Polar Ignite GPS In-Depth Review
Back in June Polar announced their Ignite GPS watch. This new watch undercut the higher end Vantage M on price, but yet at the same time also added a slew of features that the Vantage series doesn’t yet have (most of them are coming in November to the Vantage M/V). While the Vantage series was aimed at more hardcore athletes, the Ignite watch aimed to straddle the soft squishy middle.
No, not like your belly after forgetting to workout – but rather the mid-range price point of approximately $$, and to do so with not just GPS included, but a slew of training and recovery type metrics aimed at actually making you faster/stronger/whatever, by giving you dynamically created workouts and targets based on what you were doing day by day. It’s actually more impressive once you start to dig into it, and is frankly something nobody else is doing quite this well (or even half-assed).
The watch has been on my wrist now for two months and I’ve got plenty of workouts and daily use on it. The good, bad, and ugly – we’ll cover it all. While the watch is impressive from a training metrics standpoint, it also falls short in areas like accuracy and just general usability. I’ll dive into all those things and you can decide if it’s worth the trade-off, or whether it fits the bill on pricing – and areas I think they’ve missed the mark on.
Finally, note that Polar sent over a few Ignite units to test, which are media loaners. Once I’m done with them I’ll get them boxed up and sent back to Finland. Just the way I roll. If you found this review helpfull, hit up the links at the end to help support the site. With that – let’s get cookin’.
The Quick Overview:
Don’t have time to read a few thousand words and a hundred photos? No worries, I’ve got you covered. The Ignite is aimed to compete primarily against something like the Garmin Forerunner 45 or Vivoactive 3, but it’s also up against the Fitbit Versa and Ionic, and even the Apple Watch Series 3 (often found for $). Also in that range is the Samsung Galaxy Active Watch. This slate of competitors is strong, and the pricing even more so, especially with most of them often on sale for ~$$ (or less).
Polar has priced the unit for $ in the US, and EUR in Europe. For both base prices you’ll get a harder rubber band. Whereas in Europe if you spend EUR they offer a much nicer silicone band.
On the hardware side of things, here’s the quick rundown of specs:
– Color touchscreen display, single side button
– Display is not always-on (only turns on when raising wrist, like Apple Watch or most Fitbits), workout mode does have always-on option though
– Has Sony GPS chipset, like Polar Vantage series
– Polar Precision Prime optical heart rate sensor on back (same as Vantage series)
– Strap in two models, a harder rubber (base model), and a silicone strap ($30 more)
– Bluetooth Smart HR sensor support (though not power meters/cycling/footpod sensors)
– Waterproofed to 30 meters
– Swappable wristbands
– No music/storage on watch, nor NFC/contactless payments
– Claimed daily battery time of 5 days, GPS battery time of 17 hours
Most of what you see above is fairly standard. Actually, all of it is. Nothing earth-shattering there. The only ‘downside’ is that it’s not an always-on display. So unlike the vast majority of Polar watches (except the older Android WearOS based M), this display turns off after a few seconds. And unfortunately, it’s pretty slow to turn back on too (about 3 seconds from wrist raise while running, 2 seconds sitting at a desk). But more on that down below.
What’s most interesting is what’s new in the Ignite. These are features that aren’t really seen on any other Polar watch at all (not even the Vantage series).
– Added ‘Nightly Recharge’ feature that looks at breathing rate/heart rate/heart rate variability (ANS data) to figure out if you’re recovering at night
– Added ‘Sleep Plus Stages’ which adds in REM/Light/Deep sleep
– Added a nightly sleep score
– Added ‘FitSpark’ feature which gives you daily workout options based specifically on history + Nightly Recharge (this is huge)
– Added ‘Serene’, which are guided breathing exercises (like what Fitbit and others have)
Those features are totally new to Polar, and also the ones I’ll be diving into down below in more depth since you won’t have seen them before. But more importantly, I think some of them are doing far more of what I’ve been asking for, for years. I’ve long said there’s such a gap between what happens at night (sleeping, not the horizontal shuffle) and training guidance. You could have a horrific sleep night, and then the device turns around and says to go do a 2hr long run.
Whereas that’s somewhat the entire point of ‘FitSpark’ relying on the Nightly Recharge feature. And in my experience, it’s pretty solid at figuring out whether a night was ‘good’ or not from a recharge standpoint. I’d argue more so than Garmin’s FirstBeat based metrics have been. I got somewhat sick a few weeks back and the Ignite did a really good job of constantly classifying my sleep recharge as horrific (it used slightly nicer language, but only just barely).
But more than what’s new is all the usual Polar goodness that’s still there. Polar didn’t simply take a Vantage M watch and rip out everything from it. In fact, the vast majority of things are still present in the less expensive Ignite:
– Has structured workout support (download workouts from Polar Flow to watch)
– Tracks general activity metrics (e.g. steps, distance, calories, etc) 24×7
– Tracks heart rate 24×7
– Tracks sleep (see new sleep features though)
– Includes VO2Max score (aka ‘Running Index’)
– Includes ‘Fitness Test’ feature (VO2Max test while lying down)
– Includes *both* pool swim mode and openwater swim tracking
– Does *NOT* have multisport (aka triathlon) mode
– Includes timers (countdown timers & stopwatch)
– Includes ‘Training Benefit’ metric
– Includes distance
– Maximum of 20 sport profiles on the watch itself (far more than Apple, Garmin, Fitbit, or Suunto allow at this price point), some sports on platform to add to watch
– Can apply both heart rate zones and speed zones (no power zones/nor power meter support)
– Accelerometer-based speed/distance when no GPS is available (or inside on treadmill)
Phew, got all that? Good. Now with this overview of the features and the watch itself, let’s turn towards using it. We’ll start with the daily usage bits – including all those new sleep metrics, and then we’ll shift towards sports and training.
Day to Day Basics:
The first – and probably most important – thing to know about the Polar Ignite is the display and touch screen. The unit only has a single button on the left side, whereas all other interactions are completed through touches and swipes on the display:
The display stays off unless you touch the button or raise your wrist. This is similar to the Apple Watch and most Fitbit watches. Companies do this to conserve battery when using brighter displays. And indeed, the display on the Ignite is brighter and has more contrast than that of their Vantage series watches:
The downside though is that it’s not always on. So you have to use ‘raise to wake’, which means to raise your wrist up for the screen to turn on. And frankly, it sucks. Even workout mode only has an always-on backlight, but that doesn’t mean the screen is always on, just the backlight.
I figured it might improve with firmware updates from when it first launched, but two months in, and the raise to wake often takes 3+ seconds, and usually requires me to put my arm in weird positions to get it to actually wake up. Yet other times at night while in bed it’ll trigger itself on and lighthouse the entire room with its bright backlight. Without question, the comparatively poor raise to wake algorithm of the Ignite (in contrast to Apple or even Fitbit) is the biggest downside for me. Note that in theory you can set the bright backlight to not come on at night, but it doesnt seem to be taking for me.
As for the touchscreen, I’d put it in the ‘meh’ category. It’s fine for casual use, but I’m glad I don’t have to interact with it a ton. Simple things like swiping between sport modes often requires repeated attempts. On the bright side, the button works every time as I’d expect. You mostly use the button for ‘back’ commands.
Speaking of the back, the unit has Polar’s Precision Prime optical HR sensor on the back, the same one as the Vantage series.
Further, by looking at the back you’ll see how the wrist straps are detachable. You can buy other ones from Polar, or go out and buy any standard 20mm straps.
Back on the front, we’ll start with the main dashboard. This shows the time/date, and then at the bottom your time since last training.
If there’s a small red dot at the bottom it indicates I’ve got smartphone notifications to check out. Here’s how they look. Super simple/basic, but does the trick.
Now technically speaking, your default dashboard might actually be a different page. For example, I can swipe to the right to see my Nightly Recharge sleep stats (random side note, as I did this for this photo, the unit actually just crashed and restarted – the first time in two months):
These sleep stats do depend on interaction with the Polar Flow app (only seen there). Also somewhat important is that you don’t run low on battery during the night. Last night I went to bed with low battery, but figured it was fine. While the watch was still alive when I woke up (down to 3% battery), it appears to turn off some of the advanced features to save battery for basic activity tracking. Fair enough and actually kinda logical, just an FYI though as you won’t get nightly recharge tracking if you fall below the critical battery level.
If you swipe again youll get the training recommendations page. This is kinda like a coach that gives you a variety of options for today’s workout. It’ll first suggest a category – such as Cardio, Strength, or Supportive. That’s shown in the upper portion of the screen:
Then once you tap into it, it’ll give you not only an exact duration, but actually multiple workouts with very specific details. But more on that later.
Swiping through the display we’ve got the regular activity tracker page, counting things like steps, active time, and calories:
Swipe again and you get your current heart rate (HR) and related stats. This uses the optical HR sensor on the back of the unit to measure HR 247:
With that, we’ve swiped through all the basics of the screens (aside from starting a workout), so let’s dive into that 247 HR bits a bit more. The 247 HR data is sent to Polar Flow (desktop or smartphone app), and then you can see your HR trended over the course of the day, including periods where you did a workout:
You can also look at plots of this over time. The blue line you see is your lowest HR during sleep, while the lower black line/dots is the lowest HR during the day, and the higher black line is your highest HR during the day:
In fact, those same charts above are also showing you your daily activity % over goal. Meaning that % is over your daily step goal. You can look at individual days by scrolling down on the daily activity feed:
Next within the app is the sleep bits. Part of that is shown above at the bottom of the screen (up above) where it shows the duration for how much you slept. The remainder though comes under the app tab titled ‘Nightly Recharge’. This is where you get all the ANS Charge and Sleep Charge details as well. In fact, there’s an astounding amount of information once you click on either of the two tiles (ANS Charge or Sleep Charge):
Of particular note is the breathing rate, which is new to the Polar Ignite (and Polar lineup). This uses some of the previously untapped elements of the Polar Precision Prime sensor. You can see breathing rate on a per night basis:
Now I’ll note that I don’t have any medically comparable data here. So this rate could be totally bogus. Perhaps I’ll get lost on Amazon and buy something I probably don’t really need to compare these metrics. Until then, you’ll just have to make do with a metric that might be accurate, but also might not be accurate.
What I can say however is that for the most part it gets a lot of things right in terms of how I felt. Let’s take the below range of days. I got kinda-sorta-fairly-sick. So much so that I wasn’t really sleeping. Perhaps minutes at a time at best. But the rest of the time I was withering on the floor in pain. And oddly enough, the watch mostly gets that right. Check out the interruptions listed. Also, check out the nightly recharge status of ‘Compromised’, and even the ANS charge of “Much below usual” still later in the week:
That night it said ‘Compromised?’ – I’d end up in the hospital shortly after the sun came up (interestingly, I can’t find any documentation to understanding exactly what ‘Compromised’ means precisely). On the flip-side, it still then recommend an odd combination of ‘Get more sleep’ along with ‘Today is a good day for some exercise’. Trust me, as one who could barely walk 50 meters – it was not a good day for some exercise. [Story end-note: I’m perfectly fine now, though after a ton of tests they have no idea what it was.]
