The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Polar Ignite Fitness Review

This is a stylish watch best suited to road runs and gym workouts
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $230 List | $207.05 at Amazon
Pros:  Stylish, comfortable fit, records many activities
Cons:  Short battery life, inaccurate altimeter and GPS, touch screen difficult to use
Manufacturer:   Polar Ignite
By Paige Klugherz ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2019
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
50
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 13
  • Altimeter Accuracy - 30% 4
  • Battery Life - 20% 3
  • User experience - 20% 6
  • Features - 15% 5
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Polar Ignite is a fitness watch primarily aimed at runners, cyclists, and gym-goers. Our hope in testing the Ignite was that it would bridge the gap between some of the clunkier, more traditional altimeter watches by providing an option with a good price point that was slim and stylish enough to wear in day-to-day life. While we enjoyed the look of this watch and the fact that it can record numerous types of activities, it really did not live up to its claims. The Ignite consistently overestimated mileage and underestimated altitude. Additionally, the battery drained quickly and the touchscreen was finicky and difficult to use. If you're a recreational athlete and don't care too much about the accuracy of your watch data, this one sits at a price point that could make it "good enough", but it definitely can't hold its own in the mountains.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Although we found its inaccuracy and poor battery life frustrating, this watch does fit well and tracks many activities, making it a good option as a casual, daily fitness watch.

Performance Comparison


Taking the Polar (and Penny dog) for a trail run.
Taking the Polar (and Penny dog) for a trail run.

Altimeter Accuracy


The accuracy and consistency of this watch's altimeter was pretty hit or miss. At times, it would show a reading almost identical to whatever elevation sign we were testing it against, but generally, as soon as we started recording an activity, it quickly lost its accuracy.

A pretty accurate stationary altitude reading.
A pretty accurate stationary altitude reading.

Altitude on this watch is measured using GPS or barometric pressure, but you're not able to calibrate it yourself. This was especially frustrating because although it's equipped with both GPS and GLONASS, it had a much harder time in canyons or under tree cover than other watches that we tested it against.

Two runs where the altimeter was apparently not tracking for the first 25-35 minutes- the top started in a canyon  the bottom under patchy tree cover.
Two runs where the altimeter was apparently not tracking for the first 25-35 minutes- the top started in a canyon, the bottom under patchy tree cover.

Battery Life


We weren't too impressed with this watch's battery life. It claims that you can get up to five days of use with the continuous heart rate monitoring, but that doesn't take into account any activity tracking or syncing with your phone app. In reality, we only got a few days of use before needing to recharge.

This one might be sufficient for an overnight backpacking trip, but if you were tracking long miles and the temperatures were low, it might not live to see the trailhead again! If you're looking for a watch with all of the "smart" features along with wrist heart rate monitoring but need a more robust battery, check out a Coros or Garmin.

The underside of the watch where the optical heart rate sensor is located and the charging cable connects.
The underside of the watch where the optical heart rate sensor is located and the charging cable connects.

User Experience


With just one button to accompany the touchscreen, this watch is fairly straightforward to use. Daily data graphs are available by swiping through from the home screen, and the main menu with tracking and setting options is available with one click of the button. However, we found the touchscreen to be very finicky, often having to tap or swipe multiple times before it registered the action. The button was almost too flush with the body of the watch, and we wanted a more satisfying click.

You can view your data by syncing the watch to the Polar Flow app on your phone or to the accompanying website on your computer. Whether you're wanting to get a closer look at your last activity or change the watch face display, both versions are clean and easy to use.

Within the Polar Flow app  you can view your daily activity data  more details from each recorded training session  and manage what information you see on your watch face during an activity.
Within the Polar Flow app, you can view your daily activity data, more details from each recorded training session, and manage what information you see on your watch face during an activity.

Fit


Our small-wristed testers, especially, appreciated the thin and flexible band, slim watch face, and lightness of the Polar. You almost forgot you were wearing it! Our only concern was that the loop to tuck in the excess length of band ripped on our second wear, which doesn't bode well for the durability of the band itself. It fits well under layers but would be nearly impossible to use with gloves.

