In the most recent refresh of this article we amended some information in the buyer’s guide, then made one change to our top five chart.
We ditched the older Bowflex BXE216, which had been discontinued, to make way for the new Bowflex LateralX LX3!
Considering spending up to $2,000 on an elliptical? Congratulations – you have access to some of the best consumer cross trainers around.
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Spending this much should guarantee you a perfect machine – although it’s not that simple. Believe it or not, lemons still exist in the higher end of the market!
We are here to help. In the chart below, we highlight five of the best ellipticals on the high-end market. For each model we’ve compiled a brief review, as well as a list of their pros and cons.
There’s also a handy buyer’s guide and FAQ section below the chart to give you the info you need to make an informed purchase – one you will not regret.
Whether you are a hardcore user looking for an elliptical that will push you to the limit, or a more casual user after the smoothest workout around, you’ve come to the right place!
Stride Length: 21”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: Steel frame, compact build, Center Drive technology, low step-up height (8”), oversized pedals, premium padded handles, heart rate monitor, 7 preset workout programs, dual LED screens
Looking for a compact elliptical that doesn’t have the word ‘budget’ attached? The E300 from Body-Solid may be exactly what you are looking for, featuring a high-end build with just a 50” x 31” footprint.
Despite being so small, the E300 offers an incredibly smooth and natural ride, with a quality reminiscent of a commercial machine. This is largely down to a stable steel frame, patented Center Drive technology and generous 21” stride length.
Seven preset workout programs combined with 20 levels of adjustable resistance keeps things fresh and challenging. If you can get over the fact that the console looks very dated by today’s standards, you will still find all the metrics you need on the dual LED screens, including time, distance, speed and heart rate.
Stride Length: 18” to 21” (Variable)
Resistance: 16 levels
Features: Patented CrossRamp incline, fixed handlebars, 5” high-contrast LCD screen, 10 preset workouts, heart rate monitor, SmartGrip media shelf
In 1995, Precor invented the world’s first elliptical. More than 20 years later and the British brand is still going strong, releasing both commercial and consumer ellipticals of the highest-quality.
One of the latter is the EFX 221. The core performance here is excellent – bordering the quality of a commercial machine, but with a price tag that won’t completely drain your bank account. The variable stride length up to 21” is ideal for people of differing sizes, while the patented CrossRamp incline and hefty resistance can make workouts a real challenge (in the right way!).
The main console is very streamlined, although it gives you all you need – a compact 5” high-contrast LCD screen, a range of preset workouts, and a SmartGrip media shelf for all your entertainment.
Stride Length: 20”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: 27lb flywheel, adjustable cushioned foot pedals, 10.1” color screen, Bluetooth audio speakers, USB charging port, heart rate monitor, multiple workout programs, built-in cooling fan, media shelf
Another top-quality elliptical pushing for top spot in this high-end range is the E95 from Sole Fitness. This stylish cross trainer boasts several convenient secondary features that make working out a pleasure.
These include a cooling fan, 10.1” color LCD, built-in media shelf and Bluetooth audio speakers, as well as a USB charging port to keep everything topped up. The core performance is great too – quiet and smooth thanks to a hefty 27lb flywheel.
Meanwhile, the 20” stride length and oversized cushioned foot pedals offer a natural stride, wherever you prefer to place your feet. Getting a sweat on isn’t a problem either, with 20 levels of adjustable incline and 20 resistance levels at your disposal.
Stride Length: 20.5”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: Compact design, low step-up height (4”), padded handlebars, 8 preset workout programs, unique Workout Boosters, heart rate monitoring, simple controls, large LED screen
Another elliptical that sacrifices a little style for a space-saving design is the popular Q35x from Octane Fitness – a brand known for their commercial machines. This cross trainer boasts a compact footprint with a very low step-up height, so it’s ideal for homes, garages and basements with small ceilings.
This popular unit has a reliable heavy-duty build and, thanks to close pedal spacing and a 20.5” stride length, delivers a natural feel whether you are walking or running.
With 20 levels of resistance and Octane Fitness’s unique ‘Workout Boosters’, there’s good workout variation on offer, even if it does lack an incline function. If you want a plethora of media options, then look elsewhere, as the Q35x has a very limited offering. Yet, the core performance still makes it a worthwhile choice.
Stride Length: Adjustable (Variable)
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: Performance suspension pedals, two sets of handles, heart rate monitor, cooling fan, 7.5” backlit LCD screen, 7 preset workouts, Bluetooth compatibility, water bottle holder, media shelf, Bowflex Radio, 300lb weight capacity
Bowflex is a brand known for its innovation in the fitness industry and it doesn’t disappoint with the LateralX LX3 – an elliptical with a twist!
