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Hands-on Gear Review
Phil and Teds Alpha Review
Price: $200.00 List | $194.98 at 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 offers a lot to impress with a very nice comfort and quality score, and some good installation scores. Plus, what it lacks in ease of use, it makes up for in being lightweight and comfortable, and there are many things we love about this good looking seat. This product offers what we consider to be a basic level of crash test performance, and while safe and exceeding the Federal safety requirements, it did not offer the extra margin of protection we saw in the crash test results of some of the competition. This makes it a compelling option that falls short of the higher ranking choices but may be a possible option depending on your needs.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Infant Car Seats of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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 nine months of age. It offers a cushioned liner and thick EPS foam on high sides. It features a removable cushioned liner for newborns, an adjustable harness with non-slip shoulder padding and chest clip, and an integrated sun hood.
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.
You can find more information in the sections below on the Alpha's performance in our tests for each metric. Individual metric scores were used to calculate overall scores and rank.
Every car seat sold in the US must comply with the Federal safety guidelines outlined in FMVSS 213. The charts shown here provide 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 product compares to the standard and other options in the review. Because each must comply with Federal safety standards, they all provide at least a basic level of protection. The seats we tested varied in how many G forces were exerted on the test dummy sensors in the head and chest, and several products 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
The Alpha earned a 7 of 10 for install with the LATCH system. The high is a 10 earned by the Chicco Fit2.
The Alpha has the more traditional anchors that look like clips, as opposed to the push button anchors we prefer. The clips are easy to use when attaching but can be difficult to detach. Pushing the clips forward after detaching and twisting before pulling them out can help ease some of the frustration of detachment. However, the straps are easier to tighten and loosen than many we tested.
The seat is fairly easy to install using LATCH, and while it can't hold a candle to the higher ranking options, it does an adequate job that won't leave you feeling frustrated. The seat feels stable when installed, and we couldn't shift it around much.
This seat offers an adjustable foot for achieving 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 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. It has a metal ball that rolls inside a clear plastic casing with indicators of the acceptable installation range. The level works well and doesn't stick like some of the other products with plastic or rubber balls.
Ease of Install - Belt
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 Alpha has a 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 Primo Viaggio 4-35. 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
Installing the Alpha without a base is almost as good as it gets, and it earned a 9 of 10 for this metric, tying with the UPPAbaby Mesa. This is an 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 Primo Viaggio.
Ease of Use
One of the few metrics where the Alpha makes a misstep is ease of use, earning a 5 of 10. The high for this is an 8 shared by the Recaro Performance Coupe and the Doona.
The buckle on the Alpha is easier to use than the Graco options, but not the easiest, and it earned an average score in our tests. We did have trouble with the chest clip catching when trying to buckle it, and this made it a definite two hand operation, but all in all not too bad considering the alternatives on other products.
Tightening and loosening the harness straps is more difficult than it should be. It felt like we couldn't get the straps tight enough to fit smaller babies, but 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, but it is a rethread style, 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 one, 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 four height positions and the crotch strap has three. We preferred the seats with at least four 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 fits 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 doesn't just fall into place and latch like many of the other carriers we looked at either, and 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 is better than average 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 by depressing buttons on both sides near the pivot joint simultaneously and rotating to the desired position. It has four 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.
The Alpha scored the highest in the metric tying with the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio, Chicco Fit2, and the Cybex Cloud Q.
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 Alpha weighed in at 8.35 lbs almost a full pound under the average for the metric and lower than many other products. That makes the Alpha kind of a standout. The heaviest seat in the review is the Doona weighing over 16 lbs.
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 standout 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 product offers great features for comfort, and we like its ease of installation scores in two 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 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 an excellent product in so many ways, and we look forward to future iterations of this Phil and Teds seat, as we are fond of Phil and Teds products and envision a future version scoring even higher.
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. The mirror has a convex shatterproof surface and is able to pivot and adjust to provide a wider field of view. Once adjusted, 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.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz
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