Pros: Durable, compact, easy to use, inexpensive
Cons: cup holders not great, belt may be a little narrow, very noisy
For at least a year my wife and I had spent $60 a month on a gym membership where we would seldom go to run on the tread mills and look at the weights. By seldom I mean possibly once a month, but at least once a quarter. My wife was better at using the membership, but I still didn't feel it was worth the money. In my research for an alternative, I stumbled upon the Pro-Form line of treadmills and soon purchased the 320x model from the Pro-Form website. We bought it through Pro-Form because they allowed us to pay it out over several months. So, for less per month than we were paying on the gym membership, we were able to buy a treadmill for ourselves. And we love it!
Out of the Box
The 320 requires some very minimal assembly if you buy it in the box. Some department stores like Sears may offer to assemble it for you, but it's simple to do on your own. The main body of the treadmill is all in one piece, leaving the legs, handles, and control panel for you to assemble. It probably took me 30 to 40 minutes to put together. The parts are strong and solid, aside from the control panel which is made of plastic, but it's been very durable.
The Control Panel
When I run on our treadmill, there's really only one thing I want to have control of and that is the speed. I've ran on several different models at the gym that offer you all kinds of extra controls, flashing lights, and progress bars. The 320 is fairly basic with only six buttons, BIG buttons: speed up, slow down, start, stop, incline, decline. There are three small LCD panels above these buttons that help you monitor your exercise progress. Two of these panels alternate their display every 5 seconds or so. For instance, the far left panel will display the time you've been running then the distance. The middle panel alternates between the number of fat calories burned and your heart rate which can be monitored with a thumb pulse reader on one of the handles. The right LCD panel only displays the speed. The power switch doubles as an emergency shut down tab that you can attach to yourself while you run. If you slip off the machine, a string will pull the emergency tab out, shutting down the tread mill. The control panel also includes a place to set a book or magazine with a lip that holds the pages down. I just use it to hold the remote for my TV.
Using the 320
The treadmill belt is 16 inches wide which allows a decent amount of space for running at any speed. Pro-Form has other models with wider belts, which I would probably prefer if I ever buy another treadmill. With the 320 you can walk as slow as 1 mile per hour or run as fast as 10 miles per hour. I usually start wheezing at 7 miles per hour, so the 320 offers plenty of speed for me. A friend of the family has been running five days a week for about 15 years now and he says that 10 miles per hour is a comfortable run for him. He claims that he usually runs 12 or 13 miles per hour. But, he's over six feet tall and has an enormous stride. The incline is an extra nice feature which allows you to raise the front of the 320 about a foot. This can really help strengthen your calves while running. Storing the treadmill is very simple as the platform can stand upright while two wheels at the base allow you to tip and roll the entire machine.
Noise is a terrible issue with the 320. The motor sounds a lot like a drying machine, and the faster you go, the louder it gets. So it's not great for running when people are trying to sleep in the room next door. Another noise factor is in the running platform as it never ceases to squeak with every step. This is due mostly to the fact that the platform folds up for storage, which makes it a little flimsy compared to the big stationary treadmills. The cup holders are another feature that bother me as they are molded into the plastic control panel which is permanently tilted at a decent angle. This makes the cup holders virtually useless as even a sports bottle would not stay in place while running. My only other problem is with the 16 inch belt. After running on it for a while, I would like the security of knowing a few more inches were under my feet.
The Pro-Form 320 is really a great compromise in price and quality. It's durable, compact, easy to use, and inexpensive. I believe it will offer you everything you need to get a good walk, jog or run whenever you want.