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Hands-on Gear Review
Phil And Teds Alpha Review
Price: $200 List | $199.99 from Amazon
Pros: Easy to install, comfortable, light weight, budget friendly
Cons: Difficult to use
Bottom line: Comfortable seat with nice features, but is harder to use.
Phil and Teds Alpha car seat offered a lot to impress with a very nice comfort and quality score, and a couple of good installation scores. What it lacks in ease of use scores, it makes up for in being lightweight and comfortable, and there are many things we love about this good looking seat. The seat offers what we consider to be a basic level of crash test performance, and while we believe it is safe and it definitely exceeds the Federal safety requirements, it did not offer the extra margin of protection we saw evidenced in the crash test results of some competing seats.
RELATED: Our complete review of infant car seats
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
Phil and Teds Alpha car seat is a rear facing seat designed for children from 4-35 pounds, up to 32" tall, and for use up to approximately 9 months of age. It offers high side protection with the cushioned liner and thick EPS foam on high sides for baby's head, neck and upper body protection. It features a removable cushioned liner for newborns, an easy to adjust harness with non-slip shoulder padding and chest clip, and an integrated sun hood to keep protect baby from the elements. This seat comes with an ergonomically shaped handle for comfort while carrying or transferring to a stroller. The base has an easy click and go base that uses the LATCH system or can be used with a seat belt. You can click the Alpha onto a Phil and Teds stroller using car seat adapters. However, stroller support outside of the Phil and Teds family of strollers is limited.
Every car seat sold in the US must comply with the Federal safety guidelines outlined in FMVSS 213. The charts shown here show the test data from the Alpha as it compares to the results from the highest performing seats in the group. The crash tests were performed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing standards and the seats were compared side-by-side to offer parents a better idea of how each seat compares to the standard and other seats in the review. Because each seat complies with Federal safety standards, they all provide at least a basic level of protection. Seats in the review varied in how many G forces were exerted on the test dummy sensors in the head and chest, and several seats seemed to offer an additional margin of protection with fewer recorded G forces.
Chicco Keyfit 30 (shown in green) vs the test data for the Alpha (in black). The same type of chart is shown for the data on head sensors, with the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 test results (again in green) indicating the best chest data for the group.
Ease of Install - LATCH
Chicco Keyfit 30, Cybex Aton 2, and the UPPAbaby Mesa. The lowest score in the metric is a 3 earned by the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect.
Overall the seat is fairly easy to install using LATCH, and while it can't hold a candle to the car seats that scored 9s (they all had some unique anchor features that made them much easier) it does an adequate job that won't leave you feeling too frustrated when you need to move the seat from one car to another. The seat is relatively stable when installed properly and we couldn't get it to shift much.
The base has a level located on the side to help parents determine the proper angle for baby. It has a metal ball that rolls inside a clear plastic casing that needs to be in different sections depending on the weight of baby. The level seems to work well and we didn't find it sticking like some of the other products with plastic or rubber balls.
Ease of Install - Belt
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35. The low score is a 4 for the Evenflo Embrace LX.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
Ease of Use
Recaro Performance Coupe and the Evenflo. The low is a is a 3 shared by the Orbit Baby G3, Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40, and the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect.
The buckle on the Alpha is not bad compared to the competition. It is easier to use than all the Graco options, but not the easiest in the bunch and it earned an average score in our tests. We did have trouble with the chest clip catching when trying to buckle it as opposed to unbuckling, and this made it a definite two hand operation, but all in all not too bad considering the alternatives on other products.
Adjusting shoulder strap height on this seat is better than the average product in the review, but it is a rethread style seat and we preferred the non-rethread due to ease of use and convenience of adjustment with baby in the seat. The Alpha has a T style splitter with 2 large loops on the shoulder straps that fold over and Velcro together to keep the excess strap out of the way (possibly why it is hard to loosen?). The process is about as easy as any rethread in the group. The crotch strap is a little more difficult because the rethread needs to go through two layers of padding as opposed to 1, but it isn't a deal breaker given that you will only need to change it a few times in the lifetime of the seat. The shoulder straps have 4 height positions and the crotch strap has 3. We preferred the seats with at least 4 height positions to help ensure a great fit for baby.
