Polar Ignite 2 full review
The Polar Ignite 2 is the latest workout-centric smartwatch from Finnish fitness brand Polar Electro Oy.
It’s designed as a general-purpose fitness device, aimed at people who are just starting out a new exercise regime, but it’s designed to look like an all-purpose smartwatch.
Instead of chunky cog-like plastic jackets, the Polar Ignite 2 comes with an all-metal bezel and a silicone strap with an imitation leather effect. The strap can be switched out for extra glitzy ones studded with Swarovski crystals, if you want to show off a bit between jogging sessions, or look even more fab when doing laps in the park (or both).
Fundamentally, the Polar Ignite 2 aims to monitor overall health and fitness by tracking daily activity and sleep patterns, and will - after a few days’ use - recommend routines based on your personal requirements. Make no mistake, the Polar Ignite 2 is a fitness device first and foremost. No NFC payments are supported and you’re not able to load it up with your favourite playlists, either.
Compared with the previous Polar Ignite smartwatch, the latest version comes with some new improvements, chiefly better battery life and Bluetooth Smart heart rate broadcasting, which will let you share your heart rate with other platforms, like Peloton and Zwift. Other bells and whistles include music controls for Polar fitness podcasts (or controlling music playing on your phone) and weather forecasts.
Aside from these, the Polar Ignite 2 functions like most other fitness trackers – it’s crammed with fitness apps and training aids, including GPS run tracking, a calorie counter and a heart rate monitor.
Design & Build
While the Polar Ignite 2 is chiefly an exercise aid, Polar has obviously spent time making this look anything but; it looks more like a fashion piece than an activity tracker, something that’s reinforced by the fact that you can buy crystal-studded wrist straps.
While the circular 1.7in LCD, with its textured metal bezel, both looks and feels very premium, the resolution (240 x 204) is pretty low. The flat Dragontrail glass finish, while not looking bad per se, doesn’t have the same charm or appeal of pillowed 2.5D or 3D glass.
For the most part, this does not matter. When running through the park, the display quality and brightness is good enough to tell you, at a glance, what your heart rate currently is, and that’s the most important thing really, but it does shatter the illusion of glamour, somewhat.
The silicone strap too is pretty comfortable most of the time but betrays the premium feel of the main watch body. As with the Amazfit GTS 2e, it has a tendency to feel a little uncomfortable after a particularly heavy workout, even though it’s not totally unbearable.
Generally, the Polar Ignite 2 is lightweight and the strap is (mostly) breathable. Most of the time, you won’t even notice you’ve got it on. Given that Polar wants you to wear the Ignite 2 when you go to sleep, that’s a good thing.
Software & features
A key feature of the Polar Ignite 2 experience is Polar’s FitSpark software, which the Polar Unite and Polar Vantage M2 also come loaded with.
In a similar fashion to how adaptive text on your phone learns how you type, offering more accurate predictions over time, Polar’s FitSpark will suggest workout routines based on your training history, fitness level, your recovery times and how well you slept the previous night.
This way, if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, because, say, one of your cats started scratching at your door at 4:00am, FitSpark will suggest something a little gentler.
This is why you’re supposed to keep wearing the Polar Ignite 2 for as long as possible – recommendations are based on the data you input during set-up. It’ll ask for your date of birth, height and weight, as well as your day-to-day activity, your continuous heartbeat and your sleep cycle. Just note, it takes three days for the software to establish a baseline for your sleep cycle, you won’t start to see any tailored recommendations immediately.
If you’re just starting out training or restarting a regimen and you’re not exactly sure how to go about doing that, FitSpark could be the digital personal training buddy you never knew you needed.
Whether you heed FitSpark’s advice or not, the Polar Ignite 2 will still vibrate and tell you if you’ve been sat at your desk for too long, encourage you to take screen breaks and it’ll also buzz you with a congratulatory message when you’ve smashed your fitness goals for the day; whether that’s 10,000 steps, or you’ve burned off a set number of calories. If you’re not a complete fitness buff (disclaimer: I am not) it is quite cheering to get these little messages.
While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the Polar Ignite 2’s heart rate monitor against, say, a dedicated chest-worn monitor, from my observations here, it seemed pretty quick to pick up on changes in pace – glancing at my wrist between reps saw the rate fall and climb accordingly.
If you want to use the Polar Ignite 2 in a more targeted manner, there are a number of exercise profiles you can avail yourself of, including; Walking, Cross Trainer, Indoor Cycling, Treadmill Running, Yoga, Group Exercise, Strength Training, Running, Swimming, Cycling, as well as the more nebulous Other Indoor and Other Outdoor plans, if you’re just doing jumping jacks in your living room, or are doing an outdoor PT session.
Exercise sessions can be started by tapping on the control key, hitting Start Training and then picking the relevant profile. Tapping the key will pause the recording, while holding the key down for three seconds will end it, at which point, the workout data will be saved and uploaded to your profile whenever you next sync with your phone.
