Polar Ignite 2 review: sport and style combines

Minor improvements on a nicer looking mid-range sports watch
Polar Ignite 2
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Polar launched the original Ignite in 2019 in what seemed like a clear move to tap into a different type of sports watch owner. One that didn't necessarily obsess over their running stats or VO2 Max. A fitness watch with a bit of fun about its look and a lot more style than its Vantage series.

It largely achieved that and also introduced some impressive smarts that have since rolled out onto its pricier Vantage series and new Grit X watches.

The Ignite 2 seeks to build on the good work it did with the original, offering big features in.a small case, and keeping the price affordable. The Ignite 2 is priced at £199.50.

That puts it up against smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series 3 (£149.99) and the great value Coros Pace 2. You could also throw in the Huawei Watch GT 2e and the Fitbit Versa 3 into that mix as well.

The first Ignite impressed us, so it could the Ignite 2 do the same? We've been living with it to find out. Here's our comprehensive verdict.

Polar Ignite 2: Design and screen

Polar Ignite 2 screen

The first Ignite was undeniably sporty looking, but the Ignite 2 (and the Vantage M2 that launched alongside it), Polar is trying to put a more stylish slant on its more affordable watches.

It's got the same 43mm sized case that measures in at 8.5mm thick and weighs the same 35g. The case is made from glass reinforced polymer with a stainless steel bezel once again, but this time it has a nicer, more textured finish to it. You're also still getting a solitary physical button with the emphasis on making most use of the touchscreen display.

Polar has been a bit more adventurous with the color options. We had the more understated black pearl with black silicone strap that comes in small and large sizes. There's now gold and champagne, storm blue, the on trend rose gold and pink looks for something a little more colorful to wear. There's good options here for both men and women. That textured bezel does a nice enough job of slightly elevating its look beyond another predominantly plastic sports watch.

Polar Ignite 2 vs Polar Ignite

Polar Ignite 2 (left) and Polar Ignite (right)

In the screen department, it's the same IPS TFT color touchscreen display offering the same 240x204 resolution, but it feels a little brighter this time. It's still not the best quality touchscreen you're going to find on a watch at this price for colours, sharpness and overall quality.

It still lags when you try to quickly swipe through screens like the original Ignite. The raise to wake gesture support though is nicely responsive and if you want to have the screen always-on during workouts to peer down at your data, you do have that option.

Polar Ignite 2 thickness

Polar Ignite 2 (left) and Polar Ignite (right)

The strap has been comfortable on the whole, but we did have one issue with it. Once it's on, moving the secondary buckle to keep the strap secure and from flapping about is really stiff and makes it hard to move. It's a minor gripe but it's one that did irritate us during use.

Another thing that hasn't changed is that this is one you can take swimming. It has a water resistant rating that makes it safe for dunking in water up to 30 metres depth. We've taken it into a swimming pool and can confirm it lived after a few swims with it.

What Polar has sought to do with the Ignite 2 is evolve the design to make it feel a little more fashionable and that bezel change and nicer looking display albeit technically the same as before, does seem to do the trick. It's light, offers a nice, clean look and it's one that's been fine to wear day and night and during exercise.

Polar Ignite 2: Sports and fitness tracking

Polar Ignite 2 review

All the good tracking and training stuff we got on the Ignite is here in the Ignite 2 and it's hard to see what's hugely different at first glance.

Polar covers over 140 sports profiles, with the core modes like running (indoor and outdoor), cycling (indoor and outdoor) and pool swimming offering the richer, more activity-specific metrics. So for runs, you'll see data like average pace, cadence, ascent and descent information and altitude climbed. If you head to the pool, you can expect to enjoy stroke recognition, pace data and SWOLF scores.

Outside of those core sports modes there's profiles for activities like strength training, HIIT training and circuit training. For these modes though, the focus is on tracking heart rate and workout duration and it won't actually capture reps or movement in exercises.

