Polar Ignite 3 review: A mid-range running watch for fitness data nerds

A smartwatch that feels more like a fitness tracker

Polar Ignite 3
(Image: © Rob Clymo)

TechRadar Verdict

The Polar Ignite 3 certainly delivers in the looks department, but take a deep dive into its workings though and you could feel a little underwhelmed, mainly because of the slightly erratic software performance. There are lots of stats and an app that presents everything nicely but getting information from the watch to the Polar Flow app, and indeed using the device on the go, can often feel laboured and a little bit of a let-down. The Polar Ignite shows plenty of promise, but it’s not as much of a step up from the Ignite 2 as it should have been.

Pros

  • +

    Vibrant display

  • +

    Lightweight design

  • +

    Detailed stats

Cons

  • -

    Average battery life

  • -

    Hit and miss performance

  • -

    Buggy software feel

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Polar Ignite 3: One minute review

The Polar Ignite 3 is a follow up to the hugely impressive Polar Ignite 2, which emerged back in 2021. A couple of years is a long time in the fast-moving world of smartwatch tech, so Polar has revised the already excellent and undeniably attractive Ignite design to reflect as much. 

The good news is that it still delivers the same value appeal, sitting nicely into the mid-range pricing category, which makes it an affordable option for those looking for one of the best running watches on a budget. 

The vibrant AMOLED display is a definite highpoint, but there are also new features including multi-band GPS (which brings it up to par with other mid-range Garmins) and powerful statistics tools like SleepWise, which proves impressive at monitoring your levels of shut-eye. The svelte and very lightweight design means it sits easily on the wrist, even during sleep. 

Unfortunately, the Polar Ignite 3 is also plagued by less than impressive battery life and a touchscreen interface that frequently feels sluggish, verging on buggy. If you can live with its frustrating edge, it can offer pretty good value for money, but there are better options at this price point.

Polar Ignite 3: Specifications

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Polar Ignite 3 specs:
ComponentPolar Ignite 3
Price$329 / £289 / AU$429
Dimensions43 x 43 x 9.5 mm
Weight37g
Case/bezelPlastic/stainless steel
Display416 x 416 px AMOLED Gorilla Glass
GPS?GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOU
Battery life120 hours (30 hours GPS)
ConnectionBluetooth
Water resistant?Yes, 30m

Polar Ignite 3: Price and availability

Polar Ignite 3

(Image credit: Rob Clymo)
  • $329.95 in the US
  • £289 in the UK
  • $428.67 in Australia

The Polar Ignite 3 is available now, directly from Polar itself or via many of the popular online outlets including Amazon. It has a current RRP of $329.95 in the US, £289 in the UK and $428.67 in Australia.  

Polar Ignite 3: Design

  • Bright, bold AMOLED screen
  • Slimline form factor
  • Cool color choices

The Polar Ignite 3 looks very tempting on the box, but it’s not until you take the watch out of its packaging that you realise just how good this slender creation looks. It’s just 9.5mm thick, weighs only 35 grams but still has a spacious touchscreen to enjoy. 

The 1.28-inch display is perhaps the highpoint of this model, which once powered up is gorgeous to look at with crisp, clear and very vibrant colours to enjoy. The edge of the bezel has a neat array of vertical grooves around its edge, although this does look and feel like it could be susceptible to marks and scratches over time.

It can be found in a number of colour options, including Night Black, Purple Dusk, Greige Sand and Brown Copper, so there’s a look that’ll suit just about any taste. Our review example was the Brown Copper model, which came with a spare strap in the box for when wear and tear gets the better of the original. 

Also in the box is a selection of micro manuals for just about any language plus a USB charging cable, which mates to the watch via a magnetic clip on the back. 

Meanwhile, the design of the supporting Polar Flow app is very respectable, with plenty of detailed metrics to get stuck into. It’s got comprehensive historic graphs of all your major data points with no additional subscription fees. It’s not quite as intuitive as it could be: it eschews nice well-rounded Sleep and Readiness scores in favor of complex graphs and data deep-dives, so it’s more for regular runners and data nerds rather than lifestyle and activity. 

Nevertheless, once you’ve figured out where everything lives, it is pretty comprehensive on the data front.

  • Design Score: 4/5

Polar Ignite 3: Features

Polar Ignite 3

(Image credit: Rob Clymo)
  • SleepWise monitors shut-eye closely
  • Customizable widgets work well
  • Polar Flow app is nicely designed

While it’s undoubtedly a good-looking thing, the Polar Ignite is slightly less impressive on the typical smartwatch features front. At first glance, it has most things you need, with notification services for emails and messages, alarms, timers and the ability to control your music all housed inside the interface. Dig a little deeper though and there are omissions. There is no way to make contactless payments, which is increasingly appealing for folks at places like the gym or on a run, who don’t want to carry anything else with them.

