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Hands-on Gear Review

Phil and Teds Alpha Review

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

The Skinny

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.


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Score Product Price Our Take
76
$300
Editors' Choice Award
A great all-around seat with good crash test results
71
$280
Editors' Choice Award
Easy to install and use seat made with quality materials, but has limited stroller options
68
$300
Top Pick Award
Impressive Top Pick seat that is easy to use and install
68
$200
Editors' Choice Award
Crash test results and ease of install with a nice price make it a good choice for most families
67
$400
Top Pick Award
The best option for safety conscious parents with a higher budget
67
$320
Compelling high quality seat with additional safety features that is harder to use and pricey
66
$200
Comfortable seat with nice features, but is harder to use.
65
$160
Best Value Award
Best Value that is a good bang for the buck
62
$270
Not a bad seat, but there are better options that cost less.
60
$500
Top Pick Award
Fills a niche for safe vehicle transportation of baby for parents who frequent taxis and Uber
60
$220
Nicer than the other Gracos, but not nice enough for the price
59
$230
An easy to use seat that is average
57
$150
Uncompelling performance with disappointing test results that is harder to use
57
$210
Easy to use LATCH, but disappointing overall performance
56
$100
Difficult to install seat that is fairly poor quality

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

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

Last Updated:
Sunday
November 1, 2015

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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.

We have tested over 15 infant car seats for this review since its first version in 2016. This picture includes the original lineup  four of which have been replaced with new and different popular seats to replace those that have been discontinued.
We have tested over 15 infant car seats for this review since its first version in 2016. This picture includes the original lineup, four of which have been replaced with new and different popular seats to replace those that have been discontinued.

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.


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.

Crash Test


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.

 
The Alpha exceeds all Federal safety requirements. However, regarding 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 of the competition has crash test results that suggest they offer an extra margin 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 claims it has "high side protection cushioned liner and thick EPS foam" for absorbing some of the energy of a crash, and the seat has a deep pocket for baby's head that Phil and Teds claims can potentially increase protection in the event of a car accident. We do not have any data to suggest that these features increase the margin of protection, but we do like any attempts to improve safety.

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

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 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 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.

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 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 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

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.

Installing the Alpha with the vehicle belt is a snap
Installing the Alpha with the vehicle belt is a snap

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 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 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.

The Alpha has a color coded European belt path
The Alpha has a color coded European belt path

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.

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 are safe, we feel the European version is more secure utilizing the shoulder strap around the back of the carrier and the lap portion over the lower part 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.

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

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.

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. 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 on the Alpha is relatively easy to use
The handle on the Alpha is relatively easy to use

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 well for comfort and quality
The Alpha scored well for comfort and quality

Comfort/Quality


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

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

Weight


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.

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 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.

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.

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

Conclusion


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.

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. 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.

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Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz

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Most recent review: November 1, 2015
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