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Polar Ignite 2 review

A superb mid-range watch that pairs style with great adaptive training tools

Polar Ignite 2
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Polar Ignite 2 is a strikingly attractive watch that's all about staying on top of your health. It offers all-day heart rate tracking, stress monitoring and impressively detailed sleep tracking, but really comes into its own during workouts thanks to its extremely accurate heart rate monitoring and GPS tracking, plus training tools that adapt based on your biometric data and past efforts so you can train smarter and measure the effects. You won't find music storage or contactless payments here, but that's not what this watch is about. The only thing missing is a pulse ox sensor and an always-on display for checking stats more easily mid-run – otherwise it's superb.

For

  • Premium design
  • Extremely accurate GPS
  • Effective training tools

Against

  • No SpO2 sensor
  • No always-on display

Two-minute review

Stylish and feature-packed, the Polar Ignite 2 is hard to fault. Its workout tracking tools are exceptional, with extremely accurate GPS and heart rate monitoring, plus genuinely useful training tools that adapt based on your past performance, and it makes an excellent watch for everyday use thanks to its suite of general wellness tools. All-day activity tracking, granular sleep tracking, stress monitoring, relaxation exercises are all present, and available at a tap of a button. The only omission is an SpO2 sensor, which is what holds this watch back from a full five stars.

Polar Ignite 2 price and release date

  • Priced at £199.50 (about $270 / AU$360)
  • Due for release soon

The Polar Ignite 2 will go on sale in the latter half of April 2021 for £199.50 (about $270 / AU$360). There’s no concrete release date yet, but at the time of writing, you can register for updates so you’re first to know when it goes on sale.

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

Polar Ignite 2 design

  • Premium design
  • Wide choice of bands
  • Single physical button

The Polar Ignite 2 is a good-looking smartwatch that foregoes the soft, curved look and plastic fastenings of many recent fitness trackers, and has a more mature, classic design than the likes of the Fitbit Sense. The engraved stainless steel bezel and square buckle are particularly nice touches, and the standard silicone strap of our review unit has a pleasant texture that makes it feel more like a natural material to the touch.

For something really special though, you can opt for a band decorated with Swarovski crystals (something Polar's designers are very proud of).

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

A single button at the bottom left serves to wake the watch, open the main menu from the home screen, and jump back when browsing through menus. The rest of your time interfacing with the watch will be spent tapping and swiping the touchscreen.

At 240 x 204 pixels (the same as the original Polar Ignite), this isn't the highest resolution display around. The recently released Amazfit T-Rex Pro boasts a resolution of 360 x 360, for example. This is a little disappointing when the rest of the watch looks so good, though it gives enough detail for most purposes for most purposes, and bright enough to see clearly in direct sunlight.

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

Although it would be nice to have, a higher resolution would only really be necessary if the watch offered turn-by-turn navigation with aerial maps, but that's not the case.

Despite its premium looks, the Polar Ignite 2 is surprisingly light, weighing 35g with the wristband, or 21g without. For comparison, the Apple Watch 6 tips the scales at 47.1g and the Fitbit Sense is 45.9g.

It's water resistant to 30 meters, making it fine for swimming and showering, but not for watersports.

Polar Ignite 2 smartwatch features

  • No music storage or NFC
  • Accurate, granular sleep tracking
  • Stress tracking and breathing exercises

Before you get started, be warned that the watch will need a large firmware update before it’s ready to use, so you'll need a Wi-Fi connection and some patience.

Once that's done, and the watch is connected to the Polar Flow app (more on that shortly), you'll find that the Ignite 2 gives you a surprising degree of customization. You can adjust the style and color of each element on the homescreen, and pick which widgets are shown when you swipe left and right (including heart rate, training sessions, sleep quality, music controls and weather to name a few).

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

There’s no music storage, and you won't be able to make contactless payments via NFC, but this is a watch that's all about your health and fitness; shopping is outside its remit, and you can still control media playback so you don’t have to dig your handset out of your pocket mid-run. 

You’ll also receive smartphone notifications, though it's worth noting that you won't be able to send an automatic text response as you can with some Garmin watches.

You’d be hard pressed to find a watch without some type of mindfulness feature today, and recent Polar watches all feature a breathing exercise tool called ‘Serene’ to help you in stressful moments, with animations to provide guidance as you focus on each inhalation and exhalation.

The Ignite 2 also provides inactivity alerts if you sit still for too long. After a period without moving, you'll be notified that it's time to get up and raise your heart rate a little. If you don't do so within five minutes, you'll be given an Inactivity Stamp in the Polar Flow app – effectively a type of demerit, to be avoided.

Polar Ignite 2 fitness tracking

  • Extremely accurate GPS
  • Excellent heart rate monitoring
  • Responsive training tools

Like most Polar watches, the Ignite 2 really comes into its own when it comes to fitness tracking, helping you stay motivated and train more effectively.

As we've come to expect from Polar, GPS tracking was extremely accurate, and matched our measured 5K route to within 10 meters. If you're training for an event, that kind of accuracy is invaluable. Workouts can only be ended by pressing and holding the side button, so you don't need to worry about accidentally ending your run early, which can be an issue with watches that only have touchscreens.

