Polar Ignite 3 review: not so smart, but it's pretty

The Ignite 3 is the first watch from Polar to feature an AMOLED touchscreen and multiband GPS

Polar Ignite 3 review
(Image credit: Polar)
T3 Verdict

Slim, stylish, and lightweight with a bright AMOLED touchscreen display, the Polar Ignite 3 is a fitness band disguised as a smartwatch. It reliably monitors your sleep, workouts, heart rate and step count, and even has multi-band GPS to accurately track outdoor workouts. But it lacks smart features such as onboard music and contactless payments to justify the price.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Vibrant AMOLED touchscreen

  • +

    Super slim and lightweight

  • +

    Detailed fitness and sleep data

  • +

    FitSpark provides workouts on your wrist

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Slow, laggy software

  • -

    Pricey for what you get

  • -

    Always On Display only shows the time

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Five years is a long time in the world of wearable tech. Back when Finnish health- and fitness-focused smartwatch brand Polar launched the OG Polar Ignite in 2019, it was heralded as a versatile mid-range fitness watch with plenty of impressive features to give Garmin and Fitbit a run for their money. 

Then came the release of the slightly updated Polar Ignite 2 in 2021, and while it remained a solid choice for fitness fans, many questioned the price hike against the lack of technological advancements - especially when other brands were giving us plenty of new and exciting features for less money. 

So, when Polar released the Ignite 3 just one year later, in 2022, we were expecting big things. Did we get them? Well, yes, and no. Which begs the question: does the Polar Ignite 3 appear in our round-ups of the best fitness trackers, best smartwatches, and best running watches? Read on to find out.

Polar Ignite 3 review: price and availability

The Polar Ignite 3 is available to buy now at POLAR UK/ POLAR US/ POLAR AU for a recommended retail price of £289/ $330/AU$499. Available in Night Black, Purple Dusk, Greige Sand, and Brown Copper with a matching silicone strap, you can customise the look from a choice of over 30 wristbands in different finishes from the Polar Online Store

Polar Ignite 3 review

Left: Polar Ignite 3, right: Apple Watch Ultra

(Image credit: Jo Ebsworth)

Polar Ignite 3 review: design and ergonomics

Sleek, stylish, and oh-so-slim at just 9.5mm thick, there’s no denying the Polar Ignite 3 is an attractive watch. Similar in looks to the Google Pixel Watch, it has a 1.28” circular watch face coated in ultra-durable curved Gorilla Glass and is surrounded by a stainless-steel bezel that is either smooth or textured depending on the colour you choose.

Incredibly, the Ignite 3 is the first ever watch from Polar to feature a Hi-Res AMOLED touchscreen for sharper, crisper, more vivid colours, and while the crystal clear display is very much appreciated, it’s something I’ve come to expect from cheaper fitness trackers, including the Huawei Band 7 which costs less than a fifth of the Ignite 3 price tag. 

Polar describes the Ignite 3 as a ‘fitness and wellness watch’ that tracks your ‘sleep, activity, and heart rate to provide guidance that’s tailored to your body and lifestyle’. Going by this blurb and the various images on the website showing women wearing the Ignite 3 while doing yoga, lying in bed, or running errands while looking radiant, I’d suggest this ‘unisex’ design is clearly geared towards the female lifestyle market. 

Polar Ignite 3 review

(Image credit: Polar)

Indeed, the tagline for the Ignite 3 at the launch was ‘Find Your Rhythm’, so I was waiting for the announcement of a menstrual cycle tracking feature like you’d find on the Apple Watch Series 8, the best Fitbit or the best Garmin watches. But no. And there’s no capability to download music, make contactless payments, answer calls, or reply to a text either, which would all suit a lifestyle watch.

Instead, it appears Polar is attributing the price increase of the Ignite 3 to it being the brand’s first-ever watch to feature multi-band GPS. This is confusing, seeing as this upgrade would surely be more suited to one of Polar’s more technical outdoor watches, such as the Polar Grit X or the Polar Pacer Pro.

The silicone strap is thin and narrow at just 20mm across, but it isn’t especially breathable (Polar recommends you loosen off the strap when you’re ‘not measuring heart rate or tracking sleep…to let your skin breathe’). Another downside is that the texture on the outside of the silicone strap picks up dust and pet hair easily, so it can quickly look dull and dirty. 

Waterproof to 30 meters, the Ignite 3 weighs an incredibly lightweight 35 grams with the strap, meaning it’s comfortable enough to wear during sleep, and you can forget it’s there during the day. There’s just one button on the left side to open and close menus or pause and stop workouts, which will either simplify things for some users or frustrate others (more on that later).

Polar Ignite 3 review

(Image credit: Jo Ebsworth)

Polar Ignite 3 review: battery life

The Polar Ignite 3 promises up to 120 hours (or five days) worth of battery life in Basic Mode with continuous heart rate tracking and phone notifications turned on, going down to 30 hours in Training Mode with single-frequency GPS, and 21 hours using dual-frequency GPS. I generally found these estimates to be true, but I usually put it on charge every three or four days because I was using the GPS a lot.

