When searching for cardio equipment, finding a machine that has everything you need can be something of a challenge. Some machines can be too hard on the user’s body while others may not offer a challenging enough workout. Elliptical machines offer both challenging and effective upper and lower body workouts while going easy on a user's joints.
No matter what your budget, experience level, body type, physical capabilities, or space requirement, there’s surely an elliptical out there to meet your every need. We’ve also compiled a buyer’s guide to walk you through all the basics behind these unique cardio machines.
CX8 Elliptical Cross Trainer
EFX 447 Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer
TRUE ES900 Elliptical
Fitness Q47xi Elliptical Cross Trainer
Life Fitness Club Series Elliptical Cross Trainer
Schwinn A40 Elliptical
Horizon Fitness Horizon HEP0232-00 EX57 Elliptical Crosstrainer
ProForm Hybrid Trainer
Nautilus E514c Elliptical Trainer (2013)
ProForm Smart Strider Elliptical Trainer
NordicTrack Elite 16.7
Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
ProForm 1310 E Elliptical Trainer
Smooth Fitness CE 5.5 Elliptical Trainer
CX8 Elliptical Cross Trainer
The Landice CX8 beats out the competition with their unrivaled second set of arms that move from side to side in order to isolate the core making this a total body machine unlike any other. The stride length can be adjusted between 18 and 26 inches and users can control the incline as well as the shape of the elliptical motion on this machine. With a 400 pound user weight capacity shows just how solid the Landice CX is along with a lifetime warranty to back it up.
Landice may have spent so much time creating a solid and innovative body that they didn’t have a lot left to put into their console. The small digital screen is still easy to read and easy to navigate with multiple buttons located on the console with two separate windows to show resistance and incline levels. The CX8 has 15 total workout programs with five of them being user defined for a more personalized workout. This machine isn’t lacking when it comes to extra features either with a thirty pin iPhone dock, very nice speakers, a three speed fan, a perfectly placed water bottle holder, and handle and chest strap heart rate monitors.
EFX 447 Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer
The Precor 447 has a large mostly steel and aluminum body that will last a lifetime because how solid it is. You can tell from the rear casing the flywheel is rather large and helps control the 20 levels of quiet and smooth Eddy Current resistance. This machine isn’t just a cardio machine either as it comes with a special Cross Ramp Technology allowing you to change the path of your feet in order to target different leg muscles during your workout.
The seven inch, full color backlit screen makes it super easy to read all of your key metrics. Below the screen you’ll find two convenient lever switches to control your Cross Ramp position and resistance during a workout. One touch buttons on either side of the screen allow you to scroll through your key metrics and choose from one of the 24 preset workouts that come with this device.
The console allows you to create custom user profiles for up to four users and will even track multiple aspects of your workout like distance and Cross Ramp position. This machine is loaded with gym quality features as well like a tablet/magazine rack, water bottle holder, remote/phone tray, speakers, smartphone charging dock, and handle and chest strap heart rate monitors.
True Fitness is well known for being a high end reliable fitness equipment company in the home fitness industry. Unlike most ellipticals which use a single fly wheel, the ES900 has a dual core drive system which uses Eddy Current resistance for a quiet and smooth resistance. It offers an adjustable stride length for a comfortable workout and the heavy gauge steel making up the body can support the whole family.
The console features a 9 inch color screen which is beautifully lit and incredibly easy to read all of your key metrics. The console has buttons everywhere which may look a little intimidating but it actually makes navigating through your metrics, resistance levels, and 28 preset workout programs a piece of cake. It supports up to four saved workouts and have a USB port allowing you to download your workout summary. Along with its small profile, this machine also features a water bottle holder, tablet/magazine holder, remote/smartphone tray, contact and wireless heart rate monitoring.
Fitness Q47xi Elliptical Cross Trainer
The Q47XI offers a smaller footprint and lower height without sacrificing anything as evidenced by its adjustable stride length up to 26 inch. A good portion of this machine is hidden behind a polymer casing but rest assured it’s constructed of high grade aluminum and steel for gym-grade durability. Octane offers 20 levels of magnetic resistance to keep you challenged while staying smooth and quite even when changing between resistance levels.
