Polar Ignite review: gives Garmin Forerunners and Fitbits a run for their money

The Polar Ignite is indeed a versatile workout partner, if you don't mind the lack of NFC and music storage

Polar Ignite review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Polar Ignite is an accurate and versatile fitness companion that will help you understand your fitness requirements better. It can also help you sleep better and analyse your performance more accurately through the Polar Flow app.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Continuous heart rate tracking

  • +

    Easy to operate (button + touchscreen)

  • +

    Built-in GPS

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Not NFC enabled

  • -

    No music storage

  • -

    No maps

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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 245.

The optical sensors track heart rate fairly accurately

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Full breakdown of running stats , including different HR metrics, pace, cadence, elevation, calories burned and fat burn percentage of those calories

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Sleep score is given based on the combination of the amount and solidity of your sleep, as well as the estimated regeneration levels

(Image credit: Future)

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 100. 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.

The Polar Flow app gives you a quick overview of your daily and weekly activity, as well as showing your 'active time', calories burned, steps taken and distance travelled. To the right is the result screen of the fitness test

(Image credit: Future)

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.

The Polar Ignite is compatible with any standard 20 mm watch straps

(Image credit: Polar)

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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Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.