All of this, by the way, is mirrored on the watch itself as you go day by day. Note that it does take three days of sleep before you start seeing scores. And in the event you miss a night of sleep (because your watch battery died), then you’ll have to wait for that clock to reset again.
I think Polar’s onto something here – even if it’s not quite perfect (yet). I’d like to see them surface these recommendations up more visually on the watch itself, rather than just the app.
As a note, when it comes to syncing the watch to the app, in theory it’s supposed to happen automagically in the background. In practice – it seems rather…intermittent. Most of the time I have to manually sync the watch by long-holding the button down which then initiates a connection to my phone.
Interestingly, this is somewhat the same problem I had back during my Vantage series testing. Sometimes (and for sometimes days at a time), it’d sync just fine, but then other times it just wouldn’t ever background sync. I can’t establish a pattern there, though I can say numerous other readers reported the same. You can however also sync via the USB cable to a Mac/PC, which works just fine as well.
I’ve mostly focused on the smartphone app, but Polar also has the entire Polar Flow website, where you can do a bunch of analytics into your workouts, daily activity/sleep, as well as tweak settings around sport profiles and device connections (such as syncing to Strava):
And back on the app you can also tweak items like turning on or off smartphone notifications, as well as do-not-disturb time periods, and alarms. More or less all the basics you’d expect.
Last but not least, there’s Serene. Best I can tell, it’s got no integration with anything else. And for the most part it’s not much different than what Apple or Fitbit or others do. It simply guides you through breathing exercises. The default is to do 3 minutes of breathing, inhaling and exhaling each in 5-second phases. Rinse, repeat (I show this in the video as well).
After it’s done, it divides things up into different special zone buckets with very jewelry store sounding names:
Unlike some of their competitors, I haven’t seen any proactive recommendations from the watch telling me to do the breathing exercises. For now, you have to remember to dig into the menus and do them yourself.
Sport & Training Specifics:
With the non-sport basics out of the way, let’s switch over to using it for sports, which is likely what you bought this watch for in the first place. Because honestly, if you’re not into sport or fitness there are better watches on the market for you.
The Ignite comes with the same massive slate of sport profiles that the rest of Polar’s watches do. However while it does support up to 20 sport profiles loaded at once, some sport profiles aren’t compatible. Most specifically: Triathlon mode. The point of these modes is to not only provide a bit of a starter template for certain data fields (which you can customize), but also to ensure calorie burn is correct for each activity. Additionally, they set the GPS on status to the correct state. For example, turning it off for treadmill running, but having it enabled for openwater swimming.
When you tap into a given sport profile on the app it’ll show you up top if it’s compatible with that watch. In my case I have multiple Polar watches linked in my account, so that’s why I have so many dots up top.
Below that is where you can customize data pages and data fields. You’ll also see the toggles for dedicated data pages like time of day and heart rate pages. Of course you can create your own data pages with up to four metrics each. You can arrange these however you see fit:
Note that the Polar Ignite does not support either running power or cycling power, nor does it have an altimeter, so it doesn’t have elevation related metrics on it.
All activities on the Polar Ignite are recorded at the 1-second rate, there isn’t any method to tweak that here to prolong battery life or such (for better or worse). However, Polar does seem to get pretty strong battery life (or at least claimed so) compared to its competitors in this price range. That said, I’m not sure I’d get the claimed 17 hours of GPS-on time. I am pretty consistently getting a solid 5 days of battery life with about minutes of GPS time each day, or a longer weekend ride or run in there. But I haven’t done a full GPS ‘till death do us part’ test. However, some of you DCR readers have done some much longer activities and it seems folks are on track for like hours GPS-on time.
In any event, switching over to the sensor side of the house – you’ve got the optical HR sensor on the back of the unit. But if you want to pair it with a chest strap instead, you can do that via the sensors menu. No cycling sensor support here though. Also, this is only for Bluetooth Smart sensors – no ANT+ sensors supported at this point (though, Polar did semi-recently start adding ANT+ support to their Polar OH1 and H10 units).
Also note that the Ignite doesn’t support legacy analog chest straps, which in turn means that you can’t get heart rate from a chest strap while underwater. Though you can get it from your wrist. So…win some, lose some.
In any event, to start your workout you’ll either press the button once, or, swipe a few times and then tap the ‘Start Training’ option:
Once that’s done you’ll swipe-de-swipe a bunch till you find the sport you’ll be suffering through today. This is the area where the touchscreen shines the least. I find it doesn’t swipe well and I’m often swiping repeatedly to get past a given sport. Further, it doesn’t appear that Polar is doing any sorting logic here in terms of the sports displayed. Yes, it’ll default to your last used sport, but beyond that it doesn’t order them by what you used before then. Instead, itll use them based on the order sorted on the Polar Flow app. With so many sports (20) loaded on there, it’d be handy if it kept your three most frequently used ones near.
Once you’ve selected the sport though it’ll show a circle around your heart rate (green means ready, red means locking still), and the location icon (green means ready, red means wait). For pool swims it’ll show the pool size to tweak if you want to. And remember, the watch even supports openwater swims (but not triathlon mode).
And, you can also pull up favorite structured workouts, as well as an on-unit interval workout option:
Assuming you’ve been wearing the watch already, the HR acquisition has always been instant for me. In my experience with GPS on the Ignite, it finds GPS almost immediately every time. At present Polar is only doing GPS+GLONASS, and not doing any form of GALILEO satellite connectivity. Perhaps down the road. With all that set, off to start your workout you go. The watch will display stats from the workout in real-time as you expect, once you tap in the center of the screen to start.
One item of note is that while there is automatic lap (configured as either distance or duration), there is no manual lap option. Again, no manual lap option. This is one that many runners would likely lament, especially if doing any sort of intervals that you didn’t program into the watch. I don’t really understand the logic here. And it’s something that others have stumbled on in the past as well (I remember Garmin skipping this on some low-mid range watches initially and then adding it back in after users rightly got angry).
We’re going to dive into the actual GPS & HR accuracy in the following sections. But note that by and large the watch worked for me just fine for outdoor workouts, though as noted the screen being always off and waiting for it to turn on is super annoying, especially when running. Once you’re done, you’ll get the summary information on the watch.
In addition, upon syncing to your smartphone you’ll get the same summary with a bunch more details there too. Typically if just syncing a single workout it’ll complete it in under a minute or so. You can long-hold the button down to get it to sync manually:
All of this is then automatically synced to any partner websites that you’ve set up – such as Strava, TrainingPeaks, and so-on:
But let’s actually circle all the way back to the earlier dashboard bits around something called ‘FitSpark’. FitSpark is basically a virtual coach that has no overarching fitness/seasonal goal in mind, except to give you a workout of the day. But the biggest and most important take away is that it looks at your nightly recharge scores and underlying sleep data to determine whether or not you should be doing anything at all.
That’s a super critical gap that’s been missing. Most automated training guidance coaches/platforms don’t do that. And by ‘most’, I mean, ‘none do’. You could have a newborn at home and be days deep of horrific sleep, and they’ll tell you to go out and run a 2hr long run. Whereas Polar will look at that sleep data and give you a go/no-go type guidance, and then depending on what your greater training data looks like, will also give you specific workouts to do.
Remember, this isn’t tied to a plan. Meaning, you’re not tied to some 5KM running plan. This is basically saying ‘Hi there, I know a scary amount about you, here’s four options for workouts today. Pick one.’
Oh, right, yes, it gives you options. Numerous options. Pick your poison:
And then for each of those options it’ll give you the specific steps and guidance in the watch itself. There are cardio-focused running workouts with different intensities. And then there are core type workouts too, and for those, it’ll give you the specific moves to do, along with animations and text for each one:
But let’s say you choose the cardio workout, go run an hour or so, and then finish up. At that point the watch gives you new suggestions. Specifically ones around active recovery such as stretching and related core workouts that’ll help and support that initial workout.
It’s like for once the coaching aspects of the unit are actually smart. It’s not just following some blind plan telling you to do something just because it was on the schedule. It’s making up the schedule on the fly based on what it knows about your exact day thus far.
And atop all that, if we dive back into the strength workouts, it’ll give you actual animated icon stick figures for each of the strength-specific items, as part of the full workout. This is roughly like what Fitbit has been doing for a few years now, but…from a company not called Fitbit. Garmin and Suunto both lack something like this.
Ultimately, after two months of looking at FitSpark suggestions, I think Polar’s trending in the right direction here. Having a watch give you specific workouts that seem to align to your current health state is certainly the direction all wearables should be going in the future, and I think Polar’s got a head start. It is different however than the typical Training Load or Recovery Pro bits that Polar has on their higher-end Vantage series watches.
In those cases, Polar is looking at your specific *training* over time and tracking that, or your specific recovery over time. It’s not looking so much (if at all) at your day to day life, whereas FitSpark is. To that end, Polar says they’re developed for different audiences in mind. With the Vantage series they’re assuming you’ve got a plan and are following it. Whereas with FitSpark they’re assuming you’re looking for guidance.
At a high level, those are logical assumptions. But ultimately even Olympic gold medalists have an off-season, and that’s where for most of us ‘have a plan athletes’ we’re looking for a bit of variety and just enough to keep us from falling off the bandwagon entirely. That’s where FitSpark seems to fill a role that could be applied to the Vantage series. In talking to Polar, they hadn’t really seen it looked at that way before, but are considering it for down the road. As it stands today, FitSpark is more or less the only feature not coming to the Vantage series watches in November. Polar noted that the challenge would be how to balance FitSpark with the Training/Recovery Pro features that are in some ways at odds with FitSpark. Remember – FitSpark’s goal is to get/keep you active, whereas Recovery Pro’s goal is to tell you to chill out.
Still, I’m excited to see where Polar can take this from here.
There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy. A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road? Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!
GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities. I use other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day. Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.
Over the years I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology. For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Ignite workouts). But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack. Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.
Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes. Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail. The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts. I’ve had quite a bit of variety of terrain within the time period of Ignite testing. This has included runs in: Amsterdam (Netherlands), Newfoundland (Canada), Italian Alps, Venice (Italy), and a bit in the Greek Islands. I’ve probably forgotten some other trips too, it’s been kinda crazy.
First up is a run earlier this week around the rowing basin near me. I actually go back and forth on a path a bunch, which is always interesting to analyze. Here’s the full data set, against an Apple Watch and a Garmin Forerunner
Even at this level you can already see the Polar Ignite errors, in red. Here, I’ll zoom in on them:
You can see that it quickly has me off in the swamps. I mean sure, that’s great if youre a bird watcher (seriously, lots of bird watchers in there), but less ideal for running. Even crossing the small pedestrian bridges here the Polar Ignite has me off the side and into the canals on all of them.
While the watch does get a bit better for the next section, it’s not perfect. Sure, perhaps I’m nitpicking, but we’re talking having me off the trail by probably meters here. None of the other watches are this far off consistently.
And then above to the left I apparently barnstorm the pancake house’s barn. As my toddler daughter will tell you – that place is full of those crazy-ass peacock birds. Nobody wants any of that action.
