Cheap Elliptical Trainers
Published on By Elizabeth Sheer
Schwinn 420 Review
From $500 Best
Some experts consider the Schwinn 420 one of the best ellipticals for less than $1000. It may lack a few bonus features, but its quiet, smooth, and sturdy performance more than compensate.
Excellent value for a surprisingly low price make the Schwinn 420 (starting at $500, Amazon) a favorite of veteran and novice exercisers alike. One Schwinn 420 review posted on Amazon says this model gives a better workout than elliptical machines at the gym, and another says level one of the preset programs is more than challenging. Numerous mentions of the quiet and smooth glide show up in Schwinn reviews on Walmart, where exercisers further note it feels stable and sturdy and award it an average 4.6 stars out of 5. The stride length and ergonomics should be fine for most adults, although users who are much shorter or taller than the norm may argue otherwise: for example, one review says the footpath feels a bit short and another says you may have to lean far forward to grab the handlebars if you're less than 5'4". Meanwhile, an elliptical review on Fitness Equipment Source says the extra-long grip bars provide lots of options for grabbing hold.
The Schwinn 420 is a front-drive model with an 18-inch stride, typical of budget elliptical trainers. The electronics and comfort features are somewhat limited -- no MP3 port or speakers, for example, or fan or backlit display on the console -- but users aren't deterred; some reviews even express a preference for the stripped-down design although quite a few express a desire for a water-bottle holder and can't figure out why the packaging contains the necessary screws but not the rest of the hardware. The angle of the ramp is fixed, but as one Schwinn 420 review asserts, there's little need to change the incline when you've got 16 resistance levels and 12 preset workouts (and one you can customize) to keep you motivated. One snazzy feature is the articulating foot pedals, which angle up in the back and follow the contour of your foot as you stride, thus minimizing the chances of your foot falling asleep. The Schwinn 420 measures 62"x26"x71" and weighs 154 pounds; the maximum recommended weight for users is 300 pounds. Assembly can be accomplished in a couple of hours, but a few reviewers say the directions could be clearer.
In sum, the Schwinn 420 is a well-built and well-designed piece of gym equipment that will give you a stirring workout. It may lack a few frills, but its performance and price earn it a spot at the top of our list.
Horizon EX69 Review
From $799 Best
This is the budget buy for consumers who want to replicate at home the elliptical experience enjoyed at a gym. A solid build, 20-inch stride length, and overlapping pedals offer ergonomically-correct and challenging workouts.
Quality for the money is the assessment of All Ellipticals, whose Horizon EX69 review dubs this model a top choice in the budget price range. Most home exercisers agree, often citing the very natural feel of the leg motion, which is almost like walking or running but without the impact. This flat-ellipse movement eliminates any bounciness in your stride and boosts the comfort factor, says a review on Amazon. The resulting workout is intense and smooth and rivals what you'd get with a model costing double, add Horizon reviews posted on Horizon Fitness Outlet. Users say the machine is quiet, even with a 220-pound male on board and the long stride suits users taller than six feet, according to elliptical reviews. Users like the built-in speakers for MP3 entertainment , say the manual incline is easy to adjust, and praise the company's customer service, which is reportedly quick to send out replacement parts and locate a technician who can make house calls.
The Horizon EX69 (starting at $799, Amazon) is a relatively new model with ergonomically-appealing features. The "zero gap" between the pedals is good for back and hips, for example, and the pedals have a power arch and traction edge. Unlike other front-drive elliptical trainers, the design on the EX69 keeps you standing upright rather than leaning forward slightly. This model sports a 20-inch stride (unusually long for a discount elliptical machine), five incline settings, 16 resistance levels, 11 preset workout programs, and a built-in fan. You can change the workouts as you go, customize workouts for two users, and track your goals (time, distance, calories burned) for up to 31 days. The maximum user weight is 300 pounds and the assembled measurements are 72"x22"x65".
