Polar Ignite Review
In this Polar Ignite Review, we take a detailed look at Polar’s latest FITNESS watch. If you are a competitive athlete it’s not the sports watch for you but if you are looking for a well-featured fitness watch that can guide your training and include the effects of your recovery and sleep quality in its detailed and impressive guidance features, then IGNITE is worth considering.
POLAR IGNITE: IS a good product but you need to make sure it’s the right match for your personal needs. Here’s a quick summary followed by the detaied review
Product Name: Ignite
Product Description: GPS Fitness Watch with Adaptive training guidance and sleep analysis
Offer price: 202.99
Price - 92%
Apparent Accuracy - 82%
Build Quality & Design - 90%
Features, Including App - 90%
Openness & Compatability - 85%
Polar have delivered on two of 2019’s must-have fitness features – ‘sleep’ and ‘adaptive training guidance’. And they’ve done a good job with both.
As we start to realise the importance of SLEEP QUALITY on our readiness to train, Polar has given us the means to understand and improve today’s training by doing the right training..
When it comes to understanding the answer to the most fundamental question, ‘What should I do today?‘, Polar adapts its recommendations to you and uniquely also gives you different types of training as alternatives for you to choose from.
Polar’s Sleep offering is interesting and stands out nicely from what some competitors offer with some good insights, unusual data presentations and their glimpse into your sleep stages.
But those are just the new features; the Polar Ignite builds on the watch platform from last year and fits nicely into the Polar FLOW – Polar’s athlete-focussed training platform.
If you like the aesthetics and are not bothered about all the latest music, payments and apps that something like the Apple watch will offer then the Polar Ignite is a VERY good choice as your fitness partner. However, if you are looking for a full-featured running or multi-sport watch for athletes, then Ignite is NOT that and misses out on more ‘advanced’ training features like manual laps and power meter compatibility.
- Covers the bases for a fitness watch.
- Competitive pricing
- Great screen
- Impressive adaptive training feature encompassing many activity types
- Generally good optical HR results for me.
- Good sleep insights
- Good app
- GPS accuracy not great, though Polar should improve it throughout 2019
- Touchscreen sometimes fantastic (even when wet)…sometimes less so.
- Other users report shorter-than-claimed battery life
- One button+touchscreen is not my preferred way to work a watch
- Lacks the super smarts like music, payments and an app store but does have the basics like notifications.
Polar’s recent forays have been with the Polar Vantage M & V watches which are targetted at athletes, whereas previously, they have attacked the fitness space from different angles
- Polar M200 – budget device but with great features. Doesn’t look great.
- Polar M600 – An Android-based watch running WearOS that’s similar in concept to the Apple Watch. I like it but its battery life, like the Apple Watch, lets it down.
- Polar A370 – A band-format device without GPS. I quite like this too but the market seems to be moving towards watches.
- Polar M430 – Fully featured running watch
- Polar Vantage M, V and V Titan. – athletic multisport watches.
The Ignite combines aspects of all of these and further bases its design on the same software that the Vantage watches use.
It’s a smaller format watch that will appeal to those of you with thinner wrists or those who like a smaller watch! It DOES have the looks and features that you might prefer to make it sit nicely on your wrist for 24×7 usage. The screen quality looks VERY GOOD and, if you like single button+touchscreen formats then you could be on to a winner.
The screen interface is quirky…in a nice way. It’s a little different in today’s world where every unique individual seems to wear the exact same Apple Watch.
The whole package generally works very well but I was a little confused, at first, by the need for quite a lot of sleep-geeky information included on the watch.
There appear to be other excellently-intentioned features. Let’s see if they turn out that way…
Unboxing, Contents & Variants
You get a USB charging cradle and the watch. Ta Da.
- There is either a M/L strap (155-210mm) or a smaller strap
- The choice of colours is either black-silver, white-silver or yellow-black. The former is the cheapest.
- Each version has 20mm interchangeable bands.
Polar Ignite Specifications & Comparisons
Overall the Polar Ignite’s specs are good.
- Measurements – 43 x 43 x 8.5 mm – if you have thin wrists or prefer a smaller format watch this is good
- Weight – 35 g with a wristband, 21 g without wristband – Grams or ounces, however you measure it, it’s light
- Display – Colour touch display (IPS TFT) with an ambient light sensor (ALS), resolution 240×204. Dragontrail glass lens – the resolution seems WAY better than that, it must be the great colours and brightness that make it look so good, as that resolution is actually not that great.