The most notable feature is the unique motion of the pedals, which allows you to move side-to-side in addition to back and forth, and up and down. This results in a fresh challenge to muscles and a greater calorie burn. This is boosted by eight levels of magnetic resistance to choose from.
This machine feels like something you’d find at a trendy gym, with a quality build easily supporting users up to 300lbs. This sentiment is reinforced by the control panel, with a large backlit LCD screen, cooling fan and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as Bowflex Radio connection!
Truth be told, many home users will not need to spend up to $2,000 on a cross trainer. Many ellipticals under $1,500 will be as premium as many will want to go – especially if you are a more casual user.
On the other hand, if you are serious about your fitness and want cardio equipment that allows for a gym-grade performance at home, this high-end range will deliver.
So, what does a $2,000 elliptical offer, and is it worth spending the extra cash? In the following section we aim to answer these questions for you. This will put you in a good position ahead of making a purchase!
Despite each machine doing the same thing, there are a couple of varying designs between ellipticals, with two in particular: front-drive and rear-drive. Both design feature on our chart, as well as in the general premium elliptical market.
The good news is that – regardless of arguments between fitness experts – neither design is ‘better’ than the other.
Starting with front-drive ellipticals, these machines feature a drive wheel at the front of the unit, which is usually semi-exposed or enclosed in a case. The advantage of front-drive ellipticals is that they tend to feature more compact designs.
Historically they also tend to have a shorter stride length than rear-drive units, and can require more ceiling clearance due to the way the machine creates a natural slope. However, this is not always the case – especially in the high-end range.
In comparison, rear-drive ellipticals feature their drive wheel at the back of the machine. The advantage of these machines is that the stride length is traditionally longer. However, due to the extra stride length, these units tend to be longer in their footprint, so may not work for people in smaller spaces.
In short – don’t worry too much about whether the machine is front-, rear- or even center-drive. In this price range the stride length is guaranteed to be good and the performance similar to a commercial machine you’d use in the gym.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for a compact elliptical, there is good choice in this premium price category. While some cross trainers are huge, others are comparatively tiny.
Models such as the E300 and Q35x fit a lot of performance into a small footprint, making them ideal for bedrooms, condos, studio apartments, garages and basements, as well as smaller home gyms in general.
Luckily, these compact models don’t really compromise on stride length, although the running theme seems to be that the console design is quite basic, with less features and more dated designs. Whether or not this is a problem to you will depend on your individual style and tastes.
The stride length of the machine is particularly important. This refers to the measurement in inches between the toe of the front pedal to the heel of the back pedal, when the pedals are at their widest separation.
The taller you are, the wider you will want the stride length to be. There is no one-size-fits-all here, but the general agreement is that if you are under 5ft 7, a stride between 18” and 20” will work best for you. Users at 6ft or taller will require a stride length of at least 20” to enjoy an unrestricted experience.
Thankfully, almost all ellipticals in the sub-$2,000 range will offer a stride length of 20” or over – some up to a very roomy 22”, which is on par with commercial gym-grade machines.
In fact, the biggest problem will be if you are particularly short and don’t want a long stride length. Using a machine with too long a length can result in an uncomfortable experience as well as injury if you over stretch.
Some brands remedy this by offering variable stride lengths, allowing you to enjoy either a full 21” length or cap the stride at around 18”.
Resistance is another important feature. While the stride length and design are the things that allow you to use the elliptical comfortably, the resistance is what allows you to set a worthwhile challenge.
For example, some entry-level ellipticals have no resistance at all. In comparison, premium ellipticals usually feature up to 25 levels. The more levels, the more control you have over your workout intensity.
This flexibility allows you to truly customize your workouts to suit your level and goals. For example, you could set the resistance to level 4 and enjoy a light warmup jog. Then move up to level 12 and feel more of a burn as you power through a long-distance run. Then try a few minutes on level 25 and experience what it is like running through quicksand!
Whether the elliptical features 16, 20 or 25 levels of resistance, you are likely to only end up using a handful – those levels that suit you best. The advantage of having so much choice is that you have the room to grow and keep the workouts feeling fresh.
For example, the day level 10 starts to feel easier, you have levels 11, 12 and 13 – potentially up to 25 – waiting for you!
Like resistance, an incline feature is there to make the workout more of a challenge. Adding a gradient to your elliptical workout shortens your stride and demands more effort from you to cover the same distance.
