To start with the design. I really like it, for me this could be the main reason to pick this watch! Next to Garmin, also Polar stepped off from the more rectangular sports watches they had for a long time. There’s one button on the lower left side which is perfect to operate with your thumb, it doesn’t matter if you wear it left- or right-handed. The glass is scratch proof and the color screen is very bright.
What could and should be better is the wrist band. Although it is functional and can be easily removed and replaced, it looks kind of ‘cheap’ in comparison with the sleek design of the watch itself. The watch is light weight, 35g according to the specs but it comes at 36g like the Garmin ForeRunner 45, while measuring it myself.
One of the big differences compared to other sport watches is that there’s only 1 button and navigation is possible with a touch screen. ‘Could this be working for a sports watch?’, I was asking myself. You will find this answer later on.
When I received it, of course I wanted to try it as soon as possible. In most cases there are at least 3 or 4 buttons with which you can find out how it is working. This wasn’t the case for this one. The brief instruction manual is written quite badly and with this manual it’s hard to find out how to get started. Of course, it recommends to download the application first on your phone or computer and it is even recommended to adjust it by using the app, rather than the on the watch itself.
Then there’s some important information missing in this manual how to use the button or screen; so, in the end you need either the full manual or try a lot.
Once you find out how this works, it not too hard to learn how to use it. However, it’s quite new for me that it is that hard to get started with a sports watch.
Another annoying thing was that the screen goes back to ‘black’ when you’re not using it; so also, during the run it’s ‘black’ and it will turn ‘on’ and ‘bright’ after moving the watch towards you. There’s an advantage on the battery life but there’s a much more important and actually negative point that comes with this.
The big drawback is that you cannot see the information directly, like pace, distance and heart rate. With a delay of approximately 1 second, the screen pops ‘on’, which is slightly too long and a bit annoying.
For cycling I would not recommend to do this, because it’s a safety risk when driving at a speed of 20 mph/ 30 km/h. Also, you can put it ‘on’ by pushing the button as well but that’s not that easy.
The full list of sensors included in this watch is:
• Wrist heart rate monitor
• Option for an external heart rate monitor (no ANT+)
• Activity Tracker
• Gyroscope – Cadence tracker
The charger cable has to be connected to the back of the watch, it’s really easy and it’s not a plug. Positioning is done with a small ridge and a magnet makes it connect perfectly. With this, it can be charged by USB or regular plug, and connected to your computer is can synchronize.
The Polar Ignite has a touchscreen and 1 button. Navigation has to be done by using them both.
Even after using the watch for more than 3 weeks, it still doesn’t feel completely natural how to navigate, or at least how the button should be used. Depending on how long and hard you push the button it can:
Starting training sessions can be done also in a different way since on the touch screen you can find other training sessions like: cardio or strength. These menus offer training session which are pre-programmed.
Other functions using the touch screen are: nightly recharge, activity tracking, heart rate, last training session. These options can be entered by ‘tapping’ the menu you’re in.
Below you’ll find a quick overview:
To start tracking an activity besides the pre-programmed, cardio or strength options, you press the button for approximately 1 second and you are in the training menu. You pick an option and once you’ve done that, the watch connects to the GPS.
The GPS connection is picked up fast and seems to be spot on.
On the run there are 3 screens, you can switch through while using the touch screen. The basic screen gives you information like total distance, time, pace and heartrate; 4 in total. You can adjust these settings not directly on the watch but only with the application, which is not the best way in my opinion.
Swapping to other screens is possible during the run. This could be useful, switching to additional heart rate information or elevation, however, it is not. It is very unpractical to switch during your run and not very easy to ‘swap’ from one screen to another. During other sports like cycling it is even dangerous as mentioned earlier.
I did not mention the biggest back draws yet, there are a few:
When I am sporting, I’d like to see at least the pace, and the distance, it’s annoying that it’s not there when you just look. I do not completely understand why Polar has chosen for this configuration. You cannot adjust it so it’s there all the time. The only reason I can think of is that it wants you to focus on your running/ sports instead of on the numbers.
The watch is light, 36g, and feels nice on your wrist. Even though I used the least expensive wrist band it felt good.
Polar is the pioneer when it comes to sports watches including a heart rate monitor. They were the first in the early 80’s. For the Ignite it works very well. My heart rate seemed a little higher than what the Garmin ForeRunner 45 was measuring, I wore them both at the same time, but that’s a minor detail.
There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to signals while running. It’s simply a vibration. The vibration is soft and not always noticeable. You cannot adjust this. It’s OK when you’re just running for the fun of it but when it comes to more serious training it’s not enough.
The visibility is good, even with a lot of sun you can easily read the numbers. When the battery is running low the backlight is less and the visibility isn’t that good, but that makes sense.
Below you will find a brief overview of the settings during your run:
It is not very difficult to create a training program in the app. It gives you some suggestions when it comes to interval sessions. However, training only makes sense when you know what you’re doing, just putting in some numbers might not match the expectations and could be even worthless. The Polar Flow training options, based on a goal you set, are far better. It only requires you to use a computer for that; it only depends on serious your approach is and how much time you want to spent on your preparations.
The watch has the options it needs to be a good sports watch but it lacks finetuning in some ways, like the training options, and is not very practical.
The first thing you need to do is to download the Polar Flow app to your phone. Also, you can use the online application. The app on your phone can be used to synchronize your watch and upload training plans.
For many reasons you need the application, on the watch itself you can only change a couple of settings. The analysis of your activities is quite extensive in the application. It gives you insights on the route, pace, time, heartrate and cadence. Also, it shows where you achieved maximum speed, height and use of energy. You can check most of these things on the watch itself but it’s nice to see more details. There’s some feedback as well. It recognizes what sort of training it was, depending on the heartrate and time. So, for instance it says that you did a nice tempo run which improves your aerobe system.
