Best elliptical machines: 5 top-notch tries to opt for this Black Friday

We've put the best elliptical machines to the test, and these are the ones that came out on top.

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Are you on a quest to find the best elliptical machines available? You're not alone, and whether your gym is currently closed or you'd feel safer achieving your fitness goals judgment-free, an elliptical is an excellent way to do it. 

Unlike a treadmill or spin bike, elliptical trainers offer an entire body — upper and lower – workout, making it a worthwhile investment. Even more so, some ellipticals come equipped with pre-programmed workouts to simulate a gym class and provide necessary guidance and motivation along the way. 

It's true: elliptical machines are endlessly beneficial, but the key to reaping all of their endless benefits? Identify a machine that will best serve you.

Ellipticals come in all sizes, and contingent on the size of space you have (or do not have), one option might be better for you over another. More so, when you consider your level of expertise. 

Are you someone well acquainted with ellipticals, or are you a first-time user, or specifically: will you and your family be using this machine? Or is it just for you? There are dozens of features and functions to consider, and here at Real Homes, we don't take that likely, which is why we did all the heavy lifting for you. 

From affordable home models to gym-quality equipment for serious exercisers, we found five elliptical machines to suit every budget and mindset — with some on major sale this Black Friday. 

The best elliptical machines to consider this Black Friday

Best elliptical machines

(Image credit: Sole)

1. Sole E95

The best elliptical machines: This machine combines entertainment, adjustability, and solid build quality

Specifications
Stride length: 20"
Resistance levels: 20
Workout programs: 10
Adjustable incline: Yes, motor-adjust (20 settings)
Weight limit: 400 lbs.
Dimensions: 82"Lx31"Wx71"H
Reasons to buy
+Robust resistance levels, programming+Uniquely adjustable foot pedals +Solid construction and a great warranty+Wireless heart rate monitoring/control+Bluetooth capable+Motor-adjust incline
Reasons to avoid
-Takes up a lot of space-No virtual reality/video display

It's almost impossible to find fault with the Sole E95 elliptical machine, which provides the best combination of robust features, solid construction, and enough workout options to keep you hopping. It also offers uniquely adjustable foot pedals for a comfortable ride — and it's priced as a good value. 

What we like about it
The Sole E95 offers as many (or more) resistance levels (20), workout programs (10) and incline settings (20) as any exerciser will need, along with a 20" stride length that hits the sweet spot for most people. 

Build quality is also important — this machine is solid, and it's backed by a great warranty. Another key factor: Sole's one-of-a-kind "worm drive," a system that lets you (literally) dial the foot pedals into exactly the right angle to avoid numb toes and knee pain. Those two common problems can crop up if an elliptical machine doesn't quite fit your body correctly.

Other notable features include wireless heart rate monitoring (a chest strap heart rate monitor is included), and two heart-rate control workouts that automatically adjust the elliptical's resistance to keep you within a target heart rate range. The Sole E95 elliptical trainer is also Bluetooth capable, interacts with many popular fitness apps, and has thoughtful control buttons on the moving handlebars so you don't have to interrupt your workout to adjust resistance or incline. 

Things to note
At 82" long and 31" wide, the Sole E95 elliptical trainer takes up a lot of space. And although it has every single feature you need for a fantastic workout, it does lack a built-in video display to show a "virtual reality" video of a chosen landscape.

Best elliptical machines

(Image credit: Schwinn)

2. Schwinn 470

The best elliptical machines: includes surprising features at a great price

Specifications
Stride length: 20"
Resistance levels: 25
Workout programs: 28
Adjustable incline: Yes, motor-adjust
Weight limit: 300
Dimensions: 70.1"Lx28.2"Wx63.2"H
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Motor-adjust incline ramp+Bluetooth capable+Heart rate control programs
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks some high-end features-Warranty could be better

The Schwinn 470 elliptical trainer makes a solid showing in almost every category, presenting an excellent value — and some surprisingly high-end features — for well under $1,500. 

What we like about it 

The Schwinn 470 has a friendly 20" stride that should suit most bodies, 25 resistance levels to deliver challenging workouts, and a whopping 28 workout programs. It's also Bluetooth compatible, so you can use Schwinn's Explore the World app to track your progress. Additionally, you can also see a video of your simulated walks/runs or sync your workouts with popular fitness apps such as UA, MyFitnessPal, Apple Health, and more. 

But what catches our eye about the Schwinn 470 is a pair of features that usually aren't typically available at this price range. The motor-adjust incline ramp and heart rate control programming automatically adjust the elliptical trainer's resistance to keep you at a target heart rate.

