Fitbit has released the Blaze and the Alta, two new fitness trackers aimed at riders who are interested in measuring their activity, monitoring their calorie intake and expenditure, and keeping on top of their fitness regime. The Blaze is more of a smartwatch, and the Alta is a smartband – so which would suit you? We're yet to get lots of hands-on time, but let's look at how they compare on paper.
The two models sit at different points within the existing range, with the Blaze aimed at smartwatch wearers and positioned just below the top-of-the-range Fitbit Surge, and the more feature-lite Alta just below the Charge HR, which (unlike the Alta) includes a continuous heart rate monitor.
Both the Blaze and the Alta are aimed at people who like their wearable tech to blend in with everyday wear, with the Blaze in particular looking very much like a traditional watch, with leather and metal strap options available.
Both devices work with the Fitbit app, which runs on smartphones, tablets and laptops. Fitbit devices wirelessly sync with the app, updating the diary with key data providing a simple way to track exercise, calories, sleep and general activity levels. Both the Alta and the Charge are USB-rechargeable.
Fitbit's Blaze (left) and Alta side by side
Fitbit Blaze vs. Alta: features
With the strapline 'fitness and fashion on display', and a range of fashion-forward straps available including pastel leather and chrome finishes, the Alta slots into position at the top end of Fitbit's 'everyday' range. These are designed to be simple activity trackers, monitoring steps taken, distances travelled, calories burned and the number of active minutes over the day.
The Alta doesn't have a heart rate monitor – you'll need to move into the Active range with the Fitbit Charge HR for that – but does feature automatic activity tracking, or 'smart track' as Fitbit calls it, which recognises when the wearer is engaged in exercise and will record it. Other features include a 'reminder to move', an alert system that will provide a cue to get moving if the device notices the wearer has been stationary for longer than a preset amount of time.
The Fitbit Alta features include activity and sleep monitoring
For those who are concerned with their rest, the Alta – like other fitness trackers in the Fitbit range – auto tracks sleep while being worn, and will record duration, plus time spent restless and any waking periods.
The Blaze, by contrast, sits near the top of the Active range, just below the Fitbit Charge HR, and of the two new products (Blaze and Alta) is likely to be the one of most interest to cyclists with its tethered GPS capabilities that allow route mapping.
Connect the Blaze to your smartphone and you can track your route, with the device recording and displaying information such as pace and duration. Fitbit also states that the device can be set to give audio updates on info such as splits.
If you want a fitness tracker with integrated GPS tracking, you'll need to go up in price and functionality to the top-of-the-range Fitbit Surge.
The Blaze includes a heart-rate monitor, the usual all-day activity monitoring including steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and number of active minutes, and a multi-sport mode which includes cycling and spinning which allows you to track these specific activities. After each session, the colour screen displays a workout summary, and will sync with the Fitbit app on your phone or laptop.
Fitbit Blaze vs. Alta: training features
Likely to be of interest to those considering purchasing the Blaze are the FitStar workout programs. Available to purchase for an additional £29.99, these are on-screen and customisable exercise programmes covering areas such as core strength or balance.
A series of videos, images or animations takes you through a workout tailored to the specific goals you have – good for those who want off-bike workouts to boost their on-bike performance.
Alas, no such training features are available on the Fitbit Alta.
Fitbit Blaze vs. Alta: appearance
The Blaze, with its square face has multiple display options including a variety of clock faces, and the straps available in the range include traditional leather or metal watch-style straps as well as the more contemporary elastomer sport strap.
The Alta is a sleeker, more low-profile band that eschews the traditional watch face for a slim OLED screen. There's a selection of metal, leather and rubber bands that can be swapped in when you fancy a change of look, with the rubber bands available in black, blue, plum purple and teal.
The Fitbit Blaze has interchangeable straps, including metal and leather options
Fitbit Blaze vs. Alta: battery life and price
Fitbit claims the Alta has a five-day battery life per charge, and as well as a touch-display will give text, call and calendar alerts on the simple OLED screen. It's available for pre-order, RRP £99 (US and Australian prices TBC).
The Blaze also claims a battery life of up to five days, depending on how heavily you use features like tethered GPS, and is priced at £159.99 (US and Australian prices TBC).
So which one's right for you, the Fitbit Blaze or the Fitbit Alta? Well it depends on how much you value continuous heart rate monitoring, and whether you're after a something that can track your cycling.
The Fitbit Alta can track steps made throughout the day, and thus calculate calories burnt and rough distance covered on foot. It's sleek and lightweight, and can pair with your smartwatch to alert you to text messages, phone calls and the like.
The Fitbit Blaze looks like a far better proposition for cyclists in our opinion – its Multisport mode lets you tell it you're about to go off cycling, running or more, and it then uses your phone's GPS capabilities to figure out speed, altitude, distance cycled and more. It's only £50 more expensive, with similar battery life, and bundles in continuous heart rate monitoring to boot.
But hang on – there must be plenty of other options out there, right?There sure are. Before you drop that cash, take a look at our reviews of their rivals. The Garmin VivoActive is a popular smartwatch, and the latest version adds heart rate monitoring, GPS and more.
Our hands-down favourite sports watch at the moment is Garmin's Fenix 3 – this beast can do it all, it's capable of tracking a plethora of sports including cycling, running, swimming, hiking, skiing, climbing and – should you care – golf. And the new version also adds heart rate monitoring.
Suunto is another big name in the sports watch game, and their Ambit2 is a long-cherished favourite for many multisporters. The latest version apparently adds Bluetooth Smart, a monster battery life and more.
And finally, read our guide to taming your cycling gadgets and becoming a better rider with the data they can give you.