Preview

Fitbit just released one of the smallest Heart Rate integrated fitness trackers on the market, the FitBit Alta HR.  We haven’t had it long enough to fully test the strengths and weaknesses of this tracker.  However, it is interesting enough to look at some comparisons to the FitBit Charge HR and other fitness trackers.  It sells for $149.95 currently and we will look at that also.  If you want to buy it now, we will point you in the right direction, just click on any of the linked text.

Watch the video below as we do some extreme testing on the Fitbit Alta HR.  You can also find that video on the Athletic Tech Review Youtube channel .  Make sure you subscribe, because you don’t want to miss these crazy tests we have planned on our fitness watches.  Want to support the site?  Just purchase your fitness tracker from the link at the bottom of the article.  Simple as that.

Market Comparisons

The first thing we must do is look at the market and our purchasing decisions.  We will look at three popular fitness trackers that Athletic Tech Review (ATR) is testing right now, long term.  Each one of these fitness trackers have their own strengths and weaknesses.  It is important to understand these differences so, as the buyer, you can make an informed decision.

You can see how much smaller the Alta HR is compared to the other two.

FitBit Charge  2 Vs Alta HR

As a consumer of activity trackers, you have a decision to make; especially if you like FitBit products.  The Fitbit Charge 2 or the Alta HR.  The Alta HR has a sleek design and the Charge 2 keeps a very similar symmetry and design from previous models, but does more.  The Alta HR has a battery life that is two days longer and both track heart rate on your wrist.  Here are the standout items we see between both products.

FitBit Alta HR $150

  • 1/2 the size of the Charge 2 and very lightweight.
  • Up to 7 days battery life. (advertised, not tested yet.)
  • Constant HR tracking every 5 seconds. (new sleep stages metrics coming.)
  • Auto recognition of workout activity. (not tested yet.)
  • Tap Screen function.
  • Detachable and customizable bands.
  • Water Resistant.

There are many more features, but all of the fitness trackers pretty much do the same thing.  Let’s compare that to the Charge 2.  The Charge 2 does everything that the Alta HR does and a few more things.  I’ll only list the extras and differences you are getting with the Charge 2.

FitBit Charge 2 $150

  • Bigger watch which means larger display.
  • Floors  Climbed. (honestly, every fitness tracker sucks at this.)
  • Multi-Sport Selection mode.
  • Cardio Fitness Level. (it is really just a workout summary screen.)
  • Guided Breathing sessions.
  • Only a 5 day battery life.
  • Connected GPS. (This could be important to you. Tether the Charge 2 to your phone for GPS mapping.)

Looking at the main differences here, we see a few things stand out.  For me, the size and the battery life are pretty important.  If I am going to wear a bigger watch, then I probably prefer to wear one that is sport specific to running or bicycling.  That is just me.  All of these fitness trackers do a poor job of estimating flights of stairs.  I haven’t found one yet that does a good job.  You have to decide which functions are most important to you.  Next, we look at the Garmin VivoSmart HR and how it stacks up.

Garmin Vivosmart HR vs FitBit Alta HR

Honestly, the Garmin Vivosmart HR has a lot of extra functionality, but just doesn’t look as cool as the Alta HR.  That is just my honest opinion.  So, what are the main differences between these two watches.

Garmin Vivosmart HR $150

  • Chunkier watch compared to Alta HR.
  • Touch screen display with swiping capability.
  • Music control
  • Broadcast HR to other devices like cycling computers.
  • Does not continually sample HR.
  • 5 day battery life.
  • Weather Integration.
  • Multi-Sport Mode Selection.
  • Can’t customize bands.
  • 5 ATM/50 meter water resistant.

As you can see above, the VivoSmart HR does much more when it comes to functionality.  However, there is no band customization and no 24/7 heart rate tracking. The Vivosmart HR is a lot chunkier when looking at the Alta HR as you can see from the images below.  The VivoSmart HR stands up a lot higher off your wrist and even higher than the wider Polar a360 we will look at next.

