The Best Elliptical Machines 2017 – Top Picks & Reviews

ellptical cross trainerThe elliptical machine hit gyms everywhere in the mid-90s. For the next decade and a half, this piece of equipment stayed cloistered in gyms. But, with the growth of the home fitness culture, it wasn’t surprising that the elliptical machine made its way into homes.

Although indoor walking, jogging, running, cycling, or rowing are alternatives to using an elliptical machine, each of these exercises has some drawback or the other. For example, running puts too much strain on the joints, walking doesn’t burn enough calories per minute, cycling doesn’t work the upper body, and the form required for rowing is hard to master. But, the elliptical machine negates all these pitfalls and provides you with a safe, effective, easy to learn, and low-impact exercise.

Our Top 5 Elliptical Machine Picks

MODELPRODUCT DIMENSIONS
ITEM WEIGHT
USER RATINGPRICE
Sole Fitness E35
Sole Fitness E35
32.3 x 8.7 x 26.4 inches

4.4/5
$$$$$
Check Latest Price on Amazon
Universal E40
Universal E40
36 x 30 x 16 inches
90 pounds
4.2/5
$$
Check Latest Price on Amazon
Schwinn 430
Schwinn 430
51 x 34 x 22 inches
165 pounds
4.1/5
$
Check Latest Price on Amazon
Nautilus E614
Nautilus E614
50 x 34 x 22 inches
186 pounds
4.0/5
$$$
Check Latest Price on Amazon
Horizon Fitness EX-59-02
Horizon Fitness EX-59-02
68.2 x 22 x 646 inches
145 pounds
3.8/5
$$$$
Check Latest Price on Amazon

The advantages of using an elliptical machine are rapidly entering the mass consciousness and reaching higher levels of popularity. As a result, companies are pushing ever newer brands and models of elliptical machine into the market. Unfortunately, not all of them are up to the task. So, if you’re shopping for an elliptical machine, you need a guide to help you choose the best elliptical machine for your requirements. That’s precisely what this article aims to do!

The purpose of this guide is two-fold. First, we’ve created our list of the best elliptical machines of 2017 to introduce you to the top products on the market. Second, we’ve put together an informative section that examines and explains the important factors to consider when buying an elliptical machine.

After reading both sections, you can either pick from one of the products on the list or apply what you learned here to expand your choices. Either way, you can help yourself make a great purchasing decision by spending a few minutes reading what we have to share. So, let’s get started with our top pick!

#1 Sole Fitness E35 – Our Top Pick

Sole Fitness E35Our top pick, the Sole Fitness E35 does many things right. That’s why it’s the best elliptical machine for home use. The E35 works in the forward and reverse motion and comes with 20 electronically adjustable incline settings. By changing the direction and incline, you can increase or decrease the load on specific muscles. For instance, forward motion at a high incline works your glutes at a high intensity and reverse motion at a high incline works your quads at a high intensity. This way, you get a comprehensive lower body workout with nothing left out. And, at higher levels, the resistance is very challenging. This leaves you plenty of room to grow before you overpower the machine.

During your workouts, the 25-pound flywheel, rail-mounted foot pedals, and high gear ratio drive ensure jerk-free movement. The smoothness and fluidity of the motion reduce stress, leaving you energized after every workout. Not only that, the adjustable foot pedals and multi-grip handles lock your body in the proper posture without sacrificing comfort. The combination of all these factors allows you to exercise for extended periods without tiring out. Also, the machine runs quietly, reducing objections and interruptions from others.

The large performance monitor is easy to read, allowing you to maintain your attention on form, breathing, and metrics easily. The bottle holder, cooling fan, and the mp3 player compatible speakers keep you comfortable and engaged. The stationary grip heart rate monitor provides accurate pulse readings through which you can optimize your aerobic workouts. Alternatively, you can use the chest strap heart rate monitor to track your pulse or use the heart rate programs built into the computer.

Now, is the Sole E35 worth the price? Yes, it is. If you have a $1500+ budget, I encourage you to give serious thought to buying this machine. However, if you cannot set aside such a large sum at the moment, you can go for a high-quality budget friendly option. But, bear in mind – economical elliptical machines don’t offer the complete package and you should prepare yourself to make some compromises.

