Wearables

Almost perfect fitness tracker

Fitbit claims that the Alta HR, which looks more like a bracelet, is the world's slimmest wrist-based continuous heart-rate tracking device.
Fitbit claims that the Alta HR, which looks more like a bracelet, is the world's slimmest wrist-based continuous heart-rate tracking device.PHOTO: FITBIT
Fitbit claims that the Alta HR, which looks more like a bracelet, is the world's slimmest wrist-based continuous heart-rate tracking device.
Fitbit claims that the Alta HR, which looks more like a bracelet, is the world's slimmest wrist-based continuous heart-rate tracking device.PHOTO: FITBIT

Last year, when I reviewed the Fitbit Alta, I was impressed with its looks and performance. But it lacked a heart-rate (HR) monitor. Now, the Alta HR is here.

As its name implies, the new version looks exactly like the Alta, except that it has a HR monitor at its bottom. That is a good thing, as it retains the original's sleek design.

In fact, at 25 per cent slimmer than its flagship Charge 2 cousin, Fitbit claims Alta HR is the world's slimmest wrist-based continuous heart-rate tracking device.

It looks more like a bracelet than a fitness tracker and has a tracker module with stainless steel sides and a 1.4-inch Oled touch-sensitive screen.

It comes with easily swoppable silicone wrist bands of different colours - blue-gray (the version tested), black, fuchsia and coral classic. I also tried the Alta HR with the leather wrist band ($99.90) from Fitbit, which I felt is more comfortable and looks better.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $248

    MATERIAL: Stainless steel tracker module with silicone wrist band

    WATER RESISTANCE: Splash-proof

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    WEIGHT: 26g

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The leather band is available in brown, lavender and indigo (the version tested).

A push-slide mechanism allows you to easily remove and install the wrist bands. But there is a slight difference in Alta HR's wrist band. It now uses a more traditional band buckle, compared with the snap-in clasp of the original. I prefer this band buckle, as it is much more secure.

The Alta HR automatically tracks your steps taken, calories burnt, distance travelled, all-day HR and active minutes.

You can toggle through these fitness stats by tapping on the screen. It also automatically monitors your sleep and, thus, your resting HR. When paired with your smartphone, it displays notifications like incoming calls and messages.

But it does not track how many flights of stairs you have climbed. It does not track your swims, as it is only splash-proof and you are not even to shower with it, says Fitbit.

The Alta HR is very accurate in terms of tracking steps. Its readings differ by at most 2 per cent from my calibrated Apple Watch Nike+.

Its automatic activity tracking is smart enough to set the exercise type as runs when I go jogging. But it does not compute the run distance - only the run duration, calories burnt and heart rate. It can track my circuit training only as aerobic workouts, and my basketball shootouts as just sports.

The highlight features of the Alta HR are probably its sleep stages and sleep insights. Sleep stages uses HR variability to estimate your sleep cycles, that alternate between light, deep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, as well as awake. Sleep insights use all the activity data collected to tell you how to improve your sleep.

I found the sleep tracking to be really accurate in pinpointing the times I fell asleep, awoke during the night and when I got up. I also found the sleep-stages feature to be informative, as I can see my sleep cycle and the quality of my sleep.

The sleep insights feature told me that I should be getting more sleep, as I am having less sleep than the average of those in my demographics. At times, it reminded me that I am not getting enough sleep during the week, compared with weekends.

Battery life is rated at seven days. In my tests, I found the Alta HR to last up to eight days before it needed to be recharged.

• Verdict: Apart from not being able to swim with it, the Fitbit Alta HR is very much the perfect fitness tracker with its good looks as well as great accuracy in tracking steps and sleep.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2017, with the headline 'Almost perfect fitness tracker'. Print Edition | Subscribe