JUMP TO:

Polar Ignite 2 Hands-On: What’s New & Different

Polar-Ignite-2-Music-Control

Last week Polar launched the Ignite 2, alongside the new Vantage M2. While I’ve been using the Ignite 2 for a few weeks now, this isn’t a review – mainly since the unit isn’t done yet. It’s not set to start shipping till the end of April (or even being on sale till then). Thus, things can (and hopefully will) change between now and then.

Of course, the Ignite series isn’t new. As the name implies, this second edition builds upon the first that was released about two years ago. The Ignite series essentially aims to compete with lower-end Apple Watches and Garmin’s Vivoactive lineup. In other words, it offers a sporty fitness-focused twist on a smartwatch with a prettier display than most of Polar’s Vantage series (which are a bit more high-end, but have longer battery life).

The new Ignite 2, like the Vantage M2, is a blend of new external design elements, with new software feature upgrades. Meaning that arguably some of the bigger ticket items on the Ignite 2 are more to do with the bezel/strap than the actual software. Still, Polar is trialing one new item on the Ignite 2 not yet seen elsewhere in Polar’s lineup: Bluetooth heart rate broadcasting. This allows you to transmit your Polar Ignite 2’s optical HR sensor to apps like Zwift or Peloton. While Polar has tried things like this in the past, they rarely worked and rarely followed standards. It’s seemingly different this time.

For this review I’ve been using a media loaner Polar Ignite 2 – and putting it through its paces. Once I’m done with the unit I’ll toss it in a box and get it shipped back to Polar. That’s just the way I roll. If you found this post useful, consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.

In any case, let’s dive into all the newness.

What’s new:

P1019649

As noted, there’s a pile of things added here, both hardware and software. In general, virtually all the software features are items we’ve seen Polar add on the Grit X last spring and the Vantage V2 last fall (plus also the Vantage M2 last week). Still, it’s good to see them trickle-down to the Ignite 2, which is only one level above the Polar Unite series watches – their lowest current offering (that unit lacks GPS in the watch, but is otherwise very similar to the original Ignite).

– Added new Bluetooth Smart HR broadcasting/sharing from optical sensor
– Added Music controls widget/dashboard
– Added weather forecast widget/dashboard
– Added weekly training summary widget/dashboard
– Added energy sources – breakdown of carbs/protein/fats
– Added watch face customization – choose which widgets/dashboards to see
– Improved battery life from 17 hours of training to 20 hours
– Added power save modes – increases non-GPS continuous workout time to 100 hours
– New engraved bezel (it looks really damn nice, see above)
– New softer material bands/straps
– Added new color options
– Pricing remains same at $229/229EUR
– Waterproofing remains the same at 30m

Oh, and just a minor note is that while the Polar Ignite 2 has energy source information after a workout, it does not have FuelWise found on the Vantage V2/M2/Grit X. FuelWise is basically nutrition reminders for gels/liquids during a longer workout. I wanted to point that out, merely because sometimes people assume those are all part of the same feature – in this case you get the post-workout breakdown in the Ignite 2, but not the during-workout planning bits.

Now Polar emphasized in their media call how much effort they spent in making the watch feel more premium physically (the look of it), and I’d agree. Both it and the Vantage M2 feel less like cheaper plastic watches and more like something that has a premium/polished look to it.  Speaking of which, there are multiple multiple band types, they are priced as follows:

· Champagne crystal €/$ 69.90
· Black Pearl crystal €/$ 69.90
· Pink Textile for €/$ 39.90
· BLK/Grey hybrid textile €/$ 39.90
· Blue hybrid textile €/$ 39.90

Here’s all that sparkly stuffs, as I don’t have one of those bands, you’ll want to use the below imagery from Polar to decide if the level of sparkle is appropriate for your wrist’s capabilities:

image

Now for those that aren’t as familiar with the original Polar Ignite, it’s a full-featured GPS watch that has daily activity tracking, sleep tracking, workout tracking, and daily workout suggestions. The key features that were largely launched with the original Ignite, are as follows:

– FitSpark: Essentially suggested workouts on a daily basis
– Sleep Plus Stages: Sleep details including sleep cycles and states
– Nightly Recharge: This uses ANSI data to determine how much you recover each night
– Serene Breathing Exercises: Pretty much as titled
– Fitness Tests: Determines your Vo2Max using a short test

Got all that? Ok, good. Let’s dig into some of the new stuff.

