Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Polar Ignite – Comparison

Garmin Vivoactive 4 vs Polar Ignite – Comparison

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is arguably the best dedicated fitness watch in their product line-up. It’s packed with sports modes, the fitness tracking modes are excellent, the screen is sharp and it has music storage.

Then we have the Polar Ignite. This is another product which is leading Polar’s revival in the wearable technology space. The fitness tracking functions are brilliant, the optical heart monitor is a cut above the rest, and Polar’s advanced sleep tracking technology goes above and beyond it’s Garmin rival.

But there are quite a few different elements to this particular product battle. To help you understand which watch is better suited to your needs, we are going to unpack all the key similarities and all the key differences. 

Let’s get stuck in.

What are the main differences between the Vivoactive 4 and the Polar Ignite?

  1. The Vivoactive 4 can store music directly on the watch and it supports music apps like Spotify and Deezer. 
  2. The Vivoactive 4 supports running power accessories like Stryd & RunScribe. The Polar Ignite does not. 
  3. The Polar Ignite supports pool swimming and open water swimming. The Vivoactive 4 is limited to pool swimming. 
  4. The Polar Ignite has a slightly better wrist-based heart rate monitor.
  5. The Vivoactive 4 has a pulse oximeter, which can measure your blood oxygenation levels.
  6. The Polar Ignite can track more endurance sports in total (100+ sports modes) compared to the Vivoactive 4 (20 sports modes).
  7. The Vivoactive 4 tracks activity sleep and stress levels. The Ignite only tracks activity and sleep levels (ie no stress tracking). 
  8. The touchscreen of the Vivoactive 4 is a bit more reliable than the Polar Ignite, especially the rise to wake feature.
  9. The Vivoactive 4 is more expensive than the Polar Ignite. 
  10. The Vivoactive 4 supports ANT+ connectivity. This means it connects with more cycling accessories like chest straps and bicycle computers. 

Vivoactive 4 vs Polar Ignite - Key Similarities

Vivoactive 4

Polar Ignite


Wrist-Based HRM

24/7 Activity Tracking

Sleep Tracking

Smartphone Notifications

Indoor + Outdoor Running

Indoor + Outdoor Cycling

Pool Swimming

Indoor + Outdoor Rowing

Strength + Cardio Training

Customized Running Plans

Guided Breathing

Guided Workouts

Triathlon Mode

Vivoactive 4 vs Polar Ignite - Key Differences

Vivoactive 4

Polar Ignite


More Expensive

Less Expensive


50 grams

35 grams

Screen Resolution

260x260 px

240x240 px

Physical Size

45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm

43 x 43 x 8.5 mm

Water Resistance

50 meters

30 meters

Galileo Satellite

Barometric Altimeter

Music Storage & Apps

Body Battery Score

Running Power

Stryd or RunScribe

Not Compatible

Pulse Oximeter

Proper Golf Tracking

ANT+ & WiFi

Safety Tracking

Payments from Watch

Menstrual Tracking

Polar FitSpark

Open Water Swimming

Total Sports Modes



GPS Battery

Up to 18 Hours

Up to 17 Hours

Smartwatch Battery

Up to 8 Days

Up to 5 Days

Comparison of Sports Modes

Vivoactive 4 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) Walking 14) Walking
15) Snowboarding 15) Snowboarding
16) Skiing 16) Skiing
17) Cross Country Skiing 17) Cross Country Skiing
18) Stand Up Paddleboarding 18) Windsurfing
19) Outdoor Rowing 19) Outdoor Rowing
20) Awesome Golf Mode 20) Average Golf Mode
21) 100+ Additional Modes

6 Reasons To Choose the Vivoactive 4

1. Music Storage & Music Apps

The Vivoactive 4 can store up to 500 songs (approximately 3GB’s), and you can also use popular music streaming apps like Deezer, Spotify and Amazon Music. 

The Polar Ignite has no integration with music apps. If you enjoy training with headphones on, it’s pretty clear that you will be better served by the Vivoactive.  

2. The Touchscreen is more reliable

While both watches have touchscreens, the Polar Ignite has received a fair amount of criticism for the rise to wake feature. 

The key thing to understand is that the screen of the Ignite will fall into standby mode when you aren’t actively using the watch. Usually, you just have to raise the watch into a position that makes the screen easy to read in order for it to wake up automatically. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen, which means you have sometimes have to touch the screen in order to wake it properly. 

On the other hand, the screen of the Vivoactive 4 is a bit more reliable, and it hasn’t drawn nearly as much criticism from product reviewers. Ultimately, this could be a deal-breaker for some users, and it’s a compelling reason to choose the Vivoactive 4 over the Ignite. 

3. It's Better for Runners

There are 3 main reasons  the Vivoactive 4 might be the better choice for hardcore runners.

Reason 1: Support for Running Power – The Vivoactive 4 supports both Stryd and RunScribe. This means you can unlock running power if you invest in either one of these accessories.

