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.
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.
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.