- Battery – 165 mAh Li-pol battery. Battery life up to 17 h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate), up to 5 days in watch mode with continuous heart rate tracking – 17 hours training baby…that’s enough. Some users report finding this battery life hard to achieve.
- Materials – Glass fibre reinforced polymer case. Stainless steel bezel & button – The stainless steel bezel is a bit meh but alright. I’d prefer chrome; Titanium is too expensive at this price point.
- Wristbands – Black & Silver: TPU plastic, stainless steel buckle.
- Other colours: Silicone, stainless steel buckle. – the wristbands are par for the course for this price bracket. I’d prefer nicer ones. They are 20mm interchangeable.
- Sizing: S: wrist circumference 130-185 mm, M/L: wrist circumference 155-210 mm
- GPS – Integrated GPS & GLONASS. Assisted GPS for fast fix times – This uses the new Sony GNSS/GPS chip that supports GALILEO (to be added later in 2019)
- Connectivity -Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Custom USB cable for charging and data synchronization – aka it talks to your computer or smartphone. Mine did pair on the third attempt.
- Watch – Time & date. Alarm with snooze. Stopwatch & countdown timer. – you know what they do
Sensors – Compatible with Polar BLE heart rate sensors – and it seems to be just an HR sensor that will pair. The onboard optical HR sensor is the impressive-looking Precision Prime array shared with the Vantage.
- Water resistance – Water-resistant 30 m (ISO 22810, suitable for swimming) – Just suitable for swimming.
- Super Smarts? – nope. No NFC/payments, no music and no app store.
Training Guidance and Guidance Features
Let’s change tack in this Polar Ignite Review and see how it organises your training. And the Ignite can do that in several ways.
Just Do It
Of course, you can just go and do a free-form workout choosing one from the MANY sport profiles that Polar provide. You don’t have to follow the guidance given.
Adaptive Training Guidance – FITSPARK
The FITSPARK adaptive training guidance is probably the one feature that has drawn many of you into reading this post. And rightly so. It’s an impressive and innovative part of Polar’s offering.
FitSpark’s recommendations are based on the broad principle of a weekly target of 150 mins of moderate or 75 mins of vigorous training plus 2 resistance training sessions. So we’re talking 4 or 5 hours a week.
FitSparks’ workout library totals 19 different workouts spread over 4 types, which are: Cardio/Aerobic, Strength and Supportive (Core or Mobility). It selects one workout based on your general competence from your fitness level and workout history as well as your specific readiness based on your Nightly Recharge status from the previous night. However, FitSpark also offers you at least one alternative workout and often up to 3 alternative workouts. I’ve used FitSpark on and off for a few weeks now and the recommendations seem sensible despite me undertaking WELL over 10 hours/week of training.
You can see from the previous images that FitSpark recommended a 02:13:00 long cardio run. So clearly we are talking about more serious training recommendations than I’ve seen elsewhere. Yet contrast that with a sensible recommendation of 23 minutes of flexibility work – something that I should do more of.
You can also see in the images above that there is some context explaining the rationale behind FitSpark’s recommendations
What Next? When you choose the workout type you are effectively starting a pre-canned, Polar workout in an appropriate sport profile. I’ll cover what happens IN the workout, later on.
Following a formal Plan
Whilst I think the adaptive part we’ve seen so far is GREAT. It’s not for everyone.
But wait…there’s more.
You can also create and use one of Polar’s traditional running plans for the common running distances, as shown below
This covers a much wider range of ability levels than most other plans and has the advantage for those who you who want structure. Indeed following a progressive, periodised training plan, like this, is probably the best way to get to your race goals.
Then you can further see that a new ‘PROGRAM’ classification appears for your workout choices for the day. And there STILL IS A choice, you are still given other suggested adaptive workouts to go around your PROGRAM. Indeed it looks like FitSpark has already been integrated into Polar’s training plans, at least to some level, for quite some time.
Structured Training – DIY
Others amongst you might want to plan their own workouts over the next week or, indeed, to the end of the season. You’ve guessed it, Polar can do that too with their season planner tool. Here you create, copy, drag and drop workouts onto your calendar and the workouts pop up on your watch on the day when you need to do them.