In addition to keeping the workouts fresh and interesting, this increased exertion on your part can result in greater conditioning and endurance, as well as a more effective calorie burn.
The good news? Premium ellipticals almost always offer an incline feature with varying degrees, to allow you to go from a flat run to an excruciating hill climb in a matter of moments.
At this level, the incline feature will be motorized. This allows you to set the incline level directly from the control console or handles, without having to stop your workout and adjust the incline manually, as you would be required to do with lower-end units.
Be aware that some high-end ellipticals – particularly compact designs – do not offer incline of any kind, so if it is a feature you plan to use, ensure it is present before you part with your cash.
The control module is the heart of the elliptical, allowing you to direct your session and receive feedback, as well as enjoy a little comfort while working out.
Bizarrely, controls modules in this premium price range vary greatly, with some looking swish and modern, while others come across as basic and dated. The exact design you end up with will depend on the brand and what they consider to be a useful console.
Regardless of aesthetic fluctuations, you will find some similar features. Most notably a screen, which is there to give you workout data, including time, distance, speed, step count, calories burned and heart rate metrics.
These display screens will often be an LCD ranging from around 5” to double that size at 10”. Some will offer basic layouts; others will be full color and a lot more user-friendly. Of course, you will also find some simple LED screens, which many modern users may find uninspiring, although they do the job required.
Controls are naturally an important part of these main consoles. Again, the actual controls you receive will depend on what your machine offers. There will be a power button, and you will often find buttons to change the resistance and incline. Usually these will be precision +/- controls, but you may also find quick controls.
These quick controls allow you to jump bigger increments in resistance/incline. For example, you can go straight from resistance level one right up to level 25 without having to repeatedly tap on the + button.
If your machine offers preset workout programs, along with any secondary features – such as the speakers, cooling fan and connectivity (see below) – then controls for these may also be present on the main console.
Ellipticals in this range are packed with features that may not affect the core performance of the machine, but make working out on it a more pleasurable experience.
Entertainment is a big theme here. While serious athletes may not require anything other than focus, some users prefer to use their elliptical time to watch a movie or listen to music.
On high-end cross trainers, you will often find features such as a media shelf – a simple device that holds your smartphone or tablet in position while you use the machine.
Most of these ellipticals will also feature built-in speakers, allowing you to listen to your media by hooking up your smartphone via a cable or a Bluetooth connection.
This is where USB charging ports – often found on high-end machines – are useful. They allow you to plug in and keep using your device for as long as you like.
Entertainment aside, you will often find these machines also provide a cooling fan. Sitting at the top or bottom of the console, these will blow air in your direction for a more comfortable ride when the workout gets tough.
Many ellipticals in this range will also offer heart rate monitoring. This will be in the form of pulse grips in a pair of handles, which will give feedback to the central console as you run (providing you are holding the grips).
Even though these will be better quality heart rate monitoring systems than those you may find on ellipticals under $500, they are still more of a guide than a precision tool. They will offer a good idea of how hard you are working, but if you are working towards specific heart rate goals, a chest strap will be more accurate.
If your unit offers Bluetooth connectivity, it may be able to connect to apps such as RunSocial and Daily Burn, among others. These apps – which often require a separate subscription – will offer things like workout tracking, exercise programs and mixed-reality training videos.
These secondary features are all excellent and can turn a mediocre elliptical into one that you will want to jump onto every single day.
Having said that, don’t buy an elliptical based solely on these features. Having Bluetooth speakers and a USB charging port may seem useful, but they shouldn’t take priority over things like stride length, resistance and incline. These core features are the reasons you are buying an elliptical in the first place.
As you open your wallet to the tune of $2,000, you can expect to end up with an awesome elliptical, whoever the manufacturer. But which brand makes the best?
The answer really depends on what you want from an elliptical in this range. Are you looking for something with a flawless performance? Plenty of resistance and incline options? Extensive media and entertainment features?
There’s not one brand that specializes in all of these factors, so you may need to choose between two or three to find one that ticks the most boxes for you.
Brands such as Precor (who actually invented the very first elliptical), Octane Fitness and Life Fitness offer commercial ellipticals seen in gyms around the world. Some of these brands also offer ‘entry-level’ models that fall into the sub-$2,000 category.
If you want a durable elliptical with a smooth operation and a near gym-grade performance, then units from these brands are worth checking out. The problem with these manufacturers is that they tend to put so much focus on the performance, the secondary features can seem a bit basic.
Alternatively, if you are keen to have all the mod cons like color screens, speaker systems, USB charging and Bluetooth connectivity, brands like Bowflex and Sole Fitness may appeal more.
