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Best elliptical machines: our favorite cross-trainers

Best elliptical machines: our favorite cross-trainers

We’ve been reviewing elliptical machines since 2011 and spent hundreds of hours evaluating the best equipment on the market. During our research and testing, we’ve learned what matters most when you’re looking for a sturdy, durable elliptical machine. We also understand the features and technology that make working out most effective and enjoyable. Among elliptical machines of 2018, we chose the NordicTrack C12.9 as our top pick because you can customize it for up to four users and it has 35 on-board workouts. It also comes with a one-year membership to iFit, a program designed to give you access to professional fitness trainers, dietitians and sleep experts who can help you define and achieve your personal fitness goals.

Best elliptical machine

NordicTrack C12.9

NordicTrack C12.9

35 workout presets
Adjustable pedals and stride length
Smart HD touchscreen
iFit membership must be renewed annually
Only syncs with 1 app
Has a longer than average footprint

The NordicTrack C12.9 has a heavy flywheel, adjustable pedals and a smooth stride. Its options for customization make it the best elliptical we’ve reviewed, and it accommodates up to four users.

The C12.9 is our top pick because it has all the features experts recommend to help you achieve optimal fitness results. From its 32-pound flywheel to its 20-inch power adjustable stride, this elliptical machine is designed for performance. It has 26 digital resistance levels and a 0 to 20 percent power-adjustable incline. It also has one-touch controls to make it easy to use and adapts for multiple users.

An elliptical with oversized, cushioned pedals can improve your comfort level during workouts. The C12.9’s pedals have these features, and they are also adjustable, as are the machine's upper body grips. Also, its stationary handles have pulse grips, and it comes with a Bluetooth-enabled chest strap. This helps you monitor your heart rate as you work toward achieving your goals.

NordicTrack is an Icon Fitness brand and is known for its iFit technology. This gives you access to personal trainers from around the world who provide coaching on fitness, nutrition and sleep. It’s accessible via the C12.9’s console and also on a mobile app you can download.

The C12.9 has a 7-inch touchscreen, digitally amplified speakers and a workout fan. It weighs 205 pounds, and transport wheels make it easier to move.

Best value

Nautilus E618 Elliptical

Nautilus E618 Elliptical

29 workout presets
22-inch stride length
Connects with five fitness apps
Smaller-than-average screen
No free shipping options
No lifetime warranty on frame

The E618 is new in the Nautilus Performance Series. While it isn’t the least expensive elliptical machine in our lineup, we consider it an exceptional value because it competes well with higher-priced machines.

It has a 30-pound flywheel and is pre-programmed with 29 workouts. While its stride length isn’t adjustable, it can accommodate very tall users. At 22 inches in length, it’s two inches longer than average. Because it has adjustable pedals, you can customize your heel support and engage different muscle groups to enhance your workout experience.
Although the E618’s display is only five inches wide, it has dual backlit screens. Its console is adjustable and provides Bluetooth connectivity to sync with five apps, including the free Nautilus Trainer 2.

This elliptical machine has 25 resistance levels and a motorized 0 to 10-degree incline, and its handlebars have integrated controls. It can store profiles for up to four users and accommodates a maximum weight of 350 pounds. Each machine we reviewed comes with pulse grips, and the best ones also have wireless chest straps. The E618 lets you monitor your heart rate using both technologies and gives you detailed workout feedback.

Best console

Bowflex BXE216 Elliptical

Bowflex BXE216 Elliptical

Stores up to four user profiles
Provides detailed workout feedback
Has excellent customer service
Heavy and hard to assemble
Stride length isn’t adjustable
Only has 11 workout presets

The BXE216 is Bowflex’s flagship elliptical machine. While it’s built with commercial-quality specs, such as a heavy 35-pound flywheel, it is designed for use in your home.

When it comes to its size, stride length and resistance levels, the BXE216 goes big. Weighing 263 pounds, it’s by far the heftiest machine in our lineup and weighs 99 pounds more than the lightest. The 22-inch stride length is useful for taller users, but it adds to the machine’s bulk. The best ellipticals have adjustable stride lengths, but less than 14 inches is usually too short.

