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Polar Ignite 3 review: Needs more training

Our Rating :
$319.95 from
£255.98 from
Price when reviewed : £289

The Polar Ignite 3 looks beautiful but the substance needs more work


  • Beautiful design
  • Comfortable and light
  • Stunning OLED screen


  • Sluggish software
  • So-so battery life
  • Streamlined to a fault?

Polar has come a long way in my time writing for Expert Reviews. Back in 2017, the Polar M430 proved an ugly but unnervingly accurate running companion. Two years later, the original Polar Ignite fixed the looks but at the expense of accuracy. Can the Polar Ignite 3 give us brains and beauty in one package?

Kind of. But it introduces a new set of problems that make it frustrating in an all-new way. And that, ultimately, makes it hard to recommend, especially considering the £89 price hike over the 2021 Polar Ignite 2.

Polar Ignite 3 review: What do you get for the money?

The Polar Ignite 3 upgrades from its predecessor in a number of small but significant ways. It now has a beautifully sharp AMOLED screen – Polar’s first – and customisable widgets to make the most of it.

For those runners and cyclists who rely on their Polar to track performance live, the watch adds voice guidance to tell you how you’re going on the fly and dual-band GPS for greater accuracy. The internals have also had a decent boost, with the 120MHz CPU upped to 192MHz and memory jumping from 0.64MB to 5MB. That’s still underwhelming on paper but moving in the right direction at least.

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The watch also introduces SleepWise to learn from your sleep and advise accordingly – although this came to the Ignite 2 as a software update in February. The new walking and running tests – short exercises to analyse your current aerobic fitness – are exclusive to the new generation, however.

Polar Ignite 3 review: What do we like about it?

The Polar Ignite 3 may be one of the nicest looking running watches around. The design is minimalist with the round 1.28in touchscreen face interrupted by just a single button on the left-hand side. The screen, which uses an AMOLED panel, really pops and is nice and easy to read even when running in bright sunlight.

It’s also ridiculously thin and light at 9.5mm and 35g with the strap included. Indeed, if it weren’t for the fairly unpleasant bundled wristband – one of those uncomfortable ones that tucks into itself – you would quickly forget you were wearing it. Given said band can be easily replaceable with any 20mm strap, though, I’m counting that as a win.

Another win is the new ability to customise watch faces. Usually, I ignore this kind of thing in fitness wearables but, here, it’s thoughtfully delivered. Polar bundles four watch faces in and then lets you choose the background and colour accent from a number of options. Each one comes with a number of spaces for widgets, where you can pull in your choice of metric – everything from your steps and battery remaining to current heart rate and the date.

Yes, four watch faces isn’t very many in the greater scheme of things, especially as they can’t be expanded but the limited number does at least mean that they all look good.

The running experience is also largely positive. GPS accuracy with the new dual-band sensor seemed solid across multiple 5km-measured parkruns and I’m especially fond of the ‘Race Pace’ feature where you can set the distance and your desired time, and can then see at a glance how far ahead or behind of said goal you are, as you go.

The user interface is commendably streamlined, as well. Swipe across and you can see your daily activity, last week’s activities, hours of light remaining, the weather, cardio status, sleep data, today’s workout suggestions and music controls. And most of these can be tapped into for a more granular view without you having to open up the Polar Flow smartphone app. The app, by the way, is just as impressive as the on watch UI. It feels impressively focused on fitness and makes accessing essential information or advice on what to do on a given day very straightforward.

Polar Ignite 3 review: What could it do better?

So far, so good but the Polar Ignite 3’s deficiencies begin to emerge over extended use.

The most obvious issue is performance. The UI might be intuitive but it also feels painfully sluggish at times. Swiping your finger upwards to read your notifications results in a horribly jerky transition animation emerging from the bottom of the display and then loitering a second longer than you’d like.

That’s not a great experience at the best of times but it’s more forgivable on a complex smartwatch with plenty of baked-in features; the Ignite 3’s interface is so streamlined that it feels a bit insulting that the watch is visibly struggling at times. While the specifications have been updated, it’s obvious they haven’t been updated enough. A 192MHz CPU clearly isn’t sufficient for this OS.

That streamlined approach is also not without its problems. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity but you might raise an eyebrow at some omissions given the price. For your £290, there’s no onboard music, no NFC for contactless payments, no prospect of adding your own apps and no support for ANT+ external sensors.

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Neither is the battery life hugely impressive. Polar suggests you’ll get up to five days battery life out of it, and that feels about right but it’s alarming how quickly it seems to dip when you’re doing very little. It’s also worth noting that this five-day estimate plummets to around 48 hours if you switch to the always-on display mode, so you probably don’t want to do that.

To be entirely fair to Polar, five days isn’t bad – in fact it’s superhuman compared to many smartwatches. But this isn’t a smartwatch, nor is it anywhere near as smart-feature rich, and having been recently bowled over by the 15-day battery life of the Garmin Forerunner 265, it’s hard to be too delighted at having to clip on Polar’s slightly awkward charging cable once a week.

While the dual-band GPS delivered satisfactory accuracy across a number of measured test runs, we did find the heart-rate monitoring was questionable, with the average heart rate reading across each run differing to that recorded by our MyZone MZ-Switch chest strap by an average of nearly 9%.

For comparison’s sake, the same number for the Apple Watch Series 8 and Garmin Forerunner 265 was under 2.5%, while for the Forerunner 955 it was only 0.77%. In other words, you’ll be wanting to wear an external chest strap if heart-rate accuracy is important to you.

As a runner, I also feel that including just one button is sacrificing substance for style. Touchscreens are all very well and good but they don’t like sweat or rain. To end a run, you have to awkwardly hold the single button for three seconds, and it doesn’t always respond immediately, either: give me multiple buttons any day of the week.

Finally – and I’m fully aware this is a complaint that will cause most athletes to shrug – the step counting is maddening. For the past six months, I’ve been trying to get over 8,500 steps a day, and using the Polar Ignite 3 for this has been an awful experience. The step counter updates incredibly infrequently; my best guess is once every 10 to 15 minutes but I’ve never actually caught it making the change. So, if you’re trying to figure out your route home with a specific step goal in mind, well, good luck with that.

Polar Ignite 3 review: Should you buy it?

None of these things may sound like deal breakers in their own right and I suppose they aren’t. But they add up to the feel of a product that has a lot of nice features and good ideas, but that isn’t quite ready for showtime. Or at least, not at nearly £300.

My advice is, therefore, the same I gave at the end of the Garmin Forerunner 265 review: buy a Garmin Forerunner 255 instead. It’s nearly as good as Garmin’s latest, and it offers a better experience than Polar’s nearly-great wearable for £30 less if you shop around.

There’s enough here to make me reasonably excited for the Polar Ignite 4 but that doesn’t mean you should settle for the Ignite 3 while you wait. Better options are available today, even if they may lack that aesthetic wow factor.

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