Elliptical Reviews – Find Your Ideal Elliptical Machine
Finding reliable, high quality Elliptical Reviews online can be a bit of a challenge. Either the reviews are written by the manufacturers (not so independent) or by someone just rehashing a list of features straight from sales brochures. This is where we come in.
Firstly, we are a totally independent website - our reviews are based on actually testing the different elliptical machines we feature. We list other alternatives but each of our review machines have been tried and tested.
Secondly, this site has been designed to save you time and money by filtering out the noise. Have you had a look yet? With modern elliptical trainers the first thing that strikes you is the overwhelming number of choices and prices to consider.
Finding the Best elliptical machine for your own needs can be a time consuming process - so we have a quick guide for that!
On this page you will find a lot of detailed information and our Buying Guide showing you the most important features you need to be looking at.
When you are ready to read some reviews you can see the latest ones down the right hand side - with a selection below as well. Each one has been set out to give you the most important information - using a quick ratings box, quick features guide table and including short elliptical reviews videos where available.
We also have the main reviews sorted in easy to find ways:
Best Ellipticals by Price Range
Prices change regularly - use these as a guide but always check for the latest price!
Top Elliptical Trainers by Brand Manufacturer
Here we have grouped them by the best brand names in the market - giving you a review of the makers and showcasing the best models in their ranges. You can always find the brand pages across the top of the site - a great way to compare machines from each manufacturer.
Livestrong, Smooth and others - coming soon!
Now you know how to navigate this site quickly and easily let's have a look at what you really need to know about to find that ideal home elliptical machine.
Elliptical Machine Buying Guide
What exactly is an elliptical trainer? It is basically an exercise machine which simulates walking, running and cycling - all together! The name comes from the elliptical motion of the pedals. Most modern machines have moving handlebars to exercise the upper body at the same time giving you a complete, whole body workout - sometimes called a Cross Trainer. If you have never used one have a look at the video below - easier to see than explain!
Ellipticals are now the fastest selling items of home gym equipment - outstripping treadmills, cycling machines and rowing machines - Why? .... Several reasons:
They might be a low impact training device but they have had a massive impact on the home gym market! It is easy to see why.
Choosing the Best Elliptical Trainer
Here is the problem - there are a huge range of different machines on the market. At first it can be very confusing with all of the different features, the weird terminology and then you look at the prices - how can they range from hundreds to the thousands of dollars? Here are some tips to get started.
Find the "Best Elliptical Machine" for your needs - nothing else really matters!
A Lot Comes Down to Price
Ellipticals vary widely in price and you need to know that there are good reasons for this. They are one item where you definitely get what you pay for - at least up to a point. Now don't panic, this doesn't mean you need to spend thousands; it all depends on certain factors.
Between price points you step up in both build quality and available features. The quality of the frames, mechanisms and the added features of the trainers will go up along with the price. The trick is to find the sweet spot for what you actually need from the machine.
Price Guide - How Much You Need to Spend
Below is a sample of what you can expect in terms of prices. These are brief summaries, you can follow the links to the main review pages with a lot more detail. The list here includes some of the best selling ellipticals on the market today.
Prices - All prices are subject to change. These ranges are meant as a guide only - always check the latest prices by following the links.
And Some of Our Top Picks ....
Lets start at the cheaper end of the market - You can find a range of economy machines below $500 and they can be great for occasional light use. They are ideal for recovering from injury or fairly gentle exercise regimes but don't expect any high performance, gym quality. They can be a good way to get started with your first home elliptical trainer but hopefully you will soon upgrade!
This is the economy version in the range of trainers made by Schwinn. Not as full featured as their more expensive ellipticals but certainly one of the better quality ones in this price range.
It's main features include 8 resistance levels, a full featured LCD with 6 workout programs and a handle grip heart monitor. As a starter model you could do a lot worse. You can read the full review here.
One other machine worth a mention at this low price range is the Exerpeutic 1000XL. It is actually not a bad starting machine - worth a look if you are on a tight budget and want a simple exercise machine.
Horizon EX 69-02 - sells under $$ right now - incredible value as this machine was originally listed at $999 - Read my full elliptical review!
For light, low intensity training - not everyday use, the cheaper models will probably be good enough for many people.
Next up - ellipticals between $500 to $1,000. You will notice a marked improvement in quality in this range, still not quite the machines you might recognize from the gym, but headed in that direction. You will notice more robust frames and some of the fancy features such as advanced pre-set programs.
There is one Gem which stands out for me -
This one is great value for a rear drive machine. For a mid range machine, this would have to be my top pick.
Apart from the ride quality, thanks to the rear drive mechanism, the Proform 14.0 RE also features ramp incline technology - meaning you can adjust the incline difficulty - and is compatible with the very popular iFit Live program.
It has an 18" stride length, 14 resistance levels, 18 workout programs and a space saver design - so will fit most homes.
It really is a remarkable machine offering real value for money. If you don't want to spend too much - this is the machine you need to check out. Read my full review for all the details.
