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Fitbit's newest band, Alta, is totally aimed at fashion

The $130 Alta is Fitbit's replacement for the Charge fitness band. We put it through its paces to see if there was substance under the style.

Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Dan Graziano
4 min read

2016 is less than five weeks old, and Fitbit already revealed two new products.

The Fitbit Blaze, a $200 (£160, AU$330) smartwatch focused on fitness tracking and notifications, was the company's first product announcement of the year. Now it's being joined by the Fitbit Alta, a $130/AU$200 (roughly £90) fitness band that's aiming for looks as much as function.

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For Fitbit, it's yet another attempt to broaden its product line and maintain its status as the top brand in the wearable space, even as rumors of an updated Apple Watch continue to swirl.

Hands-on with the Fitbit Alta (pictures)

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The Alta is low-key, which I like. Consider it a revamped cousin of the Fitbit Flex, but with a screen. It can also be a fashion statement as the straps are interchangeable, allowing you to personalize your look with a variety of accessory bands. There are multiple colors to choose from, a leather option and even a metal one. This may be the first Fitbit you actually want to wear when going out at night.

While it doesn't have a heart-rate monitor like on the Charge HR, the Alta does feature a large OLED screen that's capable of showing select notifications from your smartphone. You can view incoming calls, text messages and calendar alerts.

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Rather than a basic "stand" or "move" reminder, the Alta encourages you to meet a mini-step goal of 250 steps each hour. If the goal hasn't been reached 10 minutes prior to the top of the hour, the band will remind you with a gently vibration. Fitbit says this is equal to about 2 to 3 minutes of walking, and could help keep your metabolism up and reduce the negative impacts of sitting.

The Alta is also the latest tracker from Fitbit to offer automatic exercise recognition. In addition to both the Fitbit Charge HR and Surge, the band can recognize when you are doing an activity and will automatically record it in the Fitbit app. Activities that can be detected by SmartTrack include elliptical training, outdoor biking, running, walking and general aerobic workouts.

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Working out with the Alta

Fitbit invited journalists to a hotel in New York's swanky SoHo neighborhood to try the Alta in a real-world workout environment. During my 25 minute aerobic workout, the Alta correctly and automatically recognized my exercise time (colleague Scott Stein sweated out a test run alongside me and got similar results). It credited estimated calories, too.

The band feels good to wear. It's both flexible and slim. There are also no buttons, which gives the Alta a clean look. The display will turn on when you lift your wrist, as well as if you tap the screen or band, allowing you to browse through the different activity screens.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Detailed information on workouts and activity progress can be found in the Fitbit app (Android, iOS, Windows Phone). Here you can also compete with friends on daily challenges, which is the real advantage of wearing a Fitbit. Fitness tracking is more fun (and motivating) with friends, and you likely know another person who owns a Fitbit.

Battery life is said to last up five days on a single charge. While that would be epic for a smartwatch, in the world of dedicated fitness trackers, it's a bit short -- it's the same as the Fitbit Charge HR, and competitors like the Garmin Vivosmart HR last longer.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Preorders begin today

The Fitbit Alta feels good and looks good. Can it be good enough to be a go-to fitness band for everyone? Our time with the band was brief (and the software was an early version), but we'll have a full review soon.

Last updated on Wednesday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET: This article incorrectly stated that the Fitbit Blaze also included the move reminder feature of the Alta. This has been fixed.