Polar Ignite 3 Review | one of the best fitness watches just got better
Let’s start with a quick summary review of the Polar Ignite 3 and if you want more detail and comparisons then please scroll down further. Enjoy! Remember…Ignite 3 IS a good fitness watch that’s fine for running full of advanced sports & wellness features.
It’s only a year and a half since Polar’s last incarnation of the Ignite fitness watch in the UK and USA. Now, Ignite 3 takes general fitness to a new level with a significantly better piece of techy kit plus some peripherally useful software features. You’ll love the beautiful screen that’s also super-tough and you’ll love this amazingly lightweight watch that packs in the potential for high levels of accuracy as it logs your heart rate and GPS position.
However, the price has raised up a notch or two in order to cover the costlier screen. This new price sets starkly places the Ignite 3 against the cheaper Apple Watch SE and Garmin’s newly discounted Venu 2S. These 3 watches have their own distinct advantages but also many similarities.
Polar Ignite 3 Review
Build Quality & Design
Features, Including App
Openness & Compatability
Verdict: A good fitness, wellness & running watch with a great screen
Polar Ignite 3 Summary Review A nice choice at around the $/£/Eu330 mark. Compared to the previous model, you’re paying $/Eu100 extra for the market-leading screen.
The 3rd generation Ignite is a good upgrade to an already good product. It adds new fitness features, new sleep & coaching features, and some excellent techy-hardware bits.
If you want to track your fitness, meditation, recovery and sleep then Ignite 3 excellently ticks those boxes plus the Polar Flow companion app is one of the best with market-leading insights and summaries. Ignite 3 offers you a watch that you can personalise and which is different from the somewhat bland Garmin watches and ubiquitous Apple Watches you regularly see on other people’s wrists. #BeDifferent…but be different whilst still making a sensible choice.
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 – like calories, sleep & readiness. Garmin & Apple are at a similar level and you can rely on Polar’s science behind the screens.
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 and now with voice coaching to help you along. It knows your training history and it knows what kind of workout is best to recommend to you today. Add that to Polar’s other training tools and you have a comprehensive suite of fitness tools usually only found on more expensive athletic watches…and certainly NOT found on Apple Watches out of the box.
- CUSTOM AESTHETICS – One of the lightest, smaller-format watches with a variety of colour options for bands and cases. The high-resolution watch faces can be coloured and customised with widgets.
- SLEEP & RECOVERY DATA – new SleepWise is your sleep coach that forecasts your daily readiness and recommends bedtime. Sleep Plus Stages and Nightly Recharge features provide further, detailed sleep and recovery insights.
- SPORTS TRACKING – Supports 150 sports… hmm, that should be enough. Every indoor and outdoor sport & class type is covered. Meditation and guided breathing are there too.
- ACCURACY – Polar’s latest heart rate technology and the latest multi-band GPS 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 voice 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 smartphone notifications, weather and music controls.
- Straightforward to use
- Choose your looks
Polar Ignite 3 vs Ignite 2 – What was added?
You’ll probably buy Ignite 3 for its better hardware. The new software features are good but didn’t excite me as they seemed to have too niche a level of appeal.
- Coaching Feature – now workouts have voice-assisted coaching. Great if you want it.
- Sleep Feature – SleepWise adds sleep recommendations and readiness forecast. #Shrug
- A better physical watch – larger more durable AMOLED touchscreen, multi-frequency Sony GPS, better GPS recording time (30 hours) and a faster processor #Awesome
- Other – tap to lap, running & walking tests, race pace, proprietary widgets and customisable watch faces. #These are all small but nice updates
The last big update saw added HR broadcasting to gym equipment, music control, a weather watch face and Polar’s energy sources giving insights into fat/carb burn.
Polar Ignite 3 vs new Apple Watch SE 41mm (2022) vs Garmin Venu 2s
These are three small-format fitness watches with great screens. They are all good choices although you’ll probably replace the cheap band you get. on all of them The Polar and Garmin watches are generally the best choice where regular sports use is the main reason you want a watch.
Get the Apple SE 41mm if you have an iPhone and are more interested in a watch that has deep interactions with iPhone features whilst still being a competent sports logger.
Get the Polar Ignite 3 if you want the best screen, the best battery life and comprehensive sports coverage.
Get the Garmin if you want a watch that is great for more involved sports usage and is more customisable for use in sport
Thought of another way…
Avoid the Apple SE 41mm if you are concerned about easily scratching the screen (you will!) or if you want deep sports features out-of-the-box.
Avoid the Garmin Venu 2s for its complexity
Avoid the Ignite 3 if you want a watch with an app store.
What they are all good at
They all have good sleep insights, meditation features and recovery features. Garmin & Polar have the best sports app out there for your smartphone. Apple does match most of the sports features but you will have to find the right Watch app to do exactly what you want.
