Fitbit Alta HR Preview – How does it compare to the first Fitbit Alta?


Fitbit announced a new product to their lineup, the Alta HR. With the original Alta released only last year, it’s more of a refresh than an entirely new product range but still offers some welcome improvements. Due for an imminent release, here’s my preview covering the essential features.

Fitbit Alta HR vs Fitbit Alta

A run through the product specifications shows there aren’t too many differences between the existing Alta and the new Alta HR.

PurePulse Heart Rate

The big selling point of the Alta HR is that it can track your heart rate from the wrist. Though new to the Alta design, it’s an established piece of hardware which is implemented across other Fitbit products including the Charge 2 band, as well as Surge and Blaze smartwatches. You can see your heart rate in real-time on the Alta HR display, whilst historic data can be reviewed on the Fitbit App.

PurePulse shines a green light into your wrist to detect when your capillaries dilate and contract. It’s a motion which occurs as your heart pumps blood around the body. But what are the benefits of having PurePulse on the Alta HR?

PurePulse on Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit Alta HR (left) shines two green lights into your skin to detect your pulse from your wrist. Both the Alta HR and Alta (right) have a three pin charging port on the back of the wearable.

Improved accuracy in tracking calories

If your health goals are focused on weight loss or energy balance, collecting heart rate data really helps to improve the accuracy of algorithms which calculate this. Changes in heart rate readings provide clues on how intense your body is working. While the Alta can work out calories based on step count, if you prefer court based sports or resistance training, the Alta HR will identify periods of sustained intensity better than an Alta can.

Track Exercise Intensity

Working in a particular Heart Rate training zone may help you to achieve your desired fitness goal. The Fitbit App collects the data from the Alta HR and segments it by time in each training zone. Lower exercise heart rates are often associated with fat burning zones, whilst a higher beats per minute is associated with anaerobic exercise.

Fitbit Alta HR - PurePulse Data in App

Heart rate training zones (left) and resting heart rate (right) screenshots from the Fitbit app

Monitor Resting Heart Rate

The Alta HR tracks your heart rate around the clock; not just when you’re exercising. Monitoring your resting heart rate is a great metric to track over time. As your cardio health improves, your heart can beat less to pump the same amount of blood around the body. Sharp day on day increases may also provide warnings of a cold or virus; perhaps indicating you should take it a little easier.

More Battery Juice in Fitbit Alta HR

You would think tracking all that continuous heart rate data would zap the battery power right out of the Alta HR. Fitbit’s website boasts that the Alta HR gives users up to 7 days usage off a single charge; two days more than stated in the specs for original Alta which lasts 5. It’s welcome news which means the Alta HR can spend less time attached to a power plug and more time on your wrist.

Battery Life - Fitbit Alta vs Fitbit Alta HR

Low Battery on a Fitbit Alta

Watch Buckle on the Fitbit Alta HR

The standard band designs for the first Alta release are fastened by popping two pegs into strap holes. It’s an alright design but isn’t the most secure. From experience, my girlfriend lost hers on the London Underground after accidentally knocking her wrist with her travel bag. Never saw that again!

Fitbit Alta HR watch buckle vs Fitbit Alta Peg Strap

Different straps to fasten the Fitbit Alta HR (left) and Fitbit Alta (right)

With the Alta HR, the design makes a subtle change to a buckle mechanism, like you would find on a watch strap. Though it adds a little bulk, a buckle certainly helps in keeping the Alta HR secure on your wrist. This also helps the Alta HR to be in a more fixed position, ensuring you keep the PurePulse sensors close to the skin for more accurate heart rate readings.

What size is the Fitbit Alta HR available in?

There are three different sizes of band which can selected when you buy a Fitbit Alta HR:

  • Small – 5.5 inches to 6.7 inches
  • Large – 6.7 inches to 8.1 inches
  • XL – 8.1 inches to 9.3 inches

I already have Fitbit Alta accessories, are they compatible with the Alta HR?

Yes! Both models are the same dimensions and use the same clips to fasten onto bands. One thing to note, if you own the Stainless Steel or the 22k Gold Plated bracelet, the Alta HR is unlikely to record your heart rate data accurately when worn. The metal bracelets are rigid and will be too loose on the wrist, so natural light gets in-between your skin and the Alta HR unit and distorts the pulse readings.

Fitbit Alta HR - PurePulse incompatible Metal Bracelet Accessories

Screenshot from Fitbit website stating heart rate tracking won’t work on Alta HR when worn on wrist with a metal bracelet.

Likewise if you want to make your existing Alta more secure with a buckle strap, you can just clip it into an Alta HR wrist band, rather than buying a whole new Fitbit.

Is the Relax feature available on Fitbit Alta HR

Relax is a controlled deep breathing exercise feature available on the Fitbit Charge 2 that’s designed to destress wearers. Though it uses PurePulse technology to detect a decreasing heart rate through deep breathing, the feature doesn’t appear on the Alta HR at the time of release. I think this is more of a commercial decision to differentiate the two Fitbit devices and I wouldn’t be surprised if Relax is added to the Fitbit Alta HR in a future software update. Bear in my that’s just my opinion though.

Fitbit Alta HR Price – How much does it cost?

With an RRP starting at $149.95 (UK price £129.99) the Alta HR costs just $20 (£10) more than the original Alta model. That’s quite a small increase for the benefits of on wrist heart rate tracking.

For an additional $30, you can upgrade the design to a gun metal unit with black band, or a rose gold unit with pink band.

Fitbit Alta HR Rose Gold

Rose Gold special edition of the Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit Alta HR release date – When can I buy it?

Announced only days ago, the Alta HR is already available for pre-order direct from Fitbit’s website, as well as Amazon. Expect it to start shipping at the start of April 2017.

Compare Prices on Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit Alta HR

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Fitbit Alta

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I'm a super keen injured runner with over 20 years experience in races and endurance training. Get in touch with me over Twitter, G+ on in the comments below.

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