There are a couple of trainers also worth a look in this price range:
Schwinn 430 - this one costs under $$$ and is definitely worth a closer look.
If you intend to use the machine for anything more than occasional light use you really need to be prepared to pay a minimum of $800.
Taking it up a level means upping your budget - $1,000 - $2,000 is next! For high intensity regular use, you should pay as much as you can afford but aim for a minimum of $1500. At this price range you can pick up some very good quality trainers - check this one out - probably the best seller in this range ..... for a reason:
The Sole E95 is one of the most popular models coming in under $$$$ and providing excellent value for money - plus some great extras. This level of machine will more than cope with most people's needs providing a smooth ride and allowing for some serious exercise.
Sole Fitness have a great reputation and all of their machines offer reliability and value for money - they always come out highly in online reviews and this one regularly tops the best seller lists.
The E95 has some really nice features only found in more expensive models - adjustable pedals, variable stride length up to 22" and power incline up to 40 degrees. A 34lb flywheel using ECB resistance means this machine will make your workouts as challenging as you need. Follow the link for the full E95 Review.
Another of my favourites in this group is the Yowza Captiva usually priced in this range. Yowza make great quality machines and have really started to challenge the big names in home exercise. They look quite different from most machines - quite quirky - but make no mistake, they are top quality. I really like them!
Models over $2,000 are intended for serious workouts - everyday use with good resistance levels and a good range of training programs.
It is difficult to compare like for like - how do you compare a machine that costs $8,000 with one at $3,000? I have evaluated them based on what I think is the best value at the top end.
For my money, the Precor EFX 5.25 is hard to beat in terms of value - it really competes with the best of them. Is it "better" than the Precor EFX 835 - of course not - but do you need the 835, or just want it!
Precor trainers are right up there in terms of quality and performance. The EFX range keeps on going up in price from this model - the 5.25 will cost just under $$$$ but it is worth it!
You'll notice right away that it has a Rear Drive Flywheel - regarded as the best (read more about this in the guide below).
As you would expect at this sort of price you get lots of features including their own patented variable stride technology, reverse pedal action, automatic ramp angle and 16 resistance levels. If you are a serious user this is the sort of machine you should aspire to - read my full Precor EFX 5.25 Review here ... and dream!
Another couple of machines stand out in this price range based on their quality and the potential value for money when compared to more expensive models.
Another model from Yowza priced just under $$$$. They have more expensive models such as the Yowza Miami - but really the Islamorada is as far as you need to go - in my opinion.
I have used this machine and the ride quality is exceptional - plus I have a soft spot for their design. You can check out my full Yowza Islamorada Review here.
This model from the maker Octane is worth a mention here - usually priced in this range. Like Yowza they have been competing well with the established big names and have really focused on strong design as well as quality. They offer something a little bit different - read my full review to find out more!
Once you go to $3,000 and more you are into the top end machines. Are they really any better than one at $1,500? I am afraid the answer is YES! How much value you will get from spending this amount of money will depend on your level of use.
Check out my favorite top end trainer -
If you are really into your ellipticals, this one will be your ultimate dream machine. The price tag of around $$$$$$ (ouch!) will mean that most of us will only dream - myself included.
I've been lucky enough to use this machine quite a bit at my local gym and it is pretty awesome.
Features include 20 pre-set programs, auto CrossRamp technology, touch and telemetry heart rate monitoring and excellent warranty terms. That doesn't begin to explain this trainer. You can read all you like but you won't "get it" until you give it a try. For the full spec - read my EFX 835 review.
Machines in this price range are usually classed as light commercial elliptical trainers, approaching the quality you would find in your local health club. It might just surprise you how many people are buying this level of machine - but don't worry, something a little cheaper will still get you fit!
Level of use is your starting point - for how much you need to spend on an elliptical machine
We have sorted our elliptical trainer reviews by price - look to the top right of any page on this website for the links.
Now Let's Look at the Important Review Features
One of the most important factors, especially as you go up in price, is how the resistance of the machine is delivered. Several design features are important here so let me explain a little.
Front Drive versus Rear Drive Elliptical Trainers
At first glance this may not seem important but it has a huge effect on the overall quality of the machine. The high end elliptical trainers all have rear drive flywheels. The position of the flywheel can influence the balance of the machine and a rear drive will have less moving parts and so not suffer from excess wear and tear. The body position with a rear drive is always more natural.
Front drive machines are cheaper to make, and take up less space but at a cost to efficiency. It doesn't matter so much with the budget end but for a high quality machine you should choose a model with rear drive.
Brake Resistance System
The brake resistance system is what allows you to determine the level of difficulty in your workout. The type will impact smooth operation and maintenance issues. There are three main types:
Electromagnetic Resistance Brake - no moving parts so are long lasting and reliable. Usually in the high end machines - most expensive but the best quality.
Magnetic Resistance Brake - the most common type of brake in the mid range models. Still offers a good and more cost effective method. Good enough for most people.
