While they are both excellent GPS sports watches, there are some key differences between the two units. These are the most important differences:
- The Polar Ignite is cheaper than the Vantage M
- The Polar Ignite is designed primarily for runners and fitness enthusiasts
- The Polar Vantage M is designed primarily for triathletes
- The Ignite has a touchscreen while the Vantage M relies on buttons to work the watch
Here are the 3 main reason the Vantage M is more expensive than the Polar Ignite.
- It has a triathlon mode
- It supports 3rd party running power accessories like Stryd and RunScribe
- It gives you access to Polar’s Training Load Pro. This is big win for endurance athletes. It can help you find the right balance between training and rest, in order to optimize performances on race day.
Despite these clear and obvious advantages of the Vantage M, my feeling is that the Polar Ignite is still perfectly suited to the needs of most runners, fitness enthusiasts and general sports people.
It’s really just triathletes that don’t have a choice in this matter (they basically have to go with the Vantage M, or its more expensive counterpart, the Vantage V).
Now let’s take a deep dive into all the key similarities and all the key differences between these two watches.
Polar Ignite vs Polar Vantage M - Key Similarities
Polar Vantage M
Now you might be wondering why sleep plus stages, nightly recharge and serene breathing are listed as ‘After October’ for the Polar Vantage M.
This explanation from Polar should suffice:
Polar Ignite vs Polar Vantage M - Key Differences
Polar Vantage M
Key Features - Available In Both
Please note – The 3 features listed below will only be available in the Vantage M after the firmware update in October 2019.
Sleep Plus Stages
Polar’s Sleep Plus Stages function is being debuted in the Polar Ignite, but it will be added to the Vantage M in time.
The technology is pretty similar to what you will find in a Garmin or Fitbit watch. Basically, Sleep Plus stages automatically tracks the following:
- Your total amount of sleep
- The quality of your sleep
- How long you spent in each sleep stage
Overall it’s comfortably the best sleep tracking technology that Polar has ever produced.
Nightly Recharge is another new feature for Polar, and it builds on their improved sleep tracking technology.
The goal of this feature is to assess whether or not you have recovered from training and other energy demands on your day (like being in a permanent states of stress, which usually leads to an increased resting heart rate).
Polar use 28 days of data to assess your nightly recharge score, so it’s safe to say that there are some solid calculations going on in the background. Ultimately, Nightly Recharge is a great compliment to Sleep Plus Stages, and it can help you assess when you need more rest, with a reasonable degree of credibility.
As someone who engages in mini meditation sessions almost every day (it’s one of my mini habits), I find this feature particularly exciting.
One of the biggest challenges when practicing mindful breathing is that you have to manually count each breath in, and each breath out. With the Serene Breathing Feature, the Polar Ignite essentially counts each breath for you, so all you have to do is concentrate on inhaling and exhaling.
Some people might brush over this feature completely, but I think it’s pretty cool. Guided breathing and regular meditation can genuinely help reduce your stress levels. The benefits of reduced stress are pretty obvious, so it’s nice to know that if you use this feature regularly, you can unlock some of these benefits over time.
Open Water Swimming
Open Water swimming is essential for any fully functional triathlon watch, so it’s obviously one of the core features of the Polar Vantage M.
However, it may surprise you to learn that the Polar Ignite also boasts open water swim tracking.
So despite having all the tools to track a triathlon (running, open water swimming + cycling), the Ignite doesn’t have a triathlon mode. These watches would simply be too similar if it did.
Key Features Unique to Polar Ignite
Polar FitSpark - Ignite Only
FitSpark is the only feature that’s truly unique to the Polar Ignite.
The goal of FitSpark is to use sleep data, resting heart rate measurements and recovery data to build personalized workouts for you to follow.
Instead of forcing you into a particular routine, FitSpark offers you multiple workout options to choose from. This helps the recommendations of the watch match up with your moods and desires on any given training day. Kudos to Polar for actually factoring user desires into this feature.
Then there’s the challenging nature of the actual workouts. With certain brands, the recommended workout plans can be a bit soft, and are only really useful for beginners.That’s not the case with FitSpark.
Despite the pleasant sounding name, these workouts can push you into full Spartan mode. For all intents and purposes, this is a good thing. It adds a much needed measure of longevity for reasonably fit people who train regularly (rather than being limited to absolute beginners).
TouchScreen - Polar Ignite Only
On the surface, the touchscreen of the Ignite appears to be an advantage over the Vantage M. However, a number of reviewers have found the rise to wake feature of the Polar Ignite a bit circumspect.
It obviously responds perfectly well to touch. It’s just that the screen automatically darkens after periods of inactivity. To ‘wake’ the screen, you simply need to raise the watch into a natural position that will allow you read the information on the screen. The only issue is that sometimes it doesn’t rise.
So, even though the Vantage M doesn’t have a touchscreen, the buttons end up being more user friendly when exercising, and the screen doesn’t go to sleep in the same way that Polar Ignite does. This could be a deal breaker for some people.
Key Features Unique to Polar Vantage M
We’ve mentioned this a few times, but it’s still worth repeating. The Polar Vantage M includes a triathlon mode, where you can easily switch between swimming, cycling and running.
Perhaps more importantly, the Polar Vantage M is arguably the best budget friendly triathlon watch in the world right now. It might not have the bells and whistles of the Garmin Forerunner 945, and it might not be quite as accomplished as the Polar Vantage V, but it delivers in terms of value for money and overall performance.
Running Power Meter Support
This could be deal breaker for runners that are keen to access their running power stats.
Simply put, the Polar Vantage M offers support for Stryd and Runscribe, whereas the Polar Ignite does not.
Manual Laps & Automatic Laps
A quick thanks so Alex and Steven (see comments at the bottom) for pointing this out. In essence, the Polar Vantage M allows you to create manual laps, and it gives you the option to create laps automatically. This differs from the Polar Ignite, which only supports automatic lap tracking. Just to make this crystal clear, I’m dropping this info into bullet point form:
- Polar Ignite – Automatic Laps Only
- Polar Vantage M – Manual Laps + Automatic Laps
Together with support for running power meters, this makes the Polar Vantage M the better choice for people who focus primarily on running.
So which one should you buy?
Polar have done an exceptional job with the Polar Ignite. It will meet the needs of almost all runners, it’s literally ideal for fitness enthusiasts, and the inclusion of pool swimming rounds off the overall package quite nicely.
However, the Polar Vantage M is still the better watch overall, because of its triathlon capabilities and the option to support running power meters, and the enhanced battery life.
All that being said, in my opinion, it all comes down to this.
- If you do triathlons – Polar Vantage M
- If you don’t do triathlons – Polar Ignite
- If running is your primary sport – Polar Vantage M (For Running Power Support and manual + automatic lap functionality)
- If you enjoy running and training at the gym – Polar Ignite
- If you want to add running power metrics to your workouts using Stryd or RunScribe – Polar Vantage M
- If you prefer using buttons rather than a touchscreen – Polar Vantage M
In the end, I think most people will be perfectly served by the Ignite. It’s affordable, packed with features, it caters to the needs of both runners and fitness fanatics.
Buth there are some chinks in the armor of the Polar Ignite, namely:
- The rise to wake screen feature could be better
- Some people prefer a button only interface, especially when exercising
- The lack of support for running power and manual laps means that veteran runners might be better served by the Vantage M
Ultimatley, if the poins raised above have the potential to be sticking points for you, then the Vantage M is probably a safer bet.