That said, for the remainder of the time I spent running back down the basin, things are actually pretty good. Including the repeated back and forth area where I was spending time doing intervals:
Though if you zoom in, you can easily see that the least accurate of the three watches was the Polar Ignite. At which point you might say ‘Well, that’s because the other watches were more expensive.’ To which I’d say: Nope-de-nope. As one who has done about a thousand or so of these comparisons, I’ve never seen price a factor in GPS accuracy. There are super expensive watches with crappy GPS accuracy, and super cheap ones with awesome accuracy.
GPS accuracy doesn’t tend to care about the price of the watch, it cares about the implementation and design of the GPS antenna/case, chipset, and firmware/algorithms. This is true of every watch I’ve ever reviewed, including some past very inexpensive Polar GPS watches that have done really well in GPS tests.
Moving along to last weekend’s Sunday run, we’ve got a larger loop around the lake. Again, nothing super fancy here. Some initial/ending bits near buildings, and then a pile in the wooded area of the park, and also some open field areas. A good blend. Here’s the dataset against a Garmin Forerunner , FR, and Suunto 5:
The run actually gets off to a fairly good start, with no immediate errors by anyone. A mile or two into things, and it’s still looking pretty good. Here’s an area through the wooded parkland of crazy free-roaming fuzzy cows. No issues here, save one blip by the FR coming around a corner:
And again, mostly the same a bit further in the run as I crossed over and back under a bridge to cross the waterway. All was fine:
I did, however, see a bit of variance from the Forerunner on the edge of the field/trees border, with it bobbling a little bit, whereas the Ignite seemed to nail it along with the FR and Suunto 5:
And that was basically the story for the rest of the run. As I got back into the city the FR took one detour into the railyard for a couple of seconds, but by and large everyone stayed basically together.
Next, let’s switch over to doing loops around in Newfoundland, Canada in the woods. These trees weren’t crazy high or anything, but it’s a good test of correct positioning nonetheless. This is against the Garmin FR and the Garmin MARQ Athlete watch.
Now I know the above/below can be a bit hard to see, but the key thing to look for is the red line. That’s the Polar. And it’s always off in the trees. The MARQ and FR are actually largely on the trail or within a meter or two of it.
Though, all watches, including the Polar Ignite and MARQ did quite well on this brief out and back section when I left the woods and stumbled into a neighborhood. Including most notably staying on the outer edge of this cul-de-sac:
Whereas below you can see when I got back towards the clearing of the baseball fields, the Polar Ignite was always the odd man out.
Now let’s shift over to a quick ride. Well, a quick review of the ride. The reality is that for road bike riding most GPS units handle it fairly well, and this was no different for the Polar Ignite. Here’s that overview/data set:
Zooming into some of the forested bike path section for the fun of it:
You’ll see that the Edge , Stages L50, and Garmin MARQ do just fine. Whereas the Polar Ignite GPS cuts the corners a bit above. Other times though all units easily make the corners, even under some relatively significant 4+ lane highway overpasses that this little zig-zag goes under, like below.
To wrap things up – the GPS on the Polar Ignite isn’t awesome. It’s not horrible, but it’s definitely not great either. Whatever tradeoffs Polar apparently had to make for the Ignite show most visibly in GPS accuracy, and my discussions with Polar don’t inspire confidence that they can fix these specific accuracy issues with firmware. After all, this is the same GPS chipset used in their Polar Vantage V & M series watches, and the same chipset used by both Garmin and Suunto in their watches over the past year. As such, we kinda have a rough baseline for the capabilities of the underlying chipsets. From that point it’s down to implementation in firmware, but most importantly antenna and case design.
For many casual users, these GPS errors are probably minor. But if you’re more discerning, some of these errors might drive you nuts.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
Heart Rate Accuracy:
(Note: While it says ‘Beta’ unit on it, Polar confirmed it’s actually a final unit in terms of hardware and software. Polar always prints that on units headed to reviewers early on.)
Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual. Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy. Position, and how the band is worn, are *the most important* pieces. A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug. It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts). You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.
Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts. Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing. I’ve got steady runs, interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as tempo runs and rides – and even running up and down a mountain.
For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually in total, which capture data from other sensors. Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the Garmin HRM-DUAL), as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the other arm (primarily the Polar OH1+, but occasionally the Wahoo TICKR FIT, and Scosche 24 too). Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over. Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.
While I’ve been using the Polar Ignite since mid-June, I’ll largely focus on the most recent workouts since they’d have the most recent firmware, though I haven’t really seen any shift in accuracy one way or another during this time period.
First up on the docket is an interval run from earlier this week. Pretty straightforward warm-up period, then a slight build and then into 4xm. Nothing fancy really. For comparison was the Apple Watch Series 4 on the other wrist, then a Garmin HRM-TRI chest strap on my chest. Here’s how that data set looked:
Overall the above isn’t too bad, save for whatever the heck went wrong around the minute marker for the Polar Ignite. You can see those significant spikes there. This was just an area on simple bike paths running through the fields and forests. Nothing fancy or complicated. Though you can see the classic Apple Watch optical HR sensor fail at the beginning. Apple doesn’t have a ‘standby’ menu for workouts, so basically it takes the first minute or so to acquire HR, which it does as part of your workout. That’s why that straight line is there, and even then it’s wobbly for a bit.
After that though, it settled down across the board. So here’s a look at the intervals:
Remember the teal line is roughly our baseline (the chest strap). While I wouldn’t always say that chest straps are more correct than optical HR sensors, in this case I’d easily consider that a known good and the most accurate display of my actual effort. You can see that the Polar Ignite though is slow on the first recovery, basically missing it all, though the 2nd/3rd/4th recoveries are better, albeit still a bit delayed.
Generally speaking, I place less of a concern on how quickly an optical HR sensor shows recovery as long as it’s within at least a few seconds or so. This is pushing the limits of that a bit, especially when it misses some recovery portions entirely. Meanwhile, on the actual intervals themselves it does handle itself fairly well (perhaps because it skipped the recovery on some of them). In fact, we see some little optical HR quirks with the Apple Watch, brief spikes/drops.
What’s semi-interesting about that is I suspect those are actually errors Apple has made in post-processing correction. Apple’s HR sensor is generally exceedingly good, in part because they do machine learning after the workout to sort things out. In fact, Polar has discussed this kind of stuff as well. The flip side to this is that while it ‘cleans’ workout for post-activity analysis, it still means the HR is potentially wrong during your workout.
In any case – let’s shift to another workout, this time mostly steady-state for a weekend run. I’ve got a lot of comparative sensors on me on this one, since I could attach the extra recording watches to the running stroller and have them collect for my heart rate strap. So from a HR standpoint I’ve got a Polar OH1 Plus on my upper arm, and a Garmin HRM-DUAL on my chest, and on my right wrist is the Suunto 5, with my left wrist being the Polar Ignite. Note that I pushed the stroller exclusively with my right hand (the Suunto), letting my left hand/arm swing like normal (with the Polar). You can see some of the funk in that below, so I won’t really hold that against Suunto here. Full data set here:
As you can see, the Suunto and Polar get off to a bad start. It takes a few minutes for both to calm down. Though once they do, things are pretty much smooth sailing for the Polar and other sensors till my brief boat ride:
The above (sans-Suunto) are relatively close – within BPM the entire time, mostly dependent on slight shifts up/down. You see there’s a brief drop after this where I took a second boat ride to get across the canal. I stopped all watches here on purpose, and then resumed them on the other side.
What we see though is that by and large things are pretty good (again, ignoring the Suunto hand-pushing issues). A minor blip at the minute marker from the Polar Ignite, but everyone else is pretty darn close.
So what about cycling? Ask and you shall receive. Simple road cycling prior to sunset around the countryside with a friend. Nothing crazy intensity or temperature-wise, just a nice ride. Data set here.
That teal line that drops out and spikes up is the Garmin MARQ Athlete. It’s the one that sticks out the most as least like the others. Whereas the Polar Ignite is pretty close to spot-on with the Garmin HRM-DUAL chest strap and the Polar OH1-Plus sensor Cycling outdoors is typically one of the most challenging things for wrist-based optical HR sensors, primarily in any shifts in intensity, and this time the Ignite nails it.
That’s also true when we zoom in:
But the vast majority of the ride things were generally within BPM of the rest of the sensors.
Ultimately, for the most part the Polar Ignite does fairly well on the optical HR sensor side – especially cycling. Like many optical HR sensors (and even chest straps) there are cases and times where things go off the rails, but in the case of the Ignite, it does appear to only briefly, and not for long periods of time. However, there does seem to be some delays in recovery time for different interval sessions I’ve done.
Product & Pricing Comparison:
I’ve added the Polar Ignite into the product comparison tool, which allows you to compare it against any watches I’ve reviewed to date.
Now, I said in the very first intro paragraph that we needed to talk pricing, as this is where I think Polar missed the mark. Sure, they missed the mark when they bait and switched (purposefully or accidentally) the price on day of launch from a planned $USD to $USD, only telling me a few hours later despite their press release stating otherwise. So while I was annoyed about that, the core of the issue remains: It’s just not as competitive at $
And some of you might think ‘What’s $30?’, but let me explain how big a deal $30 matters in this particular market segment.
See, when Polar had their massive hit success of the original Polar M a few years back, they did so because they undercut everyone on pricing. It was a runaway moment for the company that ultimately forced Garmin to dramatically cut prices on their watches. A pricing theme that’s stayed ever since – impacting not just them but the entire industry. It was a watch that had not just a ton of features, but was priced far below everyone else.
And that’s roughly what the Polar Ignite could have been at $, but at $ it’s in an entirely different camp. Here, let me show you. Here’s what Polar is competing with in this market. These are the specific watches that the unit will sit next to at Best Buy or in any gadget line-up:
Fitbit Versa (with music, no GPS): $
Apple Watch Series 3 (with GPS, music, contactless payments): $
Garmin Forerunner 45 (with GPS): $
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music (with GPS, contactless payments): $
Samsung Galaxy Active Watch (with GPS, contactless payments, music): $
Fitbit Versa (with music, contactless payments): $
Fitbit Ionic (with music, GPS): $
Polar Ignite GPS: $
And, atop that, both the Fitbit Versa and Ionic are often found for $30 cheaper as well. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is sub-$ often, and the Vivoactive 3 Music at $ price is what’s showing this very second on Amazon – it’s frequently at that level. All of those watches have music. Some have contactless payments, most have GPS. Some even have support for streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music.
One might try and argue that someone looking for a fitness-focused watch would skew towards Garmin or Polar instead of Apple. But for this target market, that’s a silly assertation that doesn’t reflect real life. Most customers for this watch aren’t hardcore endurance athletes – so any of the above units will likely fit well. Therefore, one can quickly see that $ puts you on the higher end of pricing, and that’s all before we begin the annual early-September sweep of new mid-range watches from all the usual major suspects. Every year Apple, Garmin, Samsung, and Fitbit have historically announced new products. That’ll drive pricing of all the above-listed products lower while new products come in at roughly existing pricing.
As I said, Polar has overpriced this product in the US market, it’s really as simple as that. In the European market, they kept the EUR pricing, which is on-point as basically all of the above prices are parity for EUR/USD.