Installing the carrier onto the base isn't particularly hard, but compared to other products it isn't the best. The carrier does fit on the base nicely and we didn't have any occurrences in our testing of thinking the carrier was latched on properly only to find out it wasn't. It isn't as hard to get in the right place as the Cybex Aton 2, but it doesn't just fall into place and latch like many of the other carriers we looked at either. There is no visual indicator of a complete attachment.
Our main squabble with this seat is that the release handle is located on the base as opposed to the seat. Some of the European belt path car seats have this set up thanks in part to the belt threading path being located on the carrier where the release handle traditionally resides. The release handle on the base is awkward to use and means you have to sort of lift the carrier off the base with one hand while you pull the release and then you can use both hands to get the carrier out of the car.
For LATCH storage the Alpha offers a large storage pocket located on the base near the foot. We think children could easily open this pocket and mess with the straps which could lead to them potentially being in the way of the carrier attaching to the base properly, so we caution parents to check the straps regularly to avoid a problem seating the carrier correctly.
One of the first things you notice about the Alpha is how nice and cozy it looks. The padding feels extra thick and the fabric is soft and very skin friendly. While there might be a few places that look like they could collect crud in them, it is a small price to pay for the comfort it provides.
The shell of the seat feels durable and nicely made. There are no rough edges or bendable plastic. It has the feeling that it will stand up well over time, which is a little surprising given its lower weight. The overall fit and finish is nice with the padding and fabric fitting well to the frame of the shell. Overall, it is a simple but sharp looking product.
The handle scored about average for quality and was relatively unremarkable. It isn't that there is something wrong with it so much as that there is nothing unique or great about it either. It does what it is supposed to do and we didn't readily identify any problems with it that imply poor quality or an inability to last for the life of the seat.
While weight should not be the only, or even first, factor parents should consider when making a buying decision, it should be a factor at some point. If you have narrowed your personal choices down to a couple of stand out seats, then it is a good time to let weight weigh in (pun intended). The Alpha has one up on the competition because it is one of the highest ranking seats with the lowest possible carry weight.
The Alpha performed well in many metrics, and came in 5th overall in our review of the top 15 car seats. We feel this seat offers great features for comfort, and we like its ease of installation scores in 2 of the metrics and low overall weight, but there are better scoring products in most metrics that ranked higher. Its ease-of-use when installing without the base makes it a strong contender for urbanites who may expect to take their baby in a taxi cab or Uber.
With a list price of $200 the Alpha is about average for the products in this review, but it offers a quality level that is more typical of seats costing $300. With so much to offer, and good scores in most metrics, the Alpha really is generally a good value, but there are seats in this review that scored higher and have either a similar or cheaper price point. The Chicco came in 3rd place and is the same price as the Alpha. It also has comparatively better crash test results with fewer G forces exerted on the sensors in the CRABI dummy.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Alpha is the only infant car seat that Phil and Teds makes.
Stroller options are relatively limited, and it is best suited to the customer who contemplates using one of Phil and Teds compatible strollers.
Accessories include an all weather cover and an umbrella that can attach to a Phil and Teds stroller if you opt for their travel system or Alpha compatible stroller.
Back Seat Mirror from Cozy Greens is a great accessory for any parent wanting to keep an eye on baby from the front seat. The mirror is attached to a flat base that fits against the front of the headrest and is kept secure by two adjustable straps that fit around the headrest horizontally and vertically. The actual mirror has a convex shatter proof surface and is able to pivot and adjust to provide a wider field of view. Once adjusted correctly, there is a device to tighten the pivot point so that the mirror won't be accidentally bumped out of position. One of the few downfalls of this mirror is that it requires an adjustable headrest in order to attach properly. Other than that, Amazon users seem to love this accessory and claim that it provides a much clearer reflection than many other back seat mirrors.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Review Team
Most recent user review: October 28, 2015
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