With the multitude of home trainers available today, it’s difficult to settle for a specific type of machine, especially if you are truly serious about your fitness regime. On the other hand, ellipticals are definitely not the kind of fad that will blow over in a matter of months, given the fact that they have proven their efficiency for decades at this point.
The movable arms handles mean that the ellipticals can provide a full-body workout that is hard to match by other cardio trainers, not to mention the fact that you can start using one without needing any kind of guidance. Even if you are seriously out of shape, an elliptical is versatile enough in terms of required effort so that you can set a low speed and increase the intensity as you improve. Obviously, the goal is to increase the resistance level and/ or the incline as you progress, otherwise you won’t see any results.
This day and age, any kind of trainer is incomplete without an electronic component, such as sensors, screens or connectivity with other popular devices. Ellipticals are no different, and manufacturers are constantly striving to include bigger screens and smarter gadgets into their machines. Granted, not all trainers come with state-of-the-art screens, so you might have to make do with non-backlit LCDs when it comes to budget models.
Regardless of price, a modern elliptical should include a few standard software features to keep up with the competition. Even the most basic trainer usually comes with a display that provides you with information regarding the total distance, your speed, the number of steps, and sometimes even your heart rate. It’s worth noting that the heart rate monitor is often not very accurate unless it is connected to a chest strap, especially on cheaper ellipticals models.
As more zeroes get added to the sticker price, luxury software features make an appearance as well. If you are willing to spend a bit more on your elliptical, then you should expect things like customizable user profiles, connectivity with smartphones, as well as the ability to watch movies or even simulate virtual running routes to keep you engaged and motivated.
Not only that, but some models even come with brand-specific apps that keep track of your fitness progress, such as the Schwinn Connect app. Alternatively, there are many other popular apps on the web that can record your workout data and where you can see your progress, such as iFit or Google Fit.
With all that in mind, you should remember that the actual focus is on the physical effort, because if you just want to watch TV, browse social media or shuffle through your playlists, you might as well rest on the couch instead.
1) Bowflex Max Trainer M7
- Dual backlit LED/LCD display
- 11 programs
- Bluetooth connectivity
- 4 user profiles
The Bowflex Max Trainer M7 is a feature-packed elliptical for people with generous budgets, and also happens to come with a plethora of software capabilities. At the most basic level, it has 11 workout programs that are designed to accommodate your requirements in terms of effort and duration, while the 20 levels of computer-controlled resistance allow you to increase the difficulty of your exercises in smooth and precise steps. This is not the impressive part of the Bowflex M7, however.
The Bowflex series of elliptical have a vertical stride rather than a horizontal one, so it feels almost like running up a set of stairs rather than forward on a flat plane. This allows you to get a high-intensity workout and burn calories faster in a shorter period of time.
The LED display features a double backlight, so you don’t have to worry about reading the data even if you decide to work out with all the lights off. The screen is also generous in terms of size, and it has high contrast, which makes the text a lot easier to distinguish from the background and is easy on the eyes.
To make things even better, there are four user profiles you can switch between, so that the elliptical can be used by the whole family while keeping your settings, stats, and progress levels customised to each person. The computer keeps track of everyone’s performance and preferences, so you do not have to fumble with the settings every time you get on the elliptical.
As far as connectivity goes, the BowflexMax Trainer M7 does not disappoint; it supports a wide array of third-party devices as well. Starting with the Max Trainer app support, all the way to Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility (meaning that it connects to your mobile device with the touch of a button), there are not many things you can complain about in this regard. Obviously, both iOS and Android devices are supported, and you can even watch streamed video content from professional trainers through the Max Trainer app.
- The big, dual backlit LED display with high contrast makes it easy for anyone to read the data
- Four available user profiles to keep track of your performance
- Compatible with most of the popular smartphones and tablets on the market
- The Max Trainer app allows you to store and analyze your workout sessions
- The user interface can be intimidating if you are not particularly tech-savvy
- All of these high-tech features make their presence known on the price tag
2) Bowflex Max Trainer M5
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Computer-controlled resistance
- 16 resistance levels
- 8 workout programs
If the M7 model does not fit into your planned budget, then the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 is a good alternative option. This mid-ranged price should be a lot less intimidating, but then again you also have to let go of many features, especially in terms of software and sensors.