Initial Impressions:

P1019603

Now I’m not going to go through every nuanced existing feature here, we’ll save that for an in-depth review or such down the road. Instead, I want to focus on the newer features that weren’t on the original Polar Ignite (you can read that review here).

So let’s just start with the most interesting one, and the one that’s on no other Polar watch yet – the ability to broadcast Bluetooth Smart to 3rd party apps. While this is something that Polar has flirted with in various forms over the years, it rarely actually worked. In some scenarios, it only worked with other Polar products, and then in the one scenario it was supposed to work with all products (the A360/370), I found it didn’t work with the key products you wanted (like Zwift).

However, this time it’s clearly redesigned from the ground up, and based on my testing thus far – seems to be working largely as expected. To broadcast your heart rate to 3rd party apps you’ll go to start a workout, and then tap the little settings icon:

P1019631

From there you’ll see ‘Share HR with other devices’ in the list, tap that:

P1019632

Now, you can choose to ‘Add a new device’, which…is your only option.

P1019633

At this point it’ll start broadcasting, and is your cue to search for sensors on your app/other device. You’ve got about 60 seconds to get this part done. For today’s example, we’ll just use Zwift:

DSC_3941

Once you see it in Zwift, tap that, and that’ll confirm it over on the Ignite. There isn’t anything you need to do there (in theory) – it’ll just connect up. On the Ignite 2 you’ll see the device source name listed (above ‘With iPhone’). For phone apps, it’ll just say the name of your phone (rather than the app). Whereas for something like a bike computer, it’ll say the name of that (such as ‘Edge 530’). I’ve used both.

P1019635

In theory it saves past sensor pairings, such as your phone. But in practice, in the beta right now – it seems super finicky here on remembering names/devices. In any case, once paired up, you’ll see your heart rate shown on the watch and on the device that you’re pairing to (Zwift, as seen below) – in the case below, 61bpm for both.

Polar-Ignite-2-Zwift-HR-Broadcasting

You can now go about your business and record the workout while also transmitting your heart rate.  Now, as I said before, I’ve found this a bit finicky – especially on the initial pairing/setup. Keeping in mind (again) that this is still beta for a month, I presume they’ll work to iron out these bugs. But the pairing seems overly complicated compared to how Garmin/Whoop do it. I just wish it was a simple toggle that I enabled to broadcast my HR anytime I’m in a sport mode, and then I can pair to it as I see fit. The whole pairing screen thing just seems like a lot of work. I’d rather it just operate like a typical heart rate strap/band than try and get fancy. Just my two cents.

Still, I do appreciate Polar bringing Bluetooth Smart broadcasting to this price point, while Garmin has been rolling it out on higher-end watches, they decided against rolling it out to their Vivoactive 4 and Venu lineups, which only feature ANT+ broadcasting.

Moving onto a few other features. We’ve got music controls. These work identically to that on the Vantage V2 with its touch screen display. You can control music on your phone, but there’s no music stored on the device itself. So essentially you can skip tracks, control volume, and pause/play:

P1019607

This is accessible from the widget/dashboard menu, which you can now customize. In the settings you can now enable/disable which things you do and don’t want to see. For example, if you don’t care about FitSpark recommendations, you can toggle off that menu option from the watch face views.

P1019625 P1019626

However, there are some further new widgets. For example, the new weather forecast one, showing you today’s weather and then the weather for the next few days:

P1019624 P1019623

As well as the weekly training summary widget/dashboard, showing you the breakdown of the week’s worth of workouts to date, resetting each Monday. As you swipe down it’ll show the breakdown by HR zone for the totals, and you can also get total calories, activities, distance, and time. I like it quite a bit.