Polar A360 vs FitBit Alta HR

The Polar A360 is about as big as I would want to get with an everyday fitness tracker.  It doesn’t stand up as high as the Garmin Vivoactive HR, but everything is wider on this watch to include the band.  The A360 does come with a very attractive color screen display that outshines both products.  We have noticed that any user migrating from Garmin Connect or the FitBit App has a harder time getting used to the Polar Flow App.  That is what we have found from original testing.  We are finishing up our long term testing of the Polar A360 in April of 2017.  That article and video will be coming soon.

Polar A360 $150 on

  • Much wider watch face and watch band.
  • 12 to 14 day battery life. (tested by us)
  • Only tracks HR during workout mode.
  • Customizable watch bands.
  • 3 ATM/30 meter water resistant.

I personally like the style and look of the Polar A360.  I also like the long battery life.  All day heart rate tracking isn’t a big deal to me and a 7+ day charge is really nice.  However, it takes the A360 about 3 to 4 hours to fully recharge.  The band also fits very, very well.  Here are some more pictures below showing what the differences are between watch size, height, and watch bands.

First Look

I like that FitBit has figured out their band problem.  You can read my article “A Successful Failure, The Fitbit Charge” to understand what I mean.  The first FitBit charge line was notorious for band failures.  When the band failed, the entire watch failed.  It looks like FitBit has learned a thing or two from the original Charge.    The bands swap out easy and only time will tell if the latching device holds up through constant use.  I am pretty confident they won’t snap off, and you can see the testing for yourself in my video above.

Fit and Form

If I am being honest here, this is more of a woman’s fitness tracker than a mans.  It feels really, really small on my wrist.  Almost like I hijacked my kids watch because I just needed something to wear.  The great thing about this watch is I barely notice it on my wrist.  It is practically invisible to my senses.  That is a huge plus for those that don’t like bulky watches.

Are The Features Enough?

For the fitness enthusiast, this watch is enough.  It won’t replace a running watch, it won’t replace some of the more complex fitness watches, but it will get you motivated to move and lose weight.  That is where the FitBit App shines with these devices.  You can integrate all of your data with the FitBit App and then send that data over to MyFitnessPal.  I consider MyFitnessPal one of the best apps out there if you are looking to lose weight in a smart and measured way.  The 7 day battery life (we will test that) is the perfect recharge time in my opinion.  That allows the user to recharge the same day of the week, every week.  The Alta HR may not have all the advanced features of the Charge 2, but it does a pretty good job with the basics.

Are There Any New Features?

Yes, for me at least.  The Smart Track, Auto Exercise Recognition is new for me.  I haven’t used a fitbit for about a year and I’m curious to see how this works.  I’ve tested this feature twice and it is working.  The other thing I am curious to see is the Sleep Stages function.  Most fitness trackers do a poor job of sleep tracking; at least, that is my experience.  FitBit is the only one that gets it less wrong than anyone else.  So, what is this Sleep Stages and when can we see it?  It isn’t out yet, but it should be coming soon.

What We Expect

There are few things I am expecting.  Moving up and down stairs will be tracked poorly.  There isn’t a watch that does it well at all.  I know, I have a three story house and never get credit for all the stairs I climb.  I’m also expecting the screen face to deteriorate over time.  There aren’t many watch manufactures that do a good job making durable screen faces.  The bands have a spring loaded latch.  Those are probably going to break over time.  However, that doesn’t kill your fitness tracker because the latch is part of the band.  You can buy new bands.  Again, FitBit looks to have learned a thing or two from the original Charge and we think this watch is going to be a big success.


Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 60 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

One thought on “FitBit Alta HR Preview

  • September 3, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Hi there!
    Thanks for your articles. I read your review on the Garmin Vivosmart HR, very helpful. Did you ever end up writing a review of the Fitbit Alta HR? I’m struggling to decide between a Garmin Vivosmart HR, Fitbit Alta HR and (maybe) Fitbit Charge 2. I have a Garmin 310XT that I use for training (with a chest strap HR), so I am not looking for a fitness tracker to replace this. The Garmin 310XT has built in GPS, and a chest strap HR is better than a wrist based one. However I am looking for something to track every day activities, i.e. steps, inactivity, sleep, and possible other activities; but I want something that will last for a few years. I have read some negative reviews about the Fitbit strap and screen that make me nervous.
    What is your opinion of these three devices based on the criteria that I have provided?


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