Light a fitness fire with the Polar Ignite

Light a fitness fire with the Polar Ignite

As I mentioned in the earlier article about the new Fitbit releases, my main training partner over the last few years has come from the folks at Polar. I’ve reviewed a variety of their watchesand it seems that each one has been better than the last. Will the Polar Ignite keep that trend going? We went hands-on to find out.

As with any tech release, the Polar Ignite brings a lot of new functionality to the table. You can see the specs down below, and get a rundown discussion of them in my prior writeup from when the watch was first announced (check that out here). One of the biggest differentiators for the Polar Ignite – as compared to prior models – is the screen. First off, it’s a touch screen, something I’ve only seen on their M600 Android smartwatch before. So, that simplifies the case a good bit as well, with only one physical button appearing.

The screen on the Polar Ignite is also one of the brightest that I’ve had in from the brand, which really makes things quite crisp and easy to see what function you’ve swiped into. It takes a bit getting used (at least for long-time Polar users) to tap into functions rather than pressing a button, but you do adjust. The touch screen also allows quick access via a swipe down to, say, put the watch into Airplane Mode. This is nice to get the quick access to things that are normally buried in the settings; if you could customize those selections, that would be even better.

Vantage M vs Ignite

Another new feature built into the Polar Ignite that I rather liked was the settings for the heart rate monitoring. As you might expect, you can set it to be always on, or just on while exercising. There’s also a third choice, which I ended up relying on more, and that’s for the HR sensor to only be on during sleep (as well as exercise). For this, you’re basically setting the time when you’d normally go to bed, and it kicks on then. Past that, the watch does a good job of detecting when you’ve actually gone to sleep (whether or not the HR sensor is active). With the heart rate tracking, you get additional insights into your sleep and heart activity during that sleep. While it was interesting to see, I didn’t end up focusing too much on the recharge and ANS metrics in my time with the watch.

As a workout companion, the Polar Ignite was just as able as any other I’ve had from Polar. It’s one of the smallest and lightest I’ve had from the brand, so that’s a big checkmark in the plusses column. Also, with the single button on the left side of the case, I did not find myself inadvertently bumping settings and turning off tracking (which has happened with my Vantage now and again). It tracked things ably, and the brighter screen was definitely a breeze to see in the bright lights of the gym. Post-gym, there’s a fitness test built back into the watch (something an early model had, but has been missing in the past few that I’ve reviewed) which gives you more of a macro view of how your health is doing (based around resting heart rate) over time.

The nice thing about using the Polar Ignite, along with any other Polar devices, is that the Polar Flow app (and website) becomes the hub for all of that. You can setup sport profiles (ie, the exercises you do the most) and they’ll sync to your devices. This is where things start to break down a bit for the Polar Ignite. Or maybe more for the app, actually. Once I first had the Polar Ignite setup, I was having a heck of time getting it to sync. It would connect to my phone, then connect to the application. It would start the sync, and then immediately drop out and say “unable to sync”. Eventually, I figured out that the first time I opened Polar Flow, I needed to go into the devices section, and wait for it to realize the account had a Polar Ignite in it. This enable a bunch of additional things in the app, and allowed the sync to go through.

Ignite vs Vantage M

Why something like that was going on, that just feels like a miss in the testing between the app and the device. Fortunately, it also feels like something the development team could address and push out an update for, as this sort of non-obvious sync issue is not a great consumer experience. And considering the Polar Ignite is aimed at a more casual use (versus a serious training device), you want to make that use as smooth as possible.

It could just be that they were rushing to get the Polar Ignite to market. There were a few other things that felt odd about the piece as well. For instance, when charging, the battery icon would show 100%, but the text would say “Not Full Yet”. The other glaring thing that hit me was that the accelerometer seemed a bit finicky. It was fine for tracking steps and my running pace, but when it came to bringing the watch up and having the screen come on immediately (it shuts off to save battery life), it didn’t always do that. In exercise mode, it did, no issues there. In regular daily use mode, though, I found myself needing to press the single button to wake the screen probably about half of the time. Again, for these items, one presumes a firmware update could take care of this.

While the Polar Ignite does rely on a proprietary magnetic charging cable to juice the battery, it’s the same one that the Polar Vantage M uses, so that simplifies things a bit if you do have both around. If you intend to have the all-day HR tracking on, just keep aware of where that cable is. While the Polar Ignite is definitely more compact, it means that you’ve got a smaller battery in there, so you’ll be charging it every 2-3 days. Whereas, with just nighttime HR monitoring on, I found I could easily get 5+ days out of the watch between charges.

So, the question remains – did the Polar Ignite meet the goals it set for itself, mainly to be a more mainstream-friendly fitness tracking watch? I think it did, as casual users will be drawn in by the bright touch screen and more compact size. For anyone who’s familiar with prior Polar devices, however, it will feel like a device that could had spent a little more time with the usability testers and application team. Again, these feel like issues that could be addressed with app and firmware updates, but it remains to be seen if they would be addressed. While there is definitely some fun potential (and a ton of capability) with the Polar Ignite, I would have trouble recommending this watch – as it stands today – over the Polar Vantage M for an affordable, all-around fitness watch. polar.com

Review Summary

  • Brand & Model: Polar Ignite
  • Price:
    • $229.95 in white, yellow, and black wristband options.
    • Silicon accessory bands are $24.95/€24.90/£21.50 each and available in black, white and yellow in size medium/large and in black and white in size small.
  • Who’s it for? You want something more than a simple step counter, but don’t want (or need) something that looks like you’re training for a marathon
  • Would I wear it? As the watch stands today, no – the Polar Vantage M is my training partner of choice
  • What I’d change: The syncing issues in the application, as well as the battery charge notification and accelerometer sensing (to turn the screen on) need to be addressed
  • The best thing about it: This is definitely the lightest and most compact Polar to-date. Additionally, there are a lot of fitness recommendations and sleep metrics built into it that we’ve not seen in prior devices

Tech Specs from Polar

  • Sleep Quality Insights with Sleep Plus Stages™
  • Recovery Insights with Nightly Recharge™
    • Nightly Recharge takes sleep measurement analysis even further by interpreting a user’s Sleep Score and then combining it with daily recovery information from the body.
  • Personalized Training with FitSpark™
  • /Sophisticated & Additional Features/
    • Smart Coaching In addition to new sleep analytics and fitness guidance, Polar Ignite provides a variety of performance features spanning multiple sports:
    • Serene™ Offers new guided breathing exercises, right from the wrist. Athletes’ bodies don’t distinguish between stress from training and other parts of life, and mental well-being is an important part of recovery. Regular, daily breathing exercises with Serene can help balance body and mind, recover better, and even help with better sleep.
    • Daily Activity and :* Continuous Heart Rate Intelligently combines activity and heart rate data to calculate daily calorie burn and steps outside of training, and offers a comprehensive view on everyday life, accurate calorie consumption and activity data.
    • Running Index : Provides a straightforward number that scores running performance. Running Index automatically provides an estimate of a runner’s Running Vo2max score based on their submaximal or typical runs.
    • Running Program : Polar’s free, personalized and adaptive training program that offers guidance on completing anything from a 5k to a marathon.
    • Swim Metrics: Tracks indoor and outdoor swimming sessions with metrics such as stroke rate and distance.
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