Bottom line: This is an excellent option if you want an exercise experience that's much like what you'd get at a gym but at a price that beats annual gym membership costs.
Nautilus E514 Review
From $537 Good
You won't find fancy features on this model, but it's well built, quiet, and smooth. If you want to be sure your heart rate is in the target zone while exercising, the wireless chest strap ensures accuracy.
Several Nautilus E514 reviews compare this elliptical trainer favorably to machines they've used at the gym. Reviews on sites like Abe's of Maine comment on the smooth, quiet, and sturdy operation, although a few users near to top of the weight limit report a bit of swaying. The budget price, feature set, and intuitive control panel draw approving comments, as well. About the only features lacking, says one elliptical review on Sports Authority, are speakers (BTW, there's no MP3 port) and an adjustable incline, although this particular user says he's never fussed with an incline anyway. While we did read quite a few reviews on Amazon commending this machine, several gripe about problematic electronics: a motor that quits, for example, or a console monitor that gives out. Customer service is apparently polite about such matters, but users lament that the problems don't get fixed.
The Nautilus E514 (starting at $537, Amazon) is a front-drive elliptical with 16 levels of resistance and 17 total workout programs, including 11 profile workouts, four heart rate programs, and the opportunity to create two custom programs for two users. The 18-inch stride is typical for budget models, as are the 300-pound weight limit and heart-rate sensor on the handlebars. There's also a fan, water bottle holder, and backlit LCD display. Two unusual features for a budget model are the wireless chest strap to monitor heart rate (a plus, says one user, who reports that it's accurate and lets you keep your arms moving to give you that total-body workout) and articulating foot pedals that rise up in the back. The Nautilus E514 weighs 165 pounds and measures 62"x26"x71".
In exchange for a modest price tag, you give up a few comfort features and some adjustability with the E514. But if a wide array of programmed workouts and heart-rate monitoring are important to you, you won't miss what's not there. All in all, a good cheap elliptical trainer.
ProForm 590E Review
From $582 Good
The ProForm 590E is all about the features, but it also offers a decent workout. The manually-operated incline isolates different muscle groups and plenty of preset workout programs provide motivating variety.
For exercisers who like lots of features on their in-home gym equipment, the ProForm 590E (starting at $582) delivers. ProForm 590E reviews on Abe's of Maine, for example, give a thumbs-up to the adjustable incline and the number of preset workout programs, which one user says is plenty sufficient for variety without paralyzing you with too many choices. The iFit Live compatibility is well-liked by users, including one home-workout neophyte who writes in a review on My Sears that the extra workouts you can access provide the challenge and motivation to stick with a regimen. Other users point out in ProForm reviews on Overstock that the backlit display is easy to read, you can watch a Netflix movie on your plugged-in iPhone while exercising and keep cool with the built-in adjustable fan. In terms of performance, consumers generally praise the smooth and quiet ride -- no problems hearing a radio or television -- and say several weeks of use produces noticeable results. This model finds favor with the budget-conscious, as well, who insist you get your money's worth.
And yet, we read a few ProForm 590E reviews reporting that the machine seems a bit wobbly, the stride a bit short, and the footpath not quite elliptical. Also, the display does not give a readout for distance. Elliptical Trainers concludes this is a machine best suited for moderate exercise by users who weigh quite a bit less than the specified 300-pound weight capacity.
Like most elliptical trainers in this price range, the ProForm 590E sports an 18-inch stride, heart-rate monitor, 16 resistance levels, and extra-large foot pedals. It also boasts a few less-common features, such as a manually-adjustable incline ramp (four positions between 5 and 20 degrees), a total of 20 preset workouts (14 performance and six weight-loss), and, as noted above, a personal fan and iFit Live compatibility. The 590E measures 62"x27"x65", and the pedals and base fold to save space.
Users consider this a solid piece of equipment that works smoothly and quietly and is best suited for people who of average size who expect to pursue a program of moderate exercise.
