Polar Ignite 2 Review | one of the best fitness watches but…
It’s almost two years since Polar launched their Ignite fitness watch in the UK and USA and now we have a fully refreshed Polar Ignite 2 which we review here in detail. The Polar Ignite 2 is a great general purpose FITNESS watch, it comes with a vibrant screen and has a small case so it’s suitable for the smaller-wristed amongst us. Packed with sports, adaptive training, sleep and recovery features, Ignite 2 is a good choice. However, the price point creates a dilemma if you are also considering an Apple Watch SE or if you are looking for lots of non-sporty smart features and the ability to run apps – ie at the same price, there are several alternatives with confusingly different strengths & weaknesses.
Here is a quick summary review of the Polar Ignite 2 and if you want more detail and comparisons then please scroll down further. Enjoy! Remember…Ignite 2 IS a good fitness watch with advanced features.
Polar Ignite 2 Review
Price - 92%92%
Apparent Accuracy - 74%74%
Build Quality & Design - 90%90%
Features, Including App - 90%90%
Openness & Compatability - 85%85%
Verdict: A good, strong holistic health & fitness watch but intentionally lacking in smart features.
Polar Ignite 2 Summary Review
The 2nd generation Ignite is a modest upgrade over the previous model and that’s cool, as a good product has been further improved.
A good choice at around the $/£/Eu200 mark.
If you want to track your sports, meditation, recovery and sleep then Ignite 2 very nicely ticks those boxes plus goes further on the app with some market-leading insights and summaries. Ignite 2 offers you a watch that you can personalise and which is different from the somewhat bland Garmins and Apple Watches you regularly see on other people’s wrists.
Polar has always focussed on all types of heart rate tracking and that gives a scientific basis for many of the insights that Polar gives you.
Don’t underestimate FITSPARK adaptive training either. Whilst it sounds a bit techy, it’s not, it’s like having a pro coach on your wrist to support your fitness whenever you want to use it. Add that to Polar’s other training tools and you have an impressive suite of fitness tools usually found on more expensive athletic watches.
- CUSTOM AESTHETICS – It’s a lightweight, small-format watch with a variety of case options, band options and watch faces.
- SLEEP & RECOVERY DATA – The Sleep Plus Stages and Nightly Recharge provide detailed sleep quality insights and recovery insights on your readiness to train
- SPORTS TRACKING – Ignite tracks all your indoor and outdoor sports & classes. Meditation and guided breathing too.
- ACCURACY – Advanced wrist-based heart rate technology and integrated GPS to track speed, distance, location and effort.
- FITNESS INSIGHTS – Immense detail on the app, great summaries and insightful screens on the watch
- FITSPARK – Fully personalized suggested workouts and workout guidance based exactly on your readiness to train right now.
- Heart rate – 24×7 HR monitoring in real-time and can broadcast to gym equipment & cycling computers.
- SMART ESSENTIALS – For notifications, weather and music controls.
- Straightforward to use
- Choose your looks
- Turn-to-wake screen action needs improvement
Polar Ignite 2 vs Original Ignite – What’s New
The new Ignite has trickle-down features from other Polar models that do warrant the gen 2 tag. Here are the new highlights
- Refreshed aesthetics – new colours, new bezel and new watch straps, including crystal-studded straps.
- About 10% longer battery life now boosting normal training time from 17 to 20 hours with a special mode to cover 100 hours of training.
- GNSS/GPS performance improvements
- Watchface showing weather from your smartphone
- Music Controls for the active app on your smartphone
- A ‘Weekly Summary’ watchface, to track your progress
- Energy sources – carb vs fat burn for your workouts
- HR broadcast to other equipment
Polar Ignite 2 vs Apple Watch vs Garmin
- A comparable Garmin model is the flagship Vivoactive 4 (VA4) smartwatch. This is considerably more expensive, with the price varying from $300-$350 and due to be replaced later in 2021. It also is a step up in terms of smart functionalities and sports features, plus it has sensible battery life. Only slightly cheaper than the VA4 is the Forerunner 245 which is a very well-featured running watch but it looks like a plastic running watch, has an inferior screen and is perhaps also complex.
