Polar Ignite review: Active coaching based on readiness, slim and sleek with a frustrating display

  • Editors' rating
    7.3 Very good
  • $229.95

Pros

  • High quality fit and finish
  • Most advanced sleep metrics available today
  • Solid battery life
  • Accurate heart rate sensor
  • Comfortable strap
  • Full featured Polar Flow service

Cons

  • Frustrating touchscreen and single button navigation
  • Inconsistent sleep tracking performance
  • Limited notifications and customization
Six new sports watches for the casual athlete to the ultrarunner Wearables today have advanced sensors to help you track your activity 24/7. Matt Miller says that while the Apple Watch is a great smartwatch, there are many other wearables focused on helping you collect data and use it to improve your health and fitness. Read more: https://zd.net/2lobqlP

Last fall Polar released its high-end Vantage V GPS sports watch, see our full review, and the mid-range Vantage M. Both of these Polar wearables are focused on the goal-driven, more serious athlete looking for more advanced metrics in workouts.

The new Polar Ignite is for more casual athletes who are looking for active coaching to guide different workout options based on advanced sleep tracking and recovery. Some of the advanced sleep and breathing exercises will be coming to the higher end models with a firmware update, but the FitSpark training guide is designed for Ignite users.

At $229.95, the Polar Ignite is a very attractive option for people looking for a reasonably sized and lightweight fitness tracker capable of GPS tracking, detailed heart rate measurements, and useful guidance to help you reach your goals. Polar Ignite users should be flexible on what type of exercise they perform as the watch will offer alternatives based on your sleep, heart rate, and measured recovery.

See also: Half marathon training with the Polar Vantage V: Detailed plans, reports, and coaching lead to solid results

Specifications

  • Display: 1.2 inch color touchscreen, 240x204 pixels resolution, Dragontrail glass.
  • Materials: Stainless steel bezel and button, fiber-reinforced polymer case, and soft silicone band
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth Low Energy, GPS, GLONASS
  • Water resistance: WR30 rating for 30m water resistance
  • Sensors: 3-axis accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor with nine sensors, vibration motor, barometer
  • Battery life: 165 mAh, for 5 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate tracking with up to 17 hours with GPS and heart rate enabled
  • Watch bands: Standard 20mm watch strap
  • Dimensions: 43mm diameter x 8.5mm thick, 35 grams

Hardware

I measured the Polar Ignite color display at 1.2 inches, the same as the Polar Vantage V. It's quite bright and readable in most conditions (level cannot be changed), but it also has a flat tire at the bottom so your notifications and some other data is a bit cut off at times. Unfortunately, the display is not always on and lifting your wrist to view the time doesn't work every time.

There is a single button in the bottom left so you use that and the touchscreen to navigate around the watch. The button turns on the display and also toggles between the watch face and the start training option. You also press the button once to pause your activity and press/hold to end your activity. From the watch face a press/hold initiates syncing the Polar Ignite to your smartphone.

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Around the black display is a stainless steel bezel with a polymer case under that. I tested out the white Polar Ignite with the optional orange silicone band. Both of these silicone bands were very malleable and comfortable on my wrist for extended wear.

The Polar Ignite is nearly half the weight of the Polar Vantage V, 35 grams compared to 66 grams, and is only 8.5mm thick. It's one of the smallest wearables I've tested in a long time so should fit those with smaller wrists quite well.

See also: Polar Vantage V review: Advanced technology and coaching help athletes achieve their best

Polar is well-known for its heart rate technology with its chest strap monitors serving as the standard for years. While Polar still has chest straps and one is actually still required for orthostatic tests and for more detailed heart rate tracking, it has also been working to perfect wrist-mounted monitoring. The Polar Ignite has the same Polar Precision Prime technology found in the Vantage V that uses five green LEDs and four red ones with four electrode sensors to verify skin contact. All of these LEDs and the sensors are designed to obtain reliable heart rate readings.

Advertised battery life is up to 17 hours in training mode (active GPS and heart rate monitoring). Standard watch mode with continuous heart rate is advertised at five days and I was seeing something more in line with four days. The GPS mode battery life lined up well with the advertised battery life. The four skin contact sensors also serve as the connection points to charge up the Polar Ignite using the included charging puck connected to a USB cable.

Watch software

The first thing you see when you lift up your wrist is the watch face. Make a choice to view analog or digital watch faces and then scroll through the different views to check out your data. You cannot edit or change the watch faces so you are stuck with just two basic choices.

You can swipe through different displays in addition to the standard watch face to show the following. Tapping on the selected display brings you to another display with more details for the selected option.

  • Time: Just the date, day of the week, and time
  • Activity: Circle around the outside fills as you progress with percent shown as a number. Details show steps taken, active time, calories burned, and active time.
  • FitSpark: The FitSpark function is the most interesting part of the Polar Ignite and visually you will see different color bars with a couple of words below the time for strength, cardio, or supportive. Tap on this display to see what workouts are recommended for you. One great aspect of this is that you can tap More to see other options if you don't like what is suggested first. Once you see one you want to complete, tap on it and then tap on Start to get going.
  • Heart rate: Current heart rate can be checked by pressing the center right OK button. Details show your highest and lowest readings for the day and lowest HR during sleep.
  • Latest training session: The amount of time that has passed since your last training is shown. Details include summaries of your training sessions from the last 14 days. You can also press OK to access even more details of your selected session.
  • Sleep: An overview of your last night's sleep is shown. Details show when you fell asleep, when you woke up, sleep time, sleep continuity, sleep breakdown, and feedback about your sleep.

