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Best Ellipticals

By: Kelly Burgess on December 11, 2017

The best ellipticals

Of all the ellipticals we evaluated, the front-drive Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical (Est. $2,500) boasts the best combination of stability; durability; useful features; smooth, quiet resistance; and affordability. It's a top pick at Consumer Reports, with Excellent ratings for ease of use, heart rate features and safety; Very Good ratings for ergonomics, exercise range and construction. AT Fitness Equipment Source it gets 4.5 stars out of 5, with the experts there calling it "Sold, Stable & Rugged - A Winning Combination." Users agree, saying 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. $1,800) 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.

At Fitness Equipment Source the Sole 35 earns a 4.5-star rating, as well as a Best Buy designation. They note that it's one of the lowest- maintenance machines you can get at any price range. John Carlzon at Top Ten Reviews puts the Sole 35 at number four on his top ten list after research and testing, saying it, "gives a smooth and substantial workout." The only con he notes is that there are only 10 preset workouts. Owners agree with Carlsen, giving the Sole 35 above-average ratings and saying they're very pleased with the build quality and the various workout options.

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.

The ProForm Pro 12.9 (Est. $1,280) is another good choice in the mid-priced category. In fact, the only thing that kept it out Best Reviewed status for this update is the lack of user reviews. But experts are heaping a lot of praise on it. In this free-to-the-public article, Daniel Wroclawski, writing for Consumer Reports, says, "The pricetag makes the ProForm Pro 12.9 attractive to a first-time elliptical buyer, as do the 43 preset exercise programs, which should make it easier to get up and moving."

Treadmill Doctor names the ProForm Pro 12.0 the Winner in their Best Buy $1,000 to $1,299 category. In the expert review there, they note that this ProForm's design is proven to be durable and call it, "A superior value for the money."

One interesting feature of the ProForm Pro 12.0 is its claim to be almost fully assembled out of the box. This is significant because one big complaint we see about all ellipticals is that they are very difficult to assemble. At this point, there is not enough user input for us to determine if that is true or not, but it's something we'll keep an eye on.

The ProForm Pro 12.0 features a 32-pound flywheel with 26 resistance levels. The stride adjusts up to 20 inches and the incline from 0 to 20 degrees. It also features 35 workout programs and can be iFit Coach enabled to offer even more -- although iFit requires a dedicated subscription that costs about $180 per year. A wireless chest strap is included to monitor your heart rate, or you can just use the pulse grip sensors on the handlebars. There is also a 7-inch touch screen and tablet holder -- two items that are becoming pretty standard equipment on most ellipticals these days.  

It's a bit pricier, but experts and owners also give a lot of love to the True Fitness M30 Elliptical (Est. $2,300). Treadmill Doctor editors say this machine is, "Perhaps the best compact elliptical on the market today providing exceptional quality coupled with a price point that is reasonably affordable for people in the upper end of the elliptical 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 Treadmill Doctor 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 Consumer Reports 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 470 Elliptical (Est. $800). 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 25 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. You can also create up to four user programs, something that impresses the folks at Top Ten Reviews.  

At Consumer Reports the Schwinn 470 earns ratings of Very Good across the board for ergonomics, exercise range, ease of use, construction, heart rate features and user safety. It's also named a Best Buy there. It's the number five pick (out of 10) and Top Ten Reviews, but their review is disappointingly devoid of testing notes, even though they say they tested for this roundup. Rather, they call out the 470's features for praise, and there are plenty of those.

That includes 29 preset workout programs, with custom programs available as well. The display is fairly small, but still a nice touch at this price point. It displays time, distance, speed, calories burned, resistance level and more. There are 29 preset programs, as well as the ability to design four custom programs. The automated inclined adjusts up to 10 degrees. A three-speed fan is also a nice touch to keep the user comfortable. The Schwinn 470 is compatible with a chest strap-style heart monitor, but one is not included. However, we recommend some top choices in our separate report on heart rate monitors.

The Schwinn 470 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.

The ProForm Smart Strider 495 CSE (Est. $600) is another inexpensive home elliptical that's highly rated by experts and owners. Treadmill Doctor names it their Winner in the $400 to $699 Best Buy category, calling it an, "excellently designed rear drive elliptical that provides superior feel and ergonomics for a value price."

The Smart Strider also boasts the same, easy "out of the box" assembly as the ProForm Pro 12.9, again, something we can't really comment on at this time due to a dearth of user reviews. ProForm redesigned their elliptical line this year, so owner input isn't plentiful, although experts are so far impressed.

Also like the ProForm Pro 12.9, the ProForm Smart Strider 495 CSE is iFit Coach enabled, although a subscription is required. It has 18 preset workouts, 18 resistance levels and an 18-inch stride length. That might make it a better fit for smaller individuals especially since it has a slightly lower upper weight limit of 275 pounds.

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Ellipticals buying guide

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

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