P1019628 P1019629

And then post-workout, you’ll find the energy source breakdown. The idea here being that for longer workouts you could take this data to determine how to fuel next time. On Polar’s Vantage M2/V2/Grit X watches that means taking that data into FuelWise for automated reminders during your workout, but as noted earlier, that’s not on the Ignite series. Still, the data is useful for your own manual planning.

P1019614 P1019613

Now, I’ve got a pile of workouts under my belt here, both running and cycling, and my wife has also done various strength workouts too with it. By and large, things work pretty well. GPS accuracy isn’t quite as crispy though as some of Polar’s other units, which back on the Ignite 1 they said was somewhat to be expected. It’s not bad though, for example, here’s a GPS track without any major differences. The Vantage M2 on one wrist, Ignite M2 on the other, and the FR745 on the handlebars – plus a pile of Edge series units on the handlebars too.

image

The GPS track is basically perfectly fine, even on the repeated loops around the sports complex. Also note that while I was having pretty substantial GPS acquisition issues (it would take upwards of 10 minutes to find GPS), that seems to have been resolved in the most recent firmware update yesterday (it was also getting better a few days ago in another update).

image

In looking at some of my wife’s runs, things look mostly OK, but with a few of the Ignite imperfections that I’ve also seen. For example here on a track workout of hers, as she did her warm-up off-track on the running/bike path, you can see it has her basically going through a large building/hotel:

image

Note, that I wouldn’t overthink the lines on the track itself. Namely because I wasn’t there, and also because I know how my wife does track workouts – and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if she was indeed off to the sides of the track in between sets. I haven’t pulled the comparative data from all her sets, but I don’t really need to, to know that being inside the hotel probably isn’t where she was mid-run.

As for the heart rate sensor, it’s been pretty solid for me on the vast majority of my workouts, though, struggled significantly on a single outdoor road ride. That’s not uncommon for wrist-based optical sensors, especially in cooler weather on road rides – due to your wrists being under tension holding the handlebars.

Here’s an example of a relatively good indoor workout. A few minor wobbles in the first few minutes during the warmup (which could have been me getting TV shows setup/etc using a remote), but nothing of major concern:

image

Given this isn’t a full review since the product isn’t final, I’ll withhold all my final thoughts till things have finalized. However, if you want, there are a few more data sets from the Ignite 2 mixed in my Vantage M2 In-Depth review, compared to various other units/straps/sensors.

Finally, for lack of anywhere else to put it – I’m going to note what is likely the most problematic part of the Ignite 2: The screen.

Because the Ignite 2 is an LCD screen, it trades battery life for prettiness. Just like an Apple Watch or Samsung watch, the prettier display burns more battery quicker, and as such, companies sometimes enable features like ‘raise to wake’, which means the display is off unless you raise your wrist or tap the display. Apple did this for a number of years, as did Garmin and Fitbit. But in the last 18 months or so, this has become unnecessary for most units. Unfortunately, it’s still necessary for the Ignite 2. This means that as I sit here typing this, the Ignite 2 screen is off:

DSC_3945

In order to get the screen to turn on, I need to raise my wrist. Which, isn’t a big deal, except that Polar’s algorithms aren’t that great here. Wrist raise detection is a blend of art and science. Too sensitive and it turns on the display/backlight too often – reducing battery (and perhaps increasing annoyance). However, too conservative, and it doesn’t trigger, causing you to have to move your arm more than expected to just see the time. Without question, Polar is far too conservative in their algorithms here. There are countless scenarios it just doesn’t work to do the one thing a watch should do: Show the time.

For example, if I’m sitting on the couch and twist my wrist naturally, it won’t detect. Nor does it detect while riding my bike (commuting) for a simple wrist turn towards me (I have to fully take my hand off the handlebars and up in front of me). Nor does it while I’m standing or walking and just move my wrist a bit within glanceable range to see the time.