The screen on this device is really nice to look at with a red LCD display making it easy to read all of your key metrics easily. Above the screen is a lighted bar that changes colors to let you know the status of your workout or alert you to changes in your program. Underneath the screen are a host of push buttons that control resistance, workout programs, and extra features.
The Q47XI comes with a unique Smart Link Bluetooth technology allowing you to access 74+ workout programs from your tablet and three places to dock your tablet for your convenience. This machine also comes stocked with a three speed fan, resistance bands, and a wireless heart rate strap.
Life Fitness is one of the most popular choices for health clubs around the country. This elliptical machine is not small by any stretch of the imagination which adds to its stability and a 20 inch stride length. The quiet drive system offers 26 levels of magnetic resistance with nearly inaudible, consistently smooth resistance with resistance levels controlled right from the handles. This machine is built tough with a 400 pound weight limit.
The LF connect app that comes with the large, full color console makes the amount of workout programs almost infinite and some programs even come with virtual running paths allowing you to “run” through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. If you are not interested in the landscapes, the console also provides smartphone connectivity, social media websites, television, and also lets you keep track of every metric you can think of. Most of the awesome features are inside the console but this machine also comes with a removable water bottle holder, speakers, reading rack, accessory tray, and handle and chest strap heart rate monitors.
At 64 inches long by 23 inches wide, this isn’t the biggest elliptical out there which is great for saving space, but the A40 can still support users up to 275 pounds. The machine offers eight levels of eddy current brake resistance which means a smooth and quiet workout every time and resistance can be easily changed right from the console. The oversized footplates can be set at a maximum height of 17 inches and articulate for a more natural and ergonomic movement during your workout.
The battery operated console is simple enough but still fairly impressive for a budget model with seven preset workout programs. The screen is a little small but the print is large, making it easier to read all of your key metrics which can be navigated easily with the press of a few buttons. This model is missing a fan which would be nice but does come standard with speakers, a water bottle holder and separate handles for heart rate monitoring.
At first glance you wouldn’t expect the Horizon EX-57 was offered under $500. It looks solid and that’s because it’s for the most part supporting weight up to 275 pounds. It measures in at 55 inches long and 29 inches wide which is great for saving space and has standard size pedals with an acceptable 18 inch stride length. The Eddy Current Brake system offers eight levels of resistance and a quiet and smooth workout every time.
The console looks a little outdated but gets the job done with a decent size LCD screen; the only issue with the screen is it’s not backlit so it can be a little difficult to read sometimes. Underneath the screen you’ll find push buttons to quickly jump to your preferred resistance as well as increase or decrease resistance as need. The console also has six additional buttons allowing you to navigate through one of the nine preset workout programs. Horizon offers a water bottle holder and heart rate monitors handles as their only add-ons.
The fact that the Hybrid Trainer doubles as a recumbent bike an elliptical trainer is only the tip of the iceberg with this machine. Its dual nature is a slight worry just because it adds a few more moving parts but the body has a five year warranty and the thick steel tubing allows the frame to support up to 350 pounds, rather unheard of in this price category.
The machine itself measures 76 inches long by 26 inches wide; slightly longer than other devices in its category, but its stride length is slightly shorter at 15 inches because of its hybrid nature. Both these measurements may be a little less than desired but are still practical. The Hybrid Trainer offers 14 levels of magnetic resistance meaning that it is whisper quiet and a consistently smooth resistance without any snags or catches.
The console is very easy to navigate with a single large screen that displays all of your key metrics and only eight buttons total for choosing resistance, navigate through 14 preset workout programs, scroll through the display, and turn the machine on and off. Other notable features of the Hybrid trainer include a water bottle holder and dedicated heart rate monitor handles.
The E514c is on the upper end of budget machines but it is a great example of how much just a little more money can get you. The body of this elliptical is small but solid with a 300 pound weight limit which is more than some bigger budget elliptical. At 62 inches long by 26 inches wide with an 18 inch stride length, it’s about average-sized for a budget machine which saves space without detracting from form.
