Pros: Sole's customer service has been very responsive.
Cons: Bad Quality Control. Poor hardware and difficult assembly.
I purchased the Sole E95 after a lot of researching of machines on the Web. I even went to a couple of high end fitness stores to check out Precor. I really liked the Precor but did not like the price tag. I decided to order the Sole E95. They had a good warranty and the machine got great reviews.
Unfortunately mine didn't turn out so well. I had it delivered and paid extra to have it brought into my home. It weighs over 200 pounds but it comes in multiple pieces. Had I know that - I could have easily moved it in myself. Sole has a 30 day try it policy and if you don't like it, send it back. (With a restocking fee of course) They want it put in the original packaging to have it sent back. The packaging is a joke. There is no way you can repackage this thing unless you have a Masters in Mechanical engineering. The way they packaged it, it is impossible to remove it without breaking the packaging into pieces. The movers took the debris back with them.
Then we started to assemble it. They claim on their website that it takes only 25-35 minutes to put it together. Don't believe that for a second. My wife and I, (who are both pretty mechanically inclined) struggled to put it together for over 2 and 1/2 hours. I would rate the level of difficulty as being "difficult" to put together. We also found a bolt that was broken. The machine is awkward to put together and IMO could have been engineered a whole lot better to assemble.
Then when we powered it up we got a "Motor Error" on the console. We heard a loud electrical snapping sound and if you tried to use it, it was like climbing a mountain at the easiest level. It seems that the magnetic resistance motor has froze up the break mechanism on the flywheel.
We called technical support who acted like they have heard of this problem many times before. (Makes me really questions their Quality Assurance) They said that the motor, gearbox, and console would all have to be sent out and possibly replaced. Gee - I'm glad it wasn't anything major! They said it would take a couple of business days to get the parts to us and up to a couple weeks for a technician to come out depending on their schedule. I sure hope the technician has seen one of these before.
Now my machine sits in my home waiting to be fixed. I have no way to send it back and I'm wondering if saving money on this exercise machine was a smart decision.
On the positive side - the machine looks well constructed and is very quiet to operate - (even though you have to be The incredible hulk to move my broken mechanism)
I'll give an update once it hopefully gets fixed.
Update: October 10, 2007
They sent out the replacement parts and we scheduled a technician out today. He spent well over 2 hours working on the machine. He was very experienced and was the owner of his own repair business but had not worked on the Sole machines before. The short story. He could not get it fixed. He called Sole's technical support multiple times to no avail. The machine just will not adjust the magnetic brakes properly even after replacing the motor, cables, and display computer. At one point the new motor started smoking. To give Sole credit - they will ship out another machine as fast as they can and have agreed to pick the defective one up and put the replacement together for me.
After watching the technician work on this thing, all I can say is that it is not very well engineered to be worked on. In order to get at the brake cable motor the entire front end needs to be disassembled just to take the plastic shroud off. There is a plastic cable motor which adjusts the magnetic brake in and out and the motor is made of cheap plastic. The machine is very stable and sturdy overall- but so far I don't have a whole lot of confidence that this machine is going to last after seeing some of the cheap parts inside. I'll give another update once the new machine arrives.
Sole replaced the unit with a new one in about 7 days. I think that was very good turn around time for any Company. They contracted with a local Second Wind Fitness center to bring it into the home and assemble it. Once again, they had never seen this machine before.
Everything was put together, or seemed to be until they left. I started getting quite a bit of slop or play in the Right Handle grip so I called technical support again. They told me they would send out some flexible washers which I would need to ad when they arrived. Once they arrived, I took the arm off the machine which requires two bolts to be removed. I put the spacer in and when I tried to tighten the bolt to the arm it snapped off . Now what? I called technical support again and they suggested sending out a new upper mast assembly. I ended up drilling out the bad bolt anyway and went down to Home Depot to get some stainless steel bolts. One problem with this machine is the hardware they use is very cheap. If you try to tighten the bolts too much they will either strip or break. The instruction manual gives you no guidance in how tight is "tight". WARNING - do not tighten more than snug or the bolts will break or strip! In my opinion Sole should use better hardware. While assembling the handle with the new bolt I saw another problem. The lower arm that attaches to the fly-wheel had a bolt from the factory that was stripped and wasn't tightened. This was causing most of the play in the upper arm. I went back to Home Depot and replace this bolt with a better one. There is still some play in the right arm. I'm not sure why this is - I guess I'll just live with it. Sole once again suggested putting more flexible spacers in. Once I get the new mast assembly - I'm hoping I can get all the play out of it.
Some other observations:
The starting resistance level is quite high for someone just starting out with a work out program. I hit my target heart rate of 80% of maximum on level one. I think the resistance level should be lower at the lowest setting.
The fan on the console is just a gimmick. You won't even feel it. The console is very cheap. It works most of the time, but some times it doesn't register when you push a button.
If you have to remove any bolts - you will most likely not get them to tighten back up again. Be prepared to take some trips to the hardware store or wait for Sole to send you some replacement parts. This is especially true for the rear plastic cover that goes over the rear rollers. The screws are self tapping and they won't tighten into the plastic again once it is removed. Why remove it? Sole tells you to re grease the rear track every few months. They should have designed a better way to do this.
I find the Calories calculation to be way off. I worked out for 30 minutes the other day and it said I only burned 87 calories. I know this is not right, however, fairly common for these machines. This isn't a big deal to me.
Overall - I find this a pretty good Elliptical machine for the money. It is quiet and is very smooth. The slop or play in the handle bars should be re-engineered by Sole. Putting flexible spacers in is just not a good solution to handle manufacturing tolerances. If you don't get the problems I had I would recommend it. The Quality Control from their factory seems to be very lacking. Getting two machines in a row with problems is not a good sign.
Would I buy it again? In a word, No. I had too many problems that took up too much of my time. I would have rather paid more money for a machine that didn't give me this grief.
The machine is difficult to assemble. There is no way you will assemble this machine in twice the time that Sole states in their advertising.
The people in the field that Sole sends out to work on these have probably never seen one before so don't expect knowledgeable technical field support. I know this was true in my case in Iowa. I wouldn't pay to have someone put it together either. You are better off doing the job yourself to make sure it is done right. I also think you will understand the care and feeding of the machine better if you take the time to assemble it yourself.
Sole's service has been very responsive and courteous but in my opinion, the machine has too many quality control issues, has some really dumb engineering designs, and the hardware, (Screws, bolts, etc.) are about as cheap as you can get. Hopefully Sole is hearing this message and will address these issues in the future.
To be fair, the machine does not cost as much as Precor or Life Fitness, so I guess you get what you pay for.
If you decide to get one, I hope your experience is better than mine and I also hope that some of my suggestions will help you avoid the issues I had.
I would rate the machine an overall 4 stars due to Sole's excellent customer service but due to all the quality problems I have had can only rate it a 3.