And then once it does, I found the touch-screen to be finicky at best. Actions like swipes and taps often take repeated attempts. Not always, but some do. My wife found usability “miserable” (an exact quote from a text conversation after her first workout with it) in comparison to other watches I’ve made her use – though, those are largely button-based watches. Undoubtedly, as more athletic-minded, she prefers buttons for sports watches. But I think her perspective is useful as someone who might not be as lenient as I am when it comes to dealing with finicky touch displays.

Do note that Polar does offer always-on screen mode workouts, so you can have it always on there. I didn’t find the raise to wake a big issue in running workouts, as my movements were generally overt enough there that it triggered – albeit with a slight delay.

DSC_3946

Anyway – I hope Polar can find a way to improve their algorithms here (or, just offers an always-on option for 24×7 usage). There may be some middle-ground to consider, as some watches will offer an always-on mode up until your do-not-disturb timeframe when you sleep, at which point they switch to raise-to-wake for the night.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Wrap-Up:

P1019650

On paper, the Ignite 2 has great specs and features. And in many cases, it’s a solid little watch. The problem is, it’s just finicky. Namely – the wrist raise for the screen to come on: It drives me nuts. And once it does come on, the touchscreen almost always requires multiple touches as well.

And while I’m willing to wait to see if this is sorted by the end of April, I’m not convinced it will be. After all, if you turn back to my review of the Ignite 1 watch nearly two years ago, it concluded with the following:

“The display wrist turn/raise detection just isn’t good…”

And sure enough, here we are two years later, and it still kinda sucks. While many companies have shifted towards AMOLED or LCD screens, as Polar did here, they’ve also done so in a way that’s always-on. Polar hasn’t done that. Thus, the raise to wake issue is far more visible because it almost never turns on when you want it to, unless you’re doing a hilariously exaggerated wrist raise.

Still, if you can set aside that, the software and fitness features of the device are hard to beat at this price point. If we look at Garmin’s Vivoactive 4 lineup (priced slightly above this), it doesn’t have the daily workout suggestion concept, nor does it account for your nightly sleep metrics in that daily guidance. Nor does it broadcast your heart rate via Bluetooth Smart (it does it via ANT+, which is far less valuable in 2021). Of course, Garmin has numerous other features, including a usable screen. Still – from a purely fitness perspective, the Ignite 2 is deeper here. And then compared to the Apple Watch Series 3 or even Apple Watch SE, again at a sports/fitness level it’s easily deeper there unless you go off and cobble together a bunch of 3rd party apps.

With that – thanks for reading!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

*

36 Comments

  1. Oskars

    “I want to focus on the newer features that weren’t on the original Polar Ignite (you can read that review here).”
    I think there’s a link missing.
    While being a huge Polar fan, it hurts that they can’t get simple things right. Like fixing that raise-to wake thing for 2 years and others. Is the development team really that small or the management that stubborn? I always had Polar watches but my brother gave me his Vivoactive 4 to play around last week. I was surprised how responsive and fluid was the screen and all the transitions. Made me feel like from stone age with my Vantage V even tho in general it’s kinda better device.

  2. giorgitd

    That screen looks sharp. These reviews are becoming more important to me as my Garmin ages…

    Ray, the pic under ‘INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:’ has a weird, nearly blank/white window partially superimposed over it. And the link to the Ignite (1?) review isn’t active (just below that pic).

    • giorgitd

      And just like that, bith are resolved. Maybe a local issue. We had no interweb connection last night… :/

    • Indeed, it’s a very nice sharp screen readability-wise. And they do a good job picking colors and fonts that are crispy.

      Not sure on the window over the top of the review, I haven’t seen that before. :-/

    • Mr T

      Get a venu. It’s better than ignite. The screeen is just as good. I like it better.

