- Sleek design with crisp display
- Welcome interface redesign
- Good array of tracking and analysis
- Notable performance issues
- Battery life is poor with always-on display
- Screen has already been scratched
When Polar launched the Ignite in 2019 it felt like more accessible sports watch, with a big dose of fun.
It boasted some of Polar’s best features, but with a design best described as more lifestyle and less sporty.
The Ignite 2 landed in 2021 and didn’t make wholesale changes but with the Ignite 3, there are some big ones. Some we weren’t expecting to see on this particular Polar watch.
The Ignite 2 felt like a step in the right direction for Polar’s fitness watch, so has the Ignite 3 built on that good work? Here’s our verdict on the Polar Ignite 3.
Screen and display
Let’s get straight into it. The big story here with the Ignite 3 is that it has an AMOLED touchscreen display, which as far as we can recall, is the first Polar watch to include the same kind of display technology typically reserved for smartwatches.
Garmin does include AMOLED screens on its Venu and Epix series watches, but this is new ground for Polar and it's very much welcomed.
The Ignite 2 featured a color TFT touchscreen display, but the Ignite 3’s roughly same-sized screen marks a step up in rich colors, lovely deep rich blacks you like to see on an AMOLED panel and it’s bright too.
Polar lets you pick from three backlight brightness settings and you will want to use the brightest option in brighter outdoor sunlight.
This is typically a downside of this screen technology compared to the memory in pixel screens included on Polar’s Vantage V2 and Grit X Pro watches. We used the Ignite 3 at night and in sunnier conditions, and it handled those more challenging visibility conditions well.
The look of the display is also a big positive with its gently curved exterior a nice upgrade on the flatter screen included on the Ignite 2.
There’s still a black bezel surrounding that display, but there’s less of it, particularly at the bottom of the screen and Polar’s small handful of watch faces do an effective job of hiding what bezel there is here.
Polar also adds Gorilla Glass 3.0 to provide stronger protection against scratches. Sadly, it doesn’t look to be up to the task based on the long scratch that’s already appeared across the screen on our Ignite 3.
We’ve had it on our wrist 24/7, in the gym and for outdoor workouts, and worn it in bed. That’s far from rigorous usage and we can’t put our finger on how this damage has materialized.
So for all the positives that Polar has finally put a great screen on one of its watches to make it feel more like a slick, sporty smartwatch, we can't ignore the nasty big scratch it's managed to acquire during our testing.
Polar’s watches that launched in 2021 had performance problems and that included the Ignite 2. Whatever Polar was packing its watches with components-wise, it simply wasn’t delivering the kind of smooth software interactions that you’d hoped to find.
Like the Polar Pacer Pro, the Ignite 3 promises to address those laggy concerns by beefing up processing power, moving from a 120MHz CPU speed setup to a quicker, 192 MHz one compared to what was packed into the Ignite 2. It’s bumped things up in the memory department as well going from 0.64MB to 5MB of RAM.
So do those upgrade internals make a marked difference? Sadly, we'd say no. We’ve still experienced some pretty irritating lag swiping to look at our notification stream. The software’s response when pressing the physical button, which now sits more centrally on the case, is slow as well. It can also be slow to save workouts and we've had the watch randomly reboot on us on at least one occasion.
There are elements like swiping through widgets, which feel relatively smooth so there’s a clear inconsistency with how smooth those interactions are.
In isolation, it might not seem like a big problem, but collectively, it makes the Ignite 3 frustrating to get on with.
Those performance problems are a shame because the work Polar has done to refine Ignite’s interface feels like a step in the right direction. It's still not perfect, but it's better.
You’ve now got an interface that better fills the screen with vibrant watch faces to you can now add complications. Full-screen widgets for features like activity tracking, Polar’s FitSpark suggested workouts, weekly stats, and the weather feel much nicer to glance at.
Polar still doesn’t go all in on smartwatch features as Garmin does, but you can view phone notifications and quickly identify which apps they’ve come from. The music controls feel well optimized to that screen and do work with third-party music apps like Spotify as well as being accessible during workout tracking.
You don’t get payments, apps, onboard safety features, smart assistants, and a fair bit more, but by keeping things simple, Polar delivers staples that most will be happy to find here. The music controls seem less affected by the performance problems than the notification support is, so it’s a simple but imbalanced experience.
Dual-frequency GPS debuts
We thought Polar would join the dual-frequency GPS party at some point but didn’t expect the Ignite 3 to be the first beneficiary of a mode that’s appeared on watches from Apple, Garmin, Coros, Huawei, and Amazfit.
The application of the technology designed to improve outdoor tracking accuracy in problematic scenarios like tracking near tall buildings, in tall wooded areas, or bad weather has certainly offered mixed results so far. We'd say its presence on Apple, Garmin, and Amazfit's watches have been the standout examples of its benefits to improve that accuracy.
On the Ignite 3, our feelings are that we hope it will get better when Polar decides to put it on one of its watches where it makes more sense.