It’s also worth noting that the M5 can also sync with the Max Trainer app, so you don’t lose a lot of functionality in this regard. However, the multiple user profiles are gone, which means that it’s not as easy to share the elliptical with a friend or a family member as it is with the M7.
Thankfully, you can still connect your favorite devices with ease, as well as enjoy the Bluetooth 4.0 support. As a side note, the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 does not include the separate device holder found on the M7 model, but you can still fit a smartphone in the special compartment found in front of the LCD screen.
While the display is not that much smaller, it does not feature a dual backlight, and it’s also a bit more rudimentary in terms of color quality.
In terms of basic features, the M5 provides you with only eight workout programs (versus eleven on the M7), which may or may not be enough to make your sessions feel worthwhile (depending on how much variety you prefer). In addition, there are 16 resistance levels as opposed to the 20 found on the more expensive model. On the other hand, you still get access to useful data like calorie burn rate, traveled distance and heart rate, all of which are displayed on the screen in front of you.
- Compatibility with the Max Trainer app, just like the M7 model
- Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, allowing you to connect smartphones and tablets without using any wires
- Decently-sized screen with a backlight
- The display is not dual backlit nor high contrast like the one found on the M7
- Fewer workout apps and resistance levels to switch between
- No user profiles
- Bluetooth connectivity
- USB charging port
- 15 degrees motorized incline
The Nautilus E618 is a modern elliptical that rests in the middle of the pack in terms of price, yet it manages to punch a bit above its category when it comes to electronics and software capabilities.
To begin with, the main console includes an adjustable, backlit LCD screen that displays a variety of helpful data. Not only that, but you also get access to 29 training programs, which is a lot more than you would expect to find in this price range.
If you want to make your workout feel more like a run in the park, you can also sync the elliptical with the RunSocial app and gain access to 19 locations and 27 different routes online, not to mention the fact that it’s also possible to see other runners in real-time! Naturally, you need a third-party device for this to be possible, such as a tablet or a smartphone that supports the RunSocial app.
One of the more useful features provided by the Nautilus E618 is the tilting console, because you can easily adjust the angle of the screen to get better visibility. You can even do this during your workout session, so you don’t have to stop in order to mess with the console. In addition, the handlebars feature built-in buttons that allow you to control the incline angle and the resistance level, so you don’t have to let go of the handles to adjust the difficulty of your workout.
As mentioned before, you can easily hook up your iOS or Android device to the trainer thanks to the Bluetooth support. There’s obviously a dedicated holder for your chosen device as well, so you don’t have to hold it in place in order to watch a video or keep track of the virtual route you have chosen.
- 29 workout apps to choose from, depending on your fitness level and interests
- Compatible with the RunSocial app, which allows you to use virtual routes and run with other people in real time
- Backlit display for great visibility
- Comes with a wireless heart rate monitor with a chest strap (more accurate than handlebar monitors)
- The console can be tilted and adjusted with ease
- Does not support multiple user profiles
- Only 10 degrees of automatic incline (not enough to add much challenge)
- 20" stride length
- Dual LCD display
- 29 programs
The Nautilus E616 is the answer to a smaller budget if the E618 happens to be outside your price range, but you don’t lose quite as much functionality in the process. As such, you still get 29 training programs like on the E618 model, as well as compatibility with the popular RunSocial app. Furthermore, Bluetooth connectivity allows you to sync your metrics with a variety of other apps on the market.
The two ellipticals are actually almost identical in terms of electronics, but they do differ when it comes to what they can do in terms of the actual workout. For example, the E616 features a 20” stride length, while the E618 extends to a maximum of 22”, allowing very tall people to be comfortable using this machine as well. In addition, you also get a lighter flywheel on the E616 (may feel less smooth while running).