  3. Chuck

    Hey Ray,

    You mention third party apps for the Apple watch. I am curious if you have tested any third party apps that you thought were good options for those who use the Apple Watch for sport.

    Thank you,

    Chuck

    • Dave

      Check out Ray’s review of the Apple Watch 4. He described several good 3rd party apps. My personal favourite is WorkOutDoors. It allows you to set up interval schedules for running, and provides GPS tracking for activities that the native Apple app annoyingly doesn’t (e.g., paddling, Nordic skiing).

    • Chuck Hazzard

      Yes, I have seen that list but wondered if Ray had seen any others that have come out since the Apple Watch 4 review.

  4. inSyt

    Hopefully the unit that ships gets with the times and ditches the flat tyre design.

  5. Luis

    One addition as it appears on Polar.com: the Ignite 2 now can track open water swims.

    • The original Ignite also had OWS mode. Here’s the help page for it: link to support.polar.com

    • Luis

      Thanx Ray! Good to know… I thought it didn’t as the list of main features on the product page just said “follow your progress in the pool” and now, for the Ignite 2, it also specifies that it tracks outside.

      Have you ever tried the previous model? Just to know if it is rubbish or not hehe

      Many thanks for your time and the review!

    • I don’t believe I ever openwater swam with the previous model – sorry!

    • Ashleyf

      It’s rubbish Ray. I swim freestyle and it has absolutely zilch tracking ability. Stops , starts etc . Really crap .
      Also an FYI for those with small wrists , get used to strapping it on TIGHTLY if you want accuracy during exercise , and almost uncomfortably so for sleep metrics.

  6. The Real Bob

    both Polar and Garmin have ego problems. It appears that they keep that giant black bezel just so they can display there name. Ditch the bezel and go edge to edge screen already!

    I have never bought a watch based on looking at someone else wrist and getting the name off the glass.

    • ChrisTexan

      Not actually an ego problem, that bezel is hiding all sorts of components internally (in other words, if they could make it smaller, they would, but the screen is smaller than the “innards”, so it doesn’t cover 100% of the space (also, BT and GPS antennae are typically built into the ring around the surrounding non-display edge (basically just a thin coating to prevent seeing what’s underneath), thus not obstructed by the screen matrix).
      Between button actuation, electronics/PCBs, battery volume, and antennae, I assure you every bit of the usable internal volume under the glass is occupied. If they had “free space” they’d use it to either bump up the display (to full-edge-to-edge) as a selling point, increase battery size/capacity (selling point), reduce the physical size (selling point for some people), etc… nothing is wasted space though behind the blacked-out region, it just works well to add a logo (or some colorful “do-nothing” compass radial lines, etc)…. so it can be “stylishly used” cosmetically at least.
      Going back to the M430, for example, the display is maybe 60% of the surface area. v800, actually the “top surface” isn’t nearly all the watch, the GPS and BT antennae actually extend down into the “fixed watchband” portion (in appearances, it’s actually all a solid metal part of the chassis with a thin rubber on top to disguise it). So the v800 top “screen to chassis” ratio is probably something like 40%
      To my eye, the Ignite 2 (I2) looks to actually have improved the display-to-surface ratio but may be a trick, they are good at hiding things under redesigned bezels and such (having a curved-scalloped-edge surrounding bezel may visually “shrink” the form factor 2mm in diameter “appearance”, but in reality, with calipers probably proves identical to the I1 form-factor. )
      For above reasons, plus pure production costs (if they could trim size, that would trim materials used, thus trimming production costs), the watches are the size they are for a reason, any “blank space” is being used, just not externally visible.

    • The Real Bob

      appreciate the response, I was just kidding about the ego thing.

      Sure would love an edge to edge screen on some of these watches though.

    • inSyt

      Yes, the flat tire design is so 2014/15 (Moto 360). With the exception to the Ignite, I cannot recall any smart/sport watch releasing with a flat tire design in 2020/21.

      And Garmin’s Vivoactive 4 devices look way better than Forerunner x45 devices because they have no branding or button labels on the watch bezel.

