Fitbit fitness bands AND Garmin running watches could both be burned to the ground by Polar Ignite

A hybrid of lifestyle activity tracker and hardcore fitness watch for under £200

Polar Ignite
(Image credit: Polar)

Polar of Finland has generally tended to make hardcore running watches for hardcore runners – the Vantage range, for instance. These have been very much 'Garmin rivals', although I dare say Polar doesn't put it like that. With Polar Ignite, however, it's putting tanks on Fitbit's lawn, adding advanced sleep tracking and 'wellness' features to its usual range of formidably powerful fitness and activity monitoring tools. It's also quite keenly priced, at least compared to the flagship Vantage V watch, with prices starting at £174.50.

For more casual fitness and wellness seekers, Polar Ignite offers the usual step-counting and all-day heart monitoring, so you can reassure yourself that you are not dead or in a coma. Accurate step and calorie tracking is promised, and the battery is good for a solid 5 days.

Polar Ignite

You have slept well. Have a cup of coffee as a reward…

(Image credit: Polar)

There's also Sleep Stages Plus ('scientifically validated with third parties', you'll be glad to know). This means monitoring of the stages of your sleep (light, deep, REM) in a similar way and with similar depth to Fitbit's market-leading zzzz-counting software. A 'Sleep Score' – again, similar to Fitbit – lets you know how successfully you have slept.

However, Ignite also has something potentially much more useful in the form of Nightly Recharge. This uses your Sleep Score and information gleaned from the daily tracking of your activity and workouts to offer 'personalised tips to help adjust your daily plan, so you can continue to improve your sleep and recovery, and ultimately improve your performance and fitness.' 

Well, it could be useful or it could be crap. But at least Polar is trying to offer insights beyond steps taken and hours of sleep and exercise achieved. The key to this analysis is heart-rate monitoring (in fact, tracking the intervals between beats), and Polar's Precision Prime cardio tech is arguably the best wrist-based tracking in the business.

Polar Ignite

Well go on then!

(Image credit: Polar)

The same heart-rate tracking excellence means the Ignite should also be a great fitness watch. Over 100 sports and activities can be tracked, while Polar's FitSpark offers a daily, personalised training guide based on your fitness level, training history, and Nightly Recharge score. Polar Ignite can suggest exercises and targets within broad cardio, strength training, and performance categories – you select the actual cardio workouts you want to do, so it's not overly prescriptive. 

A Vo2 Max estimate is also made from the wrist-based, optical heart tracking, although at present this is only for runners not cyclists or cross-fit enthusiasts. Polar calls this 'Running Index' and it's a very simple and easily understood way to rate your running. Using your training and fitness data, Ignite can also serve up a Polar Running Program, offering personalised guidance on training for races from a 5K to a full marathon.

Again more in the lifestyle and wellness area, Serene is another new feature and yet again, a similar one to what you'll find on recent Fitbits. It offers 'guided breathing exercises', with visual cues helping you breathe in an allegedly stress-relieving manner.

Finally, swimmers will be glad to know that the Ignite is not only waterproof to 50m; it also offer indoor and outdoor swim tracking with metrics including stroke rate and distance swum.

• Buy Polar Ignite in black & silver (£174.50) or white & silver and yellow & black with  (pricier at £199.50 but probably worth it as the wrist band is silicon rather than polyurethane). 

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."