Based on a number of parameters like brand, price, reviews, we have concluded that the Sole E35 is the best elliptical for home use. Go for the more expensive Sole E95 if you want more weight capacity, a heavier fly wheel, more levels of resistance, adjustable incline of up to 40 degrees. For those on a budget, the Schwinn 430 is a good bet, with 20 levels of resistance and a weight capacity of 350 lbs.
An elliptical machine is designed to imitate the practice of running, minus the impact, making it especially suitable if you have bad knees. The moving handle bars and the adjustable resistance make it a workout for the whole body. With an elliptical, you work out practically every muscle group in your body – legs, glutes, back, arms and abs. Ellipticals are a great way to get a fabulous work out for the entire body, to help with weight loss and toning of the body.
The latest elliptical machines available these days offer a high degree of personalisation. They are often equipped mini-computers, supplying a wide range of data, along with the ability to connect to the internet. An elliptical machine is a major investment, so it makes sense to identify your needs properly before buying. The more expensive ones tend to be bigger and sturdier, with longer periods of warranty for the individual components.
The Top Pick: Sole E35
The Sole E35 Elliptical is a mid-level elliptical trainer that has a 375 pound weight limit. It has a 29 pound flywheel and 15 inch cushioned, adjustable pedals. It provides a challenging workout for the whole body with 16 levels of resistance and is supported by a backlit 7.5 inch LCD panel that provides adequate data. The console has an in-built fan, bottle holder and speakers into which you can plug your mp3 player directly, allowing you to listen to your favourite music while working out.
The Step-Up Pick: Sole E95
The Sole E95 Elliptical is a gym quality elliptical trainer that has, at 400 pounds, one of the highest weight limits. It has a 34 pound flywheel. Like the E35, it also has cushioned15 inch pedals that have an inward slope of two degrees. This feature enables the knees to be free from impact, especially at steeper incriminations or heavier resistance levels. It provides a challenging workout for the whole body with 20 levels of resistance and is supported by a backlit 9 inch LCD panel that provides adequate data. The console has an in-built fan, bottle holder and speakers into which you can plug your mp3 player directly, allowing you to listen to your favourite music while working out.
The Budget Pick: Schwinn 430
The Schwinn 430 is an elliptical machine from the house of Schwinn bikes. The weight capacity is at a competitive 350 pounds and the machine offers 20 levels of resistance. There is a 10 degree manual ramp that allows for 6 positions, thereby giving one a comfortable, full-body workout. The console features the brand’s signature DualTrack™ LCD display and while it does not have built-in speakers, there is aUSB port to charge a smartphone, music player or tablet.
Table of Contents
- What is an elliptical machine?
- What are the advantages of an elliptical machine?
- Types of elliptical machines
- What are the factors to be taken into consideration?
- Our Pick
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- The Step-up Pick
- The Budget Pick
- The Professional Grade Pick
- The Competition
- Wrapping it up
What is an elliptical machine?
An elliptical machine, also called a cross-trainer, is a stationary machine that imitates various activities like walking, running or climbing stairs, but without causing strain on the joints, thereby reducing injuries. Moreover, unlike a treadmill, most models of an elliptical machine also provide adequate exercise to the upper parts of the body.
What are the advantages of an elliptical machine?
The single biggest advantage of an elliptical machine is its ability to simulate high-intensity movements like running without impacting important joints in the body like the spine, knees and ankles.
Unlike a treadmill, most elliptical machines are equipped with moveable handles that work out the upper body as well. An elliptical machine can also be stridden in the reverse direction, thereby working out a different set of muscles as compared to the forward motion. Also, users’ perception of the amount of output is generally lower than the actual output. This means that unknowingly, one is actually working harder.
The calorie burning rate of an elliptical is comparable to a treadmill, perhaps only slightly lower, but the increased safety to the joints more than makes up for the difference in calories burnt.
Types of elliptical machines
Based on the location of the motor, there are three types of ellipticals – front, rear and center. Rear-drive ellipticals have been around for the longest time, front-drive machines are the second generation and the centre drive machines are the latest entrants into the market.
Rear drive machines have the flywheel positioned behind the user. This position provides more inertia, resulting in a smooth stride. They have the fewest moving parts and hence are the best in terms of repairs and maintenance.
Front drive machines have the flywheel positioned in front of the user, and hence the user feels more like he’s climbing stairs. He also tends to lean forward while operating the machine. They are more comfortable for people with longer strides.
