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Best Ellipticals

By: Kelly Burgess on January 03, 2017

Editor's note: Sole Fitness still rules the full-sized elliptical world, but Schwinn, Sunny and Stamina make top-notch budget, space-saving and portable ellipticals. These machines provide the best, most effective, low impact workout of any other piece of home exercise equipment, and there's one for any budget or fitness goal, from light workouts to serious training.

Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical Machine Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Stride length - 20" - 22" Resistance levels - 20 Max. user weight - 400 lbs.

Best home elliptical

The Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical's super-smooth ride, sturdy frame, auto-adjust incline ramp and extensive warranty make it hard to beat. It's also a great value compared to other high-end ellipticals, which typically sell for much more. Its eddy current braking system is quiet and dependable, the heavy flywheel makes for a smooth ride, and owners largely have good things to say about Sole's customer service. See our full review »

Buy for $2,495.00
Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Stride length - 20" - 22" Resistance levels - 20 Max. user weight - 375 lbs.

Mid-priced elliptical

It's a bit lighter than its big sibling, the Sole E95, but the less-expensive Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical is equally praised by reviewers for its quality build and durable components. It has a slightly smaller LCD screen, but its 30-degree incline and a plethora of adjustments and programs earn a lot of praise. Owners love the great value this machine represents, saying it's a club-quality elliptical at a price that's very reasonable.

Buy for $1,799.99
Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Stride length - 20" Resistance levels - 20 Max. user weight - 300 lbs.

Best cheap home elliptical

The Schwinn 430 elliptical is surprisingly stable and quiet, with 16 levels of eddy current braking -- a truly rare find at this price range, say reviewers. Included in its impressive array of features are 22 programs, including options for beginners to advanced users. The 430's 18-inch stride length, smooth operation and a decent warranty combine to make the Schwinn 430 an excellent value if you're on a budget. See our full review »

Buy for $738.32
Sunny Air Walk Trainer Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Stride length - N/A Resistance levels - N/A Max. user weight - 220 lbs.

Compact elliptical

The Sunny Air Walk Trainer is as highly rated as ellipticals costing much more, but is lighter and much more compact. It does not have the bells and whistles of a full sized, high-end exercise machine, but most say that it provides all you need if you just want an effective, low-impact exercise option. Owners note that it's very quiet and is uncommonly comfortable to use. See our full review »

Buy for $63.00
Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Stride length - N/A Resistance levels - N/A Max. user weight - 250 lbs.

Portable elliptical

Reviewers say the Stamina In-Motion Elliptical may take some getting used to, but once you do, you'll love it. It's little more than a set of wheels you pedal, but it's extremely portable and many dedicated exercisers take it to work, on trips, or keep it in their dorm rooms. It can be used standing or sitting and go in forward or reverse to add variety.

Buy for $70.99

Ellipticals offer an intense, low-impact workout

An elliptical provides a workout that resembles a combination of walking (or running) and climbing in place. Ellipticals feature oversized pedals that move with the motion of your legs. Many people like ellipticals because they are easier on the joints than walking outside on a hard surface or running on a treadmill. You can go as fast or slow as you'd like on an elliptical machine, and in either forward or reverse to vary your workout. In addition to giving you a great cardio workout, most ellipticals have moving handlebars that provide full-body resistance as you pedal in place. One great feature of a home elliptical is that it is very quiet, so you won't disturb your downstairs neighbor -- a big plus for apartment dwellers.

Types of Elliptical Trainers

Full-Sized Ellipticals

Full-sized ellipticals offer a range of workout options, from intense to easy, as well as the ability to work your upper body and lower body; some even offer the option to isolate the upper body (most allow you to isolate the lower body). Many also feature plenty of nice touches -- like LED screens, cup holders, tablet rests, fans and more -- to make your exercise session a bit more pleasant. Some even offer Bluetooth connectivity so you can sync your workout with your smartphone and various fitness apps. We found plenty of really good full-sized ellipticals in the $600 to $2,300 price range, although a sub-$1,000 elliptical won't have quite as many bells and whistles as a pricier machine. Still, even those cheaper choices get great reviews for features and durability.

Compact/Portable Ellipticals

If you simply don't have the space for a full-sized elliptical, we found a couple of very highly-rated home ellipticals that give you a great workout, but have a relatively small footprint -- some are even small enough to tote to the office. One drawback is that these elliptical machines are designed to have one, relatively low-intensity workout level. However, users who are just trying to move more, who describe themselves as "un-athletic" or who simply want an easier workout love them.

Finding The Best Elliptical Trainers
Our Sources
"10 Best Ellipticals "
"Elliptical Reviews by Industry Experts"

To find the best home ellipticals, we looked at a few important factors: Smooth, stable and quiet performance; easy-to-use features and controls; long-term durability and reliability; and a good warranty backed by responsive, helpful customer service. ConsumerReports.org is the only credible professional organization we spotted that tests and ranks ellipticals, but there are some other good expert sources that review individual ellipticals. Most important, we evaluated hundreds of customer reviews to gauge owners' satisfaction with the features and usability of their home elliptical machines. This information, along with expert evaluations, led us to finding the best ellipticals for any home fitness regimen.

The best ellipticals

Of all the ellipticals we evaluated, the front-drive Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical (Est. $2,000) boasts the best combination of stability; durability; useful features; smooth, quiet resistance; and affordability. Users say it feels very solid, like a gym-quality elliptical. Many say that they, and sometimes other members of their family, use it every day, multiple times a day.