Polar Ignite 3, First Impressions
This is a good watch, it looks good and wears well as it’s a light, small format watch. The screen is amazing and it really makes the most out of the Polar menu system and watch faces that somehow look better on this watch than on any other Polar Watch. The touchscreen and button interface works pretty well.
The multi-frequency GPS is overkill for this watch as are some of the more pro-level insights added on the watch for sleep and recovery – it’s all good stuff but perhaps better consumed on the excellent Polar Flow app.
Unboxing, Contents & Variants
You get a USB charger and a watch. Ta-Da.
Polar Ignite 3 Specifications
The Polar Ignite’s specs are excellent for a fitness watch. Check out my quick comments on each aspect of the watch, highlighted in bold.
- Measurements – 43 x 43 x 9.5 mm – if you have thin wrists or prefer a smaller format watch this is good
- Weight – 35g with a wristband, 21 g without a wristband – It’s super-light. Few, if any, other watches are lighter
- Display – 1.28″ AMOLED with an ambient light sensor (ALS), resolution 416x416px. Gorilla glass lens – awesome in every respect.
- Battery – A 215mAh Li-Pol battery gives a life of up to 30 h in training mode (GPS and wrist-based heart rate) …that’s good by any measure
- HR – top-end Precision Prime oHR sensor with 10 LEDs and 4 lights detectors covering a range of light wavelengths
- Materials – 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-L: wrist circumference 135-210 mm
- GPS – Integrated GPS, GLONASS & Galileo with dual-frequency precision. Assisted GPS for fast fix times – This is the highest possible specification
- Connectivity -Bluetooth 5.1 Low Energy (BLE). Custom USB-A cable for charging and data synchronization via PB
- Watch – Time & date. Alarm with snooze. Stopwatch & countdown timer. – you know what they do
- 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 3. – If you want the full range og fancy smart features you will only get them from Apple Watch or from a Wear OS Watch…you will NOT get them all from Garmin.
Training & Workouts with Polar Ignite 3 – Coaching and Guidance Features
Let’s change tack in this Review and see how the Polar Ignite 3 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 – 150 when I last counted. You don’t have to follow any of the guidance given if you don’t want to.
If you want to do a Pilates class or go for an impromptu run…just do it after choosing the correct profile (Pilates or Outdoor Run…or Treadmill Run…or Trail run)
Adaptive Training Guidance – FITSPARK
Sorry, that’s a heck of a title. It simply means that Polar will tell you the optimal workout for NOW. That means the optimal ‘sport’ and the optimal detailed workout in that sport. It will do that every day and adjust based on your improved fitness over time and readiness on the day. It’s cool.
This is perhaps THE best training feature from any sports watch…and that includes Garmin or Apple. It’s an impressive and innovative part of Polar’s offering and geared towards those who are interested in general fitness rather than focused training for a race.
Fitspark recommends the type and duration of a workout and guides you through it on screen and audibly.
FITSPARK’s recommendations are based on the broad principle of a weekly target of 150 mins of moderate training or 75 mins of vigorous training plus 2 resistance workouts. That’s 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 activity 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 offers you at least one alternative workout and often up to 3 alternative workouts.
Following a free 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 levels. 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 will see that your watch face changes and the new ‘PROGRAM’ option is added.
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 workouts of a certain distance or duration OR complex structured workouts that you create yourself and store in a workout library. Once saved in FLOW as a favourite they are automatically synchronised with the Ignite 3.
Workouts & Sports Profiles
Polar Ignite 3 is a powerful tool for executing workouts in any sport. The excellent Polar FLOW app personalises your experience.
If you are familiar with modern sports watches then little here will be new to you. A sports profile enables you to get the workout screens just right for how you want them for all of your sports.
Every sport profile I could think of is covered with the Ignite 3. Within each sport profile, there are training sounds, vibrations, custom HR zones, automatic laps, the ability to broadcast your HR to gym equipment and a lot more besides.
The in-workout experience is great with Polar. However, some of the watch screens that start workouts and some of the menus are a little quirky from an aesthetic perspective. For the 5 seconds you see them…I wouldn’t worry about it.
The following images and comments are a flavour of what you will encounter…
- You can create simple time- or distance-based intervals on the Ignite 3
- You can’t create more complex workouts on the watch and instead would do that on the FLOW platform. Your favourites are…well…your favourites. They are existing workouts that you re-use on the Ignite 3.
- 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 once you’ve started your workout
Workouts Summary: This Polar Ignite Review finds that Polar specifically designs their watches for sport and it shows. The Polar Ignite 3 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 day, the screen is readable. The touchscreen is good whilst hot and sweaty but less so when swimming.
Post Workout Stats
The post-workout stats on the watch are a nice summary of your recent endeavours. You get simple stats such as calories burned but you can also see the fat vs carb burn. You can see simple HR averages but you can also see more advanced stats like time-in-zone.
Should you want more details and trends, turn your attention to the Polar Flow platform which is an impressive and market-leading set of insights both on your smartphone and your computer.