- A comparable iOS-only Apple Watch would be the Apple Watch SE 40mm or Apple Watch 3, 38mm. I can’t recommend the ageing AW3 unless the price is the key factor for you. The Apple Watch SE is a tad more expensive but, overall, it is better at the smart features and gives you oodles of sports/health/fitness apps via the app store. However researching all the different apps you might want to replicate Polar’s single holistic health/fitness solution on the watch would be a big task for you and even then, many of the insights would be on the smartphone app rather than on your wrist. Don’t forget, the Apple Watch SE needs it’s battery charging EVERY single day.
- If you have an Android smartphone or no smartphone then I would struggle to recommend anything better at the same price point, virtually all those smartwatches you go off to research will have a rubbish battery life…not the Polar. Polar nails the holistic health and fitness experience with Ignite 2 for smaller-wristed people.
Polar Ignite 2, First Impressions
It’s a smaller format watch that will appeal to those of you with thinner wrists! 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 appears GOOD with vibrant colours and, if you like single button+touchscreen formats then you are on to a winner.
The screen interface is quirky…in a nice way and the whole app+watch package works well, except for the sleep information which is too detailed on the watch.
Unboxing, Contents & Variants
You get a USB charging cradle and a watch. Ta-Da.
- There is either a M/L strap (155-210mm) or a smaller strap
- The choice of colours is either black, pink, champagne or blue
- Each version accepts standard 20mm, interchangeable bands. Polar offers a few choices including Swarovski crystal-studded versions of the Champagne/Gold & Black/Grey bands.
Polar Ignite Specifications
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 – It’s super-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 not great.
- Battery – Battery life up to 20 h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate) …that’s good.
- Materials – Glass fibre reinforced polymer case. Stainless steel bezel & button – Nice.
- Wristbands – TPU plastic, stainless steel buckle and a PET yarn option – the wristbands are par for the course for this price bracket with some nicely unusual options. 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 a Sony GNSS/GPS chip that also supports GALILEO
- Connectivity -Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Custom USB cable for charging and data synchronization
- Watch – Time & date. Alarm with snooze. Stopwatch & countdown timer. – you know what they do
- Sensors – Compatible with Polar BLE heart rate sensors. The onboard optical HR sensor is the impressive-looking Precision Prime, shared with the top-end Vantage V2 model.
- Water resistance – Water-resistant 30 m (ISO 22810, suitable for swimming) – Just suitable for swimming.
- Super Smarts? – nope. No NFC/payments, no onboard music and no app store. Although you can control music on your smartphone with the Ignite 2.
Training Guidance and Guidance Features
Let’s change tack in this Review and see how the Polar Ignite 2 can organise your training in several innovative 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 – 130 when I last counted. You don’t have to follow any of the guidance given if you don’t want to.
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 recommends the type and duration of workout and guides you through it.
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.
FitSPARK’s 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.
You can see from the previous images that FitSpark recommended ME with 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.
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, FREE running plans for the common running distances. As shown below these cover most ability level. Did I say they were free?
This covers a much wider range of ability levels than most other plans and has the advantage for those who want structure. Indeed following a progressive, periodised training plan, like this, is probably the best way to get to your race goals.
When you are following a plan, you can 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.
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 2. 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.
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 comments on what the above images show
- You can create simple time- or distance-based intervals on the Ignite 2
- 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 permanently on the Ignite 2..
- 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 delve 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.
Special Feature – SLEEP Plus & SLEEP Plus Stages
The sleep features need 3 days worth of data to start giving you feedback. Yet still, Ignite 2 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.
The main sleep feature I regularly looked at was the Nightly Recharge Status. This tells you if you are good to go for your day.
