UPDATE: The Horizon Fitness Elite series is no longer available. But, check out the Evolve 5 for a ready-made replacement.
The Horizon Fitness Elite E9 elliptical features a 20-inch stride length, 10 degree power incline, SixStar frame design, and compatibility with Horizon’s ViaFit™ web app. But as the top-of-the-line model in a collection that also features the Elite E7, which is the best elliptical machine for helping you achieve your personal fitness goals?
In this review we’ll compare the Passport ready Elite E9 to other Horizon Fitness ellipticals, both folding (Evolve 3 and Evolve 5) and non-folding (Elite E7). This means taking a closer look at how well ViaFit™ integrates with the existing fitness apps and wearable tech you might already be using. Apps such as Fitbit, RunKeeper, and the popular food journal from MyFitnessPal.
We’ll also be comparing the workout programs (42 built into the E9), entertainment features, and fitness tracking options against similarly priced ellipticals from other leading fitness equipment companies. This includes NordicTrack, ProForm, and Vision Fitness.
Design and safety features
As Horizon’s top-of-the-line elliptical machine, the Elite E9 is designed with a non-folding frame, front drive system, and their most advanced combination of workout programs and console features.
But there are really only three differences between the physical design of the Elite E9 and that of the Elite E7. These are that the E9 has a higher weight capacity (350 lbs vs. 325 lbs), heavier flywheel (30 lbs vs. 23 lbs), and redesigned moveable handles that create a number of new grip positions.
The two ellipticals also share a number of common features, such as the 20″ fixed stride length, 10″ step-on height, 20 electronic resistance levels, 10 degree power incline, and SixStar Certified frame. So how does SixStar benefit your workout experience?
SixStar frame design elements:
- 1. Overlapping pedals: During your workout your stride follows a fixed path. Having the pedals close together helps to eliminate stress on your hips and back.
- 2. Straight body posture: Careful consideration has been given to the angle and placement of the handles so that you maintain an upright position that’s natural for your spine.
- 3. Low step-on height: Running on an elliptical trainer is a low impact exercise. Having the pedals close to the ground makes it an excellent alternative to recumbent bikes for anyone looking for full-body rehabilitative cardio.
- 4. Optimal handlebar spacing: The angle and distance of the moving and static handles has been designed to be the ideal distance from a range of different users heights and body types.
- 5. Natural foot path: As well as being close together, the pedals maintain a flatter elliptical motion to mimic walking, jogging, or running.
- 6. Smooth momentum: Horizon use a large drive-pulley ration to create a smoother stride, similar to the way the Johnson Drive System works with their treadmill motors.
Having the heavier 30 lb flywheel certainly delivers a smoother elliptical motion, but the upgrades in fitness tech are really what set the Elite E9 apart from other Horizon Fitness ellipticals. This includes being Passport ready, compatible with the ViaFit™ training app, and being the only Horizon elliptical to feature their advanced Virtual Active workout experience.
In the next section of our review we take a look at how these technologies can benefit your fitness routine, and weigh up just how much of advantage this is compared to the Elite E7 model.
Elliptical machines and exercise bikes are two of the safest types of fitness equipment you can buy for a home gym. A small amount of motion is generated by the weight and cadence of the flywheel, but compared to a treadmill or TreadClimber there’s really no need for an emergency break.
This is why none of the Horizon Fitness ellipticals features specific safety features. One of the only companies we’ve seen do this is Precor with their Precision series (EFX 425). In this case, Precor added sliding locking pins to the foot plates and passcode protection to the console to prevent unauthorized access.
Horizon Fitness Elite E9 – Features Summary
- SixStar certified frame
- 20″ stride length
- 30 lb flywheel
- 10″ step-on height
- 10 degree power incline
- 20 Electronic resistance levels
- 44 Workout programs
- Workout tracking calendar
- Contact heart rate monitoring
- Polar Wireless Receiver and Free Polar® Chest Strap
- ViaFit connectivity
- 7″ touchscreen
- Passport Ready
- Virtual Active Integrated
- 350 lb weight capacity
Display console design
The Elite E9 is currently Horizon’s only elliptical machine to feature a touchscreen display, with a menu system that’s identical to the Touch+ console from Vision Fitness.
Horizon Fitness have setup their consoles slightly differently to Vision, whereby the features and entertainment options differ by elliptical. This is compared to Vision, who let you choose from a selection of consoles to suit your budget. But this is a system that’s only available with their treadmills.
Personally we prefer the Vision Fitness approach. That’s because you can still get the best from the physical features, such as running area, belt speed, and incline range, but compromise on the entertainment features if you only want basic feedback.