While core data for outdoor runs like distance tracked and average pace held up pretty well against Garmin’s multi-band mode on the Marq Athlete Gen 2, a closer inspection of the GPS tracks suggests those plotted routes weren’t quite on the money. Garmin’s multi-band mode wasn’t perfect either, but it’s quite clear the points where Polar struggles.
Outside of those added dual-frequency GPS skills, the Ignite 3 feels very similar to using the Ignite 2. You’ve got similar sports modes and there’s the same Precision Prime optical heart rate monitor, which offers a mixed bag of data.
On some steady-paced workouts, it performed well against the heart rate monitor chest strap as the data screens from a treadmill run show above.
There were also similar workouts that delivered very different data. The outdoor run below illustrates where we saw strangely high maximum and average heart rate readings compared to Garmin’s HRM-Pro Plus heart rate monitor chest strap.
Fortunately like the Ignite 2, you can pair it up with an external heart rate monitor to improve that accuracy and you'll want to do that if you want more consistent data.
There’s a new voice guidance mode, which is a simple way of saying you can hear your metrics being read out to you during and after a workout.
Polar has now added a back-to-start mode for some basic navigation support and its running performance and walking tests cut to offer additional ways to gauge your current level of fitness. Again though, that walking test requires walking at a pretty slow pace to use it and is very much aimed at people entirely new to getting more active.
Polar includes its Training Load Pro and Energy Sources insights, but stops short of its Recovery Pro and Running Index metrics, which are reserved for its more expensive watches. One odd inclusion here is Polar’s FuelWise fuelling recommendations, which felt like a good fit on its more performance-focused watches but less so on a watch aiming at people who are probably not thinking about tackling an ultra marathon.
Sleep tracking powers
Polar’s sleep tracking has impressed since it started to pay more attention to it and offers a level of accuracy that can help inform your training and recovery needs.
Along with offering very reliable core sleep stats, it introduced its nightly recharge measurements, which still needs to deliver those recharge insights more engagingly.
Those core sleep-tracking features seem okay on the whole. We wore it alongside the Oura Ring 3 and they generally tracked similar sleep duration and times we fell asleep. Looking at the sleep stages and the Ignite 3 tended to record much smaller amounts of deep sleep in comparison.
Along with breaking down sleep stages including REM, capturing sleep duration, time, sleep scores, and additional metrics like sleep solidity, Polar is now adding what it calls SleepWise. This is essentially a way of communicating how sleep and your sleep rhythm contribute to alertness and readiness for the day. This is something we’ve seen in slightly different forms from the likes of Garmin, Whoop, and Oura.
Polar’s approach is to ensure you’ve captured at least five nights’ sleep within the last seven days to get these SleepWise forecasts, which take the form of graphs in the Polar companion app to show your boosted levels of sleep. These are represented by different green blocks in the sleep insights section of the app. Lighter green blocks indicate a big energy boost and darker green blocks mean smaller energy boosts.
There’s also a Sleep gate, which requires sleep data from seven nights of sleep and aims to tell you when you should go to bed based on your other data. Again, this isn’t a new feature to watches and wearables like Whoop.
If that explanation of how SleepWise sounds clunky, well, its presentation on the Ignite 3 and the Polar Flow companion app mirrors that clunkiness. Like Polar’s nightly recharge measurements, it needs to be packaged on the watch which makes the information more useful, and actionable and makes you more likely to pay attention to it. That just didn't feel like the case for us and the presentation of that additional data feels overwhelming.
Polar can churn out a lot of potentially useful data here, but it needs to work on how it communicates that data.
Battery wins and losses
Polar has a bit of a battery problem. Not with the level of the battery, it offers, but the way that battery can drain and when it drains.
The Ignite 3 promises and delivers the same 5 days of battery life as the Ignite 2 when you’re just using it day-to-day, checking the time, and notifications and counting your steps. Add an AMOLED into the mix and turn that screen on 24/7 and that battery number drops hugely. That 5 days goes to just over 1 day and you can see that drain within minutes of enabling the always-on mode.
There’s still an issue with the battery drain at night as well. Whatever Polar is tracking during sleep is demanding big loads of the battery and we found drop-off overnight could be anywhere from 8-10%. Polar needs to offer the option to restrict or be more selective, about those richer sleep features.
Things are a little more promising in tracking mode, where GPS battery life has gone from 20 hours up to 30 hours. It also has the same 100-hour battery in Polar’s power saving mode where heart rate monitoring is disabled and you lower the GPS recording rate.
We’d say those GPS battery claims are a little optimistic or do not apply to the most accurate GPS tracking option you have available here. An hour of outdoor running saw the battery drop by 5%. That doesn’t equate to 30 hours. This was a similar story on the Ignite 2, but it seems at least that battery drop-off during tracking isn't quite as severe.
Another annoying trait Polar has decided to keep around is essentially stopping you from tracking a workout when the battery hits a certain point. Our Ignite 3 dropped just below the 10% mark, which initiated a prompt to tell us to charge before we think about tracking again.
How we test