Pros

  • Electronically adjustable resistance and incline
  • 10 programmed workouts
  • Adjustable stride length
  • Bluetooth compatible for performance data transfer
  • Pulse grip and chest strap heart rate monitor compatible
  • Excellent purchase protection

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Occupies a lot of space

#2 Universal E40 – Best For The Money

Universal E40 Before you opt for a low-cost elliptical machine, consider this – gyms periodically upgrade their equipment; but, most home users never do. Unless you intend to give it away after three or four years, your elliptical machine will stay with you for a long time. Given the situation, if the cost advantage is too significant to ignore, the Universal E40 is the best elliptical machine for the money.

The E40 is quite robust for an elliptical machine at the lower end of the price spectrum. It has a perimeter-weighted high inertia flywheel that keeps the exercise motion fluid. Comfortable handles and rail-mounted foot pedals help you maintain proper form. This design minimizes fatigue, prolonging your workout duration and accelerating your progress. The machine is also very quiet, compact, and stable. Plus, it comes with a bottle holder, an mp3 input jack, and built-in speakers.

The LCD console is basic. It displays performance metrics, such as speed, time, distance, and calories. It has a grip-type heart rate sensor. However, it isn’t responsive. Also, the machine isn’t compatible with wireless heart rate monitors. The E40 lacks the facility to change incline and stride length. But, there are eight levels of magnetic resistance and seven programmed workouts. So, you can get a good workout from the machine even if you’re not sure how to plan your elliptical machine workout.

Saying “Yes!” to this product comes down to your current fitness level and future health goals. Think of the E40 as quick-start fitness equipment. Although it will serve all your needs at the start of your journey, this machine is not built for a lifetime. Also, due to lack of stride length adjustment, people below 5 feet tall and above 5 feet 8 inches should personally test this machine before buying it.

Pros

  • Economical
  • Well built and designed
  • 7 pre-programed workouts
  • Built-in speakers
  • Media tray and bottle holder

Cons

  • No incline adjustment
  • No stride length adjustment
  • Heart rate monitor feature does not work well

#3 Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 – Best Compact Elliptical

Horizon Fitness EX-59-02The EX-59-02 from Horizon Fitness costs 50 percent more than the Universal E-40. But, does the EX-59 offer enough value to justify its price tag? At first glance there isn’t much difference but once you dig a little deeper, differences do emerge. Before we jump into that, let’s see what’s these machines have in common.

The EX-59 has 10 quick-select resistance settings and it comes with 10 pre-programmed workouts. It has an mp3 compatible built-in speaker, personal cooling fan, heart rate sensor, media tray, and bottle holder. The LCD monitor gives calorie, speed, distance, time, watts, heart rate, and program level readouts. At this point, the EX-59 is ahead of the E-40, but not by much.

The differences between the two machines really pop when you compare the design, build quality, and purchase protection. Now, the Six-Star Certification, which the manufacturer advertises, isn’t an industry recognized certification. In fact, it looks more like an internal certification than an industry-wide one. Despite this, the Six-Star design has many advantages.

First, the EX-59 allows you to keep your hips together while exercising because the foot pedals are very close to each other. Next, the placement of the movable handle and the stationary handle lets you maintain your grip without leaning in. Also, the low step-on height of 10 inches makes it easier to mount the machine. Lastly, the flywheel and gear drive design ensure smooth motion. And, it occupies very little floor space, making it the best compact elliptical machine. All these factors come together to give you a better workout experience than the E-40 can.

Another key difference is the warranty policy. The EX-59 comes with a lifetime warranty on the frame, a two-year warranty for parts, and a year’s warranty on labor. The E-40 comes with a three-year warranty on frame, a year’s warranty on parts, and a 60-day warranty on labor. Since a product’s warranty is a great indicator of the manufacturer’s confidence in the product, the EX-59 trumps the E-40 in build quality and construction.

So, the answer to my question is that the EX-59 is worth the 50 percent extra investment. If you don’t have the budget to buy a high-end machine like the Sole E-35, the EX-59 is a great mid-tier product to consider.

Pros

  • Reasonable price
  • 10 quick select resistance settings
  • Excellent build quality and design
  • Includes many auxiliary features
  • Lifetime warranty on frame

Cons

  • No adjustable incline
  • No adjustable stride length

#4 Schwinn 430 – An Honorable Mention

Schwinn 430The Schwinn 430 is another elliptical machine that merits your attention. From a price standpoint, this is a mid-tier elliptical. But, it shares some interesting features with the top-end equipment in this category. For example, the Schwinn 430 has put a practical spin on the LCD display. In many elliptical machines that have a media tray right under the display, your book or tablet will obscure the readouts. However, the Double-Track system on the Schwinn 430 displays the readouts in two panels. This way, you can monitor your performance metrics even if you place something on the media tray.

