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Best elliptical 2021: Top elliptical trainers

An elliptical trainer can transform your physique with low-impact cardio and strength building. Here are our favorite at-home ellipticals in 2021.

Many gyms had to close temporarily in 2021, so more folks are looking for ways to stay fit without a membership. The market for at-home fitness equipment is on the rise, from weights and mats to stationary bikes and streaming aerobics classes. 

For those with the extra space for larger pieces of equipment, an elliptical trainer is an excellent addition to a home gym, offering many benefits and an enjoyable experience. 

Let's review the advantages of elliptical trainers and present our top picks for these versatile machines available in 2021.

Sole Fitness

Offering a wide range of cardio equipment, Sole Fitness has a reputation for providing quality machinery to hotels nationwide. The company offers free shipping, lifetime warranties, money-back guarantees, and stellar customer service. Here are the top three elliptical offerings from Sole:

E25 Elliptical

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Sole

The E25 Elliptical is Sole's $999.99 entry-level elliptical, delivering a somewhat bare-bones setup that will do the job on a budget. 

The machine is relatively quiet with a smooth flywheel and heavy-duty steel frame. While the built-in Bluetooth speakers are a nice touch, they don't sound great. 

There's not much else in the way of tech except for a tablet holder.

E95 Elliptical

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Sole

The E95 gets a price bump up to $1,799.99, but this is certainly more durable and packs more tech into the console. 

In addition to a stronger frame and heavier flywheel, the E95's customizable "Worm Drive" is a significant upgrade here. You can save programs, settings and track your progress over time.

E98 Elliptical

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Sole

With the heaviest flywheel and elite construction, the E98 is the biggest and most expensive elliptical offering from Sole at $2,499.99. 

The E98 is branded as "commercial-grade," and that's precisely what you get with its sturdy construction, plenty of tech features, and a glowing 10" LCD screen with limitless settings. 

If you've got the money for a top-of-the-line elliptical, this one is worth a closer look.

NordicTrack

You may have seen NordicTrack machines at your local fitness club, as it's one of the most dominant fitness equipment companies around. With three categories of ellipticals -- rear-drive, front-drive, and an innovative "freestyle" machine with a center flywheel -- means NordicTrack has something for everyone. 

We've highlighted our favorite options from each line of machinery to give you a complete picture.

SpaceSaver SE7i

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NordicTrack

This is the entry-level rear-drive machine from NordicTrack, earning its namesake as a slim and space-saving piece of equipment. The price is appealing at $1,299.99 as well. The SE7i is stable, quiet, and comes with an 18lb flywheel that should do the job for most everyday folks looking to burn some calories. 

With a 5" backlit display, music port, and digital speakers, there's some decent tech in the mix. You also get a 1-Year iFit membership which gives you intense recorded studio sessions and pre-recorded guided runs through real-world settings.

Commercial 14.9

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NordicTrack

It's not the most inspiring name for a machine, but one look at this elliptical, and you'll see the instant appeal. The Commercial 14.9 is named for its 14" Smart HD touchscreen, which brings the machine's price up to $1,999.99. 

This front-drive elliptical combines classic design with modern quality-of-life upgrades like powerful fans, Bluetooth connectivity, and oversized, cushioned pedals with auto-adjusted strides. 

Once again, you gain access to the full iFit access for a year, which comes to life on that HD screen.

FS14i Freestride

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NordicTrack

This machine might not look like a standard elliptical, but it's not. The FreeStride is a powerful, flexible machine that shifts functionality with your natural motion, using a unique center flywheel setup unlike anything else. 

Use it as a climber, an elliptical, or a treadmill-like stepping platform to engage more muscle groups and ramp up the intensity. 

With that 14" touchscreen making a return, this machine is simply on another level, and the price reflects that $3,299.99. If money is no object, we can't recommend the FreeStride enough.

Nautilus and Schwinn

The Nautilus name goes hand-in-hand with at-home fitness, but their elliptical options are somewhat limited compared to other machines like treadmills and bikes. 

Since Nautilus now owns Schwinn Fitness, we've included an entry-level option from Schwinn here as well. 

Here are two elliptical trainers from Nautilus and Schwinn you might want to consider:

Nautilus E616

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Nautilus

As a basic, traditional elliptical, the Nautilus E616 fits the bill. You won't pay more than $999.99 for the machine, and it has most of the standard features you've come to expect from an elliptical trainer. 

The 20" stride length might be a bit short for taller folks, however, and the flywheel is not very heavy compared to the premium machines we've reviewed so far. 

Things that fall short for the E616 are the display, which looks like it hasn't been updated since the 90s. Thankfully, you can connect a Bluetooth device to app-based tracking tools like Explore the World and MyFitnessPal.

Schwinn 430

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Schwinn

If cost-effectiveness is your top priority, you can find a Schwinn 430 online for $799, making it the true budget option on our list today. 

The build on the 430 is a little bare, and you won't get many tech features, but this is the best bang for your buck when building a home gym, bar none.

ProForm

Compared to some of the famous fitness brands, ProForm is still relatively new on the scene. However, we're impressed with their array of quality fitness equipment and a range of offerings in the elliptical department. Here are two picks from ProForm worth a look.

Carbon EX

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The Carbon EX is sturdy, comfortable, and lightweight enough to roll around and lean against the wall for storage. Not bad for a $999.99 price point. 

While the stride length and flywheel wouldn't be suitable for a high-end fitness club, that's perfectly fine for anyone in need of a simple home workout. The 6" display is also slightly small, offering little more than a timer or stopwatch.

Pro 9.9

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ProForm

At $999.99, this is ProForm's mid-range elliptical, and we think it's worth the upgrade over the Carbon. The pedals are more comfortable, the flywheel is smoother, and the display has received a much-needed upgrade. 

It is still a reasonably simple front-wheel elliptical, but it has an old-school charm that seems perfect for any growing home gym setup. For the price, it's a top performer.

Why we like the elliptical

It might not be the most glamorous way to work out, but the elliptical trainer is one of the most reliable, safe, and effective machines. The key advantage of the elliptical machine is the dual-effect of both upper and lower body cardio and strength building, something that can't be said for bikes, treadmills, and climbers. 

Ellipticals require you to walk, run or climb with your lower body while "pumping" your arms back and forth with an alternating push and pull motion. The result is a considerable amount of calories burned – between 200 and 400 in just 30 minutes, depending on intensity and settings. Regular workouts will boost endurance, strengthen muscles from top to bottom, and burn stubborn belly fat. 

An elliptical is also a great low-impact exercise method, especially compared to running on pavement or even a treadmill. You'll save your joints and tendons strain by opting for an elliptical session over a jog. 

Finally, an elliptical is arguably the safest machine for at-home exercise, requiring less intense focus or coordination than a treadmill. You've got a firm grip on the handles, a platform for balance, and total control over speed and intensity. 

Our selection process and reminders

Selecting an elliptical will come down to your preferences and home gym needs, but we want you to keep a few things in mind before making a final call. 

First, always look at stride length because that's an indicator of comfort based on your height. We prefer the ability to adjust pedals if possible. You don't want to be stuck with a machine that doesn't fit your frame. 

Also, consider flywheel weight and the amount of resistance you want from your machine. If you plan on putting in serious hours on the elliptical, your strength will increase quickly, and you might outgrow an entry-level machine sooner than you think. 

Finally, be honest with yourself about how much tech you need from an elliptical. Those shiny HD screens might be appealing, but are they truly worth the significant cost bump? Since most of us have phones, tablets, and TVs already, you may not need them.