The E514c offers 16 levels of Eddy Current Braking resistance which offers challenging resistance while remaining smooth and quiet at all times. The console on this machine is one of the most advanced in its class with a large, color LED screen with multiple windows to read all of your key metrics. On either side of the screen are buttons that let you navigate through 20 preset programs, adjust your resistance level, control the on-console fan, and start and stop the machine. This machine comes packed with extras as well including a fan, speakers, water bottle holder, HR monitor handles, and even a tablet holder.
The Smart Strider 535 is solid enough to support up 275 pounds, but it also comes with the reputation of one of the best cardio manufacturers in the business. Looks do not dictate an ellipticals performance but this machine just looks nicer from body to console than many of its competitors. It measures 65 inches long by 25 inches wide when it’s being used and folds up when not in use which is nearly unheard from a machine at this price. It offers 18 levels of silent magnetic resistance meaning quiet, smooth resistance with no catching along with 18 preset workout apps.
The Console is pretty simple with a small backlit screen displaying a few metrics at a time and there are only a few buttons to navigate through the preset workouts, resistance, speaker volume, and metrics as well as turning the machine on and off. The Smart Strider 535 is not short on extra features either with a water bottle holder, heart rate grip handles, a media tray, and speakers.
NordicTrack Elite 16.7
Though slightly more expensive than its competitors the NordicTrack Elite 16.7 is well worth the price and still comes in under $2,000. This nearly perfect all around machine offers up to 20 degrees of incline along with an adjustable stride length between 20 and 21 inches. The 16.7 has 26 levels of silent magnetic resistance which are available at the push of a button and when combined with 40 built in workout apps , iFit, and a web enabled screen the workout possibilities are endless.
The console boasts a 10 inch web-enabled touch screen which is like having a tablet in front of you when you work out. You can even access iFit and Google Maps to perform “real road” running programs to actually watch where you go, adding an outdoor feel to your workout. On either side of the screen are quick press buttons which allow you to quickly jump to the resistance and incline levels that fit your needs and below the screen you will find buttons to navigate your key information and activate iFit.
Nordic Track pulled out all of the stops when it comes to features on this device including a water bottle holder, media tray, a large three speed fan, heart rate monitors, speaker system, and an integrated 15 inch TV. This machine offers gym quality manufacturing and features at a home gym price.
The E35 is one of the best of Sole's many great offerings and the best overall of their stock. It is built with quality parts and has a weight capacity of 375 pounds to prove it. It uses Eddy Current Brake resistance for 20 levels of smooth and quiet resistance and it also offers up to a 30 degree incline.
The console is what you would expect out of great home elliptical with a 7.5 inch LCD backlit screen which displays all of your key information. There are buttons on either side of the screen which allow you to quickly jump to the resistance and incline level of your choosing. Buttons underneath the screen allow you to navigate your metrics and choose from 10 programs 8 of which are preset and 2 which are user defined.
This fitness machine includes all the extra features you’d want out of the perfect elliptical with an onboard fan, sound system, water bottle holder, and both chest and handle heart rate monitors. The E35 is offered under $1,500 through most vendors making it one of the best ellipticals out there at this price range.
A small footprint definitely doesn’t hurt the overall performance of the Profrom 1310e with a standard stride length of 20 to 22 inches. Manufactured to the high standard which people have come to expect from Proform, this machines offers 25 levels of silent magnetic resistance as well as an up to 20 degree incline; both of which can be controlled from the console or, conveniently, right from the handle.
The consol screen offer seven inches of full color graphics with touch capabilities to easily navigate your workout during exercise and read all of your key metrics. It has 32 preset workout apps which can be quickly chosen using buttons on the console. An additional touch screen and iFit technology means that your workout will never get repetitive. Special features include an integrated tablet holder, iPod dock and sound system, an impressive eight inch fan, water bottle holder, and hand/chest heart rate monitors. All of this is offered under $1,500 from most online retailers.