The Schwinn 470 does have built-in handgrip heart rate monitors, but that type of heart-rate monitoring returns a ballpark figure at best, even on higher-end machines. If you're using the heart rate control feature, the gold standard is supreme for using a chest strap heart rate monitor. 

Things to note 

The Schwinn 470 is a fantastic value, but it's generally good — not always great — across the chart. Its 300-pound weight limit is impressive, but Sole E95 has it beat by a hundred pounds. Finally, we also miss the presence of a built-in entertainment system or video display.

Best elliptical machines

(Image credit: Nautilus)

3. Nautilus E616

The best elliptical machines: the Nautilus E616 packs some surprising features in its price range

Specifications
Stride length: 20
Resistance levels: 25
Workout programs: 28
Adjustable incline: No
Weight limit: 300 lbs.
Dimensions: 70"Lx28"Wx71"H
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Explore the World app is impressive — and free+Lots of resistance levels, workout programs+Bluetooth compatible+Excellent warranty
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen/video-No adjustable incline

We love the Nautilus E616 elliptical machine as it focuses on build quality, usable stride length, and Bluetooth compatibility, uniting the most important features at a price tag under $1,000.

What we like about it 

The Nautilus E616 represents a fantastic value, with a user-friendly 20" stride length and lots of resistance levels and preprogrammed workouts available. It also has a great warranty considering the price: ten years of coverage on the frame, three years for parts and electronics, and one year of coverage for labor costs.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of this machine is its compatibility with the free Explore the World app, which allows you to run alongside other people as you explore 27 routes through 19 locations around the world. 

You do need to provide your smart device to use this, but the Nautilus E616's Bluetooth compatibility means it will also sync with all your other favorite fitness apps. 

Things to note 

Although the Nautilus E616 represents a great value if you're willing to invest a bit more for an elliptical trainer like the ProForm SMART Pro 12.9 or NordicTrack SE7i. There you can get a model with a built-in HD touchscreen display. 

We also note that this elliptical trainer doesn't have an adjustable incline feature — but for just a few hundred dollars more, the Schwinn 470 does.

Best elliptical machines

(Image credit: Sunny Health)

4. Sunny Health and Fitness SF-E3865

The best elliptical machines: the perfect machine for exercising in limited space

Specifications
Stride length: 20"
Resistance levels: 16
Workout programs: 12
Adjustable incline: No
Weight limit: 265 lbs.
Dimensions: 66"Lx30"Wx68"H
Reasons to buy
+Small footprint+Requires limited clearance to front and back+Good value+44-lb. flywheel
Reasons to avoid
-Low weight limit-Lacks bells and whistles

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3865 offers the best combination of small footprint and usability, making it the perfect choice for exercising in tight spaces.

What we like about it
Although you'll find elliptical machines with slightly smaller footprints, they tend to have unrealistically short stride lengths, which tends to create a choppy, up-and-down ride. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3865 offers the best of both worlds, with a relatively petite 30"x66" footprint and a 20" stride length that's comfortable for most people. 

Perhaps more important, this elliptical's construction means it needs very little clearance room in front of and behind it as you pedal, and it's an excellent value in the under-$1,000 price range. The 44-lb flywheel is an unusual find in this price range; a heavy flywheel like this helps create a smooth ride as you pedal. 

Things to note
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3865's user weight limit is a little on the low side: 265 lbs. That said, most users note that as long as it's put together correctly it feels sturdy when in use, and the built-in floor stabilizers help keep it steady as you pedal.

This elliptical machine is also missing the more advanced bells and whistles you'd find in a more expensive machine, with just 12 preprogrammed workouts and a basic display system. But it does have a tablet holder, and the handgrip heart rate sensors can be useful for giving you a ballpark idea of your rest rate during your workout.

Best elliptical for seniors: Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer and Elliptical

(Image credit: Teether)

5. Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer and Elliptical

The best elliptical machines: a recumbent option with a seat for comfort reasons

Specifications
Stride length: N/A
Resistance levels: 2
Workout programs: N/A
Adjustable incline: N/A
Weight limit: 300lbs
Dimensions: L54” x W38” x H52.5”
Reasons to buy
+Tablet and water holder+On wheels for moving+Zero impact+Works upper and lower body simultaneously
Reasons to avoid
-Larger than other machines-Basic with no workout programmes

The Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer and Elliptical is a great buy for seniors since it has a built-in seat for back and joint support – and for comfort reasons. This elliptical is made for any age or fitness level, and it can offer a total body workout, all while sitting down.

