Pros: quiet...smooth...stable...efficient design...good quality
Cons: expensive...controls a little frustrating...misleading HRC specs...customer service
If you're looking for a high-quality, quiet, efficiently designed treadmill for walking or running, the True is a good choice. If you are looking for a fully interactive heart-controlled treadmill, be forewarned...you should purchase the CI model (top of the line), not the HRC model.
We purchased the True 540HRC from a local fitness supplier. My wife was interested in walking, and I really wanted a treadmill I could run on to train for back-country skiing. True really builds a nice treadmill...here are some standout features:
It's very stable, despite it's relatively light weight (yes, 245 lbs is light relative to comparable models). The light weight makes it easy to move around (if you're of decent fitness).
It's extremely quiet. The motor has plenty of power, even though it's smaller than some others in this price range. The flywheel on the motor is huge, no doubt contributing to the smoothness. Their careful manufacturing allows them to keep the belt tension at a minimum, which helps with the power, noise, durability and responsiveness.
Its minimal design takes less space and is less imposing than others. This is a great feature...it's low to the ground, and there's a minimal amount of frame around the sides. Gym-quality treadmills are quite large and can easily dominate a room - this one makes the most of the space it requires. I really like the lack of side rails (they're optional). It keeps you from feeling boxed in, and seems safer if you need to step off quickly (you can step to the side). The front rail is all you really need for stability, and the lack of side rails helps keep the treadmill from dominating the room.
The platform has a great feel to it. They use phenolic, which is an expensive material, but it has a toughness and flexibility that plywood could never match. The tread is also very nice (we have the orthopedic tread - not too much padding...just right).
So how about some negatives? Here they are:
The on/off switch is inconvenient, at the bottom of the front of the unit. You either have to stoop down or use your foot to switch it on. This would be a simple thing to improve, either through some extra wiring or a sleep function. I'd like to see the switch moved to the main panel.
The standard programs are fine, and they do allow the user to create several custom programs. My biggest complaint is the way the heart rate controls are implemented. The standard HRC model really only provides one function - it will adjust the incline, and eventually the speed, to keep your heart rate at the target rate you set. This sounds good, but the reality falls short. As a back-country skier, I'd like the ability to keep the incline at the maximum 15 degrees and have the speed automatically adjust. Instead, the incline is adjusted first, until it reaches zero. Then the speed is adjusted. I am therefore forced to set the maximum speed relatively low to keep the incline maxed out. This keeps me from being able to increase the speed periodically (it won't allow you to go beyond the max speed you set without stopping and resetting everything). And, as another poster mentioned, if you reduce the speed while in the program, it kicks you out of the program and you have to start over. All they allow you to control while in HRC mode is your target heart rate. This isn't enough, IMHO.
The bottom line is that the basic HRC isn't worth the extra money. If you want to train using your heart rate, investigate their CI model, which allows you to set intervals for your heart rate (my guess is that it would probably still have some quirks like those mentioned above, so look into it carefully). Otherwise, just get a heart monitor and use the manual programs. The HRC programs really don't add all that much functionality.
Another poster mentioned the software that supposedly works with the True HRC models. The software is made by FitCentric (http://www.fitcentric.com/index.htm), and still supports True treadmills. It allows you to track your progress, do a stress test, and suggests routines to help you train. One version also allows you to race others on the web, or run on a few different virtual roads: These functions are cool, but aren't as applicable to running as they are to bike racing. And they require a decent graphics card (it won't work on my relatively old laptop). The guy at FitCentric told me that True contracted them to create a version of their software that would work with their treadmills. They did, but True then dropped the contract. The software still works with True HRC models, but you have to order an interface (RS-232) separately. I am trying to do this, but have received no help so far from True. Very frustrating, especially since they still advertise this feature on their website. [note - since originally writing this review, I've completely given up on this feature...very frustrating. The HRC feature now does little more than provide a convenient readout of my heart rate. In hindsight, I would have been wise to follow the salesman's advice and buy a larger True model with the extra money the HRC system costs]
Finally, I have to say that you can get an incredible workout on these machines. I've used stairclimbers, ski machines and road running in the past to train for back-country skiing, and the True treadmill beats them all. I can really push my cardiovascular system for a couple of hours, burn 1800 calories, and feel the effects in my heart and legs. But there is virtually no soreness the next day, which is something of a revelation for me...it makes me wonder if the pain I typically feel after a run is largely due to the shock my body experiences. And the convenience of having the mill at home is great - I can now run at night or in the coolness of my home (I live in Georgia, and it's extremely hot in the summer. My favorite trails are too dark to run at night, which makes winter running after work impractical). All in all, this treadmill does what I wanted...it gives me a thorough, quiet, pleasant workout whenever I want, and encourages me to push myself. And it should last indefinitely. In those regards, I'm totally satisfied.
After 18 months of normal usage, the entire unit completely stopped working while I was on it. At first I thought a circuit breaker had tripped, but I soon found this wasn't the case. After a quick inspection of the motor and circuit board, I couldn't find anything out of place, so I contacted the company who sold the unit to me.
Apparently, the main circuit board had somehow quit working, causing the entire unit to simply shut down. The board was under warranty and cost me nothing, but the labor charge was $75. I was very disappointed that there was any charge at all, given the premium price I paid.
We still like the treadmill and use it regularly, but this is just another example of the type of thing that keeps this unit from receiving 5 stars from us.