Experts and users alike love the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 elliptical trainer's smooth, quiet ride -- until it stops working, at which point their opinions diverge sharply. While experts say Smooth Fitness's customer service is excellent, actual owners tell a different story, warning that Smooth's representatives are unresponsive, even when it comes to processing refunds.
One missing feature. Expert reviewers say the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 provides a generally smooth, quiet and stable ride. One says it's "built like a rock" and likes the pivoting foot pedals, which are designed to reduce heel impact and minimize foot numbness during long workouts. Users generally agree -- until the unit breaks down, at which point reports of poor customer service come into play. The Smooth CE 3.6's electromagnetic braking system offers 16 levels of quiet, smooth resistance, although the incline cannot be adjusted to target different muscle groups. As a result, the 18-inch stride length is also fixed.
For the tall…or maybe short? Reviewers say some of the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6's features, such as the handlebars and center console, are better suited for tall users. However, Fred Waters of Fitness-Equipment-Source.com suggests its 18-inch, non-adjustable stride for exercisers who are 5 feet 10 inches and shorter. The console supports nine user IDs. The Smooth CE 3.6 offers 10 programs, including a random-resistance mode and a heart-rate control program (a chest-strap heart-rate monitor is included). It also comes with an iPod dock, workout fan and optional Bluetooth module (Est. $129) that enables tablet-based fitness controls and interactive workouts.
Split opinions. The Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 has a rollerless design with sealed, self-aligning bearings, which reviewers say creates a smooth, durable stride action. Experts say this is a solid machine with "a long history of excellent quality." However, we found quite a few user complaints about durability and build problems, including parts that came out of the box cracked. It's hard to tell whether the CE 3.6 actually suffers from more durability problems than other elliptical trainers, or just that we hear more about it because of the poor customer service associated with those complaints.
Inconsistent help, but a long warranty. Smooth Fitness provides a very impressive guarantee, considering the CE 3.6's price range: lifetime frame and brake warranty, plus five years for parts and two years for labor. However, while experts praise Smooth Fitness's customer support, owners tell a different story. A few say they had a good customer-service experience, but most complain that representatives are unresponsive, even when it comes to processing refunds or orders for the elliptical trainer in the first place. They also say that replacement parts come very slowly -- sometimes months after the fact -- if they come at all.
This review contains input from thorough expert testing as well as consumers. Ratings are based on ergonomics, construction, exercise range, heart-rate features, ease of use and user safety, and are available only to subscribers.
Review: Ellipticals: Smooth CE 3.6, Editors and Contributors to ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
The editors of TreadmillDoctor.com rigorously test the products they review, including disassembling each machine. They name the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 one of the best buys in its price range, writing that "While the CE 3.6 does not have some of the features that other ellipticals do... it does have a long history of excellent quality."
Review: Smooth CE 3.6 Elliptical Review, Editors of TreadmillDoctor.com, Not Dated
As a former vice president at Smooth Fitness, Waters is knowledgeable, thorough -- and potentially biased, although we don't see any trace of it in his review. He tests and reviews many elliptical trainers; he names the CE 3.6 as a great value in its price range, citing "rock solid" performance and "an impressive service record."
Review: Smooth CE 3.6 Elliptical Trainer Rating & Review, Fred Waters, Not Dated
Almost three dozen users review the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 elliptical trainer on Amazon.com, giving it an average score of 3.7 stars out of a possible 5. Poor customer service is the most common complaint and there are a number of mentions of problems out of the box.
Review: Smooth Fitness CE-3.6 Elliptical Trainer, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of December 2013