One other key difference is the fact that this particular model does not feature the built-in resistance and incline controls in the handlebars, so you have to use the main console in order to adjust the difficulty. However, both ellipticals come with motorized incline levels, so at least you can still keep running while the incline is changed.
As mentioned before, device connectivity is not an issue, especially since you can use both Bluetooth and the USB port in order to charge your devices or transfer data to various apps. The tablet holder is present in this model as well, as is the speaker system that allows you to play music during your workout sessions (although you may prefer to use headphones, due to the speaker’s poor audio performance).
- Plenty of workout apps to choose from
- Compatible with the RunSocial App
- The Bluetooth connectivity comes in handy if you want to use third-party fitness apps
- Automatic incline and resistance
- No incline or resistance controls on the handlebars
- Shorter stride length than the E618 (though still sufficient for the large majority of people)
- Low quality speakers
- 22" stride length
- 350lbs user weight
- Pulse grip and chest strap for heart rate monitoring
- Sole Fitness App
If workout apps are not what you are looking for in an elliptical, then the Sole Fitness E25 might be up your alley. Although it comes with a medium price tag, the trainer features a 6.5” LCD screen embedded in the main console, which is slightly bigger than what you may find in other trainers. Additionally, the display is backlit, so you do not have to worry about not being able to read it in low-light conditions.
On the other hand, there are only six workout programs included with the elliptical, plus two customizable ones that allow you to into your own hands. Obviously, this is way below average in the current market, but at least you gain access to 20 levels of resistance, as well as the the ability to switch between them with the press of a button.
Although the screen is not overflowing with metrics, the good news is that you can connect the elliptical to a variety of other devices, which in turn enables you to use the data with other workout apps out there, including Fitbit, Apple Health and other similar programs. There’s also a proprietary app called Sole, which does many of these things as well in case you don’t want to use other software solutions.
Another small luxury you get with the Sole Fitness E25 is the built-in speaker system that works with any MP3 player, including iPods and smartphones. To top things off, you can also change the incline and the resistance levels using the handlebar buttons, which is a nice feature to have if you don’t want to be hovering over the main console all the time.
- Compatible with many popular fitness apps
- Comes with a brand-specific app to keep track of your sessions
- The display is easy to read and backlit, not to mention quite large
- Only six workout apps to choose from
- No multiple user profiles
6) NordicTrack C 7.5
- 26 workout apps
- 325lbs user weight
- iFit ready
- Heart rate training
The NordicTrack C 7.5 is a average priced elliptical that aims to satisfy both fitness and tech enthusiasts at the same time. In order to do that, the C 7.5 comes with 26 workout apps designed by experts, as well as the possibility to connect the trainer to iFit and gain access to Google Maps training routes. Thanks to this, you basically have no limits in terms of available routes, since you can run anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home.
Because it provides support for iFit, the trainer also includes Bluetooth connectivity, given the fact that you need a tablet in order to view the Google Maps routes. As you might expect, there’s a built in holder to store your device during the workout, which makes it easy to keep an eye on the route and all the metrics provided by the software. A sound system is included as well, along with two speakers and a headphone jack if you don’t want to disturb your housemates or family members.
- iFit compatibility allows you to pick virtual routes from all over the world
- 26 workout apps designed by fitness experts to maximize your workout sessions
- Backlit display and one-touch controls that make it easy to access functions or increase resistance levels
- The 5” LCD screen is a bit smaller than the ones you get from other ellipticals
- The grip sensors are not very accurate when it comes to heart rate monitoring
7) NordicTrack E 7.0Z
- 20" stride length
- 20 workout apps
- iFit ready
- Audio system
As a cheaper alternative to the C 7.5 model, the NordicTrack E 7.0Z hits many of the same marks as its more expensive brother, while also leaving some features out of the offer. In terms of similarities, both the E 7.0Z and C 7.5 bring the same 5” backlit display, so you definitely don’t lose too much in this regard. The metrics displayed are largely the same as well, so you still get access to data concerning your burnt calories, traveled distance and current speed.