In any case, as for the full feature database on the Ignite, you’ll see it below. You can easily mix and match against any other products within the database here, by creating your own product comparison tables. Note that in some cases nuanced features (like having ANS data), doesn’t really fit well into product comparison tools designed to host hundreds of watches (when only a single watch has it).
|Function/Feature||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Product Announcement Date||June 26th,||Sept 12th,||Aug 28th,||Apr 30th,||Feb 20th,|
|Actual Availability/Shipping Date||July||Sept 22nd,||Oct 1st,||Early May||Mar 9th,|
|GPS Recording Functionality||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Data Transfer||USB, BLUETOOTH SMART||Bluetooth Smart||Bluetooth Smart||USB, Bluetooth Smart||Bluetooth Smart|
|Waterproofing||Yes - 30m||50m||50m||50 meters||50 meters|
|Battery Life (GPS)||Up to 17 hours||5hrs GPS on time (hrs standby)||10 hours||13 Hours||Undeclared (claims 45hrs non-GPS)|
|Recording Interval||1s||Varies||1-second||SMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)||1-second for GPS, 1-minute for HR|
|Ability to download custom apps to unit/device||No||Yes||Yes||Watchfaces only||Yes|
|Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||YEs||Music||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Can control phone music||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Has music storage and playback||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Streaming Services||No||Apple Music, Spotify (but not offline yet)||Pandora, Deezer||No||Spotify||Payments||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Contactless-NFC Payments||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes (but only with Samsung phone)||Connectivity||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Bluetooth Smart to Phone Uploading||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Live Tracking (streaming location to website)||No||With 3rd party apps||No||Yes||No|
|Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)||No||Yes||No||Yes (via phone)||No|
|Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)||No||Yes (with cellular version)||No||No||No||Cycling||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Designed for cycling||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Power Meter Capable||No||No||No||No||No|
|Speed/Cadence Sensor Capable||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Strava segments live on device||No||No||No||No||No|
|Crash detection||No||No||No||Yes||No||Running||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Designed for running||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Footpod Capable (For treadmills)||No||With 3rd party apps||No (but has treadmill functionality)||YES (ALSO HAS INTERNAL ACCELEROMETER)||With 3rd party apps|
|Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc)||No||No||No||No||No|
|VO2Max Estimation||Yes||Yes||Yes via app||Yes||No|
|Run/Walk Mode||No||With 3rd party apps||No||Yes||With 3rd party apps||Swimming||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Designed for swimming||Yes||Yes||Yes||NO (PROTECTED THOUGH JUST FINE)||Yes|
|Openwater swimming mode||Yes||YEs||No||N/A||Yes|
|Lap/Indoor Distance Tracking||Yes||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Record HR underwater||Yes||Yes||No||N/A||Yes|
|Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)||Yes||Basic stroke type only||No||N/A||No|
|Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)||Yes||Basic stroke type only||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Indoor Drill Mode||No||No||No||N/A||No|
|Indoor auto-pause feature||Yes||Yes||No||N/A||No|
|Change pool size||Yes||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths||20M/Y to m/y||1y/m to 1,y/m+||10m/ym/y||N/A|
|Ability to customize data fields||Yes||Very limited||Yes||N/A|
|Can change yards to meters||Yes||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Captures per length data - indoors||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Indoor Alerts||N/A||Yes (goals)||Yes (distance)||N/A||No||Triathlon||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Designed for triathlon||No||Not really||No||No||No|
|Multisport mode||No||Yes||No||No||Sorta (can combine sports manually)||Workouts||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Create/Follow custom workouts||Yes||With 3rd party apps||No (Premium Coached only)||Yes||No|
|On-unit interval Feature||Sorta (offers structured workouts)||With 3rd party apps||No||Yes||No|
|Training Calendar Functionality||Sorta (offers daily workouts||With 3rd party apps||No||Yes||No||Functions||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Virtual Partner Feature||No (but can give out of zone information)||No||No||Virtual Pacer||Pace guidance only|
|Virtual Racer Feature||No||No||No||No||No|
|Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Day to day watch ability||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Tidal Tables (Tide Information)||No||No||No||No||No|
|Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)||No||No||No||No||No|
|Weather Display (live data)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Navigate||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)||No||With 3rd party apps||No||No||No|
|Markers/Waypoint Direction||No||With 3rd party apps||No||No||No|
|Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)||No||With 3rd party apps||No||No||No|
|Back to start||No||With 3rd party apps||No||No||No|
|Impromptu Round Trip Route Creation||No||With 3rd party apps||No||No||No|
|Download courses/routes from phone to unit||No||With 3rd party apps||No||No||3rd party apps||Sensors||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Optical Heart Rate Sensor internally||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|SpO2 (aka Pulse Oximetry)||No||No||No||No|
|Heart Rate Strap Compatible||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||3rd Party Apps only|
|ANT+ Heart Rate Strap Capable||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|ANT+ Speed/Cadence Capable||No||no||No||Yes||No|
|ANT+ Footpod Capable||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|ANT+ Power Meter Capable||No||No||No||No||no|
|ANT+ Weight Scale Capable||No||No||No||No||nO|
|ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)||No||No||No||No||no|
|ANT+ Lighting Control||No||No||No||No||no|
|ANT+ Bike Radar Integration||No||No||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)||No||No||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Remote Control||No||No||No||No||No|
|ANT+ eBike Compatibility||No||No||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)||No||No||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)||No||No||No||No||nO|
|Shimano Di2 Shifting||No||No||No||No||No|
|Bluetooth Smart HR Strap Capable||Yes||Yes||No||No||3rd party apps only|
|Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Capable||No||No||No||No||No|
|Bluetooth Smart Footpod Capable||No||No||No||No||3rd party apps only|
|Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Capable||No||No||No||No||No|
|Temp Recording (internal sensor)||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Temp Recording (external sensor)||No||No||No||No||No||Software||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|PC Application||Polar Flowsync - Windows/Mac||None||PC/Mac||Garmin Express (PC/Mac)||No|
|Web Application||Polar Flow||None||Yes||Garmin Connect||No|
|Phone App||iOS/Android||iOS only||iOS/Android/Windows||iOS/Android||iOS/Android (iOS is limited though)|
|Ability to Export Settings||No||No||No||No||No||Purchase||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
|Wiggle||Link||Link||DCRainmaker||Polar Ignite GPS||Apple Watch Series 3||Fitbit Ionic||Garmin Forerunner 45/45S||Samsung Galaxy Active|
Remember, you can mix and match and create your own product comparison tables here, for watches not seen above.
Overall Polar’s done some impressive things on the Ignite, mainly from a software functionality standpoint. The Nightly Recharge and FitSpark functionality are truly new within not just Polar’s lineup, but across the sports tech and fitness industry. It’s great to see Polar leading again in some areas of feature innovation, which frankly hasn’t happened in a number of years. I’m looking forward to seeing how Polar can incorporate those features into their higher-end Vantage series watches going forward.
And digging further into FitSpark, adding in elements around strength and supportive workouts and having specific animations for which moves to do and guided workouts is something that most other companies in the industry simply don’t have. Sure, numerous other watches in the past have done this sort of thing – but a number of those are no longer with us (here’s looking at you, Adidas SmartRun GPS). And certainly neither Garmin or Suunto, or Apple natively, have that type of functionality at this point.
On the flip side, this unit definitely has elements that remind me that it’s kinda a first-gen watch. Or at least it feels like it. The display wrist turn/raise detection just isn’t good, and the GPS accuracy by Polar’s own admission lags behind their own other watches. This isn’t just a GPS chipset thing anymore, but more of a fundamental design element that really shouldn’t exist (seriously, there’s no reason why a $ GPS should be notably worse than a $ GPS). And of course, all of this ignores that for many people, the unit is just a bit overpriced within the US market.
The good news is some of these things they can likely fix with updates, be it software or pricing. I suspect they have the hardware in the Ignite to spend time on better algorithms for the display wake-up. And certainly changing the price is as simple as a single conference call, just like they’ve done on other products in the past. For the GPS however, I get the impression from Polar that’s perhaps a hardware-driven limitation, either in components or design.
Like I’ve said a few times though – I’m eager to see where Polar can take things with the Ignite, it’s a great base for the company to start from and ultimately a solid offering in the marketplace to consider.
Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!
Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
If you're shopping for the Polar Ignite GPS or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!
And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with this unit (and some that I showed in the review). Given the unit pairs with just about any Bluetooth Smart sport sensors, you can use just about anything though.
Wahoo RPM Sensor
This dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart sensor will transmit cadence not only to your bike computer/watch, but also 3rd party apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and more.
Wahoo SPEED Sensor
Speed sensors are primarily useful for offroad usage. I don't find much of a need for one while road-cycling, but for mountain bike trails they can help alleviate speed/distance issues with poor GPS reception in dense trees.
This is a strap I often use in testing/comparisons. It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but it also supports the 5kHz analog heart rate transmission for older gym equipment. Also, it has workout storage/recording in it and supports two Bluetooth connections.
This is a great strap, especially if you're going to the gym. It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but it also supports the 5kHz analog heart rate transmission for older gym equipment. Note that it only accepts a single Bluetooth connection, versus dual-connections for the Polar H
I'd argue the Polar OH1 Plus is the best optical HR sensor out there. So while it might seem odd to get this when your watch also has a optical HR sensor, this one is just better most of the time. Plus, it also has workout recording storage. Dual ANT+/Bluetooth.
The Polar Verity Sense is the newer variant of the Polar OH1 Plus. And while it might seem odd to get this when your watch also has a optical HR sensor, this one is just better most of the time. Plus, it also has workout recording storage. Dual ANT+/Bluetooth.
And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbitsand it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!
Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!
Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!
Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
If you're shopping for the Polar Ignite GPS or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!
Polar is one of the most respected brands when it comes to fitness trackers. Their products are trusted by athletes around the world. However, when it comes to smartwatches, they aren’t the only ones producing quality training and fitness tracking watches for professionals.
Other brands such as Suunto and Garmin are also well-known and well respected in this field. However, Polar’s watches have several features that help them stand out in the fairly packed fitness tracking and sports watch market.
In this article, we will be going through Polar’s extensive history and brand reputation. We will also be going through their smartwatch collection and talk about what makes them special. And ultimately, you will learn whether or not Polar’s watches fit your style and your needs. Keep on scrolling to find out more.
Polar Electro Oy (globally known as Polar) was founded in by Seppo Säynäjäkangas. Seppo was the first person to invent a wireless EKG heart monitor. Three years later, Polar applied for its first patent for wireless heart rate measurement and claimed the title for the Pioneer of wearable sports technology.
In , Polar introduced the Sport Tester PE , the worlds first portable wireless heart rate monitor. And in , they released the first heart rate analysis software.
The first cycling computer with a heart rate monitor called the Polar Cyclovantage was introduced in They also introduced the first polar device that can monitor heart rate variability in
Owzone, a new feature for watches that helps in maintaining the ideal heart rate of users in every workout that they perform, was added in Polar devices in Several features were also added in the succeeding years, such as a Personal Trainer feature in and a mobile app called Polar Mobile link in
In , they introduced the first device that will help track a groups fitness progress. This device is called the Polar Cardio GX. It was made for fitness classes.