Pressing the button launches the menu where you can access start training, participate in the serene breathing exercises, use timers, start a fitness test, and view settings. Settings include physical (height, weight, max heart rate, and other specifics about you), general (pair and sync, continuous HR tracking, do not disturb, units, phone notifications toggle, and more), and watch (alarm, watch face digital/analog toggle, time, date, and first day of the week).

Unlike the Garmin I have used before, you cannot customize the training displays on the watch itself. All sport profile screens are setup on your phone and then synced to the Polar Ignite. This is only an issue if you don't have your phone and want to take on a new activity you did not plan for.

Sleep tracking also requires that you be sleeping for at least four hours to track. Thus, you cannot measure naps with the Polar Ignite and I did not have success measuring every day of the week even though I did sleep for more than four hours.

While more than 130 different sports can be tracked, you can select those you want to see in the pre-training screens on your phone and then sync them to the watch. I currently have jogging, hiking, cycling, mobility (static), mobility (dynamic), strength training, core, running, other indoor, and other outdoor shown on the Polar Ignite.

Smartphone app

The smartphone app offers up a subset of what you see on the Polar Flow website. There are screens for Activity, Training, Nightly Recharge, Sleep, and More. For the Polar Ignite, the More tab shows Balance (weight scale) Serene tutorials, Feed, Notifications, Sport Profiles, Devices, General Settings, and Support.

The Nightly Recharge shows how your body was able to recover from training and stress. You will see ratings from Very Good down to Very Poor on the display with an automatic nervous system (ANS) rating from -10 to +10. A sleep charge rating, from 0 to 100, is also shown on this page. At the bottom are some tips for the day to see what kind of general guidance is provided to you based on the data collected. I learned that I need a lot more sleep and have work to do in order to be in optimal performance condition.

The Sleep tab is very colorful and full of data showing you the Sleep Plus stages. A bar graph is shown with light, deep, and REM sleep stages with interruptions. Scroll up to see your sleep score and then some ratings on different elements of your sleep; amount, solidity, and regeneration. Keep scrolling to see more details and averages to view how you compare. Week views of this data is also available.

See also: Half marathon training with the Polar Vantage V: Detailed plans, reports, and coaching lead to solid results

Polar Flow website

The Polar Flow website is the same as I described in detail in my Polar Vantage V review, which I found a bit disappointing. The advanced sleep metric details mentioned above are not reflected in full on the Polar Flow website. Sleep is watered down and shows the same as what I saw on the Vantage V.

Pricing and availability

You can purchase a Polar Ignite now for $229.95 in black/silver, white/silver, and yellow/black. Optional silicone bands in black, white, and yellow are available for $24.95 each. There are two sizes; medium/large and small.

Conclusions

I went into this review with no current training plan since I wanted to be able to follow the advice of teh FitSpark training guide in order to experience what Polar Ignite buyers will when they purchase this watch. It's a much smaller watch than I normally wear and was easy to wear 24/7 during my testing phase.

The FitSpark guidance was good and seemed just about right for getting exercise completed. I like when it mixed up different types of running workouts with bodyweight exercises and various types of stretching. I think those looking for a coach to help them mix things up will appreciate what Polar is doing here with the Ignite.

The sleep tracking, when it worked, was very informative, but even though I followed Polar's detailed directions I averaged about four successful nights of tracking per week. I hated waking up and seeing that the Ignite did not track any sleep or tracked only four hours of a seven hour night of sleep. There is no way to manually initiate a sleep session so you just have to trust it works and right now it is not working that well for me.

While the touchscreen display looks great, it did not function reliably for me and frustrated me way too much. Taps and swipes were often not registered and having this experience repeatedly means I would never buy the Ignite for myself. There is also a flat tire along the bottom of the display, like we used to see with Motorola's smartwatches.

While the Apple Watch display is black unless you touch it or raise your wrist to look at it, nearly every GPS sports watch I have tested has an always-on display so you can always see the time and use it as a watch. The Polar Ignite functions like the Apple Watch, but it usually takes two to three seconds for the display to light up when you raise your wrist. Again, just not a very good experience for me.

I love what Polar has done here with the software in FitSpark and Nightly Recharge (when it works), but the hardware needs some work. I understand that the Vantage V will be getting a future update in October to add all of this functionality in the future and then I may have just found a new daily wearable. It's nice to see Polar leading again in a new area, now just tweak the Ignite a bit or get this update out to Vantage V and M devices soon.

Specifications

Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, heart rate
Vibrating Alert Yes
Body Material fiberglass reinforced polymer
Max Depth of Water Resistance 98 ft
Protection waterproof
Communications
Wireless Interface Bluetooth
Battery
Run Time (Up To) 5 day(s)
Run Time Details Training mode - up to 17 hour(s)
Watch mode - up to 5 days
Technology lithium polymer
Capacity 165 mAh
Header
Brand Polar
Product Line Polar
Packaged Quantity 1
General
Wearing Style watch style
Clock Display Yes
Integrated Components heart rate sensor, navigation
Set Goals Yes
Tracking Data activity, calories burned, distance, heart rate, running cadence, sleep activity, speed, steps taken
CE Input Device
Type touch buttons, touch sensitive screen
Band
Name band
Fits Wrist Size 6.1 in - 8.27 in
Width 0.8 in
Features
Sensors accelerometer, heart rate
Dimensions & Weight
Width 1.7 in
Depth 0.3 in
Height 1.7 in
Weight 1.23 oz
Battery Life Details
Usage Mode training mode, watch mode
Run Time (Up To) 17 hour(s), 5 day(s)
System Requirements
Supported Host Device Platform Android, iOS
Case
Case Shape round
Connectivity
Wireless Interface Bluetooth

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Where To Buy

Polar Ignite - glass fiber reinforced polymer - smart watch with band - white

Part Number: 90071067