Smooth Fitness CE 5.5 Elliptical Trainer
The Smooth Fitness CE5.5 is surprisingly sturdy for how small the frame is which is perfect for those who are short on space. Even though the machine is small, it still offers an adjustable stride length from 18 to 21 inches which works for most users. The CE5.5 has 24 levels of magnetic resistance for a smooth and quiet ride and continuous challenge. If high levels of resistance are not enough there are also 26 workout programs and the option to connect to mySmooth Virtual Fitness Trainer for even more challenging and engaging workouts. Both the resistance level and stride length can be adjusted right from the handles so there is no distraction during your workout.
The blue backlit LCD is easy to read making recording your metrics mid workout a snap and large buttons under the screen allow easy information navigation as well as accessing your workout programs. The one downside to this device is it doesn’t offer any incline, however it’s a small price to pay for the compact size. It does however offer all of the features you’d want like a sound system, fan, water bottle holder, media tray, and chest/hand heart rate monitors. This machine is offered below $1,500 by most vendors which is a great deal for a small but sturdy elliptical.
It is surprising AFG doesn’t get more attention for their products when they offer machines like the 4.0AE which blows away most of the competition. At under $1400, this machine offers a small footprint but still has a fix stride length of 20 inches. It offers 20 levels of smooth and quiet magnetic resistance and up to a 16 degree incline for increasing challenge as your goals progress. The screen is large and colorful which makes it easy to read and 5 separate windows which make recording your key metrics incredibly easy.
Quick press buttons on either side of the console allow you to immediately jump to your favorite resistance and incline settings while buttons underneath the screen allow you to choose from seven presets and one custom workout. AFG doesn’t go overboard with the features with only a water bottle holder and chest and hand heart rate monitors, but it makes a better all around fitness machine for the price.
Elliptical Buyer's Guide
Choosing an elliptical can be a difficult task as they come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and price points. You’ll also need to consider ergonomics, adjustability, and extra usability features. You also need to decide whether you are going to save a little bit of money up front with belt resistance or guarantee a lower cost of ownership overall with magnetic resistance. Yes, selecting your dream elliptical machine can seem a little overwhelming because of all of their moving parts but they don’t have to be if you know what you are looking for.
When it comes to ellipticals, size matters more than any other piece of equipment because of how tall and long they can get; therefore, make sure you measure your space for the stride length instead of the base length. Bigger ellipticals take up more room but they also offer a higher weight capacity and a sturdier base than their smaller counterparts.
Elliptical manufactures put a lot of thought into making sure their devices are ergonomically sound. This Features like oversized, textured foot plates, comfortable grips on the handles, and adjustable stride lengths allow for natural, comfortable movement during your workout.
Just like any other cardio machine today, there are multiple types of dashboards displays available. These include traditional LED readout screens which show only your key metrics all the way up to advanced touch screen monitors which show your metrics and offer other features like built in workouts. Some even function as fully functioning computing tablets which offer all of the preceding capabilities as well as video and internet capabilities. Depending on the model you’re also likely to find speakers, three speed fans, and USB ports to plug in your MP3 player.
Like most treadmills, some ellipticals allow you to change the incline of your movement which add difficulty to your workout and allows your elliptical to better serve you longer.
A quality elliptical machine should be backed by a solid warranty to ensure long, reliable service life. While a lifetime warranty is always the best option, always try to aim for three year minimum coverage which includes the frame and dashboard.
Types of Resistance
Ellipticals only offer two different types of resistance and even though one is slowly becoming obsolete, it’s good information to know regardless.
This resistance works by tightening and loosing belts around two separate flywheels and works fairly well but wears out the belts over time which adds to cost of ownership. Belt resistance is on its way out as magnetic resistance becomes the dominant resistance technology.
Magnetic resistance is popular because it’s smooth and quiet with easy transitions between resistance levels. This resistance works by polarizing different magnets at different times in order to increase or decrease the resistance level.
Using Your Elliptical
Ellipticals are an awesome tool for anyone looking to get in some cardio without putting the hurt on your joints. Always be sure you get an elliptical with a proper stride length or one which is adjustable in order to ensure proper comfort and form. Ellipticals are not great for sport specific training purposes, but if you are looking to lose weight and preserve your knees they may be your best option.