Centre drive ellipticals are a more recent development in the market and not much is known about the maintenance issues. They have a few advantages over the other two – the posture is more naturally upright and comfortable, since there is no need to lea n on the handles, thereby feeling more comfortable. The legs are also more closely spaced in this model, so it reduces the strain on the back and hips. Also, centre drive ellipticals have a more compact design, making them take up lesser room than the other two types, so if you have a space constraint, this is a great option. The only drawback is that a ramp is not possible in this design.
Among the front wheel drive and centre drive variants, there are some machines which fold
What are the factors to be taken into consideration?
There are a few things one should keep in mind when buying an elliptical – how much you are willing to spend. Ellipticals come in a wide range of prices, so it is a good idea to decide approximately how much your budget is.
Stability is a major factor when deciding on an elliptical. In general, heavier machines tend to be more stable, though nowadays, especially with the high-end models, better design is a more influential factor in stability rather than weight. Frame quality dictates the weight of the machine and has an impact on stability. While lighter frames are cheaper, portable and smaller in size, do not be tempted by just these. A heavier machine, while it may be bulky and not portable, often is more stable, allowing for vigorous workouts and is more suitable for heavier users.
A heavy flywheel allows for a smoother ride. A good one should weigh at least 25 pounds. Preferably, go for one that moves in both directions. This allows for a different set of muscle groups to be exercised.
The number of resistance levels is an important consideration. The more the resistance levels, the more incrementally you will be able to increase your challenge. Most ellipticals have at least 16 levels and higher end models have up to 22 levels.
There are two types of resistance, the fan wheel resistance, which provides a smooth ride and is used by lower end models, and magnetic resistance that provide a quiet, consistent and natural workout.
Stride length is another consideration. If more than one person is going to be using the machine, it is better to go for one that has an adjustable stride length. Also, check the maximum weight that can be borne by the machine.
Ergonomics play a vital role in the comfort of a workout. Ensure that the handles feel comfortable and the distance between the pedals is comfortable. Pedals that move up and down along with the feet cause lesser strain on the ankles and are preferable to fixed pedals.
The computer on the elliptical is a handy feature. Make sure the display is easy to read. A backlit screen, if present, is a plus. There should be a wide range of data displayed, such as distance, time, speed, heart rate, etc. Some machines allow for uploading data to external devices or websites, to check your progress. It is always better to go for a machine that has a set of pre-programmed workouts towards weight loss, cardio, etc. Usually, when you select a program, the incline and resistance are changed at different points in time automatically.
Incline adjustment needs are essential for changing the level of challenge of your workout. A power incline adjustment is preferable to a manual incline adjustment.
Warranties are often ignored in the buying process. They are important as they will help you save money for repairs in case of any defects. A five year warranty on parts and a one year warranty on labour is a safe bet.
Space is another factor that needs to be taken into consideration. Most elliptical machines add a further 1.5 feet to your height, so do make sure your ceiling allows for it. Some models fold and can be stowed away, so if space is a constraint, these may be a better option.
Some of the fancier features that allow for a fun workout are USB ports, docks for connecting MP3 players, speakers, and internet connectivity.
The Sole E35 is our best pick for an elliptical for home use. It is a great value for money for the performance it offers.
This front drive machine, built with an ECB magnetic resistance system offers a challenging workout, while offering a fluid natural motion due to the combination of its 29 pound flywheel and a high gear ratio. The drive allows for forward as well as rear movement capabilities. It has a capacity to withstand 375 lbs. The 15 inch pedals are cushioned and can be adjusted for a stride length between 20 and 22 inches. The console featuring a 7.5 inch backlit LCD screen can be adjusted based on the height of the user. It provides adequate data like speed, time, incline, distance, calories, pulse and pace. In addition, there is a cooling fan, water bottle holder and speakers that allow an mp3 player to be plugged in.
The incline can be adjusted from 0 to 30 degrees by the touch of a button, allowing for a great workout that exercises multiple muscle groups. There are 16 levels of resistance (also adjustable by the touch of a button) and 10 workout programs – 6 standard, 2 custom and 2 heart rate programs. The handles have a built-in pulse monitor. A heart monitoring chest strap is also included. There are two heart rate programs for more advanced tracking.
Overall, the machine is smooth, quiet and ideal for use at home. It is a little on the bulkier side, but it has wheels that allow it to be transported easily.
A decent warranty is offered – lifetime warranty on the frame, five years for the electronics and parts and two years for the labor. Multiple reports, like this one have consistently rated the Sole E35 as the best elliptical for home use.
Flaws but not deal breakers
The Sole E35’s console does not include a reading rack, so users who wish to read while working out will be disappointed. Also, the built-in speakers in the console are not very powerful.