However, there are plenty of other manufacturers out there, all claiming to make ‘the best’ elliptical. Be sure to browse our ever-changing chart above, or check out the rest of the market to see which brands are the best fit for you.
This is actually a tough question to answer. In all honesty, some entry-level ellipticals can be complete garbage – promising the world, but delivering very little.
On the other hand, a high-end elliptical, such as those we feature on this page, can be epic when it comes to delivering a challenging and effective workout.
How good an elliptical will be also comes down to what you want from your workout. If you are looking for a low-impact way to simulate walking and running, but with potential to boost the intensity in multiple ways, then an elliptical is one of the best machines on which to do it.
However, ellipticals don’t quite compare to the effectiveness and lung-busting potential of some other cardio machines. Treadmills, stair mills, rowing machines and spin bikes in particular are all more effective when it comes to conditioning and fat-burning.
Yet, some of these machines can lack the low-impact nature of an elliptical, while many don’t allow you to work your arms in the same way an elliptical does.
So, yes – ellipticals can be very good machines. But you need to be clear about your goals before deciding if one is right for you.
What does an elliptical usually offer that even the best treadmill does not? That’s right – handles!
In addition to a pair of fixed handles to stabilize yourself, the majority of ellipticals feature movable poles that allow you to work your arms at the same time as you work your legs. Of course, this is providing you actively push and pull with your arms.
As you flex and extend your arms on an elliptical, you are using both your biceps and triceps, in addition to lightly working your back, shoulders and chest.
The notion of ‘toning’ is an odd one, because a ‘toned’ muscle doesn’t really exist. You either have big or small muscles, and good or bad definition determined by how much body fat you have. For example, somebody with a low body fat percentage is likely to look a lot more toned than somebody carrying a few spare tires.
So, to look toned, you will want to work on growing your muscles a little and losing some fat.
The good news is that an elliptical can contribute to the toned look – although mainly thanks to its fat-burning potential as opposed to helping you building muscle. Ellipticals may help you work your arms and create some muscular endurance, although they aren’t ideal for building muscle (see the next FAQ below).
To lose body fat, you must be in a consistent calorie deficit. In general, by being in a 3,500-calorie deficit every week (500 calories per day) you will lose 1lb of fat. Do this for a few weeks, and your arms – and many other body parts – will start to look much more toned!
A good diet is the biggest part of creating this caloric deficit, although using cardio – including ellipticals – can help boost your numbers.
So, yes – using an elliptical can help you tone your arms, although not in the way you may have originally believed.
There is a reason you find ellipticals lined up in the gym alongside treadmills and exercise bikes, as opposed to squat racks and free weights. This is because ellipticals are cardio machines.
Their main purpose is to offer you a low-impact means to exercise your cardiovascular system, burn calories and increase endurance.
There is no doubt that they work the muscles in your body very well – glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, biceps, triceps and back are all in action as you stride along. Ramp up the resistance and you can really feel the burn!
However, if you are using an elliptical in an attempt to build big guns or tree-trunk legs, you are barking up the wrong tree trunk!
To build significant size you must progressively overload your muscles with more weight, more reps or more intensity. The catch is that you must also stick around the rep range of between 6 and 15 reps per set. Any more than this and you are building endurance, but probably not muscle.
In short, working an hour on the elliptical – even at a high resistance – isn’t going to turn you into Arnie any time soon.
Having said that, if you have never lifted a weight or done any strength training, using an elliptical with enough resistance may well allow you to build some strength and potentially a little muscle in the beginning.
A high resistance may be enough to spark your muscles into growth as they adapt to working against this resistance. However, this resistance is unlikely to be challenging enough for prolonged growth and it is therefore not an effective use of your time.
So, if you want to torch calories and reap the benefits of a high-intensity but low-impact cardio machine, then an elliptical is a very worthwhile choice. But, if you want to make real muscle gains, you will be wise to supplement your elliptical training with a trip to the weights room.
Buying a high-end elliptical is not going to be the biggest decision of your life, but spending up to two grand on a cross trainer is not something we do every day. Therefore, it’s worth taking the time to consider all the factors to settle on the best machine for you.
We hope our chart above has inspired you and this buyer’s guide has proved helpful. We eventually narrowed down our choices to five models, and Bowflex’s LateralX LX3 stood out as our top pick for its innovation and gym-grade quality.
Of course, one of the other picks may be more suitable for you, if you want something more traditional. Whatever you go for, we hope you enjoy torching calories with your new purchase!