NordicTrack E11.5 Elliptical Trainer Review: an all-over workout that doesn't stress the joints | T3

NordicTrack E11.5 Elliptical Trainer Review: an all-over workout that doesn't stress the joints

Get Viking fit with this skiing, running and hiking-inspired elliptical trainer that works most of the major muscle groups without the impact

(Image credit: NordicTrack)
T3 Verdict

A solid product with gym equipment robustness (that won't break the bank). The downside is a rather naff digital display and no connectivity for beating the elliptical monotony.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Smooth, gliding action

  • +

    Foldable for storage

  • +

    Powerful drive unit for tough resistance

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Material quality questionable in some parts

  • -

    Digital display is poor

  • -

    Still bulky when folded

There is a general disregard for the elliptical trainer, as it is often viewed as the 'cop out' piece of gym equipment that lazy folk gravitate towards and spend an hour or so watching EastEnders while their arms and legs flail a bit. Calorie burn = minimum.

But when used correctly, an elliptical machine is a powerful piece of kit, working most of the major muscle groups and causing the heart rate to spike without the joint-destroying punishment of a treadmill.

In fact, get in the zone, make the most of the differing inclines and resistance levels and the elliptical machine becomes your best friend in the quest for a thought High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session, which has been proven to burn calories long after the exercise is finished.

Elliptical converts will need a fair amount of space at home to house this chunky unit, as it measures 800mm wide, 2100mm long and 2200mm tall. Even when the rear power unit is folded away, it remains fairly large.

But those lucky devils with the room to build a home gym will get a great workout, with 20 resistance levels and the ability to adjust the incline from 0 to 30-degrees, without putting as much stress not he joints as other high impact exercises.   

NordicTrack E11.5: the design

Even 'folded', the NordicTrack E11.5 is still pretty large

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

The NordicTrack E11.5 comes in a rather large box and requires some assembly at home, so be prepared to get the screwdriver and spanners out (or pay for the expert assembly at the checkout).

Once bolted together, it is fairly imposing, with a heavy, 9kg Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR Silent Magnetic Resistance) flywheel at the rear, which generates the resistance to make workouts tougher and sits at the very heart of its free-flowing, gliding motion.

There are two grab handles for working the arms and a further two static grab points for shifting the focus to the legs. Large foot platforms feature rubber cushioning for additional grip and comfort, while these plastic blocks can also be adjusted to increase or decrease stride.

This has two benefits: firstly, it allows fitness fanatics of differing body sizes to enjoy the piece of equipment and secondly, increased stride length works different muscle groups in the legs.

Similarly, the ability to increase and decrease the incline of the platforms allows users to shift effort to the calves, glutes and/or thighs, giving a good amount of flexibility and adding to the longevity or appeal of the purchase.  

NordicTrack E11.5: the tech

The digital display lets the side down

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

This is arguably the least exciting part of NordicTrack E11.5. Where more expensive rivals offer touchscreens, connected services or at least a slot for your iPad, this unit comes fitted with a digital display that looks like it has been lifted from a 1990s Casio calculator.

Despite its retro-tactic design, the display offers all of the readouts you will ever need, including a rough guess on calories burned, heart rate (via the hand grips on the static handles) and a visual representation of incline and decline.

It even flashes up a few motivational messages when working out, which don't really help much and have all the charm of the BBC News 24 ticker tape that runs along the bottom of your TV screen.

But on the plus side, the E11.5 is iFit compatible (users must download an app and subscribe to a membership package), which allows those who get bored easily to enjoy virtual workouts specifically tailored to this piece of machinery or use Google Maps to set the virtual terrain you train on.

Polar compatibility means chest straps and the marque's heart-rate monitoring devices pair easily - a good thing considering heart rate is only measured on the static handles here.

Finally, there's a built-in fan for keeping you cool and some small speakers for playing tracks from an aux-in source. Although, we'd suggest investing in some portable speakers if you don't want to have to live with very quiet, tinny tracks that barely rise above the din of heavy breathing/panting/swearing. 

NordicTrack E11.5: the experience

Cushioned foot plates, for your comfort 

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

The overall construction of this unit is pretty good, with a few cheap plastics here and there making it obvious that it's not quite up there with the robust gym equipment you'll find someone sweating over at your local gym.

However, the 9kg flywheel and Silent Magnetic Resistance system do a great job of offering up a nice spread of difficulty levels, which range from leg-spinningly easy to heart-burtstingly brutal.

Factor in the various incline levels and differing plate positions and there's plenty of variations to keep workouts fresh and entertaining. 

We found that the elliptical handles could be slightly noisy when used, often knocking or banging when really going hell for leather, but this is common among most elliptical trainers.

The CoolAire fan does a good job of keeping the face chilled during intense workouts and the highly adjustable footplates makes it really simple to get a good, comfortable fit. Essential to avoid heel lift and to ensure good, injury-mitigating form.

Of course, there are far more advanced elliptical machines on the market, which offer fancy screens and all manner of different heart-rate based workouts, but this model is slightly simpler.

There are 30-odd preset workouts to choose from, but they mainly do the same thing, chiefly adjusting the resistance or incline to make the workout harder. Downloading and signing up for the iFit app will make things a little more entertaining, but in reality, its down to the user to get the blood pumping.

Alternatively, stick the unit in front of a TV and slog it out in front of your favourite film for a simple but effective workout. 

NordicTrack E11.5: the verdict

Elliptical training is generally easier on the joints 

(Image credit: Pexels)

Considering the NordicTrack E11.5 sits somewhere in the middle/lower end of the elliptical training machine budget scale, its general build quality and smooth-flowing elliptical movement feel generous.

Admittedly, the digital side of the package could be a little bit better and some of the plastics used in the construction are a tad cheap, but customers have to part with quite a lot more cash to achieve these niceties.

Instead, NordicTrack has built a machine that feels as close to the units found ins commercial gyms as possible, which makes it great for those that really like to put their elliptical trainer through its paces by cranking up the incline and resistance.

At 87kg, it's a heavy old machine, but the fact the rear end folds in on itself makes it marginally more portable and storable than many other units outs there.