Ad-Hoc Training – Executing a Favourite Workout
If none of that sounds like you and you just want to take each day as it comes then with Polar you can choose several types of ad-hoc workouts that support a simple workout target. These can be simple runs of a certain distance or duration OR complex structured workouts. If you’ve previously saved them in FLOW as a favourite then you can just select that favourite exercise on the watch and off you go.
Workouts & Sports Profiles
Polar FLOW is a powerful tool for executing workouts in any sport.
If you are familiar with Polar then little here will be new to you. Indeed even those of you familiar with Garmin and Suunto products should not be too phased by the concept of a sports profile where the workout screens are ‘just right’ for how you want them with each of your sports.
Many sports profiles are covered with the Ignite. However, some of the more unusual data fields are not available and neither is ‘manual lap’. On the other hand, there are training sounds, vibrations, custom HR zones, automatic laps, the ability to broadcast your HR to gym equipment and a lot more besides. On the whole, I ‘d say this was appropriate for most people in the target market but more serious data-driven athletes should look very carefully to discover if their favourite feature is included.
It will be interesting for Vantage users to see some of the workout-related screens below. Some are identical to existing ones on the Vantage and some are new. Clearly, some of the new Ignite functionality will make its way to Polar’s other watches. But the main point here is that the Ignite follows the ‘standard’ that Polar has adopted and, I’ve found with the earlier watches, that this is not always so intuitive at first but you very quickly get used to how it all works and then it DOES make GOOD SENSE despite some of the screens not always looking as pretty as they could.
Some points on what the above images show
- You can create simple time- or distance-based intervals on the Ignite
- You can’t create more complex workouts on the watch and instead would do that on the app or online. Your favourites are…well…your favourites. They are existing workouts that you can follow repeatedly.
- Even if you are not actively following Polar’s adaptive plan you can re-join it at any time, even for a day, and choose to follow one of its TRAINING SUGGESTIONS
- When following a pre-made workout you can see a visual representation of the steps within the workout before you start
- Drag down from the top of the screen to have the screen always-on during workouts
Workouts Summary: This Polar Ignite Review finds that Polar specifically designs their watches for sport and it shows. The Polar Ignite does a great job when you are starting your workout and when you are working out. Some of the screens look unusual but they all DO work well. Even on a bright mid-June day, the screen is readable. The touchscreen does work Ok whilst hot and sweaty BUT it could be better.
Post Workout Stats
The post-workout stats on the watch are nice with the key facts that will keep most of you happy.
The Polar Flow platform is more of an impressive tool to deelve deeper into your workout performances (and more). Here is a flavour of some of the workout insights on the app; the online platform is similar but with a few more options.
Should Polar FLOW not be your thing then you can replace FLOW or augment it by using links to push your workouts to over 30 apps including Strava, TrainingPeaks, Nike+, MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and Relive. If Polar included a native Dropbox app, then I’d be super-happy; although FitnessSyncer and SyncMyTracks can achieve similar ends.
Special Feature – SLEEP Plus & SLEEP Plus Stages
I was sceptical of the SLEEP Plus & Sleep Plus Stages features at first but have grown to like them.
Here is a short video explaining the SLEEP Plus features that were introduced some time ago on earlier Polar watches.
It needs 3 days worth of data to start giving you the new details, which is fine. But Ignite often asks ‘are you already awake?‘, which is kinda worrying as it should know that as it claims to be able to produce much more complex, sleep stage insights.
Putting that to one side, the main thing I regularly looked at was the Nightly Recharge Status. This tells you if you are good to go for your day. Apart from one correctly identified bad night’s sleep, my Recharge guidance every day for a month was that I was ‘good to go’; although that generic advice was often tempered with a note that I need to bear in mind that I had been training hard. The only bad night’s sleep was due to my very occasional alcoholic tipple…proof, if it were needed, that alcohol is really not good for you.
Polar Sleep Plus – Some details
Polar’s Sleep Score covers from 3 aspects of your sleep namely, amount, solidity (interruptions, continuity & actual sleep) and regeneration (REM+Deep sleep). These are all calculated from a combination of wrist movements, HR/HRV and other data derived from those such as breathing rate. Apart from Polar’s Sleep Stages Plus, much of the science is well understood and, for example, I wouldn’t query Polar’s ability to calculate breathing rate from HRV…providng the captured source data is accurate.
A LOT of the metrics that Sleep Plus calculates are then available for you to drill down into after you wake up. I found there was a little too much info here.