Unfortunately Vision don’t operate the same system on their ellipticals. In fact they’ve moved out of traditional ellipticals almost entirely, and now mainly focus on Suspension Elliptical™ trainers, like the Vision S60.
Back to Horizon’s Elite E9 and the color touchscreen gives you easy access to the Workout Tracking Calendar, workout programs, user setup (3 profiles available), and Virtual Active.
The E9 is actually the only Horizon elliptical to have Virtual Active™ integrated into the console. This is the alternative to being ‘Passport Ready’, and means you don’t have to spend $199 on the Passport Player to access the preloaded destination workouts.
So what is Virtual Active and how can it be used to benefit your fitness routine?
Virtual Active integrated
Johnson Fitness designed Virtual Active as an immersive workout experience. This means when you start one of the preloaded destination courses, high-definition video footage is displayed on the console screen.
Vision made Virtual Active available on their top-of-the-line Elegant+ and Touch+ treadmill consoles, and Horizon has made it exclusive to their Elite T9 treadmill and Elite E9 elliptical machines. You can still experience the same benefits with their Passport Ready equipment, but to do so means spending $199 on the Passport Player.
The Elite E9 console comes preloaded with two destinations; Northern Italy and the American Southwest. But if you want to experience new locations, you can choose from one of their Passport Packs (A, B, C available).
Each of these packs is usually available for $99, and allows you to choose from 6 new destinations, including New Zealand, British Columbia, and New England. The elliptical resistance will even automatically adjust to match a change in gradient during the course.
But it’s worth mentioning there’s a bit of work involved in getting the destinations transferred from these packs to the elliptical console.
First you’ll need access to a computer where you can download the media files from the website (so an internet connection is also necessary). Then you’ll need to be able to uncompress them and copy them to a USB flash drive. You’re then able to insert the USB to the console and access the destinations, but the flash drive has to stay inserted.
Whereas the Passport Player allows you to view the HD destination footage from your television, the full color display of the Elite E9 means you can watch it directly via the console screen.
This is another exclusive to Horizon Fitness and Vision Fitness equipment, and allows you to send workout data to a wide range of fitness apps.
After buying the Elite E9 you can visit the ViaFitness website and setup an xID account, enabling you to save and share workout data via Wi-Fi. You can then pair the elliptical machine with your account and automatically sync your workout data.
As well as syncing to your ViaFit account, you can also share the data with other fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Fitbit, and MapMyFitness.
Heart rate monitoring
The Horizon Elite ellipticals (E7 and E9) are both fitted with a built-in Polar Wireless Receiver. This means you’re able to wear a Polar® chest strap (included) and still transmit your heart rate to the console.
It’s a big upgrade over their Evolve series ellipticals, which are only fitted with contact sensors. Because the sensors are built into the static handles, you’re unable to use the moveable upper body grips at the same time as tracking your pulse.
With the Elite E9 you can wear the Polar® chest strap to transmit your pulse rate when using the moving handles, creating a full-body cardio workout.
Workout programs and user profiles
Before buying a new elliptical machine, one of the most important areas for comparison is the workout programs. This is understandable, as not having enough workout variation can lead to boredom, which is one of the top reasons why people skip workouts and even stop their fitness routine.
Fortunately when it comes to workout variation, Horizon Fitness are one of the best companies in the industry, especially when it comes to the ellipticals in their Elite series.
In terms of pre-programmed workouts, the most we’ve ever seen built into a console is around 38, which was on NordicTrack’s top-of-the-line FS9i FreeStride Trainer. They also have traditional ellipticals with up to 35 workout programs, while ProForm’s Pro 16.9 elliptical also has a collection of 35 workout apps.
That’s why it’s so impressive to see the Horizon Elite E9 go above and beyond by providing you with 44 programs as standard, which is 2 more than the Elite E7. Because the console is Passport Ready, this also gives you access to a further 20 high-definition destination courses (2 preloaded on the Passport Player and 6 more courses in each of the three Passport Packs).
But these destination courses come at a cost, which if you want all 20 will cost in the region of $500 ($199 for the player, and 3 packs at a cost of $99 each).
So what if you didn’t want the added expense? Can the workout variation compete with NordicTrack and ProForm ellipticals in the same way the program quantity does?
Workout program categories
This is the standard program that begins when you press the ‘Start’ button. You don’t follow any preset profile of speed and incline settings, giving you complete freedom over the intensity of your workout.
Horizon’s Elite series treadmills include all of the same workouts from their Adventure treadmills, but with a number of more challenging targets.