Polar Sleep Plus – Some details
Polar’s Sleep Score covers 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…providing 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 as you can see in these images. But if you are obsessed with your sleep stats then just get the Ignite 2 now!
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. That said, other people I have spoke to love this.
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 a study from Poulin et al (University of Calgary) comparing 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.
- More on Sleep Plus – https://support.polar.com/en/support/Polar_Sleep_Plus
- More on Nightly Recharge – https://support.polar.com/en/nightly-recharge-recovery-measurement
- More on Sleep Plus Stages – https://support.polar.com/en/sleep-plus-stages-sleep-tracking
Polar Ignite 2 Review – Sleep Summary
This is a great part of the Polar offering
Perhaps some of it is too detailed on the watch for my liking. In reality, I just wanted a simple number or two, telling me to “go for it”, if appropriate. I am training extensively as I write this Polar Ignite 2 Review, however, 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.
Special Feature – Serene Guided Breathing
This is a configurable, guided breathing feature.
It’s 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 serenity is scored and your challenge is to achieve more than 90 seconds in the “diamond zone”., shown in the results at the end of the breathing period. Competitive meditation…what next!
Polar Ignite Review – Accuracy
Polar does seem to have slightly improved accuracy compared to the earlier Ignite but GPS accuracy is still not as good as a 4-year-old Garmin 235 (green, below). Here you can see the Ignite 2 (red) cuts corners and wanders from one side of the road to the other. Maybe that’s OK for you? I prefer as much accuracy as possible.
Here is a different run where there are GPS errors in the open and under trees. The Ignite 2 (yellow, below) performs better than the old Garmin 235 (red) but not as well as the Vantage M2 (green). All 3 lines should be closer than they are.
Similar results on a different day, in green this time. For most of this 90-minute run the track was mostly OK but there were a few bad sections like this.
Polar Ignite 2 Review – Heart Rate Accuracy
The heart rate sensor is inaccurate. Here are two examples, one where it locks onto my cadence when running and another where it’s OK for much of the time but with notable errors.
These 2 are from a long endurance run and an indoor swim workout on a swim trainer. Both types of training should be relatively easy to get right.
Other workouts show similar errors when cycling outdoors
Accurate heart rate is a key input to the Polar fat/carb and workout calculations. I strongly recommend using Polar’s VERITY SENSE armband which gives market-leading HR accuracy.
Polar Ignite 2 Review – Takeout & Further Thoughts
My partner LOVES the Ignite/Ignite 2, simple as that. Specifically, it’s the detailed sleep analyses and the presentation of the activity, workout and sleep data on the app that they like.
Personally, I’m more impressed by the cleverness of the FITSPARK training. It’s second-to-none. We are all different in the degree to which we want to ‘free train’, ‘rigidly adhere to a plan’ or ‘loosely follow a plan’. FITSPARK handles ANY approach to training.
Putting my analytical hat on, I reckon Polar has done a good job in tailoring Ignite 2 for their target markets…it should appeal to a lot of people for a variety of reasons ranging from the customisable aesthetics to the small-format case.
With my run-techie hat on I would bemoan the Ignite’s accuracy.
The price could and will fall a tad over time. But not much. Thus it’s always going to be up against Apple & Garmin and everyone else from Samsung to Huawei. Apple Watch always wins on the techy smarts (if you are on iOS) and Garmin wins for those of you who are wannabe athletes but Polar excels in the middle ground where very many people want a highly competent fitness watch that can offer trusted, straightforward & meaningful insights into an active lifestyle.
Polar Ignite Review – Discount, Availability & Price
Availability: 21st April 2021 and then only from Polar.com for a month.
The Polar Ignite 2, Reviewed here, will be available for £200/Eu/$230
Silicon accessory bands are $24.95/€24.90/£21.50 each and available in black, white and yellow in size medium/large and in black and white in size small.
So, with a bit of inspired shopping, even a month after launch, you should be able to get one for about £/$/Eu180.
From mid-May 2021: Get yours at Wiggle (UK/EU) and Amazon