In a web and app was made for analysis and to help plan for training schedules and more. This app is called the Polar Flow. In , Polar Loop and Polar V were released. These watches help keep track of activities, with an inactivity alert in Polar Loop and a pro-level multi-sports feature with a 24/7 activity tracking in the V
Polar also introduced the first device with an OHR sensor in ; this device is called the Polar A In , the Polar M was released; this is their first sport-optimized smartwatch.
In , Polar encountered an issue regarding the shared private information of users on the internet. This led to ending some online functionality on their devices.
Polar offered research co-operation in accordance with supporting studies in exercise science. Their devices are widely used in scientific studies.
The company is headquartered in Kempel, Finland. Polar has approximately 1, employees worldwide, 26 branches in more than 80 countries/regions, and more than 35, retail locations. Polar produces a variety of products and accessories for heart rate monitoring for physical activity and exercise and also to assess variability in heart rate.
Polar Vantage Series
Polar’s Vantage Series are multisport watches primarily designed for athletes. The lineup currently consists of the Polar Vantage V, Vantage V2, and Vantage M.
Polar Vantage V2
Read Amazin Reviews
The latest flagship model in the Vantage series is the Polar Vantage V2, which is the follow up to the original Vantage V. Just like its predecessors, the Vantage V2 is strictly made for maximum sports performance.
It does leave out some more consumer-oriented features and does not incorporate the bleeding edge of smartwatch technology. However, all of its software and hardware design elements ensure that the Vantage V2 can be as optimized as possible to the needs of professional athletes.
As expected from a multisport watch, it has all the necessary sensors to produce accurate results. It has a built-in optical heart rate sensor, GPS, accelerometer, barometric altimeter, and compass. Additionally, the vantage V2 can track additional non-training-related activities such as sleep tracking and general health tracking.
The hardware of the watch is also well optimized for the needs of athletes. The watch has a lightweight frame that only weighs 52 grams. This is perfect for workout sessions since the watch won’t add additional weight that can potentially restrain your activities.
The Vantage V2 also has a inch display powered by a reflective LCD. Its display is very easy to see regardless of the lighting conditions. This is again very crucial since you must be able to see your watch regardless of the weather.
Vantage V2, however, has an ambient light sensor that regulates the displays brightness according to the environment. Apart from 5 physical buttons, the monitor is also touch-sensitive, which makes navigation very simple.
The battery life of the Vantage 2 can last up to 40 hours in training mode or seven days with basic usage and 24/7 heart rate monitoring. The long battery life ensures that the watch will not die even while using most of the features during training sessions.
Polar Vantage V
Read Amazon Reviews
Another high-end fitness and sports watch that is popular among Polar’s offerings is the Vantage V2’s little brother, the original Polar Vantage V. It is very similar to the Vantage M, the only difference being the Vantage V’s heavier design.
However, this added weight should not be considered as a downside. In exchange for this heavier design are additional and improved features that make the Vantage V into a veritable powerhouse.
When it comes to features, the Vantage V has the standard GPS and GPS tracking functionality. Additional features include a heart rate monitor powered by precision prime technology for higher accuracy. It also comes with a barometric measurement function and an easy-to-use touchscreen control configuration.
A unique feature that it has is the Recovery Pro. What this feature does is help you get the proper recovery period in-between each exercise or activity. A nice feature to have to prevent injuries due to over-exercising your body.
Surprisingly enough, it still has one more trick up its sleeves in the form of the Running Power Meter feature. This mode helps track in great detail how the users exert energy during activities from running to biking. This is a new tracking feature that can help deliver valuable data to triathlon participants on how they should conduct their training to optimize results.
Polar Vantage M
Read Amazon Reviews
The Polar Vantage M is considered to be the little brother of the other higher-end watches in the Vantage Series. It retains the same high-quality build as well as the features of the other two models. However, this model manages to make a price cut making it the most affordable watch in the Vantage lineup.
The Vantage M has all the key components such as GPS, heart rate monitoring, and enough special training functions to meet the needs of athletes. It also comes with some extras, including breathing and stretching exercises.
The Polar Vantage M also has lots of outdoor sports activities, including cycling, swimming, and running. The sports and training modes are fairly similar between the Vantage M and the Vantage V and V2. However, you will need additional sensors to measure running power and muscle load.
Some hardware changes, such as the LCD, were also made to lower the Vantage M’s price. The Vantage M is, however, lighter than the Vantage V and V2. Those two watches aren’t particularly heavy. But, of course, having a lighter watch is always a good thing.
The Polar Vantage M in training mode can last up to 30 hours. If using more basic features, including the heart rate monitor, the battery life is extended to five days.
Other Polar Smartwatches
Read Amazon Reviews
The Polar Ignite is very similar to the rest of Polar’s offerings. It is built well and has all the essential training features. However, unlike watches from the Vantage series, the Ignite has a different approach. Instead of focusing on training modes for athletes, the Polar Ignite puts more emphasis on daily maintenance and exercises.
The Polar Ignite still has all the essential tracking options found on other Polar watches, such as cycling, running, and swimming. The Ignite also has a built-in GPS, optical heart rate sensor, activity tracking, solid battery life, and smart notifications.
It can also track speed, distance, route, and altitude. It also has smart calorie monitoring.
However, the Ignite has additional features that cater to casual consumers who may not have a training schedule rather than athletes who already know what they are doing.
This is done through Ignite’s adaptive workout recommendations. The watch tracks your recent activities and offers recommendations for the best activities to work on. Alternatively, the Ignite can assess your current state through a five-minute fitness test.
Additionally, the Polar Ignite offers advanced sleep-tracking features. Again, advanced analytics can potentially help detect and fix sleep-related issues.
As for the physical aspects of the watch, the Ignite has a lightweight design weighing only 35 grams. It also has a crisp and bright display that can rival watches from the Vantage series. The battery life of the Polar Ignite lasts up to 17 hours in training mode.
Polar Brand Reputation
Polar is well respected when it comes to manufacturing sports and training-related equipment. They have a long history with these kinds of equipment and are known for developing the worlds first wireless heart rate monitor.
Polar is also has a good reputation in terms of its GPS technology. They even rival brands that also specialize in this aspect, such as Suunto, Coros, andGarmin.
So overall, if you are a fitness enthusiast, a professional athlete, or even a casual user who just wants to make improvements to their everyday exercises, Polar is without a doubt one of the best brands.
Is Polar a Good Smartwatch Brand?
Polar’s smartwatches are well trusted by athletes. The feature set, hardware, and software are all centered towards fitness tracking features.
Also, Polar’s smartwatches are well-known for being well-built and reliable watches. Polar claims that the watches have passed many US military-grade checks to ensure that they can withstand extreme temperatures, drops, and humidity.
However, there is a downside to Polar’s watches. Most watches in their lineup, even some of the higher-end ones, lack some of the features youd find on a competitor such as Garmin.
Most Polar watches are not utilizing newer technologies such as OLED for their display. Additionally, a lot of these watches also lack support for music streaming services, storage for local music, etc.
But, of course, all of these compromises are made to help their watches become the best tool for training and exercises. The software is more advanced than its competitors, and as mentioned earlier, the build quality and reliability are some of the best in its class.
If you are more focused on reliability, fitness tracking, and health tracking features, then Polar watches are definitely worth a closer look at.
Where To Buy Polar Watches?
Polar smartwatches are available on theirOfficial Website and online retailers including Amazon,
New and pre-owned Polar watches can be found on eBay.
Where are Polar Watches Made?
Polar smartwatches are manufactured in Guangzhou, China.
Polar Watch Warranty
Polar smartwatches have atwo-year warranty.
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Polar Ignite Review: An Extremely-Smart Budget GPS Watch
The Polar Ignite is the most surprising and exciting new tracker of Polar has crammed in an impressive array of features – including some entirely novel ones that can guide your entire training regime – into a good-looking watch that has a gorgeous touchscreen. There are some flaws, and keen runners and those who want smart features like music are better served elsewhere, but the Ignite is the best all-round fitness watch for under £
Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)
Buy from Polar | £ (black-silver), £ (white-silver/yellow-black/black-copper)
Things We Liked
- The Nightly Recharge features offers impressive depth when it comes to tracking how well you’ve recovered during your sleep and the information is presented clearly.
- The Ignite suggests daily workouts across different categories based on how well you have recovered, and the workouts are good enough that if you were to follow this advice all the time you’ll undoubtedly get fitter, stronger and more flexible.
- Polar has nailed the look of the Ignite: it’s slim, lightweight and stylish, and the screen is vibrant.
- The screen turns itself off to conserve power, but you can set it to be always-on during workouts, which is much more convenient for seeing your stats.
Things We Didn’t Like
- The sleep tracking is not always accurate, which hampers the usefulness of the Nightly Recharge and suggested workout features.
- GPS accuracy is iffy, with the Ignite consistently coming up short of the actual distance when running, especially on routes with lots of sharp turns.
- The touchscreen is not always responsive and can be slow to wake when you turn your wrist, which is annoying because the Ignite only has one button so the touchscreen is the main means of controlling it.
- The battery life isn’t great. It’s listed at 17 hours of GPS or five days in watch mode, but if you keep the screen permanently on during activities you have to charge it every couple of days.
Should I Consider Buying Something Else?
If you’re a runner first and foremost then there are better options than the Ignite, with the Garmin Forerunner 45 being the obvious pick. It’s cheaper than the Ignite, it’s easier to use and it has better battery life and GPS accuracy too. The Ignite is also lacking in smart features like music storage, so if that’s important to you the Fitbit Versa 2 might be more up your alley, even if the Versa is far less capable as a sports watch.
However, there is nothing else quite like the Ignite available, especially in the sub-£ bracket, with features like the daily workout suggestions and in-depth recovery tracking putting it in a league of its own. Furthermore, it’s a proper GPS multisport watch for under £, which isn’t all that common. The Coros Pace (£) is a great multisport watch with a better battery life and it’s easier to use than the Ignite, but the Ignite’s excellent recovery features and the depth of detail you get on your training through the Polar Flow website and app mean it far outstrips what Coros offers.
The Polar Ignite In-Depth
Sleep Tracking With The Polar Ignite
Sleep tracking is all too often an afterthought in the world of serious sports trackers. Garmin has made some effort on this front but the analysis is undermined by inaccurate data, while Suunto and Coros offer only a basic outline of your night’s rest. Polar, in contrast, has gone all-in on sleep tracking, particularly with regard to how it affects your recovery and ability to train the next day.
Each morning the Nightly Recharge feature tells you how well you’ve recovered overnight, which is based on your sleep and the activity of your autonomic nervous system (the bodily functions you don’t have to be conscious of, like breathing). The latter is measured through your heart rate, heart rate variability and breathing rate while asleep. You want your heart rate variability to be high while asleep because this shows your body is not under stress and so is recovering.