  7. James Newman

    Funny, I thought the wrist turn/raise on the Ignite 1 had been improved in an update last year. I bought one in Feb this year (impeccable timing as ever) and, while not perfect, it does seem to work fine most of the time. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky.
    I have had a weird HR problem though. It works fine on all the things that you’d expect to be a potential problem – hard rides and runs – but has a persistent issue jumping to a very high rate (165 or so) 5-10 minutes into an easy stroll. Stays there for a few minutes, then goes back to normal.

  8. @Ray love the main image link to media.dcrainmaker.com

    I’m not sure that readers appreciate how difficult it is to take good images with reflective surfaces. then you add in another reflective surface from a smartphone and it gets harder.

    @Chuck, ref AW apps: these are good and/or interesting – workoutdoors, ismoothrun, aiendurance, even the standard ones by nike/adidas/asics are pretty good (bike has good widgets/complications) … depends on exactly what you are looking for, as Ray implied in what he wrote, you often need a few apps to do all the jobs that a garmin or polar watch might do alone.

  9. Joe

    Dear Ray,

    you list that the new Ignite 2 has “Added additional GPS satellite systems (Galileo & QZSS)”. Yet the old Ignite also has all of the above satellite systems (Galileo, Glonass and QZSS).

    Thanks for the detailed review!

  10. tom

    Ray, this is a question not related to any particular Polar model but do you know why Polar’s watches cannot be charged while a session is running? As far as I know, all other brands can do this.

  11. E

    What about notifications? Are they still an all or nothing affair?

  12. Andrew

    How long before we see the next generation Sony GPS chipset in a Garmin/Polar/Suunto wearable?

  13. John

    Another piece of crap watch. Why do these companies bother producing the same old rubbish?

    • Ted

      Wild guess? Probably because it sells very well.

      It’s a very popular watch among women, as it’s small, light, and pretty.

  14. Kirsty

    Hi Ray, does the screen come on when you tap it? I can live with a poor raise to wake if I can tap it to turn on.

  15. Raul

    You should really mention in bold that the Ignite DOES NOT have the most basic of functions that anyone would expect from a sports/gps watch, i.e. a way to mark LAPS ! It’s so basic that no one would even think that it’s not there, has there ever been a sports watch on the market without that feature ? Please tell your contacts at Polar that they need to do something about it…yesterday, including for the poor saps that own the Ignite 1 !

    I’m not even sure how one can do a track session without a lap button, I trust she had a better device on hand 😉

  16. James

    Can you turn the watch off yet?
    I sent my ignite back when I realised there was no off switch. It was a shame. It was a great smartwatch/fitness tracker.
    I have a bunch of smart watches and so yea, I need to be able to turn them off, much the the dissapointment of the manufacturers, so it seems.

    • runner-33

      All Polar watches can be turned off, but you will lose unsynced data: Just do a factory reset and wait for a few minutes. Then the watch will automatically turn off.

    • tom

      That’s not correct. Newer watches like Vantage V2 can be turned off (I’m sure that goes for M2 and Ignite 2 as well).
      The ability to turn off Grit X (and possibly other older watches) will be rolled out later this year but as of now, you can’t turn them off.

    • James

      Yes.. I am aware of that but its not really the power off functionality I want. That is more so they don’t have to ship it turned on 😂
      I have a garmin, that I can turn off.

  17. LJanssens

    Wonderful! Happy Ignite user here, except for the missing interval button, no BTsmart sharing of HR, and the wirst-wrench to turn screen on. Wonder whether any of the software upgrades could/would make it to the original Ignite?

  18. John R Thompson

    I love my 430 but I’m having trouble reading the screen in the sub modes because the display is too small for my aging eyes. Trying to see my calorie expenditure in particular. So does this model easier to read or would I be better with another? I don’t need much more than a basic sport watch as my primary sports are weight training, trucking (hiking with weight) and causal biking, everything the 430 does a good job at.