You only get 20 workout apps with the E 7.0Z, unlike the 26 you get with the C 7.5. In spite of this, the iFit compatibility is available in this model too. This basically means that you get unlimited training routes no matter which elliptical you choose, together with the Google Maps functionality.
The similarities continue to reveal themselves in other areas as well, including the integrated sound system. For example, you get the same dual 2-inch speakers and headphone jack, together with a tablet holder and a heart rate monitor embedded in the handlebars. The heart rate monitor may not be as accurate as a chest strap version, but at least you are not missing out in this regard by not going for the C 7.5 instead.
You will have to be satisfied with fewer resistance levels, on the other hand, since this model comes with only 20 of them instead of 22, but that’s obviously not a huge drawback. Switching between them is just as easy as on the C 7.5 model, courtesy of the one-touch controls found on the main console.
- The virtual training routes and iFit compatibility allow you great freedom in terms of workout routines
- 20 workout apps available right out of the box
- Built-in speaker system and headphone jack
- Just like with the C 7.5, the 5” screen may not be big enough for some users
- Slightly fewer workout apps to choose from
Despite the lower price tag, you still get access to the brand’s famous Schwinn Connect app, which allows you to keep track of your data and analyze it in order to quantify your progress. Furthermore, the elliptical comes with 22 preset exercise programs split into multiple categories, depending on whether you want to engage in a high-intensity interval training or a simple workout session to take the edge off.
Connectivity-wise, the Schwinn 430 comes with an USB port to keep your devices charged during your session, as well as an MP3 input that’s compatible with most MP3 players out there. You can also use the speakers to play music in case you do not want wires dangling from your ears while you are sweating.
One of the first things you notice about the LCD screen is the fact that it’s monochrome, and it is not backlit. This can be a problem if you tend to work out in low-light conditions, but the contrast is good enough for the data to be readable in daylight. If you are working out in a basement, you’ll need some good overhead lighting to view your data.
- The Schwinn Connect app allows you to keep an eye on your fitness progress
- USB port to charge your devices
- Plenty of workout apps to choose from
- Built-in speakers and great connectivity with MP3 players
- Two user profiles
- Monochrome display with no backlight
- No buttons in the handlebars
- iFit ready
- USB charging port
- 300lbs user weight
- 20" stride length
The Proform 520E is an attractive alternative to the Schwinn 430, especially since it surpasses the latter in features while still being in the same price range. As such, you may only get 18 workout apps instead of 22, but you gain a backlit LCD screen in the trade off. It’s only a 5” display, but it’s definitely an advantage to be able to read it even if you have to work out in poor lighting conditions for some reason.
Another great addition is the compatibility with the popular iFit app, but there’s a catch here: In order to benefit from this feature, you have to own an iFit wireless module, which is not included with the elliptical. Hence, while it’s definitely a step up from the Schwinn Connect, you need to spend extra money in order to take advantage of this perk, which may prove to be a dealbreaker for some.
The workout apps are designed with a variety of goals in mind, depending on whether you want to work on your calorie burn rate, incline training or speed. If you decide to purchase the iFit wireless module, you get access to unlimited workout apps, as well as the possibility to connect the elliptical to a tablet and run on virtual routes powered by Google Maps.
Even without the extra module, the Schwinn 430 is still compatible with smartphones and tablets. You can charge them while listening to music from your mobile device during your exercise routine. The USB charging ports are a great addition, as is the headphone jack.
- Backlit LCD screen with blue background
- 18 workout apps at your disposal
- USB ports to charge your devices
- Headphone jack
- You need to purchase an additional module to unlock the iFit support
- The display size could have been a bit more generous
- 275lbs user weight
- 14" stride length
- Transport wheels
- Heart pulse monitoring
The ProGear 300LS Air is a very budget-friendly elliptical that cares more about the fitness side of things than it does about technology and all that comes with it. Hence, in this case the LCD screen is more of an afterthought than a centerpiece, which means that it lacks almost all the features provided by the ellipticals listed above. Even so, you still get a few metrics to go along with your workout.
