Horizon E500 Elliptical

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If this elliptical was a slot machine, it would be LEMON LEMON LEMON

Apr 7, 2010 (Updated Apr 8, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Helpful Review

Pros:inexpensive
relatively easy to move
fairly easy assembly
electronics didn't fail

Cons:big, heavy box requires delivery or suitable vehicle
third FAIL was not the charm

The Bottom Line: Even if I was given one of this manufacturer's machines for free, I would turn it down, knowing that I'd eventually have to find a dump to take it to.


(Thank you to the commenters who took the time to suggest improvements to my original review.  I hope that this version is more helpful.)

In late 2007, my wife developed a little hip problem and announced her desire for us to buy an elliptical exerciser.  I, too, had my eye on them for a few years and thought that it would be a good idea.  A week or two before Thanksgiving, we shopped around, trying out many units from different manufacturers and eventually purchased the Horizon E500 elliptical exerciser from a popular retail sporting goods store.

This unit has a front flywheel and we found that the stride on those tended to feel better to both of us than on units we tried with a rear flywheel.  I'm 6'3" (and weigh about 160#) and my wife is 5'8" (let's say she's over 200) and we chose this unit because it felt comfortable to both of us.  Some units we tried felt comfortable to one of us, but not to the other.  If you're particularly tall or short and plan to share the machine with someone who is at the opposite side of the height spectrum, you may want to be sure that it feels comfortable to both intended users.  Even though it's claimed to have "oversize" footpads, my size 12 shoes pretty much took up all available space on each footpad.  It wasn't a problem, just didn't leave a lot of wiggle room.

Tipping the scales at around 150 pounds, the box was pretty heavy, but I was able to wrestle it out of my pickup truck and into the house with the help of my wife and a furniture dolly.  I consider myself fairly handy, so after unboxing everything and reading the assembly manual, it took me a little over two hours to put it together with little difficulty.  The tools needed to assemble it were included with the unit, but I used some of my own tools (e.g., a set of T-handle allen wrenches).

Once I'd been through the assembly process and spent $600 on this thing, I decided that I would use it every day, come heck or high water.  (A few days later, the store's Black Friday ad showed a sale price of $500.  My wife went into the store, mentioned the ad, and they credited the difference, no problems.)

We initially placed the unit in a corner of my wife's office on a heavy foam rubber mat (which we also purchased at the same sporting goods store).  While the owner's manual likely encourages ample space around the unit for (anti)liability purposes, we were able to get by with a footprint of about 3 x 7 feet.  Of course, I made absolutely sure that the moving arms (mine or the machine's!) wouldn't collide with anything like a file cabinet or my wife's desk.  As an aside, the manual is pretty clear about keeping kids and pets away from the machine while it is in use and I wholeheartedly agree -- it would not be difficult to have someone or something get tangled up in the movement and, kind of like anything of any mass that's moving (and there's a 10-pound flywheel that's moving), it takes a while to stop.  Having it stop on your kid's broken arm or your pet's snout would not be good.

I later moved the machine to another room and first, it was still about as heavy as it was the day we brought it home (since the box and packing materials weren't that weighty!), second, it was a pretty tight fit down the hall and through the doorway, requiring a little bit of angling in order to pivot it properly to get it where it needed to go.  Due to its weight and the kind of unwieldy moving arms and "legs", it is not something that you want to accidentally let hit your wall, because there's a lot of mass behind those parts and you may be left with a hole in your drywall!  All of which is to say that this is probably not a piece of exercise equipment that you'll want to move around often unless you've got a lot of space and clearance in which to do it!

It has ten resistance ranges (it's not a friction-type resistance; it's based on a magnet) and a half-dozen or so programs (e.g., several levels of cardio) that will automatically vary the resistance over a set period (e.g., a 30-minute workout).  The display provides information like time in use, time remaining, speed (equivalent to walking or jogging, I think) and, when both of your hands are gripping the stationary arms for at least a few seconds, it displays your heart rate.  You can also see calories burned, but I'm to understand that there are some wild assumptions made about such calculations, so you may want to take that calories-burned information with a grain of salt.

You can view the current-session information (you can kind of cycle through the various measurements) or view an over-time accumulation of most of the same information.  The problem with that accumulation is that it assumes one user.  This machine doesn't have different settings for different users.  In the end, I didn't care about the accumulated information, just the current-session data, so it wasn't an issue.

The green LED display (kind of like two small (with numerals about 3/4" high) digital clock/radio displays side-by-side) is easy to read and the buttons (one physical, the rest membrane) were completely responsive to presses made both while stopped and while using the machine.