Where to buy
Weslo Momentum 630 Review
From $229 Think Twice
The very short stride length suits users who are very short, very light, or gunning for a low-intensity workout. Many users report it's noisy and wobbly.
For exercise newbies who don't want to make a big investment in a piece of home gym equipment, the Weslo Momentum 630 (starting at $229, Amazon) holds some appeal. As numerous Weslo Momentum 630 reviews point out, the price is about as low as could be, the machine is lightweight and easy to use, and the footprint is small compared to other low-cost ellipticals. It suffices for cardio workouts and weight control, say reviews on Walmart, and the resistance forces you to make an effort.
Positive assessments, no doubt, but a large share of Weslo Momentum 630 reviews gripe about several feature- and performance-related shortcomings. The noise, for one; users report rattling sounds from inside the machine, others say the overall racket interferes with TV-watching (wear ear plugs, suggests an owner), and still others say greasing the works has little to no effect. Rocking and wobbling cause consternation, according to elliptical reviews on Best Buy, as do the model's dimensions; one user says the short distance between the handlebars and where you stand is problematic for taller people. Users also grouse that the readout for distance displays rotations rather than miles, and some find the pedals spaced too far apart for a comfortable stride. Fitness Equipment Source faults the Momentum 630 for build quality and concludes it's more toy than serious elliptical trainer.
Indeed, it helps to be below-average height or way out of shape to get much use from this rear-drive model. The 12-inch stride length is far less than what workout experts recommend for most adults, and the100-pound mass reportedly struggles under the bulk of some users whose weight is clearly within the specified 250-pound limit. There are only two preset workout programs and 10 resistance levels; other budget models we researched feature more of both. One unusual frill is the "target pacer," which prompts you to adjust your speed up or down to better meet your target goals. The Weslo Momentum 630 measures just 44"x21"x55".
There are certainly users who like the Weslo Momentum 630. For a price that's several hundred dollars less than the best cheap elliptical trainers on our list, you get a bare-bones machine that could be a ticket into the workout scene -- or leave you wondering, why bother? If you find yourself becoming addicted to the whole exercise thing, you might wish you had opted for a bigger and better model from the get-go.
Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 Review
From $277 Think Twice
This is an entry-level elliptical trainer with a relatively short stride that many users say is good enough but hard to assemble and sometimes a bit shaky. It's the only model we researched that runs on batteries; an AC adapter is available.
Walmart has close to a lock on sales of the Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 (starting at $277), and reviews there are above average. The price is right, say Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 reviews, and the machine is sturdy and quiet -- at least at first. Users like the fluid movement and smooth transitions from one resistance level to the next, so you get a workout that impacts different muscle groups. And yet, quite a few reviews report odd little noises (a rubbing sound in the flywheel, for example, or something like a stiff piece of paper hitting the spokes), electronic malfunctions (try using pennies to hold the batteries in place, suggests one user), and component failures (e.g., a frame that cracks, screws that don't stay tight) that soon mar the experience. A few users also say the lightweight machine wobbles and caution that serious exercisers will be disappointed. The largest share of complaints, though, is reserved for the assembly process. Reviews grumble about missing parts, pieces that don't fit together properly, and poor instructions -- some units come packed with instructions in Spanish or French; in all, users assert that assembly is quite a chore. Customer service also is dinged in a few reviews for inadequately responding to calls for help or requests for new parts.
The StrideTrainer 380 features a short 14-inch stride length, which is a no-go for anyone taller than average and/or who is relatively fit; several users claim that the footpath stresses their knees. The weight capacity for users is 250 pounds, but an expert Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 review on Treadmill Sensei suggests you steer clear if you're anywhere near that limit. This model features six preset workout program, adjustable resistance (number of levels is unspecified), a console with a small display for the usual readouts, and a water-bottle holder. The StrideTrainer 380 is one of few elliptical trainers that runs on batteries (four D cells required) and in reviews on Workout Warehouseusers grouse that the alarming frequency of replacing them drives up the overall cost.
The Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 is cheap enough, and many people seem to get what they need from it. But reviews also suggest that this model is designed for casual users who are aren't very tall, have a tolerance for loud noises, and are undeterred by a challenging assembly process.
Where to buy
Exercise enthusiasts and professional trainers love elliptical machines -- cheap as well as pricey -- because they work the whole body with minimal impact to the joints. Your feet never leave the pedals and most have handlebars that move, so you get a dual workout that burns more calories in less time. Better yet, exercising with an elliptical machine seems almost easy. You can certainly pay several thousand dollars for this privilege by buying the type of fitness equipment found in a gym. No need, though, because we've identified several cheap elliptical trainers that provide the same benefits, albeit with a few less frills.
Cheap Elliptical Trainers Buying Guide
The elliptical trainers universe is dominated by several manufacturers that each make a number of brands. Icon Health & Fitness produces NordicTrack, ProForm, Weslo, and Gold's Gym, for example, and Johnson Health Tech Group produces Horizon Fitness and LiveStrong machines. Under each brand name is a daunting array of models, including many in the cheap elliptical trainers segment where prices sit below $800. At the high end of the market you'll find models by the likes of Yowza Fitness, Precor, and Sole Treadmills.
All elliptical machines follow the same basic principle: the user stands upright on the foot pedals and strides either forward or backward while pumping (or not) the handlebars to and fro. As Fitness Equipment Reviews notes, the location of the flywheel (drive mechanism) determines whether the elliptical trainer is rear-drive, front-drive, or center-drive. On rear-drive ellipticals, the flywheel is behind you and the workout motion feels more like walking or jogging. When the flywheel is in front, you lean forward a bit, sort of like working out on a stair climber. Center-drive elliptical trainers have two smaller flywheels on either side of the user and a smaller profile than front- and rear-drive ellipticals; they're also more expensive. The best way to determine which design suits you is to try out the gym equipment at a fitness store.
Here's what defines a good cheap elliptical trainer: a minimum 16-inch stride length; pedals that are close together (preferably no wider than six inches) and larger than your foot; adjustable resistance; and a variety of preset workout programs. A few better cheap elliptical trainers also sport adjustable incline. Consoles with readouts on data such as distance, calories burned, and speed are common, and almost all models come with a heart-rate monitor (of dubious reliability, according to many users). Cheap elliptical trainers sometimes feature a water bottle holder, fan, and/or MP3 port. High-end ellipticals afford more opportunities to customize the workout and feature more frills, such as adjustable stride lengths, bigger and better console screens, cushioning on the foot pedals, and chest straps for heart-rate monitoring; they also generally accommodate higher maximum weights. Based on the reviews we read, frugal exercisers are willing to sacrifice such add-ons in exchange for value; that is, a good price on in-home gym equipment that's sturdy, easy to assemble, and provides a challenging workout.
After assessing features and performance, we picked two best cheap elliptical trainers and two good cheap elliptical trainers; all are front-drive design. The "best" bucket holds the Schwinn 420 (starting at $500), a solid machine with a smooth, whisper-quiet stride, and the Horizon EX69 (starting at $799), a sturdy, ergonomically-focused trainer with a relatively long stride. Our "good" bucket includes the front-drive Nautilus E514 (starting at $537), another quiet and smooth piece of gym equipment, and the ProForm 590E (starting at $582), which boasts rich electronics that compensate for what some perceive as a bit of performance shakiness. We identified two models, both rear-drive elliptical trainers, that don't make the grade despite their low price. The Weslo Momentum 630 (starting at $229) features a small footprint but an extremely short stride and is dogged by reports of poor build quality. Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 (starting at $277) is fairly small and lightweight but users gripe about the assembly and some find it unstable.
