While they are both excellent running watches packed with features and made by two of the best brands in the business, our feeling is that the FR245 edges this battle ever so slightly.
To help explain this viewpoint, we are going to unpack all the key similarities and all the key differences between these two watches. We will also provide a few final thoughts at the end, to help you make the right decision if you’re still on the fence.
Now that the goal of this post has been established, we can dive into the finer details, but before we do, it’s worth summarizing the most important differences up front.
What are the main differences between Garmin Forerunner 245 & Polar Ignite?
- The Polar Ignite has a touchscreen, whereas the Garmin Forerunner 245 uses buttons only. Interestingly, most runners prefer buttons to touchscreens, at least when exercising.
- The Garmin Forerunner 245 can store music on the watch, and it can also play music through apps like Spotify and Deezer.
- The Polar Ignite supports more Sports Modes (100+), while the Foreunner 245 is limited to 16 sports and activity modes.
- The FR245 supports running power through 3rd party devices like Stryd and Runscribe, whereas the Polar Ignite does not.
- The optical (wrist-based) heart rate monitor on the Polar Ignite is slightly better than the optical heart rate monitor on the Forerunner 245.
- Both watches can track pool swimming, but only the Polar Ignite can track open water swimming. Neither watch has a triathlon (multisport) mode however.
- The Forerunner has a built-in Pulse Oximeter which can measure your blood oxygen saturation levels.
Ok. We’ve covered the biggest differences. Now let’s dive into the nitty gritty with some no-nonsense tables.
Garmin Forerunner 245 vs Polar Ignite - Key Similarities
Garmin FR245SEE PRICE
Polar IgniteSEE PRICE
Garmin Forerunner 245 vs Polar Ignite - Key Differences
Garmin FR245SEE PRICE
Polar IgniteSEE PRICE
Garmin Forerunner 245 - Unique Features
Music Storage & Music Apps
The Forerunner 245 includes 3.5GB of in-built music storage which works out to about 500 songs. In addition, you can also play music on the Forerunner 245 using popular music apps such as:
Support for Running Power through Stryd & RunScribe - FR245 Only
In some respects, this might be the biggest difference between the two watches. While the Garmin Forerunner 245 supports both Stryd & Runscribe, the Polar Ignite doesn’t.
I think Polar made this decision to prevent the Polar Ignite from being too similar to the Polar Vantage M. For super passionate runners, it’s a big turn-off, and one of the reasons the FR245 edges this particular product battle.
Buttons Only Interface - Forerunner 245 Only
I didn’t realize this was such a big deal until a couple readers grilled me in the comparison between the Garmin Forerunner 645 vs Garmin Vivoactive 3.
Long story short, the Garmin Forerunner 245 relies exclusively on buttons to move between screens, activate workout modes and interact with the watch. Even though this limits its capabilities as a Smartwatch, it enhances its appeal as a running/fitness watch.
When you step into your exercise mode of choice, having buttons is actually a lot more convenient than having a touchscreen. Then again, when you aren’t exercising, a touchscreen is generally preferable, so there’s a slight trade-off here.
WiFi & ANT+ Connectivity - FR245 Only
I find it shocking that Polar don’t offer ANT+ support for any of their watches at this moment in time (Polar Ignite included). The end result is that you’re limited mainly to the Polar accessory ecosystem, which can be limiting at times.
On the other hand, the Forerunner 245 offers ANT+ support for various 3rd party accessories and it also boast WiFi connectivity as well.
You might be tempted to ignore the convenience of WiFi connectivity, but over time, it can save you a lot of time when syncing information between your watch and your phone or computer. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s nice to have.
Pulse Oximeter - Forerunner 245 Only
This one is pretty simple. The FR245 has a built-in Pulse Oximeter, whereas the Polar Ignite does not. Just in case you aren’t sure, a pulse oximeter measures your blood oxygen saturation levels.
It isn’t actually all that useful for people training at sea level, but it can be helpful if you’re in a high altitude environment and you want to assess blood oxygen levels. Personally, I wouldn’t let this particular feature sway my decision. It’s nice to have but not overly meaningful.
Garmin Body Battery Score - FR245 Only
Garmin’s body battery score has become a key feature of their watch lineup over the last 12 months. The concept is actually pretty cool. Using a combination of heart rate data, sleep tracking, training date and recovery metrics, the FR245 will calculate an overall ‘Body Battery Score’.
It’s basically a summary of how much energy you are deemed to have at any particular moment in time. If your score is low, it probably means you should take it easy and get a bit more sleep. Alternatively if your score is sky high, the watch is basically giving you the green flag to go full tilt.
In my opinion, the Body Battery concept is awesome and it’s a key selling point for the Forerunner 245. The only issue is that it relies heavily on optical heart rate readings, which will never be perfect.
Advanced Running Dynamics - FR245 Only
This is one of the standout features of the Garmin Forerunner 245. The advanced running metrics that Garmin offers are pretty cool if you’re big into running. These are the stats that you can unlock with the FR245.