The BXE216 only has 11 workout presets, but it gives you extensive feedback on your progress. It tracks 15 workout metrics, including a by-the-minute calorie burn rate. Its readouts include time, distance, speed and heart rate, along with sprints, intervals and resistance. The console has a large 9-inch display, but it’s not a touchscreen.

This elliptical machine has 25 resistance levels and 15 incline levels. You can easily adjust them on the console and using controls in the handrails. The BXE216 can accommodate users weighing up to 400 pounds. Bowflex offers free delivery of this elliptical right inside your front door. This is one of the best shipping offers we’ve seen. Professional assembly costs $249, but it's worth considering if you don’t want to deal with some complex assembly.

Most affordable

Schwinn 470

Schwinn 470

Syncs with seven apps
Frame warranty is below average

The Schwinn 470 is the most affordable elliptical we reviewed and is the only machine we recommended with an MSRP below $1,000. It has a 20-pound flywheel, a 20-inch stride length and large, cushioned footplates.

It features 25 levels of resistance and a 10-degree incline ramp to make your workout more challenging. It has pulse grips to monitor your heartrate and is compatible with telemetry monitoring, but you must purchase a chest strap separately. The 470 is programmed with 29 workout presets and stores up to four user profiles. It syncs with seven fitness apps, including Schwinn Trainer, My Fitness Pal, Apple Health and RunSocial. It weighs 164 pounds, with a footprint of 70.1 x 28.2 x 63.2 inches (length, width, height). While the best ellipticals have lifetime frame warranties, Schwinn guarantees the 470’s frame for just 10 years. Customer service is available by phone, email and on Facebook.

Best folding

Horizon Evolve 5

Horizon Evolve 5

Has 39 workout presets
Doesn’t have an incline ramp

The Horizon Evolve 5 is a sturdy, stable elliptical that folds for compact storage. It has 39 workout presets, which is the most of any machine we reviewed. Its user interface is easy to use, and it tracks workout distances up to 1/100 of a mile.

The Evolve 5 has ViaFit connectivity and is Passport ready for Virtual Active workouts. It has a 23-pound flywheel and a 20-inch stride length. It weighs 181 pounds, with a smaller than average footprint of 69 x 28 x 69 inches (length, width and height). The Evolve 5 has 20 levels of resistance, but it doesn’t have an incline ramp. It has a step-on height of 10 inches and can accommodate users weighing up to 300 pounds. Horizon Fitness offers free shipping, with delivery inside your front door. The Evolve 5 has a lifetime warranty on its frame, with three years on parts and one year of labor coverage.

ProductPriceOverall RatingPrice & ShippingDesignCustomizationInterfaceWarranty & SupportMSRPShippingAssemblyFlywheel (pounds)Stride Length (inches)Adjustable PedalsMaximum User Weight (pounds)Workout FanFolds for StorageWorkout ProgramsUser ProfilesResistance LevelsInclinesDisplay (inches)TouchscreenBluetooth CompatibleSynched AppsFrame Parts/LaborPhone, Email, ChatWeight (pounds)Length x Width x Height (inches)
NordicTrack C12.9View Deal4.5/54.34.5555$1599.00Free Curbside$2493220, Adjustable3753542671Lifetime5 Years/2 YearsPhone, Chat20580 x 26 x 64
Bowflex BXE216 EllipticalView Deal4.5/$1799.00Free Inside Front Door$2493522400114259215 Years5 Years/2 YearsX26377 x 31 x 70
Nautilus E618 EllipticalView Deal4.5/$1299.00$99$2493022350294255515 Years5 Years/2 YearsPhone, Email21073 x 27 x 67
NordicTrack C9.5View Deal4/$1299.00Free Curbside$2492519, Adustable3503212471Lifetime3 Years/1 YearPhone, Chat21068 x 36 x 67
ProForm Pro 12.9 EllipticalView Deal4/$1999.00Free Curbside$2493220, Adjustable3753512671Lifetime5 Years/2 YearsPhone, Chat22580 x 26 x 66
ProForm SMART Endurance 920E4/54.243.554$1699.00Free Curbside$2492519, Adustable3253212471Lifetime3 Years/1 YearPhone, Chat22568 x 36 x 69
Schwinn 470View Deal4/552.$899.00$99$2492020300294255710 YearsUnspecified/90 DaysPhone, Email16470 x 28 x 63
Sole Fitness E35View Deal3.5/$2599.99Free Curbside/$99 Inside$2392520375102167.55Lifetime5 Years/2 YearsPhone, Email23182 x 31 x 67
SOLE E953/$3399.99Free Curbside/$99 Inside$23927204001022010.15Lifetime5 Years/2 YearsPhone, Email23682 x 31 x 67
Horizon Evolve 5View Deal3/$1799.00Free Inside Ground Level DoorBy Quote2320300391206.252Lifetime3 Years/1 YearPhone, Email18169 x 28 x 69