The quality of your sleep is measured through six factors in three categories: amount, solidity and regeneration. In the Polar Flow app the results are engagingly presented with a colour-coded six-pointed star, and you also get a graph of your night’s sleep showing the time spent in light, deep and REM sleep, along with any interruptions, plus a sleep score out of if you can’t be bothered to dive into all the detail.
Polar takes this info and then recommends what exercise you should do the next day based on how well your system has recovered, recommending four workouts you could try.
It all sounds great and at first I was impressed by the depth of info the Ignite seemed to be providing on my sleep – and indeed what it was doing with that info, particularly the recommendations regarding how active I should be the next day. However, after a few weeks with the Ignite the features started to show a few cracks.
For one, the sleep tracking wasn’t always that accurate, often missing the time I actually went to sleep by several hours. Across a month of wearing the device it logged the start of my sleep as two or three hours after I actually fell asleep about a third of the time. I have a baby, so I’m acutely aware of my sleep and I’m going to bed very early, which means a sleep start time of 1am stands out as clearly wrong.
Then there’s the fact that whatever my Nightly Recharge was rated as, the Ignite told me I was good to go when it came to exercise the next day. I’ve been told my recharge was “excellent”, “okay”, the slightly alarming “compromised” or “poor”, and the recommendation was always that it was a good day for training. I sometimes got a qualifying message along the lines of “you might be tired”, but this was always followed with advice to exercise anyway. The recommended workouts from the watch might change to something more strength-based rather than a long cardio session, or say to take that cardio session easy, but when my recovery was rated poor I was surprised to still see I was recommended a minute cardio session.
I’ve always thought that sports watches that recommend recovery times after workouts and gauge your overall training load should take into account sleep, so I’m pleased Polar is taking steps to do this with the Nightly Recharge feature, but it’s not perfect yet. It’s interesting to get an instant rating on your wrist of how your sleep has recharged you when you wake up, but if the tracking isn’t flawlessly accurate (or at least better than broadly right two-thirds of the time) and the recommendation is always to exercise anyway, it loses some of its appeal.
However, it’s very close to being really smart, and I have noticed the accuracy of the sleep tracking is trending upwards in the time I’ve had the Ignite. Polar is certainly on to something here – you can use the Ignite to shape all your training based on the state of your body that day, which will help you avoid injury and actually enjoy your training because you’re working at the right level for your energy levels. It just needs to iron out some small wrinkles.
Sports Tracking With The Polar Ignite
One of the areas where the Ignite stands out from the competition is the vast range of sports modes it offers, including a dedicated multisport mode for triathletes, duathletes and anyone else who likes to do more than one sport in one session, as well as an open-water swimming mode. This is something Garmin does not offer on its cheaper watches like the Forerunner 45 and , which are aimed squarely at runners.
Even more exciting is that the Ignite doesn’t just passively track all these sports, it directly recommends what you should do via the FitSpark feature. Each day you’ll be recommended four workouts across three categories – Cardio, Strength and Supportive, with the latter being activities like stretching and fundamental core exercises.
What you’re told to do is based on the Nightly Recharge estimate of how well recovered you are each day, so in theory you’ll never be told to do something that’s beyond your energy levels that day.
Choose a Cardio workout and you can do the session while running, cycling, swimming or doing anything else that gets your heart rate up, with the guided session based entirely on your heart rate (the Ignite will record this while swimming, though accuracy can be hit and miss in the water).
For the Strength and Supportive sessions you can see the exercises you’ll be doing on the watch before starting, and once you get going it will guide you through your circuits. Experienced gym-goers aiming to add serious muscle might not get much from the strength sessions, which mostly involve bodyweight exercises, but they’re the perfect way for most people to increase their full-body strength and particularly useful for runners, triathletes and team sport types who need a quick and easy-to-follow session to support their main activity.
Once you’ve done a Cardio or Strength session each day the Ignite will change its recommended workouts to a Supportive session so, for example, you can add some stretching at the end of a run.
Although I didn’t see a huge change in the workouts based on my Nightly Recharge readings, I was still impressed by the FitSpark feature. If you’re following your own training plan already you can use the odd session here or there to support it, but if you just want to get fit and don’t really know what to do, you can simply use the Ignite’s suggestions each day, or every other day, to get seriously fit.
Running With The Polar Ignite
Aside from measuring running power from your wrist and offering breadcrumb navigation (which are both restricted to the high-end Vantage V), Polar hasn’t held back any run tracking features from the Ignite. You can set up to four stats per screen and follow guided workouts or even training plans from your wrist, with Polar’s plans especially good for anyone who wants to train using their heart rate.
I was also delighted to see that you can set the screen to be always-on during a run, or indeed any workout. This is something you can’t do on the Apple Watch, which makes it hard to see your stats at a glance.
Opting for always-on will hit your battery life hard, but I’d rather charge a watch every day or every other day and significantly increase how easy it is to use during a workout, and Polar’s decision to give users the choice is welcome. That said, you do have to switch it to always-on in every individual workout – there’s no master setting that makes that the default option.
One considerable problem with the design of the Ignite for runners is that there is no lap button. You have to rely on auto-lap and if you’re doing a guided workout where you want to manually start each section, you have to do so by pressing a button on the touchscreen. The Ignite’s touchscreen is not % reliable in registering a touch at the best of times, and when you’re trying to hit a fairly small section of it with sweaty fingers while running hard it’s more like 50% reliable, which can be frustrating. My advice is to stick to workouts where it automatically moves on to the next section.
The other significant problem with the run tracking is that, as with the Vantage V and Vantage M trackers, I’ve consistently found the GPS readings on the Ignite to be off. They come in short of the actual distance on most runs, with the disparity growing when I did a run with a lot of sharp bends – it produced km for a 10K race with six hairpin bends in it, for example. Polar seemed to have worked on this since the Vantage was released and the distance tracking across its range is getting more accurate, but it’s still not infallible.
I was more impressed with the heart rate tracking accuracy of the Ignite, however. On a couple of runs it locked on to my cadence to begin with before finding my heart rate a couple of kilometres in, but generally it was pretty close to bang on from the start and then throughout my runs, even when I was doing intervals – with the Ignite keeping pace with the rapid changes in heart rate.
The Ignite links to the Polar Flow app and website, which provides a lot of detail on your training. Too much for the average runner, in truth, and it can be confusing to navigate. However, there are some key areas which are worth checking out. The best of these is Training Load Pro, which analyses your recent training to see if you’re being productive in improving your fitness, overdoing it, maintaining your fitness or undertraining. This information is plotted over time along with your cardio load report, which shows the strain you’re putting on your system along with your tolerance.
Both are useful estimates of whether your workload is suitable for you, which can help you avoid injury. In theory, with the Ignite on your wrist you can ignore all this and just go by its suggestions each day, but it’s there if you do want to dive into more detail or are following your own training plan ahead of a big event.
Activity Tracking With The Polar Ignite
The Ignite tracks your daily steps, calories burned and active minutes, and puts those all together along with your exercise to create an overall daily activity goal. This includes a choice of three levels that you set in your profile and can change at any time.
Broadly speaking, the levels roughly break down as level one for mostly sedentary people aiming to get a little more active, with the goal being something like hitting 10, steps a day. Level two is for people who train several times a week and level three is for extremely dedicated people, training almost every day, who are also active outside their training. As an example of the standards expected for level three, on a day where I ran 14km and logged over 15, steps in total, I just squeaked to % of the target.
Once you’ve set your target you can view your progress on the Ignite or in the Polar Flow app. which provides an attractive colour-coded ring of your day so you can see periods when you were more active, along with any inactivity stamps you’ve earned by staying still for too long.
In my opinion Polar’s activity target is a little more engaging than a simple steps count and does a good job of motivating you to stay active in between your training sessions, which can be a common failing among even very active people.
How Often Am I Going To Have To Charge It?
This depends on whether you set the screen to always-on during activities. If you do, you’ll see the battery drain at around 20% an hour, assuming you’re doing an activity that also uses the GPS. If you keep the screen off until you look at it – which is far less convenient especially when running or cycling outside, when you don’t want to stare at your watch for a second longer than necessary – and train every other day, you might get three days of battery out of the Ignite.
If you do have the screen on and/or train most days you’ll need to charge the Ignite every other day at least. And since its sleep tracking features are a key part of its appeal, you’ll need to do that during the day. Fortunately the Ignite charges quickly – I found that plugging it in for 60 minutes or so in the evening just before bed was enough.
Where Can I Wear It Without People Laughing At Me?
The Ignite is the most aesthetically pleasing device Polar has produced – for me it’s far better-looking than the pricier Vantage series. The slim watch and silver bezel won’t look out of place anywhere, but you might have to opt for the black band if you want it to work across different outfits and situations – the white and yellow bands are a little more ostentatious.
Polar Ignite review: Frustratingly close to brilliance
Polar’s recent fitness wearables have, for me, been a mixed bag. While I still return to the M for tracking runs, thanks to the unnerving accuracy of its GPS, the Vantage V was an expensive misstep and the less said about the A, the better.
Now we have the Polar Ignite: a smart-looking running watch at a tempting price. Can it take the fight to Garmin, Fitbit and Samsung?
Polar Ignite review: What you need to know
The Ignite is probably best described as Polar’s answer to the wildly successful Fitbit Versa. It’s a fitness-focused smartwatch that will try to guide you in your day-to-day exercise with a little help from its built-in sensors. It does all that while looking smart enough for daily wear thanks to its sharp IPS screen.
The Ignite one-ups the Fitbit Versa by including built-in GPS and also offers intelligent insights into what exercise you should do on a given day based on your sleep, recent exercise and general fitness level. It claims to track data from more than sports, although, as ever, there are limits to how much a wrist-bound wearable can do here: GPS can be used to track pace and distance during a run, but it can’t tell how many goals you’ve scored at the local five-a-side pitches.
Polar Ignite review: Price and competition
The Polar Ignite starts at £ for the black and silver model with the TPU wristband. The versions with a soft silicone strap – available in white or a rather fetching yellow – sell for £
I’ve already mentioned the Fitbit Versa, which started at £ but is now often found around the £ mark. This lacks built-in GPS, meaning you’ll need to piggyback off your phone’s location tracking and put up with all the disadvantages that entails. If you want to go cheaper, the Versa Lite is cheaper still at around £ It loses some features – swim tracking, built-in music and so on – but is still a pretty compelling package.
Looking beyond Fitbit, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro offers built-in GPS and a heart-rate monitor, and it can now be found for under £ Even more impressively discounted is the Garmin Vivoactive 3, which won a five-star review from us at £, but is now available for £
Finally, there’s Polar’s own family of running watches. I’ve already mentioned my fondness for the M, and while it’s no looker, you can pick one up for around £ The more recent Vantage M now can also be had for a little over £ It has a longer battery, physical buttons and Training Load Pro, but loses out on recommended exercises and the touchscreen. It’s also ten grammes heavier.
Polar Ignite review: Design
Back when I reviewed the M, I said that the watch had “a face that only a parent company could love”. Polar has upped its game considerably and all three watches since then – the Vantage M, Vantage V and now the Ignite – are pretty handsome in their own way.