There are no workout apps to speak of, and the display is as big as a wristwatch, not to mention the fact that it’s monochrome and it lacks a backlight entirely. However, it still displays things like your current speed, the number of calories you burn, as well as a the total distance and the duration of your session. Obviously, the screen is too small to show all of these metrics at once, so you have to manually shuffle between them when you need to.
You don’t get any device connectivity either, so you can forget about USB ports or Bluetooth. In fact, there’s no smartphone holder at all, which is a bit of a problem, because you could at least use it to listen to your own music or to watch something, even if you can’t charge it in the process. The only other electronics you can find are the heart pulse sensors in the handlebars, although the technology is not very accurate in general. Basically, if you are the kind of person who wants a no-fuss, budget-rate elliptical without any of those distracting electronic features, this is the machine for you.
- You get to focus on the workout without being distracted by anything else
- The tiny LCD screen still displays a few useful metrics
- The elliptical as a whole is great for small apartments
- No device connectivity of any kind
- The display is small and hard to read in low-light conditions
- There are no workout apps
- No device holders
11) Best Fitness Cross Trainer
- 8 resistance levels
- 225lbs user weight
- LED console
- Transport wheels
If you are adamant about your disregard for big screens and computers, then Best Fitness Cross Trainer is a suitable alternative to the ProGear 300LS Air. However, this pricier model features a bigger LCD screen, which is also backlit, making it easier to read in certain conditions. Furthermore, the bigger diagonal means that more data fits on the display at once, so you don’t have to fumble with the buttons all the time.
Just like with the ProGear 300LS Air, there are no workout apps in sight, so you have to make them up yourself by changing the resistance levels as you see fit. Granted, you have to do so manually, because the software does not have any control over the magnetic resistance.
The data provided by the LCD screen is fairly mundane, covering things like distance, speed and pulse, but you can’t export these metrics into your preferred apps, which means that your progress is forgotten the second you reach the end of your training session (or you can keep track of them manually). Naturally, this might not be a problem at all for some people, but it’s a thing to keep in mind if you consider purchasing the Best Fitness Cross Trainer.
- Backlit screen that’s big enough to display multiple metrics at once
- Multiple buttons to access different functions, unlike with the 300LS Air
- Small overall footprint, which makes the elliptical a great option if you want to save space
- No workout apps
- No USB ports, speakers or device holders
- Not compatible with any app
As you can see, today’s elliptical manufacturers do not shy away from current tech trends and they pack their trainers with a variety of cutting edge apps. On top of that, the main consoles are designed to be as attractive and as informative as possible at the same time. While some models skimp out on screen size, others boast imposing diagonals and vibrant colors.
The size of the screen is not what’s important most of the time, however, since you can work around this issue if you are able to connect your own devices to the elliptical. Because of this, the trainers that provide support for popular fitness apps like iFit, Apple Health and Google Fit are very desirable, especially since they can unlock an unlimited number of options when it comes to running routes and customised workout routines.
Using an elliptical does not have to be a boring activity that has you sweating and staring at the walls, especially nowadays when you can escape your apartment with the help of virtual routes. In fact, you can even race other people from all over the world from the comfort of your home, which is a great way to stay motivated and make your workouts more enjoyable. Even a basic tablet shelf can help to add entertainment to your workout, if you are the type of person that prefers to distract themselves from the sweat.
With all this in mind, it’s still important to note that high-tech features are usually found on the pricier ellipticals, so you need to be prepared to empty your wallet in the process. In addition, it’s only worth paying more if you are actually going to use these features, because it doesn’t make too much sense to have access to all of these apps if you are not particularly tech-savvy or interested in seeing all of your telemetrics laid out in front of you.