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Hands-on Gear Review

Phil And Teds Alpha Review


Infant Car Seat

Phil and Teds Alpha
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.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Phil and Teds

The Skinny

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

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief, BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
November 1, 2015
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.
We compared the top 15 infant style car seats side-by-side in an extensive 5 month testing process for this review
We compared the top 15 infant style car seats side-by-side in an extensive 5 month testing process for this review

Performance Comparison


This chart is a comparison of the overall scores for all infant car seats tested in our review. Phil and Teds Alpha is shown in blue.


More information is provided in the sections below on how the Alpha performed in our tests for each metric. Individual metric scores were used to calculate overall scores and rank.

Crash Test


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.

 
The Alpha exceeds all Federal safety requirements. However, in terms of crash tests results compared to most other car seats we reviewed the Alpha provides what we consider to be a basic level of protection, while some competing seats have crash test results that suggest they offer an extra level of protection. The charts above show the test results for the Alpha compared to the top performing seat in each crash test sensors for head and chest data. The car seat with the best data recorded on the sensors located in the head of the dummy is the 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.

The Phil and Teds Alpha has some of the thickest dense foam in the review
The Phil and Teds Alpha has some of the thickest dense foam in the review
The Alpha marketing does not make claims of additional features an anti-rebound bar or a leg prop. However, it is made with high side protection cushioned liner and thick EPS foam for absorbing some of the impact of a crash, and the seat is designed with a deep pocket for baby's head that Phil and Teds claims can potentially help to increase protection in the event of a crash. We do not have any data to suggest that these features increase the margin of protection, but we do like any attempts that might increase potential seat performance.

Ease of Install - LATCH


The Alpha is hardest to install using the LATCH system  but it still scored relatively well
The Alpha is hardest to install using the LATCH system, but it still scored relatively well
The Alpha earned a 7 out 10 for install with the LATCH system, an above average score for ease of installation with LATCH. The average for the metric is just over 6, and the high is a 9 shared by the 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.

The Phil and Teds Alpha has the more traditional style anchor clip that work well but are a little harder to detach than the more seat belt like anchor with a push button release
The Phil and Teds Alpha has the more traditional style anchor clip that work well but are a little harder to detach than the more seat belt like anchor with a push button release
The Alpha has the more traditional anchors that look like clips, as opposed to the more solid click-in anchors that look sort of like skinny seat belts we prefer. The clips are easy enough to use when attaching, but we had the normal amount of frustration for this style of clip when detaching. We find that pushing the clips forward after detaching and then twisting before pulling them out can help ease some of the frustration of detachment. The straps are easier to tighten and loosen than many of the group earning above average scores in both tests.

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 recline foot on the Alpha can be hard to open after the base is installed
The recline foot on the Alpha can be hard to open after the base is installed
This seat offers an adjustable foot that can help parents achieve the best angle for smaller or younger infants. However, you might need to use a rolled towel or a pool noodle when installing it to find the perfect angle. Be sure to
The level indicator on the Phil and Teds Alpha for proper recline adjustment is a free moving ball that works consistently well
The level indicator on the Phil and Teds Alpha for proper recline adjustment is a free moving ball that works consistently well
read the manual prior to install for detailed instructions on how to accomplish this.

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


Installing the Alpha with the vehicle belt is a snap
Installing the Alpha with the vehicle belt is a snap
The Alpha earned the top score in this metric with a 9 of 10 tying it with the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35. The low score is a 4 for the Evenflo Embrace LX.

The belt lock off on the Phil and Teds Alpha shown in blue with a yellow mock seatbelt running through it
The belt lock off on the Phil and Teds Alpha shown in blue with a yellow mock seatbelt running through it
The Alpha has a rather nice belt lock off and large threading areas that make threading the vehicle seat belt easier than most of the competition. While the lock off is easy to use, it can be stiff if you get the belt tight enough (as you should try to do). Once installed it feels pretty stable, more so than the Peg Perego, but not as good as the Cybex Aton 2. The seat feels stable when installed properly and earned higher marks in this test than much of the competition.

Ease of Install - Without the Base


The Alpha has a color coded European belt path
The Alpha has a color coded European belt path
Installing the Alpha without a base is almost as good as it gets, and it earned a 9 of 10 for this metric. This is a particularly important metric for urban parents who expect to ride in taxis or a service like Uber, as top performing seats are easier to safely secure using the taxi seat belt. The top score in the metric is a 10 earned by the Peg Perego and the UPPAbaby Mesa. The low score is a 4 shared by the Orbit Baby G3, and the Chicco Keyfit 30.