You've got built-in GPS and further support for GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS satellite systems to widen the support for accurately tracking your outdoor training. Polar uses its quick fix GPS technology here to make sure you're not hanging around for a signal to accurately track outdoor activities and it largely delivers on that promise.

There's Polar's Precision Prime heart rate sensor to manage continuous heart rate monitoring and heart rate during exercise. It also powers an extensive range of training insights. While there's a trend to include SpO2 sensors in watches right now, Polar hasn't included one on any of its watches including the Ignite 2. Perhaps it's waiting to make sure it can put it to good use on its watches.

Polar Ignite 2 review

Polar's new weekly summary watch face

There's training features aplenty including access to the FitSpark, which debuted on the first Ignite and still works great at recommending workouts based on your training and showing you the workouts to follow on the watch itself So if you've been running or cycling a lot lately, it will suggest considering doing some strength or mobility to work to balance out the cardio time.

Those workouts can be followed on the watch with small animations showing off the exercises and it'll prompt you during the workout what the next set is with a simple audible and haptic countdown letting you know it's time to switch movements up. The FitSpark suggestions were nicely in line with our training and feels like a feature that really sets Polar apart from the competition.

Cardio Load insights are now delivered on the watch as opposed to just being found in Polar's Flow companion app to better understand the intensity of your training. Cardio Load is part of Polar's Training Load Pro insights, which aims to delve into how hard you've worked out compared to your session average of the past 90 days. So a steady paced swim for us came out a low cardio load and a speedy run scored a very high Cardio load status and it'll plot those load insights in a graph to show you clearly how hard you've worked and whether you're building a good base of fitness.

When you start delving into features like this on the Ignite 2 though, you're heading to a place that can feel a bit daunting, so that's something to keep in mind, If you're taking a more serious approach to training, this is a feature to read through Polar's explainers on the app to make sure you're best utilising it.

When it's time to get tracking, hit that physical button and then proceed to swipe your way through the individual modes on offer. It would definitely be more useful to have these displayed in a list to save the faffing of continually swiping to find the mode you want with animations taking an annoying few seconds to load and indicate what sport mode it is. You can add more profiles from the Flow app if you don't initially see one that matches up with the activities you most regularly track.

We spent time running, swimming, putting it to the home workout test and jumping on an indoor rower with it. Performance-wise it does a good job, but it's not perfect.

Polar Ignite 2 review

Run tracking compared: Polar Ignite 2 (left) and Garmin Instinct (right)

Run tracking

For outdoor runs, locking onto a GPS signal was pretty quick and core running stats like average pace were in line with what we tracked on a series of Garmin watches we tested it against including the Garmin Instinct. Before you get running, there are some settings you can tinker with like power save settings to adjust GPS sampling intervals, which decreases accuracy of tracking but is kinder on battery life. You can also share heart rate to other devices, get training suggestions powered by FitSpark and set up interval timers for interval-style training.

When you get going, data is easy to absorb and you have a useful heart rate monitor gauge at the top of the screen to quickly assess what heart rate training zone you're currently sitting in. It's also nice to see that you can access music controls here too during a workout.

Along with those core stats, you'll find a lot more in the Flow app. Things like Running Index give you an insight into the quality of that run. We were quite happy so see Elite for our Running Index on most occasions and see that runs were helping to increase our resistance to fatigue and improving our aerobic fitness levels.

This is also where you'll see those Training Load insights we've spoken about and now Energy sources insights. This is a heart rate based feature that is designed to show you the breakdown of carbohydrates, protein or fats that fuelled your run. Ultimately, you want to be using carbohydrates predominantly to fuel those runs. That's viewable post-run on the watch and inside of Flow too. It's hugely reliant on heart rate data being accurate, which we'll get into further down below.

Polar Ignite 2 review

Swim tracking compared: Polar Ignite 2 (left), Form Swim Goggles (centre) and Garmin Instinct (right)

Swim tracking

When we took it into the water, it wasn't such a good story on the tracking front. The Ignite 2 support pool swim tracking only letting you adjust pool length, look to FitSpark for training suggestions and set up interval timers too. Once you're ready to go, you'll be able to glance down at distance covered, rest time and duration. Additional stats can be looked over in the Flow app.