With the Elite E9 you can choose from 13 distance workouts, which include targets of 1 mile, 2 miles, 5k, 5 miles, 10k, 8 miles, 15k, 10 miles, 20k, and half marathon. You can also select 15 miles, 20 miles, and marathon as your goal, which aren’t available on the Evolve 3 or Evolve 5 ellipticals.
This is another of the workout categories that’s based around goal-setting, only this time you set a target for number of calories burned.
Elite series treadmills have the same options as the Adventure series, which includes targets for 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, and 900 calories burned.
10,000 steps per day is widely considered the recommended minimum for a healthy adult individual, which equates to around five miles per day. It’s the default setting for wearable fitness tracking devices like Fitbit, and has been a government target for populations around the world based on scientific studies.
Horizon have taken this into consideration and created a goal workout based around the number of steps taken. These are the same options that you’ll find on their Evolve series ellipticals, which includes 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 9000, and 10000 steps.
As with the Steps and Calories programs, Interval workouts follow the same preset profile of speed and incline settings as Horizon’s Evolve series ellipticals.
The Elite E9 has 10 intensity levels to choose from for the peak intervals, 16 levels for the speed intervals, and 12 levels for the endurance intervals. These are designed as an effective option for fat-burning and improving your endurance.
This is a workout category that’s unique to Horizon’s Elite series, with a collection of sprints, run/walk, and hill training programs.
Each of these targeted performance workouts is available at three intensity levels; beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Which level you choose influences the combination of resistance levels.
The Elite E9 elliptical has 2 custom workouts, which is the same as the E7 model. This allows you to create your own custom profile of speed and incline settings, and assign the program a target duration.
- Virtual Active
The elliptical console also includes 2 built-in high definition workouts with destination footage from the American Northeast and Northern Rockies, as a result of the Virtual Active technology.
These are similar to the iFit training programs seen on top-of-the-line treadmills from ProForm and NordicTrack, which automatically adjust the incline to match changes in the terrain of the course you’re following.
Additional Virtual Active programs can be accessed via Passport Packs, which can be purchased online through the official Passport Player website.
- Workout Calendar
After completing a workout, the program is stored against the current date in a virtual calendar. If you wanted to repeat that same workout again in the future, you can simply access the Workout Calendar and begin your run.
Before choosing a historical workout, you can view a summary of your performance, which includes the date of the workout, distance, time, pace, and number of calories burned.
Up to four users can be saved under a ViaFit account, which connects to the Elite E9 elliptical console.
If you have your ViaFit account setup before starting your first workout, you can select your user ID and begin your run. Your workout results will then automatically sync back to your ViaFit user profile when the workout is complete.
Ease of assembly
If you’re buying the Elite E9 elliptical direct from Horizon Fitness, their policy is to schedule delivery and bring the boxes inside the first ground-level door or into your garage.
The Johnson Fitness website (Horizon’s parent company) has a complete collection of owner’s manuals, diagrams, and other guides for assisting you with the elliptical assembly. Contacting Horizon for after-sales service and support is also incredibly easy, with an email address, contact number, and contact form available through their official website.
But what if you’re looking for more than ground-level delivery? What if you want a trained service technician to assemble your new elliptical machine for you, so you don’t have to worry about heavy lifting and following diagrams?
Professional assembly services
Unfortunately we weren’t able to find any additional levels of home delivery from Horizon themselves. This would be where a technician visits your address and assembles the elliptical for you in your room of choice.
However, if this is a service you’re interested in, Amazon have recently started offering a number of home assembly services. This includes home gyms, treadmills, and elliptical machines. To check whether your zip code is covered, please use the form below.
Amazon’s elliptical trainer assembly service already has hundreds of 5 star rated reviews, with customer feedback for the various installers.
The service itself includes assembly of 1 elliptical per product instructions, with a typical assembly time of 4 hours. Amazon have also started offering an ASAP version of the service. If you submit an order before 10am on a business day, a service pro will come to your home that same day.
Horizon Fitness include a recommended maintenance routine with each of their ellipticals. These are fairly standard steps to ensure the continued operation of any home elliptical, but still worth a mention.
- After each use: Wipe down the elliptical with a damp cloth and inspect the power cord for damage.
- Every week: Clean underneath the elliptical.
- Every month: Inspect all bolts for proper tightness. Clean debris off pedal arm wheels and guide rails.
The Elite E9 user manual also includes troubleshooting solutions for issues such as lack of illumination at the console, or erratic heart rate readouts.
What’s covered by the warranty?
- Frame: Lifetime
- Parts: 5 years
- Labor: 2 years