What we like about it
This Teether elliptical is quiet when in operation so as not to wake your kids (or neighbors). Dual power motion works body your upper and lower body at the same time, while patented stride technology prevents the knees from traveling over the toes, keeping the back and hips stable for your comfort. Variable magnetic resistance means you can adjust your workout to your fitness level using one dial. The seat is also adjustable to recline, and the handles can be moved to target your biceps, triceps, and back muscles. There's a large display so you can see your stats – distance, speed, calories burned, and more.

Things to note
There's a maximum user weight capacity of 300lbs, and if you are 4'11" or shorter, or taller than 6'6", you won't be able to use this elliptical. It's also pretty large at 38-inches wide and 54-inches long, though it can be moved around with ease thanks to its wheels. Another thing to note is that this machine doesn't have pre-set programs.

What are the best elliptical machines to shop this Black Friday?

What are the best elliptical machines?

We think the all-around best elliptical trainer you can buy is the Sole E95. It provides solid construction. enough workout options to keep you challenged and entertained, and a one-of-a-kind mechanism for adjusting the angle of the foot pedals — a critically important facet of avoiding making your time on an elliptical trainer comfortable and injury-free. 

How to buy the best elliptical machine

Pedals
Those elliptical machines that don't offer this level of connectivity make up for it by syncing with your favorite mobile fitness apps and offering a tablet or phone holder to keep your smart devices within your view as you work out.

For many users, the primary allure of an elliptical trainer is that your feet never leave the pedals — which means your body endures significantly less impact than running or walking outside or on a treadmill.

But elliptical trainers do come with one liability: If you're at either extreme of height and physical build -- very short, or very tall -- then you might find that the set, elliptical path of the machine's foot pedals doesn't always fit your body comfortably. 

The angle of the foot pedals matters, too. If they're not oriented correctly for your body, you may experience numb toes or feet, and pain in your ankles or knees. That's why our pick for the best all-around elliptical trainer, the Sole E95, has adjustable foot pedals that allow you to dial in a just-right angle on the foot pedals for a comfortable ride.

Stride length
In general, the taller you are the longer a stride length you need — and vice versa for shorter folks. A stride length of 19" to 21" or 22" fits most bodies well, and some higher-end elliptical trainers feature adjustable stride lengths.

If you're using an elliptical trainer with an adjustable incline, that also serves to shorten or lengthen the stride length somewhat. Adjusting the incline also changes the shape of your stride a bit — making the foot pedals travel through either a rounder or flatter path — and changes which muscle groups do most of the work; so this feature is a great way to add some variety to your workout.

Almost all elliptical trainers also let you pedal both forward and backward — another great way of shaking up your workout.

Resistance
Resistance levels are another key point to watch for. Although you don't need an outrageous number of choices, some very basic models only offer a few resistance levels to choose from — which means they might be too hard for a beginner just starting out, or not offer enough resistance to challenge seasoned exercisers.

Even if you're new to using an elliptical trainer, doing regular workouts will quickly increase your strength and endurance — so make sure you choose an elliptical trainer that packs enough resistance options to challenge you in the future.

Heart rate monitor
The built-in handgrip heart rate monitors that appear on most elliptical machines are useful for getting a ballpark idea of your exertion level — but not much more than that, because they don't offer very good precision.

Almost all of the elliptical trainers in this buying guide support the wireless telemetry needed to communicate with a chest-strap heart rate monitor, and some offer "heart rate control" workout programs, which means the elliptical automatically adjusts its resistance to keep you at the target heart rate.

Add-ons
Some elliptical trainers, like the NordicTrack FS7i, go above and beyond in terms of interactivity. This model uses an HD touchscreen display and the subscription-based iFit service to show video of the landscapes you're simulating a walk/run through, or pre-recorded video workouts and even live, interactive workouts with a trainer. This model even allows the live trainers to adjust your elliptical trainer's resistance and incline remotely.

Size
Do you have space for it? Finally, don't forget to consider the size of the elliptical trainer in relation to your workout space. This means not only the elliptical trainer's footprint (the amount of space it takes up on the floor) but also how much clearance it requires in front and behind the machine — and above your head — for you to pedal safely.

The relatively high step to get into many elliptical trainers — sometimes 12 inches or more — not only requires higher ceiling clearance but can also represent an obstacle to anyone with limited mobility or stability. 

Brittany Romano
Brittany Romano

Brittany Romano is Future's U.S. Shopping Editor, based in New York City. From her start as a fashion market assistant at Marie Claire to building a highly profitable commerce vertical at Us Weekly and AMI brands, Brittany has produced award-winning content covering everything from celebrity beauty hacks to must-have items from online sales. She is a graduate of New England College. When she isn’t writing, you can find Brittany indulging in yet another DIY project or cheering on her beloved Boston Bruins. Find her on Instagram at @ItsBrittanyRomano.

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