At a glance, this could be the most handsome yet. It’s got a round face, a shiny metal bezel around the side and just the one button on it, rather than the five that the Vantage models had. It’s also a lot thinner and lighter, and gets a welcome upgrade to a bright, IPS screen, rather than the faint always-on display of old. It’s definitely a looker and I’ve had compliments on it since I started wearing it, which is rare for a running watch.
But the phrase “at a glance” is an important one. Dig deeper and you’ll see that clever design choices actually do a cunning job of covering its less attractive elements. Firstly, it’s a return to the bad old days of when smartwatches had a “flat tyre” design – in other words, the display’s not a full circle, but rather bottom eighth of it has been squared off. This is hidden by the fact that the x touchscreen panel has a blank black wallpaper – which also conceals the millimetre-thick black rim that surrounds the screen.
Is this a problem? Not to me. And if others can’t see it at a glance, it’s even less of an issue. For purists, there are probably better options out there, but I like the look – and the watch is thin and light enough for me not to notice I’m wearing it.What I’m less keen on, despite the aesthetic improvement, is the reduction in the number of buttons. Yes, five may have been overkill, but one is a bit of a pain. It has a touchscreen, but as I’ve written many times before, touchscreens aren’t great for fitness trackers, given they tend to go haywire when hit by water – an occupational hazard for those who sweat while running or like to run in the rain.
Our review unit was the £ black and silver version with its TPU wristband. I personally wouldn’t pay extra for the other colours, simply because the silver finish looks nice and the strap easily comes off via a push pin mechanism. In other words, you can add whatever 20mm watch strap best suits your style at a later date.
Polar Ignite review: Performance
First off, the switch to the lovely IPS screen isn’t entirely painless – it switches off when you’re not looking at it, and there’s a good two to three-second delay between putting the watch in front of your face and it flicking into life, which is a right old pain when running. The faint always-on screen of its predecessors may have looked worse, but they always showed the metrics instantly.
This is where more buttons might come in handy because, while you can spring the Ignite’s screen into life with a light tap of its button, that also happens to be the same place you pause exercise via a long press. It doesn’t take a huge imagination to guess what happened here a few times. Still, that screen timeout is good for battery life, and I can’t fault the Polar Ignite here, with the company’s claim of five days of regular use or 17 hours of continuous GPS tracking proving believable enough.
Elsewhere, the Polar Ignite experience is, for me, a pretty good one. The options on the watch itself are pared back, and you won’t be overwhelmed with functions you never use. Not all of them work perfectly, but conceptually the simple functionality is a very good thing.
So before I get onto what works and what doesn’t, let’s start with what the Polar Ignite aims to do. In short, the watch aims to do three things: track your activities, monitor your performance and recovery, and then recommend new activities based on this. Polar’s thinking is that this three-step process can create a tailored workout programme that works for anyone.
And, when it works, it’s very clever. Take Nightly Recharge: this goes beyond your standard sleep tracking to give you an overall “nightly recharge” score based on the time you’re awake for and your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) measurements. Swipe to another screen on the watch and it uses this, along with your recent exercise schedule and performance, to tell you what’s recommended for today.
So today, for instance, it told me that my nightly recharge was okay, with an ANS charge that’s better than usual (+), but a sleep charge that’s worse (70). I can compare that to my average scores, but alternatively, I can cut straight to the case by swiping again to see what exercise Polar thinks I should do. Having last recorded a training session 44 hours ago, it’s a cardio day, with Polar suggesting medium-effort cardio for 53 minutes in HR zones , or 90 minutes in Alternatively, it’ll guide me through a regular circuit training session, where it’ll tell me what things to lift and stretch, and for how long. You can preview what’s coming before you start, so you can be sure you have all the equipment within easy reach, assuming any is required.I like this. I like the fact that I can essentially outsource my training to something that should know my capabilities better than me. But does it? Well, that’s where it begins to fall down a little bit
I’ve now done three parkruns in my Polar Ignite, and the measured 5km courses have come out at three different lengths: km, km and, most damningly of all, km. To be entirely fair to that last one, it was a twisty course covered by trees and the watch on my other wrist was equally off, but, even so, it isn’t hugely encouraging. On each run, I was sure to let the GPS lock on before I set off.
What this means is that the average pace is off both during and after a run. So if you know you can normally complete a 5k in 25 minutes and, therefore, need an average pace of five minutes per kilometre, your watch may tell you you’re not going fast enough, even when you are. That’s a recipe for failure.
I was trying to figure out why it was off, and I’ve figured it out after a long 9km run around south London. Here’s a zoom in on my Strava map:
That’s right: Polar thinks I was bulldozing through people’s houses and gardens, rather than sticking to the street. Suffice it to say I was on the bottom side of Lavender Avenue for this entire section, so even when it was “right” it was still a full width of a road off. That explains why it was missing large swathes of runs – this one, comparing Polar’s data and me manually plotting my route into Mapometer, was around metres short.
I have similar misgivings about the other ways Polar records the data it bases its recommendations on. Fitness Test is supposed to give a VO2 Max estimate based on getting you to lie down and measuring your heart rate for three minutes directly from the wrist, only I could barely get the damned thing to work. Each time, after around 90 seconds it’d alert me to say it couldn’t get a reading. This is clearly a bug, as I took to watching the screen when I was supposed to be relaxing, and it showed various numbers right up to the moment it claimed it couldn’t get a reading.
I finally got it working on my tenth attempt or so – a “good” score of The problem is that you’re supposed to do this regularly to track improvements, and I doubt anyone would be bothered if it involved 15 minutes of failed attempts before success.The same is true for the Serene mode, which encourages guided breathing. The idea is nicely implemented: set the time and the length of breaths and then follow the bubbles moving in and out of the screen for your chosen time. Here again, though, it couldn’t always track my improvements, because it claimed not to be able to get a consistent heart rate reading. Something that clearly wasn’t a problem while running where it seemed to track quite believable figures for the entire distance each time.
Polar Ignite review: Verdict
I really want to give the Polar Ignite top marks because it gets so much right. But you don’t get points for trying and, ultimately, this feels more like a great prototype rather than the finished article.
It looks lovely, it feels nice on the wrist, the way it links sleep to training is great and the software with recommended exercises is brilliantly intuitive. It’s just a bit hard to trust said recommendations when the GPS accuracy is highly dubious and the heart-rate monitor seems to choose not to work at random.
Don’t get me wrong: I have no doubt that you’ll get fitter if you follow its instructions regardless, and maybe that’s enough for some people. But if you care about pushing yourself to new PBs, as well as improving base fitness, you’re probably better off spending a little more.
Review polar gps watch
Polar Ignite review: Average smartwatch, but a comprehensive fitness tracker
The Polar Ignite is a fitness-focused smartwatch where tracking your latest run, swim or bike ride is as important as sleep tracking and delivering data to explain how much you recover each night.
The sheer quantity of data this wearable produces could well be intimidating for anyone used to the simplicity of something like a Fitbit, or the tracking abilities of a hybrid smartwatch. But for those who want it, the Polar Ignite logs a huge amount of data, while proactively recommending types of exercise depending how you recovered overnight.
Polar Ignite review: Hardware and design
The $ Polar Ignite has a 43mm plastic and metal case. It weighs just 35g including the rubber strap, and looks subtle enough to not draw too much attention to itself. In that sense, it could be worn all day, every day, and isn't the type of sports device relegated to your gym bag after each workout. Also helping here is how the straps have industry-standard quick-release lug bars, so can be swapped out depending on your outfit and personal preferences.
The touchscreen display is circular but with a flat lower edge, under which sits the Polar logo. There is a single button at the seven o'clock position that is used in tandem with tapping and swiping at the screen to interact with Polar's in-house operating system.
Water resistance is rated at 30 meters, so taking the watch swimming is absolutely fine — and actively encouraged, given it tracks heart rate, swimming style, distance, pace, strokes and rest time while in the pool.
The rear of the watch houses a magnetic connection for the including USB charging cable, and an always-on optical heart rate sensor. So far, so very simple. But when you start using the Polar Ignite — and especially after a couple of days once it calibrates to your exercising and sleep routine — a mountain of data comes flooding in, but more on that later.
Heart rate monitor of the Polar IgniteGearBrain
Polar Ignite review: Software
As said above, the Ignite uses Polar's own operating system. There is no app store and no way to install new apps onto the watch. There is also no way to store music, or stream tracks to headphones. Instead, the focus here is purely on fitness and sleep tracking.
That said, the Ignite can alert you to notifications as they come through to your phone. But there is no way to choose which apps send notifications to the watch and which don't, so after the 20th WhatsApp group chat alert buzzing your wrist in as many minutes, you'll want to switch notifications off again.
There are six watch faces to swipe between. All show the time and date, then surround that with other data, such as daily step count, current heart rate, sleep data, your last training session, and a suggestion for what exercise to do next, based on how you recovered last night.
Exercise recommendations appear dailyGearBrain
Press the button to pick a type of training session (walking, running, cycling, swimming, strength training, etc), set a timer, take a general fitness test to estimate your VO2max, and open Serene, which is Polar's guided breathing exercise.
The Ignite connects to your iPhone or Android over Bluetooth and to the free Polar Flow companion app. This is where the masses of data collected by the watch can be viewed and digested, in the form of stats and graphs, but also with written explanations and suggestions. This includes advice on how you slept last night, and what type of exercise your body is sufficiently recovered for today.
Polar's interface is clean and simple enough once you have spent a day exploring what's on offer, but the display isn't all that sharp, with visible pixels and jagged edges to elements of the interface. It isn't as sharp and colorful as Polar shows in its marketing material, but it mostly does the job.
I was more disappointed by the watch's detection of wrist movement. Despite the five-day battery life (or 17 hours of constant exercise tracking), there is no option for a permanently-displayed time. Lifting your arm should light up the screen, but I found this far less reliable than with other smartwatches; sometimes the watch required an exaggerated movement, while other times it took a second too long for the time to appear.
Also frustrating is how the display brightness cannot be adjusted. I found this especially annoying at night, when the display could light up brightly — bright enough for me to notice with my eyes closed.
Polar Ignite review: Exercise tracking
There is a huge amount to digest here. First, the Ignite has integrated GPS so it can track your outdoor runs with your phone left at home. It can also record over different sports, track your heartbeat all day and night, estimate burnt calories and your VO2max, and count daily steps. That last metric feels far more accurate than some other wearables, which too often mistake general arm movement for dozens or even hundreds of steps per day. The Ignite doesn't fall for this, as proven by some days where I'm shamefully reaching just 20 percent of my activity goal (during Covid lockdown, I hasten to add…).
Over sports and exercise types can be trackedGearBrain
A press of the button opens the main menu, then just tap 'Start Training' scroll to the exercise you want to do, and tap on it to get started. An interval timer can also be started, if that's how you like to work out. After that, one press pauses tracking and a long press ends the session. It's all very simple and intuitive.
Each training session is logged in a section of the Polar Flow app, where you can view the session duration, plus your minimum, maximum and average heart rate, fat burn stats, and a graph showing your heart rate over time. You can also rank the difficulty of your session, helping the watch better understand your fitness level and ability.
