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Polar Ignite 2 review: A likeable sports wearable that looks great

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
200
inc VAT

The Polar Ignite 2 is stuffed with features, looks great and is comfy to wear, but iffy GPS and some odd restrictions undermine its appeal

Pros 
Thin, light, stylish
Decent battery life
Lots of features
Cons 
GPS accuracy is iffy
Not enough buttons
Touchscreen isn’t the most responsive
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The Polar Ignite 2 sits at the bottom end of the Finnish firm’s sports watch range but, at £200, it’s far from cheap and cheerful. Like the first Ignite – a watch we liked but felt just missed the mark – this second-generation wearable aims to offer beginner runners and fitness enthusiasts a more affordable way into the sports watch arena, without cutting back too much on the features.

It isn’t a huge upgrade, but Polar has kept the price the same, at the same time as adding features and redesigning the look and feel of the watch.

Polar Ignite 2 review: What do you get for the money?

You’re still getting a very similar core hardware package. The Polar Ignite 2 has a small, bright, 240 x 204 IPS display that only turns on when you raise your wrist. While the screen is more appealing to look at than the transflective, always-on, memory-in-pixel displays of its rivals, such as the Garmin Forerunner 55 and Coros Pace 2, this does mean it’s more difficult to read in bright sunshine.

Elsewhere, it includes all the hardware you need for tracking runs and workouts. That means it has GPS, a heart-rate monitor and an accelerometer for tracking daily activity and sleep. Unlike lifestyle-focused fitness trackers such as the Fitbit Charge 4, the Polar Ignite 2 also has a few more serious fitness features, such as the ability to connect external heart-rate sensors.

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A new feature for this model is that it can also broadcast heart-rate data from its own optical heart-rate monitor to a smartphone app such as Zwift, a gym-based exercise machine or a cycling computer. In fact, it’s the only Polar watch in the current range that can do this, although firmware updates are in the pipeline that will bring it to the Polar Vantage and Grit X sports watches.

Other new features are more subtle. The Ignite now has music controls, although you’ll need your phone with you to make the most of this feature as it doesn’t let you download tracks to the watch itself. It also gives energy source breakdown information after a workout, approximating the proportion of your effort that was spent burning carbs, fat and protein. 

It has longer battery life than the original, too, with performance rated at 20 hours of continuous GPS and heart rate (up from 17 hours with the original) and additional power save modes that let you extend that up to a maximum of 100 hours.

The final major change is to the appearance, with an engraved, stainless steel bezel now adorning the rim of the new watch and scratch-resistant Dragon Trail glass protecting the LCD. It’s slim and light, too, and rivals the Coros Pace 2 for comfort.

Polar Ignite 2 review: What does it track?

As with most Polar wearables, if there’s a sport you can do, there’s a mode for tracking it. All the core activities are covered – running, cycling, swimming (pool and open water) and hiking – but there are plenty more besides, from cross-country skiing to table tennis and triathlon to rollerblading. The data displayed on the watch screen can be customised for every sport, too.

As for general day-to-day stuff, you get “activity” tracking – essentially similar to steps in that it’s a measure of how much you move but presented as a percentage of your daily goal – plus there’s continual heart-rate tracking and sleep monitoring. The latter gives you an overall sleep score, breaking it down into REM, light, deep and interruptions, and rating the overall “quality” of your sleep by comparing it with your long-term averages. This works superbly and gives you a good idea of how well or how poorly you slept.

The Ignite 2 also inherits a couple of more serious sports features from its pricier siblings. The cardio load feature keeps track of the intensity of your workouts over time, advising you whether you’re over- or under-training. That’s useful if you’re building up to an event such as a 10k or half marathon and want to ensure you’re progressing but not training too much, which can lead to injuries through overdoing it.

You can also use the Ignite to follow more complicated, structured (“phased” as Polar calls them) interval workouts, and you can employ the Polar Flow app or web interface to implement longer-term training plans for 5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon distances. The running plans are fairly rudimentary but they adapt with you as you train.

