Pros: Stable, powerful, reliable
The Pro Plus II is the successor to the Pro Plus. It has a slightly larger motor (2.75 vs 2.5 hp) and a somewhat wider set of preprogrammed workouts. It can handle up to a 350 pound user and has a lifetime warranty on the frame, 5 years on the motor, 3 on the parts, and one year on labor.
The specs say 29" wide by 68" long and 190 lbs. Reserve a footprint of about 36"x76". Weightwise, it's pretty easy to muscle around one end at a time.
We found this treadmill by looking at the test reports on the Internet; essentially, no one had anything bad to say about Pacemaster other than the cost. Our best alternative was the Smooth but the number of test reports available plus having to buy the Smooth (which is factory-direct only) without an in-person test gave the edge to the PaceMaster.
The PaceMaster has several things to recommend it:
* The motor is fairly powerful. I saw one article that said anything over 1.8 hp was useless since a standard household circuit can't supply any more amperage than that but I'm still a believer that if you run something at 60% of capacity it lasts a lot longer than something you run at 90%. I'm pretty large - 250+ pounds - so I was really looking for something with some muscle behind it.
* The running deck is quite comfortable. I have been using a Quinton for about 8 months and I like the PaceMaster deck better still. Stiff enough for good footing, but good shock absorbtion. This was critical for me - I'm prone to shin splints.
* The belt is a little wider - 20" - than many other models. I get sloppy about foot placement when I get tired so an extra 2" width is very helpful
* Controls are ridiculously simple: takes all of 5 minutes to learn everything about them
* Adjustments are easy and the tools are supplied. Took about 5 minutes to center the belt
* It's quiet. It's loud enough so you have to raise your voice a little but it's still not bad
* It's amazingly stable even when on an incline. As noted, I'm pretty large but I don't make it shake very much and certainly not to the point where my footing is questionable.
There were some surprises...
* PaceMaster won't let its dealers sell over the Internet unless there's no dealer within 75 miles of you (according to the Fitness Shop). However, that worked out well for us: I wanted to try one, the dealer was local and had one on the floor, and they happened to be having a sale that weekend so I got it for $200 off list
* When first breaking it in, the belt seemed to lug at low speeds. The dealer suggested the wax on the belt was grabbing because it hadn't smoothed yet. What we did was:
1) Waited until the belt reached 2 mph before stepping on - that lets the flywheel build up some steam
2) Walked all over the belt surface to ensure there were no rough spots in the wax
* Breaking in the wax helped, but I'd still get an Error Code 24 from time to time. This is unnerving: the belt stops RIGHT NOW which leaves you like 12" before you run into the control panel. Disconcerting when you're trying to run.
The dealer contacted Aerobics and got a replacement control board. EC24 means the belt is frozen - the controller thinks it's stopped. It really hadn't - I'm just heavy enough to really slow it when my foot comes down. (And my running style has been compared to an elephant with convulsions, so that doesn't help). Anyway, the alternate board is used in the ProElite which has a slightly longer bed and thus more friction: it requires more drag to get the ProElite controller to error. The dealer came up to the house, installed the replacement board (about 10 minutes) and that was that.
After a couple of days, the combination of smoothing the wax and the replacement controller pretty well eliminated the EC24 problem.
*It's a little squeaky at the back roller when you start out. The tension springs seem to need a little break-in time.
I've been using the PaceMaster about 16-18 miles per week, half on a preprogrammed workout and half running. I like it better and better as I use it. It's not the cheapest treadmill out there - or the most expensive - but it's a good, utilitarian piece of equipment that provides solid performance. I'm willing to pay an extra $300-400 if I can get something reliable and long-lasting.