Fitbit Alta HR vs Charge 2: which to get?

Just when we thought Fitbit was shifting focus towards building a smartwatch, the San Francisco outfit surprised us with yet another fitness tracker. The Alta HR has arrived and Fitbit calls it the “world’s slimmest” wrist-worn tracker with a continuous heart rate sensor.

Essential reading: Choosing the right Fitbit tracker

Fitbit now offers a total of eleven different devices for tracking steps and calories. The company still sells all of these, although some of the older devices such as the Flex, Charge, Charge HR and now the Alta, have been superseeded with new versions. This makes the older models pretty much redundant.

So how does the Alta HR compare with Fitbit Charge 2, the company’s most popular tracker? Here’s our verdict.


Fitbit Alta HR vs Charge 2: Design

The Charge 2 retains the look and feel from its predecessor and can still be recognised as your typical Fitbit wearable. It comes with an upgraded design featuring an OLED display that is four times larger than Charge HR. There is a single button on the left that you can use to wake the tracker and page through the menu. By single-tapping the top of the screen, you cycle through the stats. You can also wake the display up by turning your wrist towards you or by double-tapping the display.

The Alta HR, on the other hand, looks very much like the much-loved Alta fitness tracker. Those who are familiar with Fitbit’s devices will recognise the slim, stylish design. Measuring only 15mm wide, the device sports a 1.4-inch OLED display. Compared to the Charge 2, its about 25% narrower. Although its sold as a unisex device, having tested it for a few weeks to me it seemed more like a stylish accessory designed with women in mind. Something that could perhaps be worn alongside a watch.

Alta HR sports a discreet, slightly curved, touch-screen, OLED display with a 128 x 36 pixel resolution. You wake up the device by lifting your wrist or by lightly tapping on the display. You won’t find any buttons and this is because you don’t really need them. Simply tap on the sides of the display to navigate.

The screen on both the Charge 2 and Alta HR shows your activity stats and the time, and can be personalized using a variety of clock face options. There is also a line of interchangeable bands so you can find the one to fit your personal style. You simply pop the bands on and off. Total time to change from one look to another is under 10 seconds.

You will find the PurePulse heart rate sensor on the underside of the devices. It sticks out a bit but once its on your wrist it does not feel uncomfortable. If you were to open up the core unit, you would also find a 3-axis accelerometer, a vibration motor and on the Charge 2 an altimetre.


Fitbit Alta HR vs Charge 2: Battery life and water resistance

Despite the addition of heart rate monitoring, Alta HR can keep going for up to a week before needing a top-up – so kudos for not sacrificing longevity in the name of additional features. The Charge 2 tracker lasts up to 5 days on a single charge. To refuel – plug the proprietary charging cable into a USB port, connect it to your tracker making sure everything is properly aligned.

Fitbit Alta HR
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Waterproofing seems to be the norm these days with the new Apple Series 2 Watch boasting a swim friendly design. Fitbit is slightly behind the curve here, and the Charge 2 and Alta HR are only splash-proof. Perhaps the San Francisco outfit is saving that for the 2018 versions. If you are on the lookout for a water resistance tracker from the Fitbit range, the Flex 2 is still the way to go.


Fitbit Alta HR vs Charge 2: Features

Both devices can track steps, distance, calories and sleep. They also display notifications for incoming calls, text messages and calendar alerts. In addition to this, the Charge 2 will count floors.

Until now, continuous heart-rate tracking has only been available in Fitbit’s larger devices, such as the Surge, the Blaze and the Charge 2. However, the company has developed a new chip that reduces the size and number of components needed by 25%. This means, it has achieved a rather impressive feat of bringing its Pure Pulse technology to the Alta.

Both devices automatically recognize select exercises and log them in the Fitbit app. Activities are recorded when you’ve been active for at least 15 minutes, but that time can be manually adjusted according to your preference. Charge 2 has the added benefit of being able to start a workout manually from the device, so you can see your real-time target heart rate zone and optimize your sessions for fat burning, a fitness boost, or performance benefits.

Both trackers will also dish out stats on your resting heart rate. Outside of any specific ailment, a lower resting heart rate correlates very closely to a state of greater general fitness and health.

Essential reading: Fitbit’s new sleep tracking feature explained

Fitbit has recently introduced new sleep features. ‘Sleep Stages’ uses accelerometer and heart rate data to more accurately estimate how long you spend in Light, Deep, and REM sleep stages each night. The app sifts through the stats and offers advice on ways to improve your kip time. The more you wear your tracker to bed, the more personalized insights you may receive.

Sleep mode kicks in from your movements. Which means, all you have to remember is to wear your tracker to bed. When you wake up, sync your tracker to see last night’s sleep stats on the dashboard.

A feature that you will find on the Charge 2 but not on Alta HR is Cardio Fitness Level. This is because Alta HR does not have Connected GPS which Fitbit uses not only to record maps of your routes, but also to calculate VO2 Max values. The Cardio Fitness Level shows how you compare to those of the same age and gender, and ranges from poor to excellent.

The other feature that you will only find on the Charge 2 (and more recently Blaze), are Guided Breathing sessions. This is a relaxing mindfulness experience that calms your body and mind through personalized deep-breathing sessions called “Relax”. I would not be surprised, however, if a forthcoming firmware update enables this feature on the Alta HR.


Fitbit Alta HR vs Charge 2: The bottom line

At its core, both the Alta HR and Charge 2 are similar to other Fitbits – there is no ground-breaking new technology on board. Instead of adding a host of new features, Fitbit is focusing on what it does well, and improving on it. The changes its making are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Alta HR is much slimmer of the two, but this also means that the display real-estate is quite a bit smaller. It lacks the altimeter, connected GPS, Cardio Fitness Level and Guided Breathings sessions of Charge 2. Other features are pretty much identical. In terms of price, the Alta HR sells for around $10-$15 less than the Charge 2.

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Fitbit Charge 2
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If you’re looking to get more bang for your buck or are very serious about improving your fitness, Charge 2 definitely brings more to the table. For the average person who is after a solid 24/7 activity tracker, and who does the occasional run here and there, it checks all the boxes. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something more discreet and aesthetically pleasing, Alta HR is the way to go.

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