Why trust us

Our goal in reviewing elliptical machines is to give you practical, insightful information you can use to help you find the best fitness equipment for your home. Every year, we update our reviews with knowledge gained by researching products, interviewing industry experts and talking to personal trainers and exercise enthusiasts. As we keep a pulse on the features, functions and price points that matter most to consumers, we also learn more about upgrades to engineering and technology that make using an elliptical more effective and convenient. Most recently, Bowflex chat support taught us why Bluetooth compatibility is so important. This feature is included on nine of the 10 machines we evaluated and allows elliptical users to connect with fitness apps on the smart devices of their choice.

“They are able to track their progress and work harder to keep getting better,” a customer service representative told us. “In turn, they reach their goals much faster!”

We selected our top ten elliptical machines after considering dozens of both recent and time-tested models. Our recommendations are based on visits to gyms, detailed product comparisons and testing in our lab. We also reached out to elliptical users and read hundreds of consumer reviews.

How We Tested

We evaluated elliptical machines based on comparing product specifications and analyzing user experiences. As we tested equipment in our lab, we asked our testing panel for perspective in six categories – console, pedals, handrails, stride, stability and price. We also asked our reviewers to evaluate preset workouts, resistance, incline, fans and displays.

We quickly learned elliptical users feel most confident if a machine is sturdy. Also, convenience is critical.

“I want to get on it and feel like it’s balanced, stable and smooth,” one tester said.

“I don’t want to have to think about anything,” said another. “I want to push the green button and have it work well.”

As we identified what makes an elliptical work well, we considered the weight of each machine’s flywheel, the variety of its workout programs and its user interface. We compared LCD screens with touchscreens, and we looked at programming, customization of user profiles and workout feedback. We also learned how to level and transport machines, and we recorded each machine’s dimensions. Finally, we evaluated product warranties and explored options for consumer support. These experiences helped us created detailed reviews and provide solid recommendations.

Elliptical Essentials

Before you buy any type of exercise equipment, such as elliptical machines, treadmillsexercise bikes and home gyms, fitness experts recommend thinking first about what you hope to accomplish.

“Is your goal to build muscle? Lose weight? Prepare for a specific sport? Rehabilitate an injury? The machine you choose,” said exercise physiologist Tom Holland [not to be confused with Spider-man Tom Holland], “should reflect your goals.”

Holland – the author of Beat the Gym – is a nationally-acclaimed lifestyle and fitness expert who is the chief fitness advisor for Nautilus, Inc.

Important Features
Elliptical machines provide a great aerobic workout without stressing your joints. All the ellipticals we reviewed have the most important features we identified – heavy flywheels for smooth momentum, cushioned pedals, moving handlebars, interactive consoles and built-in speakers. The best ellipticals have adjustable stride lengths, adjustable pedals and heart rate monitoring straps. They also have connected consoles that sync with popular fitness apps like iFitViafit and MapMyRun. You’ll also want to think about incline and resistance. Multiple levels of resistance add variety and intensity to your workouts and can help you stay focused and motivated. Varied incline levels target the muscles in your calves, quads and glutes and provide a more realistic trail training experience.