Heart rate monitoring has been Polar's forte since the company was founded back in  1977, so it's no surprise that this is another of the Ignite 2's strong suits. Results from the watch closely matched those from our chest strap heart rate monitor, responding to changes rapidly and with no unexpected spikes or dips (the drops on our graph represent moments stopped at pedestrian crossings).

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

It might be a mid-range watch, but the Ignite 2 doesn't skimp on the training tools, and the more data is available, the more accurate the results will be. It pays to spend a moment checking the data entered manually, and performing regular fitness tests to make sure everything is up to date. The watch can guide you through a test that will provide an estimate of your VO2 max (ie the ability of your body to use oxygen).

Another particularly interesting feature is the ability to see which energy sources you used during your workout – fats, carbohydrates and proteins. This is based on the duration and intensity of your workout, your age, gender, height, weight, maximum and minimum heart rate, and VO2 max. 

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

The Polar Ignite 2 can also offer training advice, and unlike some other sports watches that tuck it away in a hidden menu, here it's available with just a few swipes sideways on the homescreen. Based on your recent workouts, the watch will suggest a type of training session that will help develop your fitness and avoid you falling into always sticking with the same type of workout.

Swipe to the training screen and you'll see one of three workout types: cardio, strength, or supportive. Here, you can select a workout to try, and the watch will guide you through the process. That might be a run in heart rate zones 1-3 for cardio, a set of core exercises for support, or bodyweight exercises for strength. It's a great tool that helps push you out of your comfort zone and work on areas where you may currently be weak.

Polar Ignite 2 companion app

  • Lots of data, clearly presented
  • Adaptive training suggestions
  • Sleep and recovery guidance

The Ignite 2 connects to the Polar Flow app, which presents all your health and wellbeing data in a way that's accessible and never feels overwhelming.

The homescreen shows a detailed breakdown of your day's activity on a pie chart that gradually fills, and is color-coded based on your activity levels. It's a tidy way to show a great deal of information, and is easy to interpret at a glance (though you can also choose to see a line graph of your heart rate if you prefer).

After you've been using the watch for a few days, things start to get really interesting. This is how long it takes to build up a baseline for your sleep patterns, which in turn allows you to see how changes to your routine affect your nightly rest (and therefore your recovery from training).

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

Once the baseline is calculated, the app will present you with two metrics: ANS Charge and Sleep Charge. ANS Charge is a measure of how quickly your autonomous nervous system settles after you lie down to sleep, while Sleep Charge is equivalent to the score you'll receive from a device like a Fitbit, based on duration and type of sleep, plus ant interruptions.

Similar to Garmin and Coros, Polar has also developed an algorithm that uses sleep and activity data to give you a recovery score, which helps you determine whether you're ready for a hard training session, or should take it easy and rest. It's a genuinely useful tool; knowing how you slept last night is one thing, but having practical advice to act upon is far more useful.

Polar Flow also lets you dive deep into your workout data. Not only can you view maps and stats from recent training sessions (which, as mentioned earlier, are impressive in their accuracy), you can also tap the Calendar option to see past activities and, more importantly, build a future training plan.

As anyone who's trained for a long distance event like a marathon will know, creating and sticking to a training plan is essential, but tedious. Polar Flow makes it refreshingly straightforward, allowing you to set targets for particular days. These might be based simply on time and distance, or can include detailed warmup, work, rest, repeat and cooldown periods (great for interval training).

It's thoughtful features like this that set the app apart from the competition, and show it was put together by people who enjoy sport themselves.

Polar Ignite 2

(Image credit: Future)

It's a shame that there's no form of app store within Polar Flow so you can add extra functions to your watch, or download extra watch faces. However, you can choose which of the 130 different activity tracking options are presented on the Ignite 2's menu, which is particularly handy if your preferred activity is something more esoteric. 

Polar says it has some interesting new updates coming in the near future too, so we look forward to seeing what's on the horizon.

Buy it if

You're preparing for a big event
Whatever the sport, the Polar Ignite 2 and Polar Flow app will help you construct and follow a personalized training plan, with realistic goals and adequate rest as well as workouts.

You find most sports watches ugly
Let's be honest, a lot of running and cycling watches are pretty utilitarian, which is fine when you're working up a sweat but means you're less inclined to wear them socially. The Polar Ignite 2 has a grown-up design that's smart enough to wear any time.

You have a mid-range budget
The Polar Ignite 2 certainly isn't cheap, but it offers impressive value for money. You could easily spend twice as much on a sports watch that does almost as much.

Don't buy it if

You want a multi-functional smartwatch
The Polar Ignite 2 isn't going to replace the Apple Watch any time soon. There are no downloadable apps here; it's purely focused on health and wellbeing.

You're training at altitude
The lack of a pulse oximeter means the Polar Ignite 2 isn't the best choice if you're training where the air is thin.

Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis (@CatEllisTech) is the fitness and wellbeing editor at TechRadar. She's been a technology journalist for 11 years, and cut her teeth on magazines including PC Plus and PC Format before joining TechRadar. She's a trained run leader, and enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the pavement. If you have a story about fitness trackers, treadmills, running shoes, e-bikes, or any other fitness tech, drop her a line at catherine.ellis@futurenet.com.