The new Polar Ignite (USD $229.95/ SGD $ 329) is Polar’s first non multi-Sport GPS watch featuring the company’s Precision Prime optical heart rate sensor technology. This is the 3rd watch from Polar to feature this tech, the first two being the premium Vantage V and the mid-range Vantage M.
Polar also revisited the TFT display configuration previously seen on the M600, adopting a smartwatch-like user interface experience with the Ignite GPS fitness watch.
After the Vantages, the Ignite is Polar’s tool of choice to entice the recreational user. The target user is clearly someone who has less need for the advanced physiological recovery and training metrics found in Training Load Pro and Recovery Pro on the Vantage series. And almost definitely a non multi-sport person.
That being said, the Polar Ignite shipped with health and fitness features suited for the everyday man; most of these features will arrive on the Vantage watches in future firmware updates.
I’ve had a full month of usage with the Polar Ignite and here’s what I have to say.
The Polar Ignite boasts a unique recovery metric that may be useful to the layman looking for feedback about the previous day’s workout. The more knowledgeable individual will rely on a carefully planned program that already caters for necessary rest and recovery. Features such as Fitspark and Serene are further sales pitches which helps to convince someone on the fence why the Ignite may be a better all day activity tracking watch over Garmin, Suunto, Fitbit, Apple’s offerings. On board GPS is icing on the cake but, Polar’s Precision Prime sensors is why this watch is worth a second look; it even records heart rate from the wrist while underwater. The touch display is beautiful but hampered by a lack of responsiveness.
The Polar Ignite used for this review was generously provided by the lovely people at Polar Singapore Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Polar International. All Polar Electro products have 2 years international warranty.
POLAR IGNITE LOOK AND FEEL
One can’t help but be reminded of minimalism when viewing the Polar Ignite watch. Save for the single physical button, the entire watch case is encircled by a matte black stainless-steel bezel for the yellow strap version.
Measuring just 43 x 43mm, this is a small watch that will look odd for those with bigger wrists. The bezel blurs the point where glass display meets steel, giving the watch a larger appearance versus the white or black strap stainless steel bezels options; where the contrast is more prominent.
The TFT display, last seen implemented in the Polar M600 Android Wear watch, brings an impressive level of crispness and luminosity for viewing. Under shade, indoors, or low lighting conditions, the Polar Ignite’s display is gorgeous. Yet it falters under strong daylight – perfectly forgivable given that any smartphone device would suffer the same fate under similar conditions.
The tiny pinhole on the front of the watch houses the ambient light sensor (ALS) that serves to moderate the level of display brightness automatically. A manual setting to adjust display brightness levels would have been preferred.
The Dragontrail TFT touch display turns on with a wrist flick or when manually activated; a tad slower than I would have preferred especially when you want to quickly lift your arms, glance, and get back to running. In my opinion, the wrist flick response time could be shortened.
The physical button and touch display controls the entire workings of the Polar Ignite watch.
The back of the watch houses Polar’s Precision Prime optical heart rate tech. As an indication of how confident Polar is of their OHR’s accuracy, the Polar Ignite can further read heart rate variability (HRV) on top heart rate from the wrist. This watch can also read heart rate under water by default with the on-board sensors and the results are indeed impressive.
Also, any 20mm standard watch straps with quick release pins will fit the Polar Ignite and give it a fresh look for accessorizing.
Battery life is listed at 5 days or 17 hours with GPS and wrist HR monitoring. I managed up to 3.5 days with 2.5 hours of GPS enabled workouts plus another 1.5 hours of non GPS workouts training thrown in.
When in low battery mode, you can’t access any functions other than to view time. However, this watch does charge amazingly quick.
The Ignite watch also connects easily to select Bluetooth training accessories so your workout experience can be enhanced.
Polar Ignite only has GPS & GLONASS with Assisted GPS for fast fix times. So you won’t be getting access to Galileo, QZSS, nor BeiDo; unlike the Vantage line of watches.
In terms of accuracy, the Ignite isn’t the best I’ve seen nor does it even come close. However, I’m aware other users have had pretty good experiences.