The same sleep information is expanded upon the app and some of it is presented in a friendly and easy-to-read way, as shown below. However, the funny ‘star histograms’ did not seem to readily convey the insights to me and were somewhat confusing to my eye.
Sleep info is also available online with a new Sleep stages report
Polar Sleep – Points & Further Resources – Polar Ignite Review
Here are a few Polar Ignite Review Tidbits
- Detects going to sleep and waking automatically based on wrist movement.
- Doesn’t detect naps
- Requires 4 hours of sleep
- Detects the longest sleep span in a day and so should be suitable for shift workers
- You need to at least enable night time sleep tracking
- Polar cite studies by Pesonen et al (2018) and Parent et al (2018) to validate their sleep features (not sleep stages).
- Polar also shared with me information that Poulin et al (University of Calgary) are in the process of submitting a study of Polar sleep STAGES against PSG. This study demonstrates ‘reasonable accuracy’. FWIW I would be sceptical about any study that found anything much better than that from any watch vendor – including Apple, Fitbit & Garmin.
Polar Ignite Review – Sleep Thoughts
This is good stuff from Polar.
Perhaps some of it is too detailed on the watch for my liking. In reality, I just want a simple Recovery Traffic Light telling me to “go for it”, if appropriate. I am training extensively as I write this Polar Ignite Review, however, I’m sticking to longer distance training to avoid injury and which is not been overly taxing on my body. Polar’s guidance DOES seem right for me but its job could have been made easier by the type of training I’m doing. I don’t know.
Others amongst you will be fascinated by the sleep stages part of Polar’s offering – I’ve seen that fascination from reader comments about other similar products. So, Polar is probably responding well to what their market research is telling them that their target Fitness consumer is looking for.
Looking a few months ahead and all these sleep features should make their way to the Vantage and they should be useful there for a more serious athletic consumer.
Special Feature – Serene Guided Breathing
This is a configurable, guided breathing feature.
It’s quite nice to watch the pretty bubbles on the screen and it’s always good to relax but I’m not entirely sure where this fits into the metrics on the Polar platform, although it’s a perfectly valid nicety to add. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to do more than 90 seconds in the “diamond zone”.
Polar Ignite Review – Bugs
I’ve not noticed anything obvious as a bug. If I did I’m sure it would soon be fixed and this review then would be out-of-date.
Pairing to an Android phone was no more or less easy than with a Garmin or Suunto. That is NOT to say pairing was easy…it wasn’t. It required a few attempts.
I have noticed the battery charge level going down fairly swiftly and I’m not sure if I’m getting the same kind of performance that the headline specs claim. Other early Ignite users seem to find the same. I’ve not been able to nail this as I typically recharge my ‘current’ device once a day or every other day, so I’ve never gotten the Ignite anywhere close to a flat battery.
Polar Ignite Review – Accuracy
As this is an out-and-out fitness device then I’m not going to test elevation accuracy.
I HAVE tested GPS accuracy and it wasn’t pretty, there’s no point in me devoting time here to detailing how it needs improvement. It simply needs improvement. and, yes, this does impact the accuracy of the running speeds shown.
Polar Ignite Review – Heart Rate Accuracy
My first few outings with the Ignite were excellent in terms of the oHR accuracy and, like dcrainmaker, I thought Polar had nailed it. Well, I mean nailed it for my own usage as every vendors’ oHR tech can vary from person-to-person and will also vary according to the sport and environment. However, as the 10s of workouts passed some anomalies were thrown up.
Swimming and weights seemed a bit hit and miss but running and cycling were generally alright and sometimes excellent.
Polar Ignite Review – Discount, Availability & Price
The Polar Ignite, Reviewed here, is available today for £200/$230 (less 10% the5krunner10 discount at PowerMeterCity USA) in white, yellow, and black wristband options.
Silicon accessory bands are $24.95/€24.90/£21.50 each and available in black, white and yellow in size medium/large and in black and white in size small.
Wiggle loyalty discounts of up to 12% work giving prices from £176 or, for those of you new to Wiggle, try the generic codes NEWGB/NEWDE/NEWFR or NEWGB50/NEWGB5/NEWDE50 which should bag you £/Eu5 or £/Eu10 off
So, with a bit of inspired shopping, even at launch, you should be able to get one for about £/$/Eu180.
Get yours now at Wiggle (UK/EU) and Power Meter City (USA)