Unless you’re a sports polymath, have limitless free time and a whole gym’s worth of training gear at home, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll make use of each and every feature here, but the point of the Polar Ignite 2 is that it can be moulded to fit your specific requirements. I’ve only really used this to assist with running and indoor workouts, so while I can’t comment on how useful this is for, say, cycling, or swimming. I can say that I’ve enjoyed having the Polar Ignite 2 as a workout companion.
Likewise, I also don’t ever see myself as the kind of person who is going to spend time planning workouts with military-grade precision and so being able to enter exercises in the Polar Flow diary seems lost on me, but I am happy to know that it’s there, should I want to use it.
App & performance
To get the most out of the Polar Ignite 2 and use most of the above features, you’ll need to sync it with Polar Flow, a multi-platform app that acts as a repository of all of your fitness data; from your sleep cycles to your Personal Bests. As well as mobile apps (iOS and Android), there are also desktop equivalents (for Windows and Mac OS).
When setting up the Polar Ignite 2 for the first time, you’ll probably find it easier to use your laptop or desktop to do this, as it requires that you use the supplied USB cable to sync everything; as the set-up process takes around 20 minutes and is quite intensive, it’ll hit the Polar Ignite 2’s battery a bit.
Once you’ve finished setting up, you’ll likely be using the mobile apps most of the time, although, annoyingly, the first time I tried to sync with the Polar Flow app after a workout, it deleted all of my data for that session - so make sure you've tied it to the mobile app before you start using it, just to be on the safe side.
The mobile app is a bit bewildering at first, as you’ll be bombarded with suggestions popping up left, right and centre. These, as it turns out, are unnecessary, as the app’s layout makes it easy to navigate – the menu icon in the top left breaks things down into activities you’ve done, what you’ve got coming up, your sleep log and Nightly Recharge - which catalogues your recovery times.
Exercise sessions you’ve done in the past are all logged here. After finishing a run out in the park, your local race track or just round your neighbourhood, you’ll be able to review the route you took and use a slider to zip through that route.
You’ll be able to check up on how many calories you burned in any one session and review things like average heart rate or distance travelled, as well as things like average and maximum speed, and step cadence.
Within the mobile app, there are links to additional supportive workouts, which is nice, but these take you out and away from the app, either to a post on Polar’s blog or to a YouTube video. It’s also not clear how to load up fitness podcasts and control these from the smartwatch itself, which is one of the Polar Ignite 2’s touted new features.
As I’m also not using the gym at the moment (this review was written under coronavirus lockdown restrictions) and I don’t have any Peloton or Zwift exercise bikes at home, I cannot comment on how easy it is to broadcast my heart rate to third-party systems via Bluetooth.
Polar appears to roll out updates to its mobile apps fairly regularly – the last update to the Android app was on 29 March – so these will likely improve with time.
The Polar Ignite 2 is supposed to give you five days’ worth of power, assuming that you’re going to be exercising throughout.
In my experience, it just about gives you that. After three days of use, I was limping along on 23% battery, a little worried that it’d have enough power to record my fourth day of activity, but it soldiered on, giving me 17% at the end of the day.
When I woke the next day, I was on 10% and the Polar Ignite 2 kept reminding me to charge it. While it will get you to five days, I’m not confident that this means ‘five days where you’re exercising everyday’.
It takes around one hour 45 minutes to charge back up using the supplied USB cable, so keeping things juiced between sessions is pretty easy – whenever you’re shackled to your desk, you might as well recharge your Ignite 2.
Price & Availability
On the surface the Ignite 2 appears to be little more than a cosmetic upgrade to its predecessor from a couple of years back, however, the wealth of technologies and systems Polar has instated or improved upon in the interim render this a much more capable fitness tracker than its predecessor was out the gate.
There's also the matter of its improved style and the additional band options to choose from, which grant it more widespread appeal to both women and men, as well as being able to complement a greater variety of personal tastes and styles.
If you're looking for a basic tracker, the Ignite 2 might be overdoing it somewhat but for those looking to take their personal fitness a little more seriously - without diving into more niche trackers with a proclivity towards one pursuit or another - the Ignite 2 might just be the right watch for your wrist.
Polar Ignite 2: Specs
- 43 x 43 x 8.5 mm
- Water resistant 30m (ISO 22810, suitable for swimming)
- 1.7in LCD screen, Resolution 240x204, 197 ppi
- Dragontail glass
- 130-210mm silicone strap
- Ambient light sensor (ALS)
- A-GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
- 165 mAh Li-pol battery
- Magnetic charging USB cable
- Typical usage – 20 hours of continuous training time
- Basic watch mode – 5 days
- Supports iOS 13.0 or above, Android ‘Varies with device’
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