Here are a few sessions which I’ll use to highlight the GPS usage during workouts. To ensure the latest A-GPS (Assisted) was downloaded, all runs were done only after syncing to the Polar Flow app was completed
There is a 6 km loop I regularly run at, flanked predominantly by low rise buildings with the occasional high rise HDB (Housing Development Board) flats where majority of Singaporeans reside in. Tracked distance recorded by the Polar Ignite was close to that previously recorded by a Suunto 5.
While the distance tracked in this case was fine, the magnified Ignite-recorded route tell a different story. I was actually running on a pavement right next to the road throughout the run and the deviation from the actual route was concerning at times.
Hills intervals is where many a wearables I’ve reviewed have met their “demise.” This is an uphill flanked on both sides by buildings and heavy foliage. This is what it looks like on the ground.
I’ve done sufficient sessions here to know the distance for 10 hills intervals is roughly 5.6km-5.8km thereabouts. Measured distance using Google maps is in the same range.
On this run I did with the Polar Ignite, the recorded distance was a dismal 4.66km, a full km short. A Suunto 5 tracked the distance to be 5.71km on another day. The Suunto’s distance is the correct one.
While the 2 wearables tracked identical workouts on different dates, I doubt that mattered much since it should not result in a drastically different recorded distance.
Lastly, I did two 10km trail runs at Mac Ritchie Reservoir nature trail, the central water catchment area in Singapore. The recorded distance by the Polar Ignite was 9.43km and 9.33km respectively.
The experience described above were my own and came from the single Polar Ignite watch that was loaned from Polar Singapore. It should not be used as your single source of comparison.
My advise for you would be to check out other good review sites to get a good sensing of the Polar Ignite’s GNSS accuracy.
Based on my personal experience to date, I’ve come to the conclusion that the weight and size of a wearable has a huge impact on the accuracy of the optical HR sensors. Lighter + smaller = better accuracy.
So I kinda guessed the small and lightweight Polar Ignite would do pretty well in the optical HR sensor test segment and it was pretty spot on.
I pit the Polar Ignite against the Polar H10 chest strap HR monitor over 4 different activities which I assume most runners would do.
- Any regular run outdoors, either trail or road.
- Intervals, track or hills.
- Constant paced run – treadmill or outdoors
Singapore is a tropical country with high humidity nearly all year round. So any outdoor run is nearly always a sweat-drenched affair. The perfect test bed for optical HR sensors.
The Polar Ignite managed the 6km outdoor run confidently. Save for squiggly lines towards the end, the watch produced a HR graph that’s nearly in tune to that recorded by a chest strap HRM.
The 30 minutes hills intervals posed more of a challenge especially at the higher HR range but it was still a commendable performance from the Ignite’s Precision Prime sensors.
The constant paced run on a treadmill was practically a stroll in the park for the Precision Prime sensors.
I’d be surprised if the Ignite faltered in any of the above 3 land sessions. Reason being, the Precision Prime optical HR sensors have to measure HRV and ANS, something which requires higher levels of accuracy and is done traditionally with chest strap HR monitors only.
Finally, since the Polar Ignite’s optical HR sensors read HR underwater, I tested it in pool swim mode. Again, the tool of comparison is the Polar H10 chest strap.
Since I haven’t swam in a while, I did a lap of freestyle followed by a lap of breaststroke, and repeated. And the outcome was simply mind-blowing. I’ll let the graph speak for itself.
The HR recording during swimming was just unbelievably good! I was able to replicate similar levels of accuracy with the Polar Vantage V watch; with identical optical HR sensors.
FITSPARK TRAINING GUIDE
I will spend more time in this segment as the Polar Ignite is introducing goodies which will only reach the Vantage models at a later time only.
FitSpark combines readings from your training history, fitness levels, and rest and recovery indicators from Nightly Recharge. That is a lot of science working in the background to generate personalized workouts for the user!
The workouts are split into three main tracks:
You can’t choose either of the three types of workouts since it rotates daily. What you can choose is the options within each type.
So for example FitSpark planned Supportive workouts for you today. And you are offered 2 choices of either “Core regular” or “Mobility Dyamic”, each lasting roughly 25 minutes.
You can see what each workout program consists of, including wordy elaborations on how to go about executing each exercise. As a physical education specialist, I do find the stick figurine animations useful in demonstrating the said exercises.
And once the FitSpark workout starts, you will be guided to move from exercise to exercise. For cardio-based FitSpark program, the user chooses which sports profile to use to complete the HR based workout; usually of a certain HR zone.