Reason 2: Manual Laps + Auto Laps  – The Polar Ignite is limited to automatic laps. The Vivoactive 4 gives you access to manual laps and automatic laps. For hardcore runners, this could be a deciding factor. 

Reason 3: Garmin Coach Is Great for Beginners – Admittedly the Polar Ignite also has customized training plans, but for beginners specifically, Garmin Running Coach could be extremely helpful. 

The whole point of Garmin Coach is to create personalized training plans built by some of the most respected running coaches in the industry. It has a nice interface, and it’s reassuring to think that the training plan quite literally stems from a professional coach.  

4. It's better for cyclists

There’s one main reason the Vivoactive 4 might be the better choice for avid cyclists. 

In short, the Vivoactive 4 supports ANT+ connectivity. This is important, because there are tons of cycling accesories like chest straps and cycling computers which rely on ANT+ connectivity to sync with your watch. 

So, if you already own several cycling accessories or you want the ability to connect to 3rd party devices using ANT+ connectivity, the Vivoactive 4 is the right choice. 

5. The Golf Mode Is Way Better

When it comes to golf tracking, the difference between the two watches is significant. Even though the Polar Ignite can track your cardiovascular activity and movements during a round of golf, that’s where the functionality ends.

On the other hand, the Vivoactive 4 gives you the same kind of technology that you would expect in a dedicated golf watch like the Garmin S40 or the Garmin S60. Basically, that means: 

  • Yardage to the whole
  • Yardage to hazards
  • Automatic measurement of shot distance
  • Digital scorecard
  • Round timer

6. It's a better Smartwatch

Even though neither watch can compare with the Apple Watch in terms of ‘smart’ features, the Vivoactive 4 is much closer to that ideal than the Polar Ignite is.

The Vivoactive 4 is basically a sports and fitness watch, with a decent number of smart features. The Polar Ignite is primarily a sports and fitness watch, without any ambitions of competing in the Smartwatch space. 

Ultimately, the combination of a more reliable touchscreen and additional smart features like music tracking and the ability to download 3rd party apps through Garmin connect makes the Vivoactive 4 the better smartwatch overall. 

4 Reasons To Choose the Polar Ignite

1. It's a lot cheaper (and almost as good)

You only need to re-look at all the similarities listed at the top of the article to appreciate just how good the Polar Ignite is, as a dedicated fitness watch.

It might not have all the bells and whistles that Garmin offers, but for straight up sports and fitness tracking, it can go toe-to-toe with the Vivoactive 4 quite easily. 

This is especially important when you bring price into the equation. Because the watches are so similar from a sports and fitness perspective, you could easily just save yourself a few bucks and go for the Ignite. 

2. The Optical Heart Rate Monitor is a bit better

It’s worth mentioning that Garmin have been improving their wrist-based heart rate monitor over the years, and the Vivoactive 4 is equipped with the latest elevate HRM (V3). 

However, the simple reality is that Polar have gone a step above every other fitness company by introducing two variables that no one else can compete with. 

Variable 1: 9 LED’s to measure bloodflow

No other brand is using this many LED’s to help ensure the best possible average measurement. While Garmin, Suunto and Coros usually have less than 4, Polar have taken it to the next level with 9 LED’s in total. This allows Polar’s precision prime heart rate technology to calculate an average reading, based on multiple measurement points. 

Variable 2: Skin Contact Measurement Points

This is another key differentiator from Polar. Where the Vivoactive 4 will continue to try reading your heart rate (even when the watch is not on your wrist), the Polar Ignite is a bit smarter in this regard.

As soon as the watch detects that it is no longer in contact with your skin, it will stop taking in measurements from the optical heart rate monitor. No Garmin, Suunto or Fitbit product will do this automatically. It’s definitely one of the key selling points of Polar’s precision prime optical heart rate technology, which is only found in the Polar Ignite, the Polar Vantage M and the Polar Vantage V. 

3. The Sleep Tracking Technology Is Awesome

The Polar Ignite was actually the first product in Polar’s line-up to introduce their nightly recharge technology. The whole point is to measure how well you are sleeping, and how well your autonomic nervous system is resting during your periods of sleep. 

In other words, your nightly recharge status is a combination of sleep quantity and how well your body is recovering during that sleep. Moreover, this measurement is actually taken over a 28 day period, which helps to stabilize the data and identify any noticeable deviations from the norm (that could indicate that there’s a deeper issue at play and that you deeply need to get some more quality sleep). 

Ultimately, Polar have done a great job with their nightly recharge technology. It is now available in the Polar Ignite and the Polar Vantage series of watches. 

4. The Polar Flow App Is Excellent For Tracking Your Fitness

While Garmin connect is perfectly adequate for keeping track of your fitness levels, the Polar flow app takes it to another level. 

The insights that you gain are deeper, the dashboards are well thought out, the layout is intuitive and the data is easy to understand.

Ultimately, Polar Flow is about as good as it gets for measuring your health and fitness levels. With the Polar Ignite, you get to enjoy all the benefits of this amazing software baked into the phone app and the desktop app. 

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