The seat belt is easy to thread on the Alpha
The seat belt is easy to thread on the Alpha
The vehicle shoulder belt threads through the belt clip on the back of the Alpha's carrier
The vehicle shoulder belt threads through the belt clip on the back of the Alpha's carrier
This seat has a European belt path that is color coded. We prefer this style over the American path. While both have been deemed safe, we feel like the European version is more secure utilizing the shoulder strap around the back of the carrier and the lap portion over the lower portion of the carrier. The belt is easy to thread and the seat feels secure when installed.

If a shoulder belt is unavailable  the Alpha can be installed using only a lap belt
If a shoulder belt is unavailable, the Alpha can be installed using only a lap belt
We also installed the Alpha using only a lap belt with what is known as the American belt path. This is allowable and outlined in the manual in the event that your vehicle doesn't offer a shoulder belt in the desired installation position. It felt just as secure using this method as the European method and both were equally easy to accomplish.

Ease of Use


The buckle and chest clip on the Alpha aren't the easiest to use
The buckle and chest clip on the Alpha aren't the easiest to use
One of the few metrics where the Alpha makes a misstep is ease of use. It earns a 5 of 10 in this metric, which is just below the average of 5.22. The high for this is an 8 shared by the 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.

The harness release button on the Alpha is easy to use
The harness release button on the Alpha is easy to use
Tightening and loosening the harness straps is more difficult than it should be with this seat. It felt it like we couldn't get the straps tight enough to fit smaller babies, but the loosening was a bigger problem during testing and we felt like we couldn't get them loose enough to fit baby under the straps. Tightening is accomplished by pulling the strap at the foot of the carrier. To loosen the straps you press the button on the foot of the carrier and pull the harness toward you. The button on this carrier is under some padding but it isn't deep like some of the other seats that have the button hidden 2-3 inches below padding. The button itself is easy to press and we aren't sure why it is so difficult to get the straps loose.

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.

The handle on the Alpha is relatively easy to use
The handle on the Alpha is relatively easy to use
The handle is better than average according to our test results and is easier to operate. It rubs less on the canopy than many other products, but it still rubs a little on the sides. The handle is operated like most of the others by depressing buttons on both sides near the pivot joint simultaneously and rotating to the desired position. It has 4 possible positions, and only the carry position is allowed for driving.

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.

Comfort/Quality


The Alpha scored well for comfort and quality
The Alpha scored well for comfort and quality
The Alpha scored the highest in the metric tying with the Peg Perego. The low is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect with a 2.

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.

The canopy on the Alpha is small
The canopy on the Alpha is small
The canopy on the Alpha is sort of a disappointment. It is one of the smallest sun shades in the group and it lacks a window for spying on baby. While most of the carriers lacked a window in the canopy, almost all of them did offer a larger canopy than this one. So while it looks nice and offers some coverage, it isn't a spectacular design.

Weight


Phil and Teds Alpha offers a lighter carrier with a weight of 8.35 pounds
Phil and Teds Alpha offers a lighter carrier with a weight of 8.35 pounds
The Alpha weighed in at 8.35 pounds almost a full pound under the average for the metric and definitely lower than many other products. That makes the Alpha kind of a stand out. The heaviest seat in the review is the Orbit Baby G3 weighing in at 12.5 pounds. The lightest seat is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect. The Alpha is one of the 5 lightest seats out of 15, not too shabby really.

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.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


Phil and Teds Alpha comes with 2 different inserts to help ensure the best fit for infants of all sizes
Phil and Teds Alpha comes with 2 different inserts to help ensure the best fit for infants of all sizes
The Alpha is an excellent seat that is worth consideration. It offers a comfortable seat with nice functional features, high quality materials, and it looks good and is easy to carry. Sold at an attractive price considering its quality level, it may be one of the better bargains for the parent looking for a high quality seat. This is a seat we find to be excellent in so many ways, and we look forward to future iterations of this Phil and Teds seat, because in general, we are fond of Phil and Teds products and could see a future version scoring even higher and winning our Editors' Choice award.

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.

The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The 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.

Video




Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Review Team

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User Reviews


Most recent user review: November 1, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
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1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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