FitSpark’s focus is really on overall fitness rather than getting you race ready for 5k or 10k run. And it is based on “ WHO’s recommendations for weekly physical activity for adults. The recommendation consists of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio training, and resistance training two times a week.”
As someone who trains regularly, I did not find the FitSpark Cardio features as useful. I attempted the cardio workout once and the Polar Ignite kept buzzing towards the end of my long slow run because my heart rate has inched to zone 3 after 60 mins; I was supposed to stay in either zone 1 or 2 for this workout.
The only way to stop the buzzing was to literally slow down which wasn’t something I was prepared to do when I knew the cause of the heart rate increase was probably cardiac drift rather than me pushing too hard.
That being said, I did find the FitSpark Strength and Mobility program novel. I rarely spend as much time on mobility other than post workout stretches. So, I am surprised at the suggestion of investing 25 minutes to inchworms, calf stretches, and groiners repeatedly.
In my opinion, FitSpark does take the guesswork out of planning a training program, which can be daunting for someone new to working out. I would assume a beginner working out for the first time will find the FitSpark program easy to follow.
FitSpark is unique to the Polar Ignite and will not be reaching the Polar Vantages.
SERENE BREATHING EXERCISE
Comparatively, Polar’s serene breathing is again backed by the company’s own blend of science. You can think of Polar’s Serene mindful breathing as a possible panacea to everyday stress if practiced regularly.
You can choose the duration of the session, plus the inhale and exhale timing. According to Polar’s website, it seems 6 breaths per minute is the optimal rate to bring about stress-relieving effects.
Does it work?
The first time I used this feature, I was pleasantly surprised by the mild bubbling vibration of the watch on my arm; an indication to breathe. This progressive vibration culminates in silence, as if all the bubbles have burst – the sign to exhale. And then the process repeats for the stipulated duration.
The Serene breathing vibration on the Vantage V is slightly different in feel. It is more raw and lacked the gentle pulsating of the Ignite.
You can also view the animation on the watch to follow the breathing instructions. I found it easier to just close my eyes and focus on the vibration.
I’d put on Serene breathing every night for 5 minutes while lying in bed and I usually doze off before reaching the end of the session. The mild bubbly vibration plus the focus on breathing is strangely conducive to sleep in my experience. Unfortunately, the session always ends with a jarring vibration which can’t be removed at present.
Upon cessation of the Serene mindful breathing session, you’ll be able to see how much time you spent in the 3 zones; diamond, sapphire, and amethyst, with diamond being the highest zone. The longer you spend in the higher zones, the more benefits you’re supposed to reap in the long run.
I’m unsure if Polar has plans to implement long term Serene mindful breathing stat tracking. Currently, you can only see the scores for the last duration. I figured if I made it a habit to use this feature regularly and consistently, it is very likely it can work as a potential identifier for periods of increased stress. Or whether the body has gradually reaped the benefits of daily deep breathing.
What I like about Polar Ignite’s Serene breathing is that Polar has gone to great pains to explain the benefits of their mindful breathing feature, the optimal duration, the effects of slow breathing, and many more.
Nightly recharge has 6 levels and is dependent on both sleep charge and ANS charge feedback. The 6 levels are:
- Very poor
- Very good
The sleep charge score is provided based on sleep duration and 5 sleep quality parameters. The Ignite watch further shows the amount of time you spend in each phase of sleep cycle. Such as light, deep, REM, and interruptions based on Polar’s Sleep Plus Stages tech.
Your usual sleep charge score over the past 28 days is also listed for comparison. I found this helpful in making sense of sleep over time.
With regard to sleep duration tracking, the Polar Ignite is almost always spot on based on my experience. Sleep metrics can also be accessed directly on the Polar Ignite.
But, I’ve always been in the skeptical camp when it comes to sleep stages tracking since a single wearable is supposed to mimic what a Polysomnography does. So, I’m on the fence with regard to Polar Ignite’s sleep charge scores since I have no means of testing nor have I seen any validation data even though I’m sure there is.
The ANS charge score ranges from -10 to +10 and is an indication “…of how efficiently your autonomic nervous system (i.e. ANS measurements: heart rate, HRV and breathing rate) calmed down during the early hours of your sleep. “
The cool thing about both ANS charge and sleep charge is that you’ll find tips in the Polar Flow app on how to improve.