Bottom line: The best cheap elliptical trainers will give you a serious workout and will likely do so for a good long while. Of course, no elliptical machine is worth even a penny if it sits and collects dust. Your ultimate satisfaction comes with results, be it weight loss, improved cardio endurance, or just a daily endorphin high -- milestones reached only if you use your cheap elliptical trainer on a regular basis. Professional reviewers, muscle magazines, and customers all agree that choosing the right machine for your size and fitness level increases the chances that you'll stay motivated and stick with your exercise routine.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Cheap Elliptical Machines Stride Length, Resistance
Elliptical Machines Stride Length.Stride length is the most important feature to check when shopping for an elliptical machine. Your leg movement should feel elliptical (i.e., like a stretched-out oval) and not circular or bouncy, which happens when the stride length is too short. Experts at All Ellipticals recommend that users taller than 5'7" choose a model with a minimum 20-inch stride length, but our research found that this standard would eliminate cheap elliptical machines with shorter strides that are otherwise worthy buys. Longer strides make for more challenging workouts but users with shorter legs or those who may be out of shape or constrained by a physical ailment may prefer a shorter stride. Some pricier elliptical machines accommodate improving fitness levels with a stride length that can be adjusted -- up to 32 inches on the Yowza Captiva (starting at $1,999), for example -- but fixed stride length is the norm among cheap elliptical machines.
We found cheap elliptical machines with stride lengths in the 12- to 20-inch range. The Horizon EX69 (starting at $799) boasts a 20-inch stride, while the Schwinn 420 (starting at $500), ProForm 590E (starting at $582), and Nautilus E514 (starting at $537) each feature an 18-inch stride. Two cheap elliptical machines with particularly short stride lengths are Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 (starting at $277) with a14-inch stride and the Weslo Momentum 630 (starting at $229) with a 12-inch stride. Two models that break the cheap mold are the NordicTrack Pathfinder (starting at $700), whose 18-inch stride automatically extends to 20 inches when the adjustable incline is set at the two steepest angles, and the ProForm ZE5 (starting at $599), whose stride length can be adjusted to 13, 15, and 18 inches.
Elliptical Machines Resistance.Resistance -- the tension you feel while pedaling -- is caused by braking on the flywheel. The tighter the brake's grip, the greater the resistance and the tougher the workout. Cheap ellipticals generally come with pre-set resistance levels; the more, the better. The Schwinn 420, Horizon EX69, ProForm 590E, and Nautilus E514 each feature16 resistance levels, and users report that even the lowest level on some of these models is a challenge. By contrast, the Weslo Momentum 630 features 10 resistance levels and Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 specs only indicate the resistance can be changed digitally.
Elliptical Machines Workout Programs.Cheap ellipticals also feature preset workout programs oriented around fitness goals, such as fat burning or cardio; targets, such as distance or speed; or performance, such as interval training or hills. The most generous of the elliptical machines on our list is the ProForm 590E with 20 programs and the most limited is the Weslo Momentum 630 with two preset workouts. The Nautilis E514 lets you customize workouts for two users and the Schwinn 420 gives you that option for one user.
Elliptical Trainers Incline.Ellipticals with an adjustable incline (i.e., ramp) keep your workout varied and challenging. A steeper incline increases the intensity of the workout and isolates different muscle groups (glutes, quads, calves) from those used on flatter angles. One of the premier features of the NordicTrack Pathfinder is its motorized power ramp, which has five incline settings that go from 15 to 35 degrees. Manual adjustments can be made on the Horizon EX69 (five positions) and ProForm 590E (four positions).
Elliptical Trainers Pedals.The pedals on an elliptical trainer should be larger than your foot so your toes don't jam up against the front. Most pedals on cheap elliptical machines offer some sort of traction so your foot doesn't slide off. Articulating foot pedals, featured on the Schwinn 420, align with the elliptical motion of the machine to keep your foot flat on the pedal throughout the workout. Pedals on a good elliptical trainer should also be close together; if too far apart, the action stresss your back, hips, and knees. The Horizon EX69 is the only model on our list that boasts "zero gap" pedals; that is, there's no space between them so they overlap as they move.