Charging the watch is a quick and simple affair, and the USB-A proprietary cable clips securely onto the back and stays fixed in place (a nice change compared to some clips that fall off with the slightest nudge).

Disappointingly, however, the battery life goes down to two days with AOD (Always On Display) turned on, and all you get for activating it is a dim reading of the time as opposed to the usual dimmer version of your watch face showing other stats. Therefore, while I usually like to have AOD on, losing three days of battery life just to see the time doesn’t seem like a fair trade.

Polar Ignite 3 review

(Image credit: Polar)

Polar Ignite 3 review: health and wellness features

Many of the Polar Ignite 3 features focus on heart rate, activity levels, and sleep to help you balance your lifestyle with your circadian rhythm.

Nightly Recharge and Sleep Plus Stages (both available on the Ignite 2) measure how well your body recovers from stress, activity, and exercise during your sleep cycle and track the amount of time you spend in different stages of sleep (Light, Deep, and REM), while the new SleepWise feature analyses how your sleep affects your day ahead by giving you a forecast of your alertness levels and an estimate of when your body is ready to fall asleep.

Once you’ve collected five nights of sleep data, you can view these insights in the free Polar Flow companion app, but only once you have manually synched your watch after waking, which takes a while and gets a little tedious. But the data is reliable enough once you can access it.

The FitSpark feature offers daily personalised on-demand cardio, strength, and mobility workouts based on your body’s readiness and conditioning, and it’s especially useful when used in conjunction with the in-training voice guidance to provide real-time feedback and metrics via your headphones. 

On top of this, the Ignite 3 can track over 150 pre-defined sports profiles – including swimming, where it automatically detects your swim style, distance, pace, and strokes – providing you with comprehensive real-time and post-workout stats to help you track your progress and see how you performed. 

On the nutrition front, Energy Sources will provide you with a breakdown of how your body used fats, carbohydrates and proteins during your training session, and Smart Calories will give you a summary of calories burnt during workouts and regular activity, while Polar’s Serene guided breathing feature will help you to deal with stress by relaxing the body and mind.

Polar Ignite 3 review

(Image credit: Jo Ebsworth)

Polar Ignite 3 review: accuracy and perfomance

The Polar Ignite 3 looks so promising out of the box. But then you put it on, and the frustration begins. Polar says you get two times faster processing than the Polar Ignite 2 for more a smoother performance, but the reality is the Ignite 3 still only has a 192 MHz CPU and 5MB of RAM. That might be okay for lower-resolution screens, but it’s not enough to power the vibrant AMOLED touchscreen. 

Scrolling left and right through the activity tiles isn’t so bad, but swiping up or down for notifications or through the menu feels slow, laggy, and often unresponsive, as is the ‘raise to wake’ function.

I’d say I resorted to pressing the button on the side of the watch around 50 per cent of the time when I wanted to wake the screen up to see my stats or the clock – either because the raise-to-wake function was too slow to respond or didn’t work - and I often ended up pausing workouts by accident.

I wish I could have tapped the touchscreen to wake up the screen instead, and I also wish there was another button on the watch to help stop, start, and exit various features. I understand why Polar would want to simplify their usual five-button control system, but having just the one button only complicated the user experience when combined with the slow touchscreen. 

On the plus side, I found the Ignite 3 did a great job of tracking my heart rate, sleep, step count, and workouts, and I enjoyed the presentation of my data in the Polar Flow app. The multi-band GPS also delivered a solid connection and proved reliably accurate at tracking my pace, distance and location when tested on my usual running routes in very built-up areas, so long as I had my phone on me.

Polar Ignite 3 review

(Image credit: Jo Ebsworth)

Polar Ignite 3 review: verdict

With its AMOLED screen, slim design, and decent battery life, the Polar Ignite 3 is by far the brand’s best-looking watch to date. But it’s more of a fitness and wellbeing tracker than a smartwatch, despite the addition of multiband GPS. While it provides reliable data in a well-presented app and offers some brilliant features for anyone looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, the slow, laggy touchscreen makes using the watch feel laboured on the go. Overall, it’s better suited to the casual end of the fitness market.

Joanna Ebsworth

Jo has been obsessed with writing and fitness since her teenage years and spent all her pocket money on magazines and workout VHS tapes. When ITV cancelled Gladiators – causing her dreams of becoming the next ‘Jet’ to crash and burn - she decided to combine her passions and become a fitness writer instead. A qualified PT and author of several fitness guides, she has spent the last 15 years writing for many of the UK’s most respected newspapers, magazines, and online publications. When she’s not interviewing celebrities and athletes or testing fit kit, she can be found watching YouTube breakdowns of the latest MCU releases.