Here are a few tips I’ve gotten over more than a month of use.
As you can deduce, the readings are heavily dependent on one source, the accuracy of the Precision Prime sensors.
The single concern I have is that I don’t usually like wearing my watches snugly while asleep and I’m sure that will invariably affect the accuracy of the readings, and ultimately Nightly recharge calculations.
The other reason why I’m taking the nightly recharge readings with a pinch of salt is because the orthostatic tests on the Vantage V, with identical Precision Prime senors as the Ignite, still needs to be carried out on a chest strap HRM.
To access all your tracked stats from the Polar Ignite, you may use 3 avenues.
- Directly on Polar Ignite watch for quick review with no amendment.
- Polar Flow for review, minimal amendment, and avenue for sharing to social platforms.
- Polar Flow web for detailed review and full editing features.
The pictures below show the stats of a running session that is accessible directly on the Polar Ignite fitness watch.
All day tracked activity, including steps and calories, can also be seen directly on the watch.
The Polar Flow app offers more sharing avenues, feedback about training and sleep but doesn’t provide the level of editing found in the Polar Flow web platform. Nor does it allow workout exporting from app. Some of Polar’s competitors, such as Suunto and Coros, allow users to export recorded workouts in FIT format directly from app.
Finally we have the Polar Flow web where you will get the full suite of editing features along with connections to other Polar Flow users.
Polar is literally the pioneer in the sports wearable tech scene and their name is synonymous with heart rate readings. To date, they are the only guys in the market who can estimate your fitness levels, in the form of VO2 max, with a chest strap HR monitor.
I understand this feature will also be coming to the Vantage models and look forward To the update with excitement. As for the accuracy of the readings. The wrist readings from the Polar Ignite is 53 whereas that from a chest strap from the Polar Beat app is identical!
There are also more than 130 sports profiles in Polar’s library for you to customise.
Each profile can be further customised to a specific display setting or heart rate and speed zones.
The Polar Ignite’s Precision Prime optical HR sensors are able to measure heart rate during swimming.
As it how accurate it is, I can vouch that it worked nicely for me though your mileage may vary.
Lastly, the Polar Flow app allows the user to connect more than 1 wearable. I thought I have to state this because Suunto app only allows connection with one wearable only.
POLAR IGNITE IN A NUTSHELL
The Polar Ignite GPS fitness watch fills a gap where the Vantages couldn’t and signals Polar’s intention to introduce physiological feedback, specifically health and fitness, to those who are not into multi-sport or performance event training.
Put simply, the company has categorized their level of physiological feedback tools to suit specific demographics.
To be honest, I’m not a fan of the GNSS capability nor the smartwatch-type display, but I appreciate the fact that Polar has placed so much emphasis on sleep and recovery.
I also love how FitSpark works in tandem with Nightly Recharge to produce individualized workouts for the user. Serene mindful breathing is icing on the cake and has the potential to be further explored. Heart rate measurement while swimming is remarkable.
Precision Prime’s role in this cannot be understated. Polar has effectively created a tightly-wound system in a single watch based on their in house optical HR sensors. No other company, save for Apple, has such a ecosystem in place.
And that in essence is Polar’s trump card from my observation – utilising a user’s data from a single wearable to provide guidance to aid an individual towards better health and fitness.
The other question to be answered is whether users should opt for the Vantage M or the Ignite. Given the Vantage M will have all of Ignite’s features by December 2019, including Fitspark. It would naturally make sense to get the more powerful Vantage M.
For an entry wearable, the Polar Ignite is clearly ahead of the competition in the physiological science segment. But, non-science features? Not so much. Think music, navigation, contact-less payment and so on. The question is whether the fickle and value-for-money scrutinising customers will bite.
Polar has since announced more colour variations, including wrist bands, for the Polar Ignite series as of October 2019.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed the review. You can purchase the Polar Ignite from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site.
If you wish to get your hands on the Polar Ignite ($329) in Singapore, head down to my favourite wearable shop Morning Star Watch Repair or Service Centre, or major retailers such as Challenger and Harvey Norman. Polar Electro Singapore can be contacted for any sales or servicing related matters. Take care and train hard!