Elliptical Trainers Footprint.Any good cheap elliptical needs a large enough base for stability but not so large that it consumes half the room it's in. Our top picks measure at least 62 inches long by 22 inches across; the pricey Sole E95 (starting at $1,700) is 82" long and 27 inches wide. The Weslo Momentum 630 is diminutive by these standards; its 44"x21" footprint is well suited to small spaces, and one review notes that it easily fits on board a boat, which lets its owners stay in shape while cruising from port to port.
Most cheap elliptical machines have wheels so you can move them around. The base and pedals on the Nautilus E514, NordicTrack Pathfinder, and ProForm ZE5 fold, which preserves valuable floor space when sitting idle.
Elliptical Trainers Extras.Niceties such as an MP3 port, fan, and water bottle holder aren't necessary but can add fun and comfort to your workout. The Horizon EX69 features an MP3 port and speakers, as does the ProForm 590E; the latter is also compatible with iFit Live technology, which offers access (for a price) to a different set of workouts. A fan is built into both these models, as well as in the Nautilus E514; one 5'3" user of the Horizon EX69 sadly notes the fan blows onto her forehead. Three of our top picks and the Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 provide space for a water bottle. The Schwinn 420 comes with the screws to attach a bottle holder but users' reviews express puzzlement about why the holder itself isn't included.
All the low-cost elliptical trainers we researched have sensors in the hand grips that ostensibly measure your heart rate while exercising. The catch is, you must keep your arms steady. Users often question the accuracy of these readings and some say you get a truer read by checking your pulse with fingers and a clock. The Nautilus E514 also comes with a wireless chest strap for heart rate monitoring, a feature more commonly found at the higher end of the market.
Reviews posted by users and experts say the greatest benefits accrue from machines that challenge you over the long haul. The best elliptical will match your stride and offer varied workouts at different levels of difficulty. Elliptical reviews also indicate that users care about ease of assembly and build quality. For the most part, users' reviews indicate that our top picks for best elliptical machines give good value for the money and generally exceed expectations.
Elliptical Workouts.Finding the right fit between user and machine means matching your natural stride to that of the elliptical trainer and making sure you can easily grip the handlebars. The harmony, or lack thereof, will make or break your workouts. One 5'8" expert writes in an elliptical review on Fitness-Equipment-Source, a stride shorter than 18 inches makes his workout more like a bounce session than the kind of smooth movement exercisers seek; his preferred stride length is 20 or 21 inches. But, to each his own. The 20-inch stride on the Horizon EX69 finds favor with users (including one six-foot-plus exerciser) who appreciate the length and smooth motion. The action feels much like walking or running, says an Amazon review, and related design features keep you standing upright, which is unusual for a front-drive elliptical machine. Experts say the ergonomics of the EX69 (also incorporated in other Horizon models) make this machine one of the best ellipticals for female exercisers, and we read numerous positive reviews written by women. Reviewers also assert that the preset resistance levels are challenging and the manual incline is easy enough to change.
Stride length is two inches shorter on the Schwinn 420, but that doesn't detract from its strong showing in the crowded gym equipment marketplace. Reviews of the best ellipticals posted on Walmart say the workouts are demanding; one writer considers level 1 "moderate" rather than easy and another reports the leg and butt burn lets you know you're accomplishing something. Experts like the long handlebars, which provide plenty of options for gripping and changing up your upper body workout. And for the record, a few reviews say the 18-inch stride length suits long legs although others argue it's a bit short.
Smooth and stable is the consensus opinion expressed in ProForm 590E reviews. Exercisers posting on sites such as Walmart applaud the performance; one woman says level 2 gives a good workout and another user reports it helps ease the pain associated with fibromyalgia, which affects muscles and joints. Users also like the placement of the handlebars, which seem to suit various physiques and heights. Several elliptical trainers reviews report the 590E wobbles a bit -- one user remarks that losing 20 pounds would probably put less strain on the machine -- and another says the pedal action seems more circular than elliptical, perhaps a reflection of the 18-inch stride length. In the opinion of Elliptical Trainers, the ProForm 590E is designed for moderate amounts of exercise by users who don't come close to the 300-pound weight limit.