You can also connect this application to a few other sports apps such as Strava or Apple Health. However, it is not possible synchronize it with Runtastic or Runkeeper.
Synchronizing activities can be done over Bluetooth after you are finished. You need to do this actively, which means that even when the watch is connected by Bluetooth for exchanging messages, sports activities have to synchronized by activating synchronization.
I used the Polar Ignite also for cycling and swimming. For cycling it works the same as for running. For swimming you have the option for pool swimming or open water swimming.
Cycling was OK except for the black screen, but the output is fine. For swimming in a pool, it was also OK, you have to pick the right length of the pool and then it’s quite accurate. For open water swimming, it was completely off. It uses GPS in this case and every time your arm is in the water it is losing the GPS signal which stops the registration. So, in this case there’s no added value.
There are some activities pre-programmed in the Polar Ignite 45, you can add activities with the Polar Flow application to a maximum of 20 different sports.
Next to sport activities, it is also an activity tracker, monitoring your heartrate, number of steps during the day, general calorie usage, sleep, distance and total active time. Last but not least it gives you a lot of information on your level of sleep. Polar put a lot of effort in this option. This is what they say on their website: ‘Sleep is an integral part of optimal overall recovery as many restorative functions occur mostly during sleep, such as muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormone release.’
The watch is measuring several parameters to judge the quality of your sleep. It measures the time, heart rate, heart rate volume and breathing rate. Combining the information of this information, it gives you a result of your sleep recovery. It gives you an insight in the recovery of the Autonomic Nervous System and the Sleep recovery in general.
Based on the outcome the watch offers you 2 to 4 training suggestions, pre-programmed in the FitSpark option. The trainings offered, are pre-programmed and based on the nightly recovery and your training history. Each option, cardio, power and mobility, offers some exercises.
Finally, there’s a stress management training option called ‘Serene’. This is learning you how to breathe deeply which can have a positive influence on your stress level, recovery and sleeping results. The option is easy to use and it helps you bringing back your breathing rate to 6 times a minute and getting your breathing and heart rate in synchrony.
The watch can be connected to your phone in order to enable notifications. Odd thing is that it’s not working very properly, missing messages or getting the same message time and time again. Also, with the screen on the watch you would expect more from it and not just text messages.
The accuracy is good for this watch; GPS, heart rate, cadence, speed and distance seem to be spot on.
Also, the wrist heart rate monitoring when swimming seems to be good, which is a positive surprise!
As mentioned earlier, GPS is completely off for Open Water Swimming. When the watch loses GPS, it stops the registration of your swim. It’s quite annoying to put effort in the swimming without seeing the result afterwards.
It is disturbing that the touchscreen isn’t working that well when it becomes wet or you have wet fingers; it is quite difficult to scroll through the screens and select what you want.
Battery life is very good It is working up to 17 hours with in GPS mode including heart rate monitoring according to the website. This I haven’t tested; I think it’s a little overrated to be honest since it didn’t last that long when I as using it for a longer trail run and some swimming. However, even when it would be between 12 and 15 hours it would be much better than the Garmin ForeRunner 45. Using only activity tracking including measuring the heart rate, would be 5 days.
The most important other interesting function is the sleep tracking is offers. I have described this in ‘other activities’.
To add a few things to that; in the application you can find how you sleep in graphs. It shows the percentages of REM-sleep, deep sleep, light sleep and how many times you woke up during the night. You can select the time you want to sleep at least (with a minimum of 5.5 hours). Based on the other parameters the watch gives you a final outcome and recommends you some training by FitSpark.
The Serene breathing exercise option is also interesting. The application shows you a video on this and a link to the site where the added value is explained and when and how to use it.
For the watch’s face, you can pick a digital or analog view. Using the touchscreen, you can swipe through different screens, all showing the time, but also all having a different sub-menu, like heart rate, activity level, FitSpark, nightly recharge and last training. It gives you a quick access to these options which is easy and next to that you can track directly whatever you think is most important for you, like heartrate.
An alternative could be the Garmin Forerunner 45, which offers almost the same options at the same price. Within the same price range, it could be the Fitbit Ionic.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is a watch in the same price range with some of the same options, however it is more a smart watch than a sports watch; it has less options for training and analyzing the results. Same for the Fossil Q Explorist Gen 4 FTW4016, where also the battery is limited in comparison with the Polar Ignite.
Another watch that can be mentioned is the ForeRunner 245; it comes at a slightly higher price but offers more training options and additional information such as stride length and gives you a more detailed look in your efforts.
In a higher price range, there are also a lot of options but these cannot be called alternatives just because of the price range.
I have been using the watch over a month now and although I am mentioning quite some flaws and oddities, I like it. I like it more than the Garmin ForeRunner 45. I have to say, it’s not because of the way it works, but somehow, it’s a charming watch. It’s looking good, it has all a sports watch should have and more!
Even after 1 month I am discovering more things on this watch and it makes me think if there are well thought reasons behind all choices Polar made.
First the screen staying black, was a frustration to me; but knowing this and getting used to this, it makes me focusing more on the running itself than on the distance, time and heartrate. Perhaps that’s the ratio behind this watch. This is an interesting thought, and it makes sense since there quite a lot of function which focus on the recovery, like the nightly recharge and Serene option.
I don’t think this is a watch for advanced runners, and perhaps not for very ambitious runners either. It is for runners that like to run, improve and practicing sports but not to be too much focused on the results. Focus on sports during the activity and analyze the results afterwards. This might be the first mindful sports watch on the market!
For a cost price of 239 US$, you really get a lot of watch for your money, the application works well and it’s looking good.
We purchased a Ignite using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles with it.
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