- Ground Contact Time (the time your foot spends on the ground with each stride)
- Ground Contact Balance (Symmetry between left and right foot)
- Vertical Oscillation (degree of ‘bounce’ in your running motion)
- Vertical Ratio (the cost-benefit ratio with stride length)
- Cadence (Real time)
- Stride Length (Real time)
However, there is a slight catch. In order to unlock these metrics, you need invest in one of the following three Garmin Accessories.
- Garmin HRM-Run – Best for runners who want near perfect heart rate data.
- Garmin HRM-Tri – Best choice for triathletes.
- Garmin Advanced Running Dynamics Pod – Best choice for people on a tight budget.
Polar Ignite - Unique Features
80 Additional Sports Modes
The Forerunner 245 is no slouch when it comes to sports modes, but the Polar Ignite definitely takes the cake in this regard. The table demonstrates that the Ignite can do pretty much everything that the FR245 can do in terms of sports tracking.
You can find the full list of Polar flow sports profiles here. When looking at the list, just keep in mind that the triathlon/multisport features are not available for the Polar Ignite.
Garmin Forerunner 245 vs Polar Ignite - Sports Modes
|Forerunner 245 - Sports Modes||Polar Ignite - Sports Modes|
|01) Strength Training||01) Strength Training|
|02) Cardio Training||02) Cardio Training|
|03) Elliptical Training||03) Elliptical Training|
|04) Stair Stepping||04) Stair Stepping|
|05) Indoor Rowing||05) Indoor Rowing|
|06) Yoga||06) Yoga|
|07) Running||07) Running|
|08) Treadmill Running||08) Treadmill Running|
|09) Indoor Track Running||09) Indoor Track Running|
|10) Trail Running||10) Trail Running|
|11) Cycling||11) Cycling|
|12) Indoor Cycling||12) Indoor Cycling|
|13) Pool Swimming||13) Pool Swimming|
|14) 80+ Extra Sports Modes|
Touchscreen - Polar Ignite Only
We’ve already “touched” on this, but it’s worth repeating. The Polar Ignite relies exclusively on a touchscreen for all interactions with the watch.
Interestingly, this is probably the biggest weakness of the Ignite. The touchscreen is perfectly functional, but some users have reported issues with ‘waking’ the screen. To explain further, the colour screen of the Polar Ignite isn’t ‘always on’. Instead, it only activates when you raise the watch to glance at the screen.
This feature is actually quite common in the wearable tech arena, with the Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Ionic being the most popular watches with this same feature. However, Polar haven’t quite nailed the mechanism which wakes the screen. This can lead to small periods of frustration, where you raise the watch to glance at the screen, but it fails to activate.
Polar might be able to resolve this via a firmwire update in future, but for now, the inconsistency of the rise to wake feature is the single biggest weakness of the Polar Ignite.
FitSpark Workout Recommendations - Polar Ignite Only
Polar’s FitSpark workout programmes are the most unique thing about the Polar Ignite (no other Polar watches have access to this feature, and obviously it’s not available on any Garmin watch).
But the real point here is simply to explain what FitSpark actually is. Long story short, FitSpark is a bit like a virtual personal trainer that has been studying your training metrics for weeks on end. It then uses all this data to create customized workout programmes that can help you reach even greater levels of fitness.
For people who are willing to let their watch guide them through a workout, FitSpark is literally as good as it gets.
Open Water Swimming - Polar Ignite Only
As mentioned in the beginning, both watches track pool swimming with SWOLF stats to boot. However, the Ignite has an extra trick up it’s sleeve with the inclusion of Open Water Swimming.
Despite being able to track running, cycling and open water swimming, the Ignite doesn’t have a multisport mode (neither does the FR245). This is mainly because it would be too close to the Vantage M if Polar made this feature available to users (it would eliminate the need to upgrade to the more expensive model).
So which one should you buy?
The case for the Polar Ignite
Simply put, the Polar Ignite is a very well rounded running/fitness watch that presents an extremely compelling array of features for the price.
Polar have created an amazing product that will win the hearts of fitness enthusiasts and running veterans the world over.
The only significant weakness is the rise to wake feature of the touchscreen. Fortunately you can work around this issue (if you do experience it) by simply touching the screen to switch it on.
All in all, if your main concern is excellent health, fitness and running data, it’s hard to go too far wrong with the Ignite. It delivers the goods as a GPS fitness tracker.
The case for the Garmin Forerunner 245
Overall the Garmin Forerunner 245 is a better GPS Smartwatch than the Polar Ignite. These are the biggest advantages that it has over it’s rival.
- Music storage & music apps
- Support for running power
- Garmin advanced running dynamics
- Better GPS battery life
- Better overall connectivity through WiFi & ANT+ support
- Button only interface is actually better than the Polar Ignite touchscreen
With that being said, these extra benefits come at a price. You can expect to pay at least $100 for the Garmin unit, which could be difficult to justify if your primary interest is health, fitness and running stats.
So in summary, the Garmin Forerunner 245 is the better watch overall, but the Polar Ignite gives you better value for money. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll be investing in a highly recommendable GPS fitness tracker.