Users also like the Nautilus E514, citing its fluid motion and stable stance. It's an effective complement to a treadmill, asserts an elliptical trainers review at Abe's of Maine, while a user writes elsewhere that she chose this gym equipment over a treadmill because it's better for her knees and back. The 18-inch stride length suits users of varying heights; one man writes in a review on Amazon that it easily accommodates his 5'6" height (ditto for his wife) and a 5'10" exerciser says it felt a bit short only when he broke into a sprint.
Stride length is a tad problematic with the Weslo Momentum 630 and Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380. The workout intensity with the Weslo is good enough, conclude elliptical reviews, but only if you're not too tall. One user who stands 5'9" reports on the Target site that her knees hit the front of the machine. With its slightly longer 14-inch stride, the Gold's Gym machine is considered the best elliptical for quite a number of fans, particularly users seeking a none-too-strenuous form of exercise, according to reviews posted on Walmart. The reviews note, however, that it might disappoint the already fit and trim and its light weight might not stand up to overweight users. This view is echoed by experts who doubt the StrideTrainer's effectiveness at working the upper and lower body simultaneously and say the stated 250-pound capacity may be wishful thinking.
Ellipticals Electronics.The electronic consoles on elliptical machines provide readouts of useful data (e.g., speed, distance, calories burned, time elapsed, heart rate) and serve as control central for changing workout programs and resistance levels. Note, though, that users generally doubt the accuracy of the heart rate (pulse) readout, the exception being the Nautilus E514, which comes with a wireless chest strap.
Indeed, electronics garner lots of comments in ellipticals reviews. Several consumers posting on Amazon, for example, say they chose the Schwinn 420 partly because it's not overloaded with digital gadgetry (i.e., easier to use and less can go wrong). Its simplicity, however, mildly disappoints others. Some ding the absence of a port for an MP3 player and a backlight on the display and others gripe that you can only program one user profile. A few find the programming instructions hard to follow and the preset programs not well explained.
Rich electronics at least partly explain the lure of the Horizon EX69 and ProForm 590E. The former appeals to exercisers for features the Schwinn 420 lacks. Appreciative shout-outs in ellipticals reviews on Horizon Fitness Outlet cite the iPod/MP3 port, sound system, and built-in fan; we did read a reviewon Amazon, though, saying the preset program controls aren't particularly intuitive. iFit Live technology and numerous preset programs are the hallmark of the ProForm 590E. Some users jump at the opportunity to follow a Jillian Michaels workout or Google Maps trail with iFit Live cards, according to elliptical reviews on Walmart, even as others comment on Amazon that the 20 preset programs are sufficiently motivating, with the MP3 port offering additional diversionary options. Several users grouse about the absence of a readout for distance.
Users don't have much to say about the electronics on the other models on our list. One ellipticals review on Amazon of the Nautilus E514 says the controls are intuitive but a handful report problems with the electronics from the get go. The console on the Weslo Momentum displays the usual metrics, but users gripe that distance is indicated by the number of rotations and the calorie and heart rate feedback is dubious; one user notes that increasing exercise duration and resistance level had no effect on the readout for calories burned. The control panel on the Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 is easy to use, say ellipticals reviews posted on Walmart, although several note that the display can be hard to read because there's no backlight, and a few report problems with the wiring.
Ellipticals Assembly.Unless you opt to pay extra for professional assembly (some retailers offer this service), you're on your own here. All the models we researched arrive at your home in parts, accompanied by instructions and tools needed to put everything together, although some consumers opt for their own higher-quality tools. These pieces of gym equipment are heavy -- the ProForm 590E, for example, has a shipping weight of 216 pounds -- so you'll probably need help getting it into your exercise room. Several ellipticals reviews suggest unpacking the machine at the front door and carrying in each piece separately.