The Sole E95 offers 20 levels of eddy current braking -- the gold standard for quiet operation and reliability -- and is backed by a solid warranty: Lifetime frame coverage, five years on parts, and two years of labor coverage. Sole Fitness has an excellent reputation for customer service; owners say they're prompt, efficient, and honor their warranty with no hassles.

The Sole E95 also has a plethora of useful features, including an incline ramp that power-adjusts between 0 and 40 degrees (adjusting the stride length between 20 and 22 inches); 10 workout programs, including two custom workouts and two heart rate control workouts; cushioned, adjustable foot pedals that angle slightly inward to reduce stress on your joints; a 9-inch LCD console that tilts for easier viewing; and handgrip controls for easy adjustments to both incline and resistance. Users say the built-in sound system and fan are just adequate -- but we see similar feedback for those features on almost every elliptical -- indeed, on almost every piece of home exercise equipment we review. New for 2017, the Sole 95 is now Bluetooth-enabled, so you can wirelessly sync your exercise stats with your smartphone and a variety of fitness apps.

For a few hundred dollars less, the Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical (Est. $1,700) shares the same excellent build quality and warranty, and almost all of the same features -- including the 2017 Bluetooth upgrade. The LCD screen is a little smaller (7.5 inches), the max incline is a little lower (30 degrees), and the flywheel is a little lighter (29 pounds instead of 34). It's also got just a bit smaller footprint and a lower upper weight limit -- 375 pounds to the E95's 400 pounds. However, the E35 gets just as good of reviews from experts and owners for performance and features.

That's not to say that the Sole E95 and Sole E35 are perfect. The most common complaint we found for both was occasional squeaking or clicking noises from the foot rails. Most users say lubricating the foot rails will resolve this, while others simply let Sole's excellent service department take care of it. These ellipticals also require assembly -- unless you pay for assembly on delivery. While assembly is not necessarily super difficult, it is time-consuming and there are lots of parts to keep track of -- some of which are rather heavy. Assembly is much easier, users say, if you get organized first, take your time, and enlist the help of a friend.

It's a bit pricier, but experts and owners also give a lot of love to the True Fitness M30 Elliptical (Est. $2,300). At TreadmillDoctor.com editors say, "This trainer highlights its durability, quality, and compact design as one of the best in the market." It's also considered a Best Buy in its price class, they note. Owners give it kudos too, praising its smooth ride and excellent ergonomics, saying it's a comfortable, stable ride. They also love its smaller footprint, something TreadmillDoctor.com notes as a highlight as well. At only 42 inches long, it should fit in smaller spaces, yet it's suitable for users up to 300 pounds.

The True Fitness M30 doesn't skimp on features either. It has a 21-inch stride length --plenty for all but the tallest, longest-legged users -- and the side-step technology can provide an all-over body workout or a lower body or upper body-only workout. True's Cardio 360 heart tracking program earns a Very Good rating from ConsumerReports.org, and users say the heart rate tracking is simple to use, and quite effective. The LED console is reported as easy to use and read, and the 12 preset workout programs provide enough variety to keep users from getting bored. There's also an accessory rack to hold a tablet or book. As we noted above, this machine is uncommonly stable and durable, and True Fitness customer service is reported as excellent.

Inexpensive home ellipticals don't have to be cheap

The least expensive full-sized elliptical in this category, and one of the highest-rated home machines in spite of its low price, is the Schwinn 430 Elliptical (Est. $600). Bargain-priced ellipticals tend to have short, choppy strides, but the front-drive Schwinn's 20-inch stride length is the equal of many high-end home ellipticals. It has 20 levels of eddy current resistance (another great feature for the price), and users say the motion is smooth and stable, even for larger users -- its maximum weight capacity is 300 pounds.

There are eight heart rate control programs, which may be overkill, especially since the Schwinn 430 relies on handgrip heart rate monitors and is not compatible with a wireless chest strap heart monitor. The two user IDs and custom programs, however, are welcome additions; as are the built-in speakers and fan.

The Schwinn 430 also has a USB port for data export to Schwinn Connect and MyFitnessPal.com -- online tools to help users upload and track their workout data and fitness goals; the USB port can also be used for charging your portable gadgets. We found a couple of comments that the 430's moving handlebars might be set just a little too narrow if you're planning on holding onto the stationary handlebars as you pedal, but overall, the Schwinn 430's quiet, smooth performance, excellent stability and good durability are all remarkable finds in this price range

The Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer (Est. $650) is another inexpensive home elliptical that's highly rated by experts and owners. It receives Very Good ratings for ergonomics, exercise range, ease of use, construction and safety in one professional test.

Users also give this elliptical machine high ratings, saying the Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 is very easy to assemble and use, and offers a great workout. They also note that it's smooth and quiet, with a good array of features, including 10 manual programs, a heart rate monitor (although it's a grip monitor, which is less accurate than a chest strap), and tracking for time, distance, speed and calories. The EX-59-02 also has 10 levels of resistance. It does not have quite the number of bells and whistles as the Schwinn 430, and a slightly lower upper weight limit of 275 pounds, but reviewers say it's very durable and they expect it to last for years.

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Elliptical Trainers buying guide

What every best Elliptical Trainers has:

  • A heavy flywheel.
  • Enough resistance levels.
  • Quiet magnetic braking.

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