Slim and comfortable  but not particularly durable.
Slim and comfortable, but not particularly durable.

Features



Altimeter & Barometer


Unlike a traditional altimeter watch, you can't view your current altitude unless you're recording an activity. This might not be too big of an issue, though, since the point of springing for a GPS watch is generally to use that tracking feature whenever you're somewhere where you're wanting to know your altitude!

A few different times one tester started recording an activity so that she could check if the altimeter was accurately reading my elevation. While it almost always started off correct, it would inexplicably start to plummet, apparently thinking that she was going downhill even when I wasn't moving at all.

While sitting at the desk  we watched the altitude initially read 5046' (the exact elevation of my house) and then steadily start to drop even though we weren't moving.
While sitting at the desk, we watched the altitude initially read 5046' (the exact elevation of my house) and then steadily start to drop even though we weren't moving.

Timekeeper


The Ignite has all the basic timekeeping functions such as a stopwatch, timer, and alarm. It also displays the date, and you have the option of displaying the time on your watch face home screen as digital or analog.

Fitness Tracking


One of the selling points of the Ignite is that it can track 100+ different activities from running and swimming to canoeing and beach volleyball. You can even differentiate between static and dynamic stretching, which means you can create a detailed log of every aspect of your training.

You can view your current heart rate on one of the home screens, as well as your maximum and minimum heart rate of the day when you click through to the next screen. Your heart rate is also available on one of the swipe-through screens while tracking an activity. If you're looking to save a bit of battery life, you can turn off the constant heart rate monitoring so that it is only measuring while recording a workout.

Two VO2 max readings <2 weeks apart. While that one on the left is a lovely ego boost  it's definitely inaccurate!
Two VO2 max readings <2 weeks apart. While that one on the left is a lovely ego boost, it's definitely inaccurate!

Like many fitness watches on the market right now, Polar claims to measure your VO2 max via the optical heart rate monitor. Traditionally, VO2 max is determined in a lab setting on a treadmill and is a very accurate measurement of your cardio fitness. Our reviewers saw wide ranges of VO2 max measurements across the watches tested- up to 15 points difference for the same reviewer! It's known that optical heart rate just isn't quite as accurate as a chest strap, and is certainly less consistent than a test in a lab, so we recommend enjoying this feature as a way to track some progress, but taking all of it with a grain of salt.

GPS


This watch utilizes both GPS and GLONASS when tracking your location, two different satellite systems, which means you should have a good amount of accuracy. However, in testing, this watch struggled to connect both in canyons and wooded areas with rolling hills. Sometimes it would take a few minutes for it to locate itself before starting to track an activity. Other times when looking at the route it had tracked, there were large discrepancies showing where the user had been compared to an actual trail map. While we weren't able to test it in a large city, we worry this means that it might also struggle around skyscrapers. Additionally, when the GPS did pick up its location and start tracking right away, it often overestimated distance by up to .5 mi compared to the other watches tested.

The Ignite struggled a lot on this trail that rises a couple of thousand feet out of a canyon. At the start of the run  the watch said it was tracking  but looking back at the map later you can see that it didn't actually start recording until partway up the trail.
The Ignite struggled a lot on this trail that rises a couple of thousand feet out of a canyon. At the start of the run, the watch said it was tracking, but looking back at the map later you can see that it didn't actually start recording until partway up the trail.

Value


Sitting at a mid-range price point, this watch gives you the ability to track numerous types of activities as well as your sleep, steps, and heart rate throughout the day. It's comfortable and has a variety of color options, though it doesn't seem to be very durable considering part of the strap ripped on our second wear. As previously mentioned, our testers found the accuracy lacking, so if you are really wanting to know precise mileage and elevation gain, we don't think this one is worth the investment.

Conclusion


If you're looking for a stylish fitness watch to take you from the office to the gym to your road run, the Polar Ignite could be the one for you. If you're spending most of your training time on trails (hiking, running, scrambling, etc.) or battery life is a high priority, opt for a more durable and accurate model.

Not our top pick for bombing down trails- save this one for the roads!
Not our top pick for bombing down trails- save this one for the roads!

Paige Klugherz