Exercise Options
We reviewed elliptical machines with as many as 39 and as few as 10 pre-programmed workouts onboard. These include both preset programs for goals such as cardiovascular fitness, interval training and weight loss. There are also programming options that let you customize your workouts. If more than one person will be using your machine, look for one that lets you save multiple user profiles. It’s also important to consider the available console feedback. Being able to track your time, distance, speed, pulse and calories burned is standard. Some machines also tell you how many watts you’ve generated during your workout and how many times you’ve rounded a ¼-mile track. Having one-touch controls makes changing settings and accessing information more convenient. Because user interface is so important, we especially like elliptical machines with touchscreen displays.

Price and Space
Elliptical machines for home use range widely in price from under $199 to more than $6,000, and club models can cost much more. Based on our research, the price for a well-built model with essential features such as a heavy flywheel, cushioned pedals and a connected console averages $1,500. Cheaper ellipticals tend to be less durable, have shorter warranties and fewer features. We reviewed elliptical machines with MSRPs ranging from $899 to $3,399.99. While MSRPs are steep, many machines are available at a discount.

As you’re considering the space you have available, make sure to allow for several inches around the machine. Some manufacturers also provide a recommendation for how much ceiling space you’ll need for the machine based on the height of the tallest user.

Once you’ve outlined your fitness goals, determined your budget and evaluated your space, finding the best elliptical for your home can be an exciting process. If you’re ordering online, thorough research can help you make a rewarding decision. If you’re visiting storefronts, visit more than one retailer and spend at least 10 minutes using each machine. This can help you find the right stride and identify which features matter most to you.

Advantages of an Elliptical Versus a Treadmill 

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends participating in moderate-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days per week. Treadmills and elliptical machines both offer a safe and easy way to raise your heart rate in the comfort of your home, but elliptical machines have a few significant benefits, especially for beginning-level runners.

Low-Impact Exercise
Because your feet are constantly connected to the pedals on an elliptical machine, there's not as much stress on joints, ligaments and bones as running on a treadmill. Elliptical machines also remove issues with posture associated with running on a treadmill with a belt thinner than your natural gait.

Full-Body Workout
All the elliptical machines we tested have arm handles in addition to pedals. Pushing and pulling on the arm handles provides a challenging workout for core muscles and your upper body. Any added movement in the upper body and core increases your ability to burn more calories and fat.

Reverse Pedaling
Running backward is not a natural motion, so we recommend trying reverse strides at a slow pace to start. Pedaling in reverse is an effective way to put more emphasis on the rarely-used parts of the quads and hamstrings, and when you ratchet up the incline setting, it targets the glutes.

Fitness Tracking Apps for Runners 

The best elliptical machines we tested track metrics like distance traveled, heart rate and calories burned. If you want more comprehensive tracking and an archive of all the exercises you complete, a fitness tracking app is a good option. These apps work best in conjunction with wrist-worn tracking devices, but you can manually enter info and share your achievements across social media platforms without one. If you decide to leave the comfort of your exercise room to run in a more scenic venue, these apps track your route and offer additional motivation through music and virtual coaches.

Nike Run Club

This was the precursor to all other run tracking apps and still provides the most comprehensive tracking and motivational features. It’s free to download on iOS and Android devices, including the Apple Watch and Android-compatible wearables. Nike Run Club includes audio guided workouts with professional trainers, athletes and entertainers like Kevin Hart to help improve your personal records, while still having fun. You can join the Nike Run Club community to participate in weekly and monthly distance challenges and receive trophies and badges for breaking personal time and distance records.