If you’re the type who prefers a more free-form approach to exercise, however, Polar has you covered there as well with its Fitspark system. This uses data from your sleep recovery (something Polar calls “Nightly Recharge”) to suggest daily workouts, selected from “Strength”, “Cardio” and “Supportive” categories. Guidance as to what to do for each workout is given on the screen of the watch, with exercise types illustrated via animated stick figures, so even if you don’t know your atlas twist from your box jump, you’ll soon find out.

There are some things missing, at least when compared with the more expensive Polar devices. You don’t get running power on the wrist as you do with the Grit X and Vantage V watches, for instance, or smart fuelling alerts, which advise when to take on carbs during longer training sessions.

There’s only one, fairly basic generic fitness test for establishing your VO2 max, too, compared with specific running and cycling tests on Polar’s higher end watches. Finally, there’s no breadcrumb navigation, mapping or race pace mode.

Polar Ignite 2 review: How good is battery life, GPS and heart-rate tracking?

Overall, performance is mixed. In general use, battery life is on the low side for a watch of this type. Polar rates it at up to five days, which is fine and a claim that I wouldn’t argue with. However, its rivals last longer: the Garmin Forerunner 55 gets up to two weeks and the Coros Pace 2 is similar, probably thanks to their more efficient displays. 

On the other hand, training battery life is excellent. With continual GPS and heart-rate monitoring enabled, you get up to 20 hours, which is the same as both the Garmin and Coros watches, and there are power-saving options that can extend this.

Reduce GPS polling to once every two minutes and turn heart-rate tracking off and it will go for up to 100 hours. Turn heart-rate tracking back on and that falls to a still impressive 70 hours. Increase GPS polling frequency to every minute and it gives you 50 hours.

It’s a similar mixed picture with GPS and heart-rate tracking. Take a close look at the GPS traces from my runs and you’ll see that the Polar Ignite 2 looks all over the place – corners are cut and odd wobbles are introduced in what were supposed to be straight lines. Yet overall distances were never hugely off what they should have been (compared with my uncannily accurate Stryd footpod sensor).

The heart-rate monitor is much more impressive. During testing, it always seemed to be within five beats per minute or so of my Polar H10 chest belt, and overall peaks and averages were usually on the money, too.

As with all wrist heart-rate monitors, however, it isn’t particularly responsive to dramatic changes in heart rate, typically taking 15-20 seconds to catch up. So if you plan on doing a lot of interval training, you’re best off investing in a chest belt, such as the Polar H10 or H9, the MyZone MZ-3 or the Garmin HRM-Run. I also found that, occasionally, it would overread for the first few minutes but, in these cases, it would always settle down eventually and track the chest belt fairly closely.

Polar Ignite 2 review: What don’t we like?

Generally, the Ignite 2 is a capable, likeable wearable that’s backed up with an excellent web interface and app. Activity tracking is excellent and it has some advanced features you don’t see on more lifestyle-focused wearables.

However, there are some areas where it could be improved and mostly, these centre on the touchscreen – my main issue is that there’s only one button. Sure, this means it looks sleeker than most sports watches but, since the Polar Ignite 2 doesn’t have the most responsive touchscreen in the world, I found myself yearning for more buttons.

Finally, I’m none too keen on the restrictions Polar has placed on the type of sensor you can pair with the watch. Where the Coros Pace 2 and Garmin Forerunner can pair with footpods as well as heart-rate monitors, the Ignite 2 is limited to just the latter. While I completely understand that Polar wants to push customers who are interested in such features to its more expensive watches, it does seem a little arbitrary to me, especially since those rival wearables do have the capability.

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Polar Ignite 2 review: Should you buy it?

None of these negatives is a huge problem on its own, and they don’t dent the overall likeability of the Polar Ignite. If you’re after a sports watch that allows you to do more serious training than, say, a Fitbit would but you don’t want to spend a huge amount of cash, then it’s a decent option.

Beginner runners would be better off opting for the Garmin Forerunner 55, due to its more sophisticated running tools (it has both a race pace mode and wider sensor support), while the Coros Pace 2 (notwithstanding its lack of a web dashboard) has better battery life and also broader sensor support. Both have more efficient always-on displays than the Polar, which leads to better day-to-day battery life.

With its attractive looks, however, and the fact that it will track pretty much every sport going, the Polar Ignite 2 occupies its very own niche and has plenty to offer in its own right.

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