The machine itself is a little bulky and cannot be folded. As such, it is not meant for small spaces. The cooling fan in the console could do with a bit more power.
Since these factors have nothing to do with the workout itself, the machine is a great bet anyway.
The Step-up Pick
The Sole E95 is the top end model from Sole, and it is close to the commercial gym machines in quality at an affordable price.
At a weight capacity of 400 pounds, the Sole E95 is one of the sturdiest in the market. The 34 pound flywheel and ECB resistance allow for smooth and practically noiseless operation. The machine has front and rear movement capabilities, comes with transport wheels and features both pulse grip and chest strap heart-rate monitoring (the chest strap is included with the machine). There are two sets of handle bars – the moving handlebars can be adjusted as per the comfort level and the stationary ones have a pulse monitor sensors built in. The machine offers 20 levels of resistance, with an adjustable incline of up to 40 degrees with the touch of a button. There are 10 available programs to provide a variety to your workout – six are standard programs, two heart rate programs and the remaining two are custom programs. The 15-inch cushioned and adjustable pedals have a two degree slope inwards, that helps in easing pressure off ankles and knees. The stride length is also adjustable between 20-22 inches.
The console has a 9 inch backlit blue LCD screen that enables one to see a wide range of statistics at a glance. There is an in-built sound system with speakers in the console. A built-in fan and water bottle holder are also present.
The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, five year warranty on parts and electronics and two years on labor.
The Budget Pick
The Schwinn 430 is our budget pick. This elliptical features a high speed high inertia perimeter weighted flywheel to provide a smooth operation, allowing for a quiet workout that is easy on the joints. The machine can withstand a maximum weight of 300 pounds. There are 20 levels of resistance available. The machine uses ECB resistance that allows for quiet operation, smooth and reliable operation, and minimal maintenance. There are transport wheels that allow for easy movement.
The stride is a patented 20” Precision Path stride. The incline can be adjusted up to 10 degrees manually, and there are 6 available positions. The static handlebars are ergonomically placed and have a grip heart rate monitor.
The console has a dual LCD window. There are 22 different programs with 2 user settings. There is a water bottle holder and a USB charging port. There is a feature to export your workout data to Schwinn Connect or myfitnesspal.com to keep track of your fitness goals. The console has a fan with adjustable speed and an acoustic chamber for good quality sound output.
There is a 10 year warranty on the frame, 2 years on the mechanical parts, 1 year on the electrical parts and 90 days on labor.
The Professional Grade Pick
The Octane Fitness Q35x Elliptical Machine is our professional grade pick. This is one of the best machines for home use. The premium machine has unparalleled quality and performance. The motion is smooth and noiseless and the Quadlink drive allows for motion in both directions. There are 20 resistance levels offered.
The stride length of 20.5 inches feels very natural and is extremely comfortable for pedalling in both directions. Also, the pedals are 1.8 inches apart, and this, along with the optimal stride length imitate the actual stride of a person and at the same time, reduces stress caused to the lower back. The machine also has a low step-on height of 4 inches, thereby making it safe for the elderly, or those recuperating from injuries. The machine can withstand a weight of 300 pounds and is equipped with transport wheels.
There are lots of workout options, along with 4 goal programs (like 10k, half-marathon, 350, or 700 calories) that help you stay focussed. You can set a goal and the unit can calculate the remaining parameters. There is also a QuickStart feature, wherein one can just step on the machine and start working out. There is no need to set up any parameters.
There are two sets of handlebars. The stationary ones have contact heart rate grips. The machine comes with workout boosters, called GluteKicker, ArmBlaster and X-Mode.
There is a water bottle holder, reading rack and an MP3 player holder. There is a MOM mode that makes the console buttons inoperable and restricts the pedals, making it safe for young children who may try to meddle with the machine.
The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, 5 years on the parts and 1 year on labor.
There are several elliptical machines in the market and choosing one in each category is quite a challenge. Here are some contenders that are also worth mentioning.
The Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer is another good pick. This is an entry to mid-level trainer that is reliable and easy to use.
This is a front drive machine and is reasonably quiet, in spite of its light flywheel. There are 10 resistance levels using the ECB system. The stride length is 18 inches and the machine offers 10 built in workout programs. The weight capacity of this machine is 275 pounds.
The console has a 4.5 inch LCD display and contact grips for monitoring heart rate. There is no capability for wireless heart rate monitoring in this machine. There are built in speakers with MP3 compatibility, a water bottle holder and a tablet rack. There is no cooling fan in this model.