This run tracking app has similar tracking features and compatibility as the Nike Run Club app, but it has a unique interface which adds goals and lets you participate in challenges that include prizes. The free version has a great selection of tracking features, workout goals and social media integration. Endomondo Premium costs $6 per month and adds personalized training plans, interval training and removes the ads. If you don’t plan to use a wearable heart-rate monitor, this is the best app for elliptical workouts because it is the easiest to manually log workouts.

Fitness Trackers That Don’t Break the Bank 

The best elliptical machines we tested have pulse grips to monitor your heart rate during workouts, but if you want more accurate readings and comprehensive fitness feedback, a proper fitness tracker is the best option. Here are a couple of our favorite budget-friendly fitness trackers.

Fitbit Charge 3 - $149
The latest version of the Fitbit Charge has a larger screen and is lighter than its predecessor. Once you start running, the Charge 3 automatically monitors your activity and sends important heart-rate and calorie-burn information to the Fitbit app or any compatible third-party fitness-tracking app. It also has a sleep-tracking function that includes a silent-alarm mode to gently wake you at the optimal time without disturbing your bedmate. The battery lasts up to seven days on a charge, and there are five color options.

Garmin Vivosmart 4 - $129
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 isn’t as attractive as the Fitbit, but the slim design and comfortable silicone strap make it the perfect companion for an elliptical workout. It has a Pulse Ox sensor to estimate blood oxygen saturation, a heart-rate sensor and a unique Body Battery energy-monitoring feature that tells you when your body is ready for activity and when you need to rest. Unlike some other wearable fitness trackers, the Vivosmart 4 does not have a removable band – the silicone strap is permanently attached to the device – so take some time to choose among the four color options. The battery lasts up to seven days and takes only an hour to charge. However, if you use the Pulse Ox sleep-tracking function, expect to charge the Vivosmart 4 every five days or so.

Elliptical Training Apps 

The best elliptical machines we tested have more than 30 built-in workout programs. However, if you get bored with those programs or want a change of scenery while you work out, you can use mobile apps with interactive personal trainers. Here are some of our favorite training apps with specific workouts for elliptical machines:

Motion Traxx
This cardio training app uses the popular HIIT (high-intensity interval training) program delivered by fitness experts with a wide range of professional accomplishments. One unique aspect of Motion Traxx is the Action Sync feature, which pairs a music soundtrack with a workout to create the perfect pace and flow. The music is curated by Deekron, a fitness DJ and endurance athlete. You can get Motion Traxx for Android or iOS devices for $10 per month or try five sessions for free.

BitGym uses the front-facing camera on your phone or tablet to sync your pace and intensity with the visually stunning interface. This app has more than 100 tours that are designed to make you feel like you are running on a mountain trail network, secluded beach or other scenic location. The high-definition video has accompanying audio motivation from virtual trainers. There’s a free trial for iOS, Android and Amazon devices, and a subscription costs $8 per month.

Best Smart Water Bottles 

Proper hydration is an important component of any successful exercise regimen. Here are some smart water bottles to use in conjunction with elliptical machines to ensure you get every drop from your daily exercise routines.

Hidrate Spark 2.0
This smart water bottle has a sensor that tracks how much water you drink and sends the tracking information to the Hidrate companion app or other popular fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal, Apple Health and Google Fit. This water bottle isn’t ideal for jogs through the neighborhood because the sensor requires you to put the bottle on a hard surface between sips. However, that doesn’t affect its functionality when it's used with an elliptical machine with cupholders. The sensor is attached to a straw that's mounted on the lid of the bottle. It has multicolored LEDs to remind you when to take a drink, and the lights flash when you meet your daily hydration goals.  

HydraCoach 2.0
The HydraCoach doesn’t sync wirelessly with fitness apps like the Hidrate smart water bottle does, but it uses similar tracking sensors to monitor your water intake. There’s a removable drink monitor that displays the amount and percentage of water consumed relative to your personal hydration goal. When you remove the drink monitor, you can easily clean the BPA-free plastic bottle, which is dishwasher-safe. The durable bottle fits in standard-size cupholders, and because the HydraCoach is clear, you can easily see when you need to refill it.