Similarly missing is any way of answering calls, and you can’t ping off a text from the watch either, only receive one. In fact, if you want to get any real mileage from the Polar Ignite 3, you’ll most likely end up taking your phone with you, because you’ll need it to tap into your music collection due to limited storage on board the watch itself. 

The GPS system can track your route on a localised run but, again, it feels like the features are a little underwhelming. It’s a shame to have the watch so tethered to your phone, especially when the UX promises so much on your first viewing.

SleepWise analyses your sleep patterns well enough as does Nightly Recharge, which reports back on how your body deals with stress. Polar’s FitSpark service offers up on-demand exercise suggestions should you need them, which also cleverly take into account your training load and recovery needs. For example, on the day after a hard run, it’ll recommend a less strenuous exercise than it might on a day which you’re fully recovered, and you have a better Nightly Recharge score. In-training voice guidance from the watch is another cool add-on. 

Getting to the features and functions is where the frustration creeps in though: we found basic tasks, such as starting a cross-trainer session, erratic and less than user-friendly. People who are exercising want quick and easy access to simple Stop/Start controls, which just doesn’t seem to happen with the Polar Ignite 3. There’s too much fiddling around the watch face itself, not enough immediacy. No-one wants to waste time in the gym. 

  • Features score: 3/5

Polar Ignite 3: Performance

Polar Ignite 3

(Image credit: Rob Clymo)
  • Dual-frequency GPS is solid
  • Latest processor is a step-up
  • Energy source breakdown is neat

While everything initially appears good in both the looks department and the feature setlist, it’s once you start using the Polar Ignite 3 that some holes start to appear. After installing the supporting Polar app, the setup process was okay – but not as seamless as some of its counterparts. The Polar Ignite 3 has subsequently seemed to be less than enthusiastic during syncing too, with often a few tries needed in order to get the process to kick into gear. 

More annoying though is the less-than-simple way this watch works during everyday use. It frequently seems unresponsive, promoting confusion as to whether or not it’s doing anything. That means repeated interaction with the screen, or pressing of the back button on the left-hand side of the bezel. 

This in itself feels quite stiff and unresponsive. It’s understandable to have a button that can’t be inadvertently pressed, thereby avoiding cancellation of workouts and suchlike, but it’s a bit too unforgiving for its own good.

Battery life isn’t too great either. Polar suggests that you’ll get up to five days in watch mode or up to 30 hours of continuous training using the GPS and heart rate monitoring features. That may well be right, but we found the watch battery ebbed away quite quickly during average everyday use, prompting you to feel like you need to charge it more frequently than the official figures suggest. 

Overall, performance and usability shortcomings are perhaps the biggest weakness with the Polar Ignite 3, which is a shame given just how good it looks.

  • Performance score: 3/5

Polar Ignite 3: Buy it if...

Style is important

 The Polar Ignite 3 looks a treat, so buy it if you’re keen to have something svelte and eye-catching on your wrist. 

You love fitness data

 Despite the everyday usability niggles, the stats delivered by the Polar Ignite 3 are impressive, so it’s good for fitness tracking duties. 

You don’t mind regular charging

The Polar Ignite 3 has average battery life (although better than the likes of Apple), so you’ll need to keep an eye on it. 

Polar Ignite 3: Don't buy it if...

You value ease of use 

The Ignite 3 can be clunky to interact with and the screen isn’t as touch-friendly as you’d think. 

You dislike fiddly watches

The delicate design and compact touchscreen layout is less than ideal, with workout controls often proving a little tricky to access. 

You need contactless pay

If you’re looking for contactless payments and other convenience options the Polar Ignite 3 feels a little lacking. 

Also consider

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Also consider
ComponentPolar Ignite 3Polar Vantage V2Garmin Instinct 2 (45mm)
Price$329 / £289 / AU$429 $549.95 / £489 / AU$799.$349.99 / £249.99 / AU$559
Dimensions43 x 43 x 9.5 mm47 x 47 x 13mm45 x 45 x 14.50 mm
Weight37g52g52g
Case/bezelPlastic/stainless steelAerospace aluminiumFiber-reinforced polymer
Display416 x 416 px AMOLED Gorilla Glass240 × 240 px MIP Gorilla Glass176 x 176 px MIP, chemically strengthened glass
GPS?GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOUGPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSSGPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
Battery life120 hours (30 hours GPS)168 hours (40 hrs GPS)28 days (30 hours GPS)
ConnectionBluetoothBluetoothBluetooth, ANT+
Water resistant?Yes, 30mYes, 100mRow 8 - Cell 3
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First reviewed: April 2023

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.