Self-generating Induction Brake - used mainly in the cheaper ellipticals.
Ball Bearings or Bushings?
The moving "joints" of the trainer will have bushings in the cheaper models and sealed ball bearings in a better quality machine. It is not a massive issue but will have an effect on the noise from the machine and how quickly parts will wear. Again for a quality machine intended for heavy use look for sealed ball bearings in the specifications.
Other Major Parts
User Weight and Height
There are a couple of parts to an elliptical trainer which have an important role in the height and weight of the user (s). Most machines will display a recommended maximum user weight - not to be confused with the weight of the actual machine. Most machines will comfortably support user weights up to 250lbs some can go beyond 300lbs - if this is an issue for you be sure to check the specifications before you buy.
The two major parts which effect user size are the frame and the pedals but also be aware of the stride length - for taller users. Stride lengths below 18" are not suitable for people over 6' tall. Best to aim for stride length between 18" and 20" - longer gives you more flexibility.
Frame Quality - One of the first things you will notice with a better quality trainer will be the build quality of the frame. This has a bearing on the weight of the actual machine. Lighter quality frames have the advantage of being smaller (usually), cheaper and easily moved around - but that is where the advantages end.
Heavier frames usually take up more space and are less portable but they have advantages:
- More stable - ideal for vigorous workouts
- Last longer - all about the quality of materials - steel vs. aluminum frames
- Suitable for taller and heavier users - with the better quality frames you would expect to have increased stride length and many will have added featured such as inclines.
What type of foot pedals are the best? The pedals are very important to your comfort but also the quality of the workout potential - let me explain.
Fixed Position Pedals - often on the cheaper models, just as they sound - the pedals do not move, so can put more strain on the ankles during more vigorous workouts.
Articulating Pedals - these pedals move up and down and flex with the foot, easing strain and giving a smoother experience.
Top - Tip ... do not underestimate the value of this! If you try out fixed pedals versus articulating pedals the difference is clear.
The foot pedal size can also be something to look out for with cheaper machines, especially if you have big feet!
The Fancy Stuff!
Some reviews often spend most of their time talking in detail about extra fancy features - does it have an iPod dock, is the screen LCD or LED. To me, many of these features should be viewed as just little extras. Focus on the quality of the most important working parts above to get the best elliptical for your needs. That being said, some extras can help and are fun additions - just don't buy something based on the LED screen!
Extra Features in Order of Importance
Incline Ramps and Variable Stride
Better quality ellipticals will offer these features as standard and they do have a role to play. The incline ramps can be a great way to vary the degree of difficulty in your workouts. They change the angle of your movements and work extra muscles. Added to the resistance levels you can set up a pretty extreme exercise program.
The variable stride feature can also help - extending the stride length makes it harder and works your muscles that little bit extra. It can be good to be able to add some variation and work all muscle groups.
Heart Rate Monitors
They nearly all have them - with varying quality and accuracy. For me these are a bit of a marketing gimmick. People love to use them at the start but the novelty soon wears off. Unless you are a very serious trainer or professional athelete I wouldn't place too much value on these. Good fun but not really important is my verdict.
Backlit LCD or LED Display Panels
The display panels on some models look very space-age, very enticing, but how much will this effect your workout? If you place a lot of importance on the pre-programmed workouts and all of the fancy options it is important that you can read the screens.
LED panels are best for reading at all angles - handy when you are bouncing around on an exercise machine. A backlit LCD will be almost as good but a plain LCD may be difficult to read when you are on the machine. I wouldn't spend extra money just for the display panel type.
Every new model released seems to come up with another fancy feature - some can be useful but most are just added extras. Some common extras are Fans, iPod / MP3 Docks, USB ports and even internet connectivity. For some people they are important. I prefer to spend more for a better build quality or brake resistance system.
Warranty - Guarantee
Some of these machines are expensive so it is important to check the terms offered in the warranty. Most will offer a fixed number of years cover for frames and working parts. For the top end machines you might want to get them listed in your home insurance schedule to cover theft and accidental damage.
Questions to Ask Before Buying an Elliptical Machine
- How much can you afford?
- How often and intensively will you be using it?
- User size - height and weight
- Will it fit your exercise space?
- Brake Resistance system - front or back?
- Pedals and stride length
- What fancy features do you really need?
Elliptical Buying Guide Infographic
I've put together this quick reference Infographic to remind you of the main things to look for when searching for your best elliptical machine. Don't forget to share it with a friend!
Share this Image On Your Site
Hopefully you are now a bit closer to being able to make your choice and find your ideal home elliptical trainer. It is time to start looking at some of our detailed reviews. You will find the latest reviews and the reviews by price at the top right hand side of this page - you can also search by brand name across the top of this page.
Remember to check back often as we continue to add to the product list with new models as they are released. Need more information about elliptical machines - check out some of our latest information articles. We also have a Health and Fitness Blog - loads of useful articles on there!
We hope this has been of some help and good luck in your search!