We put it to the test for a few swims and found that it struggled to accurately track distance compared to the swim tracking on a Garmin watch and the very reliable Form Swim Goggles. In the early stages of the swim, maybe 100-200 metres in, the tracking seemed reliable. As we got deeper into that swim time, the accuracy dropped off. It was as much as 700 metres on one swim. There's clearly something not right here with the algorithms and the performance of the accelerometer providing the tracking in the water here.

Looking over the data in the app, it seemed to accurately recognise swim style, strokes and pace at the early part of the session, until that tracking accuracy just fell off a cliff.

HIIT workouts

For indoor HIIT workouts and indoor rows, these are modes where you are just getting access to tracking workout duration and heart rate data. You can fire HR data to other devices over Bluetooth, set up interval timers and use the power save settings available in all of the other profiles. As mentioned, these types of modes don't track movement, and we also had to head into the Polar Flow web app to add the indoor rowing profile because it wasn't available in the mobile app. Unfortunately, it doesn't track stroke rates like you can find on most Garmin watches and watches from the likes of Amazfit and Huawei too.

Post-session in the Flow app, you will still get training benefit insights, Training Load Pro data and an an energy sources breakdown. So while what it tracks on the watch feels like the basics, you can still get a sense of how it impacts on your overall fitness alongside the more data-rich sports profiles.

Polar Ignite 2 review

Fitness tracking compared: Polar Ignite 2 (left) and Garmin Instinct (right)

Focusing in on its fitness tracking skills and it's able to track active time, daily burnt calories, steps, distance covered and it builds that progress into the watch faces. There's inactivity alerts and Polar's emphasis on having an Activity Goal and tracking your daily activity in five different intensity levels. This is designed to better understand the intensities that help accelerate hitting your daily activity goal.

Accuracy-wise looking down at during early parts of the day, it was around 300-400 within a Garmin and Fitbit fitness tracker. By the end of the day, there was usually quite a large difference in the step counts and a slight difference in the distance tracked too.

Polar makes a big deal of its sleep tracking and the insights it offers not only about the quality of your sleep but also how it can better shape your recovery from tough training sessions. So it'll break down sleep stages, generate a sleep score and provide a nightly recharge measurement.

That measurement assess how you slept and how your autonomic nervous system calmed down during the early hours of the night. It compares that data to provide the insight and can be viewed from the watch face.

Polar Ignite 2: Sleep tracking

Polar Ignite 2 sleep tracking

Sleep tracking compared: Polar Ignite 2 (left), Fitbit Sense (centre) and Polar Ignite 2 (right)

We put it up against Fitbit's Sense smartwatch to check those core sleep metrics, we'd say Polar's sleep tracking skills are up there with Fitbit in terms of offering useful data.

The presentation of the data though feels a bit overwhelming to absorb and digest. The nightly recharge measurements live in a separate part of the app and again, there's a lot of data here.

On one day when we'd run and had an indoor row session and had a high ANS charge number but a low sleep charge number, so it recommended we were okay to train. It did also suggest that something had caused us to wake up on several occasions as well. The recharge insights in large feels useful, but you just need get to grips with what it means and interpreting the data.

Those daily tips though do mean Polar does try to put some action behind those insights for you to better decide whether to train or take a rest day.

The Ignite 2 doesn't offer huge improvements on the first Ignite here, but does seek to offer more data insights on the watch and that might give it more appeal. It wasn't the perfect performer, but if you want something for running and like the idea of reliable sleep tracking that seeks to tie it closer to your training than it does on rival watches, then there's still a lot to like here.

Polar Ignite 2: Smartwatch features

Polar Ignite 2 music on watch

Polar is playing catch up as far as making its watches feel more like a mix of a smartwatch and a sports watch. It feels like the Ignite was the one to offer that more smartwatch-like option in its collection. It's still one that works with Android phones and iPhones and in our testing we had it paired with the former with no major issues to report.