Should Polar FLOW not be your thing then simply push your workouts to over 30 apps including Strava, TrainingPeaks, Nike+, MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and Relive.
Special Feature – SLEEP Plus, SLEEP Plus Stages & SleepWise
Many of us are interested in sleep and Polar has developed its sleep insights over the last few years to give us a comprehensive series of insights ranging from a simple how many hours you slept through to trends in your Sleep Stages. The HRV insights are pretty good and Nightly Recharge gives you an early morning indication of how the night went for you. Nightly Recharge is backed up with lots of stats which I think are a bit too much to include on the watch
Polar’s Sleep Plus Stages are carried over from earlier Polar watches and boosted with SleepWise which has now been rolled out to several of the high-end Polar watches.
The sleep features need 3 days’ worth of data to start giving feedback and work best if you tell the watch your normal sleep and wake times.
The main sleep feature I regularly looked at was the Nightly Recharge Status. This indicates how well-prepared you might be for the day ahead and the new SleepWise feature on the app quantifies that somewhat by giving an idea of how much your day is ‘boosted’ by the sleep.
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.
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 further expanded upon in the app. 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 spoken to love this.
Polar Sleep Wise
Polar Sleep Wise attempts to indicate the positive impact of your last night’s sleep on different parts of the day ahead. Only Polar does this and I have no idea if it’s correct or not. I can’t really see the point of it.
Polar Sleep – Points & Further Resources – Polar Ignite 3 Review
Here are a few Polar Ignite 3 Review Tidbits on the sleep functionality
- 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 nighttime 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.
Polar Ignite 3 Review – Sleep Summary
Polar Sleep Plus is a great part of the overall Polar package
Perhaps some of the information is too detailed on the watch for my liking. In reality, I want a simple number or two, telling me to “go for it”, if appropriate. Others amongst you will be fascinated by the sleep stages part of Polar’s offering and 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 as you breathe in time with them. It’s also 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 3 Review – Accuracy
GPS Accuracy does seem to have improved slightly with this version of the Ignite compared to the previous one. Indeed in easy GPS reception conditions and for most road cycling, the tracks are pretty good. However, as soon as there are larger trees involved the GPS quickly takes a hit.
Here I am running up and down the sides of a long pond in Home Park near Hampton Court Palace that’s lined with small trees. The trees are relatively trivial obstacles to the GPS signal and you can see that the Polar Ignite 3 GPS track is as good as the Garmin and Apple.
Here are some other excerpts from runs and rides which are kinda OK for most people…but not for a GPS aficionado.
Note: almost the day after publication, Polar introduced a GPS accuracy update to the Sony chip. These tests did not include the effect of that update.
Polar Ignite 3 Review – Heart Rate Accuracy
Optical HR accuracy is normally NOT GOOD for me and the Ignite 3 is no exception. I had some good results and some less so. I’ve shown a selection of the good and bad ones in the images below where they are compared to the Apple Watch, Polar OH1 optical arm sensor and a Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap. Generally, I am NOT happy with these results…but it could just be me as other reviewers found better results
Elevation Accuracy – Polar Ignite 3 Review
The Polar Ignite takes elevation from a 3D-GPS fix without adjustment by an inbuilt barometer. This means that accuracy is not anything special but, as you can see from the image below, it’s more than good enough for non-serious usage.
Polar Ignite 3 Review – Takeout & Further Thoughts
My partner LOVES the Polar and Ignite 3 is one of their favourites just because of both the display and the simplicity of the overall experience with the Watch and app. Sleep stage feedback and a relatively straightforward menu system are also big positives.
Personally, I’m more impressed by the cleverness of Polar’s training – both the free plans and the free adaptive training guidance from FITSPARK are great.
If your main focus is indoor training in classes and on gym equipment then I reckon Polar nicely covers your needs. If you NEVER train outside then get the cheaper UNITE watch but if you also plan to log your walks, runs and cycle rides or even more adventurous outdoor activities then the Ignite 3 is the one to go for. More serious runners should look at the Pacer and Polar Pacer Pro watches which have more advanced running features.
My only serious criticism of the Ignite 3 is its launch price. The price is probably fair because of the screen and depth of health & fitness features, however, Ignite 3 comes up against some excellently featured running watches at the same price point.
So if you are a wannabe athlete,a wannabe runner or want a perfect smartwatch for your iPhone then avoid the Ignite 3. If you want a great fitness watch that’s small, lightweight and has excellent sports, recovery, training and sleep features (and more besides) then Ignite 3 is an excellent choice. Maybe even the best choice.
Polar Ignite 3 Review – Discount, Availability & Price
Polar’s official accessory bands are a standard 20mm size and range from $/Eu/£16 to $/Eu/£60 in several designs and colours
So, with a bit of inspired shopping, in early 2023 I reckon you’ll bag one for about £250 or $/Eu299
Get yours at Wiggle (UK/EU) and Amazon
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