Assembly instructions typically say the job requires two people, but we read a good number of ellipticals reviews by users who completed the task solo. Be prepared to spend about two hours assembling an elliptical trainer. Consumers mostly say the instructions are clear and easy to follow, although a few report that those supplied with the Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 aren't very clear and others say they received packages with directions in Spanish. Users also gripe about the large number of tiny pieces on the Gold's Gym StrideTrainer, which is the only model we researched that runs on batteries (four D batteries), although you can buy an AC adapter. A few purchasers of the ellipticals discussed here say some parts arrived broken but were quickly replaced by the vendor or manufacturer.
Consumers advise that you grease the parts well and often in order to keep noise to a minimum and the machine in good working order.
Ellipticals Build Quality.The ellipticals reviews we found indicate that most consumers post comments within the first few weeks or months of purchase, so it's hard to predict how well any given machine will hold up over time. That said, we came across numerous complaints about noise -- squeaking, whooshing, rattling, or knocking -- from the Weslo Momentrum 630; one ellipticals review says earplugs are necessary and another says it's a struggle to hear the TV while exercising. Users also caution that this lightweight model may rock to and fro and some report that parts break easily. We also read some reports about disquieting noises on the Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380, as well as loose fittings and components that broke within a year. Several ellipticals reviews note that anyone near the 250 pound weight limit would find the machine wobbly.
Assessments of the build quality on our top picks are largely positive. Almost without exception, elliptical trainers reviews of the Schwinn 420 praise the sturdiness, stability, and near silence of this model. Similar judgments are offered up for the Horizon EX69, with a dissenting report here and there about minor noises that were ultimately eliminated. Most users consider the Nautilus E514 to be very stable, but one user who came close to the 300-pound weight limit writes on Amazon about creaky noises and swaying. Build quality is barely touched on in ellipticals reviews of the ProForm EX69.
The best cheap elliptical machines come with a warranty of at least a year. The ProForm 590E and Horizon EX69 offer a lifetime warranty on the frame and one year on parts and labor; the latter also comes with a lifetime warranty on the brake. The Nautilus E514 comes with a 10-year warranty on the frame, two years on parts, and one year on the electronics. The Schwinn 420 boasts a five-year warranty on the frame, one year on parts and electronics, and 90 days on wear and labor. The cheapest elliptical machines we researched offer more limited warranties: 90 days for the Weslo Momentum 360 and Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380.
Additional Products We Considered
Nordic Track Pathfinder Review
A NordicTrack Pathfinder review on Treadmill Doctor says this piece of in-home gym equipment has the smoothest elliptical motion of any budget trainer. And, unlike other low-cost ellipticals, it features an adjustable stride length; in this case one that extends two inches when the incline moves to the two highest positions. Users' reviews on the Sears site say this model exceeds their expectations: it provides a good cardio workout, tones muscles, strengthens legs, and helps users lose weight. It also wins points in an expert elliptical review on All Ellipticals for ergonomic comfort and strong resistance. The consensus opinion as expressed by users on the company's website:you get high returns for your investment.
This is a big elliptical trainer. It measures 78"x34"x69" (the base and pedals fold) and weighs more than 250 pounds; the maximum user weight of 350 pounds exceeds that of most budget ellipticals. The rear-drive Pathfinder (starting at $700) boasts a variable stride length of 18 or 20 inches and five incline settings between 15 and 35 degrees. There are 15 resistance levels and 20 preset workout programs. The large pedals fit at least size 13 (reports one user) and the iFit Live compatibility (for Jillian Michaels and Google Maps workouts) appeals to lots of exercisers. There's also a port for an MP3 player.
If the Pathfinder sounds appealing to you, better hurry. Availability is largely limited to the NordicTrack website, which hints that its days may be numbered.