It handles notifications and gives you the ability to control music playing on your smartphone. Those music controls pretty much come to life once you start streaming and let you skip and play/pause tracks.

Polar Ignite 2 review

You can view weather forecasts including 2-day forecasts and see a few hours ahead to help plan your day's outdoor training. You now also have the ability to change the color of watch face themes. The Ignite only has the ability to view phone notifications, so there's a few extras here.

You're not getting payments, apps, a music player or communication features like taking calls or responding to notifications. Polar is still sticking to the basics and it does a good enough job of those basics.

If you want more in smartwatch features, cheaper options from Amazfit or even Garmin will get you more, but you will have to sacrifice some of Polar's unique training and analysis features that Polar offers ahead of some more desirable smartwatch features.

Polar Ignite 2: Heart rate accuracy

Polar Ignite 2 review

The Ignite 2 packs in the same Precision Prime optical heart rate sensor technology that's used on the Ignite and its top end Vantage V2 and Grit X watches. That unlocks largely the same features as the Ignite with some notable extras

It can be used to continuously monitor heart rate, offer real-time heart rate measurements, offer those richer sleep sleep stats and let you train in heart rate zones. The new heart rate based features you won't find on the first Ignite that you do here is the ability to transmit live data to other Polar devices and showing energy sources used during workouts. This uses heart rate data to understand whether you've used carbs, protein or fats to fuel training.

Polar Ignite 2 review

Heart rate data compared: Polar Ignite 2 (left) and Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap monitor (right)

As far as accuracy is concerned, we'd say the Ignite 2 offers much of what we saw on the original. It measured up well for resting heart rate and real-time heart rate with Fitbit's reliable PurePulse sensor technology on the Fitbit Sense. For steady paced workouts, it was generally around 3bpm out from a Garmin HRM Pro chest strap for runs and closer in accuracy for workouts like indoor HIIT and rowing sessions.

Polar Ignite 2 review

Heart rate data indoor rowing compared: Polar Ignite 2 (left) and Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap monitor (right)

When you up the intensity, it actually handled the sudden spikes and drops reasonably well. As you can see, there's only a 2bpm difference in the average of an interval session against the HRM-Pro chest strap, which is impressive.

Polar does offer the ability to pair external sensors over Bluetooth. There's no ANT+ connectivity support once again, which you'll have to pay more to get on one of Polar's watches.


Polar Ignite 2: Battery life

Polar does try to make some battery improvements though those improvements are made when you're ready to track activities. It uses the same 165mAh capacity battery that offers the same maximum 5 days as the first Ignite and that's pretty much what we got from it. The advanced sleep tracking features once again demand a lot of the battery.

Polar has moved from 17 hours to 20 hours of GPS battery life and there's now a power saving mode where you can adjust GPS sampling rate and whether heart rate is turned on during exercise. Put these features into action and you can expect up to 100 hours of battery life. That does come at the expense of tracking accuracy though.

Using that GPS, we found that just over an hour of outdoor running saw the battery drop off by around 14-15%. So maybe those numbers don't quite add up based on our testing. If you put those GPS battery life numbers in context with a similarly priced Garmin, the slightly cheaper Venu Sq offers 14 hours of GPS battery life. So it more than holds it own at this price point. For a 30 minute indoor row, it dropped by 1%. A 45 minute pool swim saw it drop by 3%.

Daily drop-off was around 20-25%, which would work out to around 4-5 days, which is what Polar promises here.


Polar Ignite 2
By Polar
The Polar Ignite 2 isn't necessarily a huge upgrade from the original, but it offers some software improvements that will improve the experience for some users. FitSpark is an excellent feature, and sports tracking is still top notch. The sleeker look certainly makes it more appealing, but it's still the same solid fitness watch at a nice price.

Hit
  • Largely reliable sports tracking
  • FitSpark is still great to use
  • Slightly better smartwatch features than Ignite
Miss
  • Screen is still laggy
  • Polar Flow is still quite overwhelming
  • Advanced sleep tracking still battery hog

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