Pros: Solid build quality, the number of exercises and Price
Cons: Slight inconsistency with Resistance and it is a pain to store away
The Bowflex Sport and the Elite are practically identical. I will describe the differences shortly.
Please note that the Bowflex Elite is not sold directly by Bowflex, and is not shown on Bowflex's website for exactly that reason. It is only sold through retail outlets. I got mine from Costco in Canada. It is however a true Bowflex machine and fully backed up directly by Bowflex.
It is practically identical to the Bowflex Sport. It looks the same, except for the dark grey color instead of silver, despite the fact that the picture above is actually of the Sport Model. Also, the Elite comes standard with 310lbs resistance and upgradeable to 410. The Sport comes with 210lbs only. The Elite also has an adjustable chest bar (Allowing for more variations of many exercises) and comes packaged with the Bowflex i-Trainer software on CD-ROM. Essentially it is an upgraded Sport for practically the same cost. It comes standard with all the attachments (leg, Lat Tower) and Squat station with bar and waist-belt.
First let me tell you that I have always wanted to try out a Bowflex but never had the chance to as they were never really widely available to the public unless you order one ofcourse. But their price and the inconvenience of ordering one and trying it out only to be disappointed and having to repackage and send it back was too much.
But finally I saw the Sport, which in my opinion is the first truly affordable Bowflex machine (and not the copies like the Schwinn Comp or the CrossBow). I then compared the Sport and the Elite, and choosing the Elite was a no-brainer for the same cost. Plus I saved the shipping cost.
First let me dispel what Bowflex and some people have said about putting one of these together. It does NOT take two hours unless you have people helping you or you are just speeding through the building process. It took me closer to 4 hours, but I built it myself and I took my time fastening everything well and double checking each step as I do it. But the manual was very easy to follow and the whole process went smoothly. I do recommend you get a friend to help because there were some steps that were very hard and awkward to do by myself.
After completing it, it felt very solid. And I don't just mean compared to other home gyms, but also comparing it to commercial gym equipment which I am familiar with. I am very impressed with how solid it is and that, to me at least, is very important in a home gym.
The whole thing is very well designed. It is easy to change from one exercise to another quickly. The bench is very comfortable and the leg attachment (Leg extension and curl exercises) was much better than other units I've used. Also note that I am six-three and 220lbs and it felt very comfortable for this tall guy.
I've been using it now for just over two weeks and I am very happy with its performance. The resistance is smooth and the cables and pulleys just glide perfectly. The one thing you'll notice is that it really is more like free weights than a typical gym machine. Most exercises force you to use smaller muscles for balance, so don't be surprised to see that you can no longer pull/push the same weight you did at the gym. Some exercises I have tried, my arms just jiggle and fatigue really quickly as they are using muscles that hardly ever got used when using typical gym equipment. It really is just like they advertise.
The one thing that I found to be of concern is the consistency of the resistance as the Rods are pulled. It seems as though it starts out easier and gets tougher as the rods bend more. But it isn't all that bad to be honest. I really had to work hard to find a negative with this machine. The only other negative is that although you can collapse the Bench vertically for storage, it is a pain to do. I think people with limited space who might have to store it away after each use, would be better off with the slightly more expensive Bowflex Extreme.
The i-Trainer software that it comes with ($79 CAD value) is surprisingly good. Now that I have used it, I probably would buy it if it didn't come with it. It's very intuitive and has many resources. You can generate (manually or automatically) and plan all your workouts, for more than one person, and have them printed. You can even print exercise cards that show you what each exercise looks like, start and finish positions, essentially being able to create your own personalised workout diagram. Also the software is able to track many parameters for your records, such as body measurements, fat percentages, BMI etc... A small screen shows a video of all the exercises as you plan your workouts. The software is really great. And its FREE.
Take it from someone who really had high expectations, this machine exceeded them for the most part and it's really worth every cent. It does exactly what it advertises to do and more.