Another notable feature that I love is that this elliptical lets you change the incline. Using the incline adjustment handle, you can set the incline at six positions between 0° and 10°. However, you cannot change the incline while you’re using the equipment. The adjustable incline, along with 20 resistance settings and 22 pre-programmed workouts, provide a complete workout for your body according to your fitness level.

Not only that, the 430 has a USB port to charge your mobile device and export performance data. Later, you can export the data on the USB to SchwinnConnect.com or MyFitnessPal to track and share your progress. Built-in speakers, a personal cooling fan, 20-inch stride length, contact heart rate sensors, an audio input jack, a headphone jack, a bottle holder, and a media tray are other features on the 430.

Now, the reason why this product deserves only an honorable mention and not the top spot is because the Schwinn 430 doesn’t really stand out in any one area. For instance, it has a data export feature, but it does not support Bluetooth. And, it has adjustable incline, but its manual. Also, it has programs for heart rate, but it doesn’t sync with wireless heart rate monitors. In other words, instead of doing a few things extremely well, the 430 does many things acceptably well.

Pros

  • Reasonable price
  • Compact
  • 22 pre-set workout programs
  • Manual incline adjustment
  • USB data transfer
  • Compatible with MyFitnessPal
  • Many auxiliary features
  • Long stride length
  • Good purchase protection

Cons

  • Not Bluetooth compatible
  • Incline cannot be adjusted while using the machine

#5 Nautilus E614 – Another Honorable Mention

Nautilus E614The Schwinn 430 has been a great commercial success. So, Nautilus, the company that owns the Schwinn brand, designed an elliptical closely based on the Schwinn 430. They called it the Nautilus E614. Cosmetically, the 430 and the E614 look a little different. But, under the hood, they are nearly identical.

Like the Schwinn 430, the Nautilus E614 comes with Double-Track display, manually adjustable incline, data export via USB, 20 resistance levels, 22 pre-programed workouts, built-in speakers, audio in/out, and a cooling fan. The ergonomic experience of using the two machines is also the same. So, the E614 and the 430 share all the same advantages and disadvantages.

The similarity of the two machines becomes most evident in the warranty policy. The E614 and the 430 come with a 10-year warranty on the frame, a 2-year warranty on mechanical parts, a 1-year warranty on electronic parts, and a 90-day warranty on labor.

However, the Schwinn 430 has been in the market for a longer period than the Nautilus E614. Thus, it has a wider customer review base. The 430 is also cheaper than the E614. The E614’s price on Amazon has been stable, but the 430 has shown volatility. Between the two machines, I would lean a little more towards the Schwinn 430. Instead of cloning the Schwinn 430, Nautilus should have taken it farther to truly make this machine stand out. However, if you like the design better, then this is a viable alternative to the 430.

Pros

  • Reasonable price
  • 22 pre-set workout programs
  • Manual incline adjustment
  • USB data transfer
  • Compatible with MyFitnessPal
  • Many auxiliary features
  • Long stride length
  • Good purchase protection

Cons

  • Not Bluetooth compatible
  • Incline cannot be adjusted while using the machine

Factors To Consider When Buying an Elliptical Machine

In this section, I will share insights that will help you make favorable decisions while shopping for an elliptical machine. This section follows the logical sequence buyers usually follow. First, we will discuss whether the elliptical is the right cardiovascular exercise equipment for you. Then, we’ll dive into points of comparison that will help you match your requirements with the features commonly available. Lastly, you’ll learn about the popular brands so as to expand your choices beyond the best elliptical machines as suggested above. By the end, you will be able to select the product of your choice with confidence and enjoy your purchase fully. So, let’s get started!

Is the elliptical the best cardiovascular exercise equipment for me?

Cardiovascular exercises train your lungs and heart to grow stronger. As these vital organs gain strength, every aspect of your health begins to improve, allowing you to enjoy a better quality of life. But, there are different ways to enhance your cardiovascular system. Some methods, such as walking, jogging, or running outdoors, require little to no equipment. Other methods, such as indoor cycling, rowing, or running, let you exercise within the comforts of your home after investing in the appropriate equipment. So, in the scheme of things, where does the elliptical stand?

Well, the greatest benefit of using an elliptical to improve your cardiovascular system’s efficiency comes from the equipment’s design. The elliptical is put together in such a way that it allows you to exercise without putting strain on your joints. The low-impact nature of the elliptical machine’s motion mitigates injuries, providing a safe, sustainable, and effective exercise regimen.