The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, 20 years warranty on the motor and a two year warranty on the parts and labor.
The Schwinn 470 is a step up over the budget Schwinn 430.
This machine is includes 4 user profiles, making it ideal for customization for each family member.
This machine features a high speed high inertia perimeter weighted flywheel to provide a smooth operation. The machine can withstand a maximum weight of 300 pounds. There are 25 levels of resistance available. The machine uses ECB resistance that allows for quiet operation, smooth and reliable operation, and minimal maintenance.
The incline can be adjusted up to 10 degrees by a motorized ramp, with 6 positions. There are transport wheels that allow for easy movement.
The stride is a patented 20” Precision Path stride that is fixed. The static handlebars are ergonomically placed and have a grip heart rate monitor. It allows the use of a heart strap monitor, but it has to be bought separately and is not included.
The console has a dual LCD window with blue backlighting. There are 29 different programs, providing a range of workout options. There is a water bottle holder, a 3 speed fan and a USB charging port. There is a feature to export your workout data to Schwinn Connect or myfitnesspal.com to keep track of your fitness goals.
The manufacturer provides a 10 year warranty on the frame, 2 years on the mechanical parts, 1 year on the electrical parts and 90 days on labor.
The Sole E25 is another good pick, just below the best pick, the Sole E35.
This entry level front drive machine, using an ECB magnetic resistance system offers a challenging workout. The 19 pound flywheel is quite heavy for a machine in this price range. The drive allows for forward as well as rear movement capabilities. It has a capacity to withstand 325 lbs. The pedals have a two degree inward slope to reduce injuries. The console featuring a 6.5 inch backlit LCD screen provides data like speed, time, incline, distance, calories, pulse and pace. In addition, there is a cooling fan, water bottle holder and speakers that allow an mp3 player to be plugged in.
The incline can be adjusted from 0 to 20 degrees by the touch of a button. The stride length can be adjusted between 20 and 22 inches. There are 16 levels of resistance and 10 workout programs – six standard, two heart rate and two custom. The stationary handles have a built-in pulse monitor. A heart monitoring chest strap is also included.
A decent warranty is offered – lifetime warranty on the frame, three years for the electronics and parts and one year for the labor.
The Nautilus 614 is another good pick for home use.
The Nautilus 614 is a simple and reliable machine that can withstand a user weight of 300 pounds. There are 22 workout programs and two user profiles. The stride length is fixed at 20 inches. There are 20 available resistance levels and six manually adjustable ramp positions.
The console has a dual LCD screen with a USB charging port and data exchange to Nautliusconnect.com or myfitnesspal.com. There is a cooling fan and acoustic speakers for good quality sound.
The static handlebars have a grip heart rate monitoring system. There is a 10 year warranty on the frame, 2 years for mechanical parts, 1 year for electrical parts and 90 days for labor.
The NordicTrack E 7.0 Z Elliptical Trainer is another good pick for home use.
The 15 pound flywheel delivers a smooth and quiet ride. The machine offers 20 resistance levels that can be modified with the touch of a button. In addition, the stride length can be adjusted to up to 20 inches, again, with the touch of a button. The incline can be adjusted from zero to 20 degrees, via five positions. The machine is compatible with iFit. Once connected, when you select a Google maps route, iFit will modify the incline to match the terrain of the chosen route.
The console features a 5 inch backlit LCD screen and dual speakers. The static handlebars have a grip that can help measure the heart rate. The machine is loaded with 20 workout apps designed by a certified personal trainer.
The Proform Smart Strider is a rear drive machine.
This is an entry level elliptical machine that is compact and is a good fit for small spaces since it folds up completely for easy storage. The 13 pound flywheel is a little on the lower side and hence the operation is not as smooth or quiet as one might prefer. The stride length is 18 inches and the machine can withstand a weight of 275 pounds. There are 18 workout programs and 18 resistance levels, changeable with the touch of a button. The console has a large LCD screen and a sound system that is compatible with iPod. The manufacturer offers a one year warranty on parts and labor.
Wrapping it up
Elliptical machines are still relatively new in the market but have become popular in recent years due to their ability to simulate various activities like walking, running or climbing stairs and at the same time, not impacting joints. Most elliptical machines have moveable handles in addition to the static ones, which allow for the upper body to be exercised as well.
An elliptical machine is an important investment and several factors need to be considered. The Sole E35 is the most popular choice for home use. If you have a little more to spend, go for the Sole E95, for its more advanced features and sturdier build. For those on a budget, the Schwinn 430 is a good pick.