Fitbit's fitness trackers, such as the Charge HR and Surge, are great performers. However, they are not known for their looks.
The new Fitbit Alta seeks to correct that flaw.
It comes with a sleek stainless steel tracker module, which has a 1.4-inch (128 x 36 pixels) Oled touch-sensitive screen and an easily-replaceable rubber strap.
A black strap is included (version tested), but you can swop it for a blue, teal or plum-coloured strap ($49.95 each). Premium leather straps ($99.95) and hand-polished stainless steel bangles ($149) are also available.
Eschewing buttons, the Alta looks more elegant than the recently-reviewed Garmin Vivosmart HR. In fact, it looks like a slimmed-down version of the Microsoft Band 2.
A push-slide mechanism allows you to easily remove and install the straps. I tried the graphite leather strap, which is much more comfortable and looks better than the rubber strap.
But leather might be stained during workouts.
The Alta automatically tracks your steps taken, calories burnt, distance travelled and active minutes. You can toggle through these fitness stats by tapping on the screen. It also monitors your sleep automatically.
Unlike the Charge HR, the Alta does not track your stair-climbing efforts. It also lacks a heart-rate (HR) monitor (which the Charge HR and Surge have), so you won't know your resting HR or HR zones during exercise.
The Alta is accurate, however, in terms of daily activity tracking. In terms of steps taken, its readings differ by only 2 per cent at most from my calibrated Charge HR.
There were a few occasions when the two devices recorded the exact same number of steps for the day.
Sleep tracking is equally spot-on, with the device able to pinpoint the time I fell asleep and woke up with uncanny precision.
And it will not think you are sleeping if you leave it on the table, unlike many trackers.
Its automatic activity tracking is smart enough to recognise when I am jogging. But it cannot compute distance, only the duration of the jogs and calories burned.
The touch-sensitive display is not very visible under bright sunlight. Also, it sometimes does not respond immediately to my taps.
When paired with a smartphone, the Alta displays notification for incoming calls, text and calendar events. But the display is too small and messages get cut off too soon.
You cannot swim or shower while wearing the Alta. It is only rated to resist rain, sweat and water splashes.
But battery life is better than the advertised five days. In my tests, the battery lasted up to a week most of the time before it needed to be charged.
Verdict: If only the Fitbit Alta had a heart rate monitor, it would have easily garnered Editor's Choice with its good looks and great performance. I hope an Alta HR is in the works.
PRICE: $ 198
MATERIAL: Stainless steel tracker module with rubber straps
WATER RESISTANCE: Rain-, sweat- and splash-resistant
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
This article was first published on April 20, 2016.
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