Generally speaking, the machine was comfortable to use.  Re-gripping the handles (I would use the moving handles unless I needed to change a setting on the unit and then I'd temporarily switch to the non-moving handles for the sake of stability) helped eliminate the minor discomfort that would arise from holding anything for many minutes.  I have some back problems and my use of the elliptical did not seem to exacerbate those problems.  I also used to do the last minute or two of my routine in reverse.  I'd slow the machine to a stop and start up again, but this time, as if I was pedaling a bike backwards.  I don't know if benefitted my exercise, but at least it was a little diversion.

Since the speed and intensity of movement is totally up to the user (unlike, say, a treadmill, with which you have to keep up), it's one of those you-get-out-of-it-what-you-put-into-it devices.  Some mornings, I'll admit, I was just "phoning it in" -- I'd just not put my all into it.  What ended up working well for me was to have a speed below which I would not let myself fall.  Initially, it was 4.0 mph (again, some sort of walking/jogging/cycling equivalent) and later, 5.0 mph.  When I felt inspired, I'd do what could pass for interval training -- I'd take it up to 7.0 mph for 30 seconds and then go back to the normal speed.

True to my promise to myself, I actually used the machine for a half-hour every morning.  (Initially, I just used a low resistance level, but later, I started using the lowest cardio program just to vary things up a bit.)  Even if I was sick (which is rare), I'd get on and go slow; I didn't want to use "oh, I don't feel well" as an excuse to skip a day which could turn into two and so on.  (The only times I did skip were when I was out of town and if the hotel I was at had an elliptical, I'd put in my half-hour there!  Some of the models I tried were nice and I wouldn't have minded owning one, but they probably were MUCH more than $500!)

After about six months of this daily use (mainly mine; my wife wasn't as committed as I was), the unit began to squeak.  Eventually, the squeaking got so loud that I couldn't use it because it was waking up my wife.  She called the manufacturer and their phone system's greeting had an option for such a problem with our model.  When she spoke with the representative, he or she acknowledged that some of the units had been manufactured with bearings that had not been greased.  However, within a few weeks, we received the replacement parts from the manufacturer and a repairperson came to the house and fixed it.  All under warranty, so at no cost to us.  Well, except for our time and inconvenience.  (Repair #1.)

In September of 2009, the same exact squeaking came back and just a few days later, the "legs" of the unit (the moving parts of the device to which the footpads are attached) froze up and would not move at all.  (The legs aren't like a kickstand or anything; they're akin to your skis if you're cross-country skiing -- if your skis froze to the ground, you wouldn't go anywhere.)

Of course, by then, the unit was long out of warranty (for the issue in question), so we paid over $200 to one of the "Major Service Providers" listed on Horizon's website for replacement parts and to have a repairperson come to the house and install them.  (There were several such providers listed for our state; I think that my wife called two and this was the first one which called her back.)

This was not a decision that we took lightly.  Since I had grown accustomed to using the unit every day, we knew that we needed to either get a new machine or fix the current one.  Since we didn't want a repeat of the same disappointment, we knew that we'd likely have to step up to the next price point, something that we could not (financially) do at the time, so the choice was clear -- pay to repair the current unit.

(Before starting his work, the repairperson noted that it was odd for both legs to freeze up at the same time and asked if we had any kids or pets who might have stuck something in there (we don't).  Once he took everything apart, he confirmed that it was indeed a parts failure.  For those keeping score at home, this is Repair #2.)

Well, exactly two months later, the same exact squeaking returned and, again, within a few days, the "legs" froze and, again, would not budge.  I e-mailed the "Major Service Provider" that performed the recent repair work and they said that they guarantee their work for 30 days.

After that happened (and I received their reply), I decided that I'm absolutely not going to spend even more money on a unit that will function for who knows how many days before we're right back where we are now, with a completely non-functioning unit.  So right now, I've got an elliptical exerciser that I cannot donate or sell or put in the trash.  It's just gathering dust, which I guess was the intended function for this model.

(And for those of you thinking, "well, you got two years of daily use (except when it was broken!) out of it, so why are you complaining?", well, call me old-fashioned, but I don't think that a product should have to require three repairs in order to take it past its two-year mark.  I don't care if that's a toaster, TV, a bicycle, or a car -- that's just too much.)

Maybe this company's more-expensive models don't have this showstopper of a problem, but I don't think I'll try again to find out.  Lest there be any ambiguity, I will *never* buy a unit from this company again.  (I do have my eye on a model from a different manufacturer (hihgly recommended by the repairperson, for what that's now worth) and when I have the money saved up and it's on sale, I will buy it and I hope that it lasts a lot longer than this one did.)


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