A short written summary is produced to explain how the exercise session matched your recovery – in other words, you'll be praised for doing a shorter session after a bad night of sleep, but also for pushing harder for longer when you recovered more fully the night before.
Sleep and exercise tracking in the Polar Flow appGearBrain
Based on your recent fitness and sleep, the watch will suggest a training session for you. These include aerobic and strength training sessions, complete with instructions and simple diagrams for each exercise. Between two and four workout options are presented by the watch each day, based on what other exercise you have done that week, your fitness level, and your recovery and readiness, as determined by sleep analysis.
General activity tracking includes steps, distance, time active and calories burned per day. This is all collected automatically and sent to the Flow app for further analysis.
Polar Ignite review: Sleep tracking
The Polar Ignite offers some of the most detailed sleep analysis I've seen from any wearable, and even collects more data than dedicated sleep trackers. Your sleep cycles are recorded, with graphs showing your transitions between light, deep and REM sleep over night, plus any interruptions during the night.
Each night is then scored for its amount of sleep, solidity of sleep and energy regeneration. All of this adds up to give the night a rating, plus a figure for ANS (autonomic nervous system) charge and a sleep charge. It'scomplicated. There's a huge amount of data here, and it all feels somewhat overwhelming at first. For example, the app doesn't explain the difference between sleep solidity and sleep continuity.
How much you 'recharge' at night is described on the screenGearBrain
More helpful are the written summaries for each night. After a poor night's sleep, the app will suggest you "respect your body's need for recovery and keep your training light. Resting is also okay."
The trouble is, I have a hard time believing some of the Polar Ignite's sleep data. For example, it claimed I didn't get to sleep until almost 3am on two consecutive nights, yet I have no recollection of this, and the Withings Sleep Analyzer under my bed said I was asleep by around pm.
On other nights, their estimates for when I fell asleep were within a minute of each other, but my wake-up time differed by around 45 minutes.
Sleep tracking is hard to get right, but some stats recorded by the Ignite made me question its accuracy, despite the breadth of data it produces. I also struggled to sleep comfortably with the Ignite on my wrist, but that's down to personal preference, and changing to a different strap would likely help.
Activity and sleep tracking with the Polar Flow appGearBrain
All of the data collected by the Ignite is displayed as a circle in the Polar Flow app, representing a hour day. Each level of activity, from sleeping, to sitting, light exercise, moderate exercise and intense exercise, is given its own color and plotted around the circular timeline. It's a nice way to show how active or inactive your day was at a glance.
Polar Ignite review: Verdict
As you will no doubt have gathered by now, there is a lot to digest with the Polar Ignite. Stepping up from a regular fitness tracker or mainstream smartwatch from Apple or Samsung, to a dedicated fitness watch, will mean being exposed to a lot more data. Some of it is neatly presented — and the written summaries are particularly helpful – but some take a little more effort to fully understand.
There are plenty of wearable options for those who want an at-a-glance summary for their overall health, sleep, or how much they are active each day. The Apple Watch has its activity rings to close, and the Withings Sleep Analyzer scores you out of
But if you want more, watches like those by Polar are here to help. What the Ignite does well, is take your sleep data and actually do something with it, by using it to estimate recovery and suggest suitable exercise the following day. Many other devices lack that extra step.
I also like the long, five-day battery life and the design is nice and subtle. It is also excellent value for money, at around $ If you know you'll make use of all that data, the Ignite is a very affordable way to get it.
But it isn't perfect. The screen failing to switch on reliably at the flick of a wrist is annoying, and so too is how bright the display remains at night. I also have some doubts about the accuracy of its sleep tracking. I feel the long-term tracking of sleep data is reliable, as long as you don't mind overlooking the occasional anomaly (like that 3am sleep time).
Ultimately, you will struggle to gather more data for the money — just make sure you really do want it all before investing.
- Huge amount of data collection
- Subtle design
- Great battery life
- Data can be overwhelming
- Sleep tracking felt occasionally inaccurate
- Display brightness lacks adjustment
POLAR IGNITE - Advanced Waterproof Fitness Watch (Includes Polar Precision Heart Rate Integrated GPS and Sleep Plus Tracking)
The Polar Ignite offers plenty of features, casual and diehard alike, for a reasonable price. It might not have the build quality of the high-end Polar Vantage V, not does it track advanced running metrics like the Polar Vantage M, but for an entry level fitness tracker, it performs really well.
The built-in GPS is a nice touch, so is the inclusion of Polar's new optical heart rate sensor that tracks your pulse precisely – for a wrist-based system anyway. The casual features include the Serene guided breathing exercise and the Fitness Test, the latter which estimates your VO2 max levels.
• Buy the Polar Ignite directly from Polar
It would have been great to include NFC payment option to make it an even more rounded smartphone-free smartwatch, but for tracking everyday fitness activities and sleep, the Polar Ignite is more than adequate.
Polar really went out of their way to create a great, reasonably priced fitness watch that rivals similar offerings from Fitbit and Garmin. For example, the slightly cheaper Fitbit Versa Lite lacks the built-in GPS and the Polar Ignite has better sleep tracking insights than the Garmin Forerunner
Polar Ignite review: design and ergonomics
The Polar Ignite looks pretty straight forward. It has a nice, rather large touchscreen display and a silicone strap that does needs some time to get used to. At first try, due to the strap's elasticity, it can be a bit of a fiddle to seam it through the right holes.
The display itself looks swell and all the information on it is readable without effort. By default, by twisting your wrist upward, the display will come to life and display the time. Flicking the clock face left and right, you will find shortcuts to the main functions of the Polar Ignite, like current heart rate, the percentage of activity you have already done that day, information on your last training session, sleep data and the adaptive training options recommended for you that day.
When the screen is active, pressing the button on the side of the watch will take you to the menu, where you can start tracking an activity, do a breathing exercise (Serene) and run a fitness test, which will give you an estimate of your VO2 Max.
Start recording an activity is as easy as pressing the button on the side and choosing the activity from the list. The process shouldn't take longer than 2 seconds. One would question why a touchscreen device need a physical button, but in reality, this combination works really well.
The fitness watch is lightweight (a whole 35 grams with the wristband) and in all fairness, it does feel a bit too light, as in, it feels insubstantial. Although on the website it says '[the] Polar Ignite’s lightweight and sleek design is optimised for 24/7 use', I beg to differ. It is not uncomfortable per se, but it definitely not as comfortable to be worn all day, every day, unlike Garmin’s best watches.
For the HR tracker to work correctly, you need to wear it snugly, not loosely like a regular watch. And that – on the long run – is not a comfortable wear.
When you wear the Polar Ignite during the night and shuffle around, the screen sometime comes on and since you can't turn that ambient motion sensor off, nor can you adjust screen brightness, it can get a bit annoying.
On the other hand, it is definitely comfortable enough to wear for exercising, or even for a couple of hours during the day.
polar ignite review: fitness tracking
You will most likely use the Polar Ignite to track your fitness activity and to understand it better. As mentioned above, to start tracking an activity is as simple as pressing a button and touching the screen once (twice, tops).
You can even shuffle around and add more sport options using the Polar Flow app. Apart from the usual running/cycling/swimming, you can also track activities like climbing and floorball, all the way disc golf and even jazz. Not sure if the Polar Ignite would track other types of dancing well (waltz, anyone?).
Once you started recording, you can always pause tracking by pressing the button on the side of the watch. Once you ready to restart, just trap the screen. Very simple and intuitive.
To stop recording, press the button once to pause, then press and hold the button again for three seconds (the screen will count down). At the end of each session, the Polar Ignite will give you a summary of the session, depending on what activity you just did, including average and max heart rate, cardio load, heart rate zones and calories burned.
You can further analyse your performance through the Polar Flow app, where you can also automatically sync them with apps such as Strava, MyFitnessPal, TrainingPeaks, Google Fit and more.
polar ignite review: sleep tracking
It might not be the most comfortable thing to wear for sleeping, but the Polar Ignite can definitely provide you with some useful data about your slumber, should you decide to wear it at night.
After the baseline has been established – you wore the Ignite for three nights – it will score how well you slept on a scale of 1 to The Polar Ignite also features the Sleep Plus Stages feature, automatically tracking the amount and quality of your sleep and showing you how long you spent in each sleep stage.
For one, I was quite surprised how well I scored on my sleeps, having always considered myself a bad sleeper.
The Nightly Recharge function will tell you how well your body was able to recover from the strain caused by training and other demands of your day. even better, you don't have to do anything just wear the Polar Ignite for your sleeps.
The Polar Flow app offers you tips on how to train, sleep better and regulate your energy levels during the day. It won't actually make you sleep better, but it will do anything in its arsenal to provide you with ways to improve your sleep.
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polar ignite review: Other features
Apart from being able to track most of your fitness activities and sleep, the Polar Ignite can also help you be more mindful. The Serene function is a guided breathing exercise that can help you calm and slow down when you feel agitated or just a bit hyper.
You can set how long would you like to do the breathing exercise for and the fitness watch will guide you through the session using real-time haptic feedback. You don't know how long five minutes really is until you have to sit still for that long, just concentrating on your breathing.
You can also run fitness tests with the Polar Ignite. Quite surprisingly, to do a fitness test, you have to sit or lay down and keep very still for a few minutes. Not something you'd expect from a fitness test, but what it really does, it measures your VO2 max levels, and for that you'll need a steady and low heart rate frequency.
Smartphone notifications are also supported by the Ignite. You can access these by swiping up on the watch face. The apps allowed to send notifications can be changed on the Polar Flow app (under 'Devices'). By default, all apps are allowed, but it means that the watch will vibrate any time a new song is being played on Spotify, and there is really no need for that.
The battery life is quoted to last for five days, which is pretty accurate. The watch is charged using a special magnetic cradle, and it charges fast. I was really surprised how quickly it charged up from being almost completely depleted.
polar ignite review: the verdict
The more I used the Polar Ignite, the more I grew attached to it. Granted, I wasn't using all the functions it has to offer every day, but when I needed to access them, they were at the ready.
The Polar Ignite delivers the experience it promises to deliver; it is not for triathlon aficionados, who will take apart every minute detail of their exercise. Saying that, the Polar Ignite offers a lot of useful data and the Polar Flow app displays it in a fashion that is easy to understand and digest.
The sleep tracking function is a novelty and something a decent mid-range fitness watch has to offer nowadays. The Nightly Recharge function comes handy, especially if you decide to train harder than usual. It's easy to skip rest in hope of gaining extra training time, but in reality, a tired body won't gain much. It will get injured, though, if you push it too hard.
The Serene function will help you be a bit more mindful and relaxed in your everyday life. If you are a stressful person, I strongly recommend introducing breathing exercises in your daily routine. The Polar Ignite can help you get the hang of it .
If you are considering buying a fitness watch or maybe thinking about upgrading your basic fitness band, I strongly recommend choosing the Polar Ignite. It will be a great companion for both your fitness activities and your sleep, too.
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In the morning I asked a friend to take her home. We drove her. She asked me to call her sometime and run over to visit, since she lives herself. Then she conveyed greetings to me through my friends.