Cycling and rowing are two other wonderful low-impact exercises. However, cycling is primarily an exercise for the lower body. Rowing, on the other hand, engages your entire body. But, it takes time to master the proper form required to row. Exercising on an elliptical eliminates these issues. It is a simple total-body exercise that anyone can do at any time and without any training. However, unlike cycling or running, which translate to real-world movements, the elliptical motion feels more unnatural. But, that’s hardly a fault considering all that you stand to gain from buying an elliptical.

Alright, how do I pick a good elliptical from all the options on the market?

A common mistake shoppers make is that they let features distract them from their benefits and requirements. For instance, a lot of ellipticals come with built-in speakers and an audio input jack. But, ask yourself, “What good does that do? Would I rather listen to my music over the speakers or in my earphones?” If you’re okay with listening to your music on earphones, then speakers don’t matter. At the same time, if you’re worried about wires snagging the handles, then maybe speakers are good. You see, features don’t dictate your decisions, your requirements do. So, let’s look at the benefits a good elliptical extends.

  • Variable Resistance: Resistance is the opposing force the machine offers in opposition to the force you exert. A good elliptical machine provides a steady increase in load as you switch from one setting to another. Such machines also offer between 10 and 20 resistance settings. When you’re shopping, look for a machine that challenges you at 30 to 50 percent resistance.
  • Type of Resistance: Good ellipticals use eddy current brakes (ECB) to build resistance. These are also known as magnetic-resistance type machines. They operate without generating any noise and their resistance response does not change over time. So, level 3 resistance will remain almost the same two years from now as it is today.
  • Stride Length: People who choose the stride length for their ellipticals incorrectly must force their bodies into the machine. This lack of form can lead to fatigue and injury. Consequently, they ditch their ellipticals without knowing that their mistake was preventable.
    From the following ranges, choose the stride length that corresponds to your height:

    • For people of height 5′ 3″ or less, a suitable stride length is 16 inches.
    • For people more than 5′ 3″ and less than 5′ 10″ tall, a suitable stride length is 18 inches.
    • For people more than 5′ 10″ and less than 6′ 4″ tall, a suitable stride length is 20 inches.
    • People taller than 6′ 4″ may require special machines with stride lengths greater than 20 inches.
  • Direction of Motion and Incline: Most ellipticals allow a forward pedaling motion at 0° incline. But, some ellipticals allow you to switch between forward and reverse pedaling and change the incline. These changes alter the motion, thereby altering the load distribution across different muscles of your lower body. For example, increasing the incline increases the load on your quads and pedaling backward increases the load on your calves. The adjustments offer extra ways of increasing difficulty in addition to the resistance settings.
  • Pre-Programed Workouts: Pedalling away at the same resistance for 20 minutes is not the most effective way to use an elliptical. That’s where pre-programed workouts come to your rescue. Pre-programed settings automatically change the resistance and intervals to match various goals, such as weight loss, endurance, and target heart rate. The different workouts also make exercising more fun and engaging.
  • Auxiliary Features: Features such as a personal cooling fan, an audio input jack, a headphone jack, built-in speakers, contact heart rate monitors, a media tray, a bottle holder, and a USB port extend the functionality of the elliptical. But, these features do not directly affect the results. They have more to do with comfort, engagement, and motivation. These qualities are subjective and you will have to choose for yourself the degree of importance you attribute to them.

Great, this information will really help me buy a good elliptical. So, what are my options?

There are hundreds of products on the market and this guide captures the best of them according to our assessment. However, there’s a lot of room for exploration, if you are ready to put in time and effort. But, to make your research easier, I recommend looking at ellipticals from Schwinn, Sole, Universal, Nautilus, and Exerpeutic.


Conclusion

After reading the reviews of elliptical machines and the factors to consider when buying an elliptical machine, you can choose a low-tier, mid-tier, or top-tier product. The tiers reflect the price range and not the quality because there are good-quality machines in every tier. The list of the best elliptical machines captures the best in every tier.

For example, if you’re going for a top-tier machine, then the Sole E35 is the best elliptical you can buy in that price range. If you choose from the mid-tier range, you can choose between the Schwinn 430 and the Nautilus E614. The Horizon Fitness EX-59 is also a good option. Although it does not have as many features as the Schwinn or Nautilus models, the EX-59 is extremely well built and designed and comes with a lifetime warranty for the frame.

Alternatively, if you want to go for a low-tier option, then the Universal E40 is the best budget friendly machine that you can buy. It’s well built and has all the basic features and even some mid-tier features. No matter what tier you choose, remember to pay attention to what you gain from what the product offers. And, don’t pay for features that you won’t need.