The Horizon Fitness Evolve 3 elliptical features a 20-inch stride length, Cardio Compass™ workout feedback, SixStar frame design, and compatibility with Horizon’s ViaFit™ web app. But as the entry-level model in a collection that also features the Evolve 5, which is the best elliptical machine for helping you achieve your personal fitness goals?
In this review we’ll compare the Evolve 3 to other Horizon Fitness ellipticals, both folding (Evolve 5) and non-folding (Elite E7 and Elite E9). 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, 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
Vision Fitness have two main types of elliptical machine; non-folding (Elite series) and rear-folding (Evolve series). So what’s the difference between the entry level Evolve 3, and the top-of-the-line Evolve 5?
Both ellipticals share the same 20-inch stride length, 10-inch step-on height, 20 electronic resistance levels, and contact grip heart rate monitoring. Unfortunately there are no incline settings with the Evolve series machines, but if you were to choose the Elite E7 or Elite E9, you could benefit from a 10 degree power incline.
In terms of physical design features, there’s very little separating the two Evolve series ellipticals. The Evolve 3 has an 18 lb flywheel compared to the 23 lb flywheel that’s inside the Evolve 5, but they’re identical when it comes to weight capacity and warranty. Both support up to 300 lbs, with lifetime warranty on the frame and 3 years on parts.
The Evolve 3 also features Horizon’s SixStar folding frame, which focusses on the six key elements that deliver a natural running experience on an elliptical trainer.
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.
But if we want to find the real difference between the Horizon Fitness ellipticals, we need to take a look at the workout variation and the tech behind the console. The features vary greatly between models, from the 5.5” LCD of the Evolve 5 to the 7” touchscreen of the Elite E9.
Elliptical machines are generally very safe pieces of equipment. The pace of the stride motion and resistance applied is under your control at all times. This is slightly different to a treadmill, where the belt can maintain a continuous motion under its own power.
This is why we rarely see safety features on elliptical trainers. On some Precor models you can slide a pin under the foot pedals to stop them moving (Precor EFX 425), and apply passcode protection to the console. But there are no such safety features built into the Horizon Evolve 3.
Horizon Fitness Evolve 3 – Features Summary
- SixStar certified frame
- Featherlight folding design
- 20″ stride length
- 18 lb flywheel
- 10″ step-on height
- 20 Electronic resistance levels
- 32 Workout programs
- Contact heart rate monitoring
- ViaFit connectivity
- 5.5″ LCD display screen
- Passport Ready
- 300 lb weight capacity
Display console design
Horizon’s Evolve series ellipticals share almost exactly the same console design. The only difference is the Evolve 5 console screen is a 6.25” blue backlit LCD, while the Evolve 3 uses a 5.5″ LCD.
Despite being one of Horizon’s most affordable ellipticals, the Evolve 3 actually includes much of the same technology you’ll find on the Elite E7, but usually costs around $200 less. This includes the fact that it’s Passport ready, has ViaFit connectivity, and has a built-in speaker system for listening to your favorite workout music.
In terms of workout feedback, you can keep track of your time, speed, distance, RPM, number of calories burned, heart rate, and current resistance level. You also have two indicators; one that shows your Passport box connection, and one that shows how strong your Wi-Fi connection is (for ViaFit).
Passport is something that’s unique to Johnson Fitness, which is the parent company of Horizon Fitness and Vision Fitness.
But most of their equipment (including the Evolve 3 elliptical) is only setup to be ‘Passport ready’, meaning you’ll have to purchase the Passport Player separately (usually $199). The alternative is if you see ‘Virtual Active Integrated’, which means this Passport Player is already built into the console. It’s something that’s reserved for their top-of-the-line machines, such as the Vision T80 treadmill with either the Elegant+ or Touch+ console.
Passport Player can connect to your home entertainment system and display workout data on your television, together with high-definition footage of real-world locations. The resistance automatically adjusts to match a change in terrain for the route you’re following, and you have two destination courses pre-loaded on the Player; Northern Italy and the American Southwest.
If you want to experience different workout locations, you can purchase Passport Packs (A, B, and C), which each include 6 new locations (usually $99 per pack).
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 Evolve 3 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
Your heart rate can be a useful indicator of the results you can expect from your workout. This is something that Horizon have highlighted with their CardioCompass heart rate wheel.
CardioCompass displays the activity zone you’re in during a workout, which can be one of 5 options:
- Warm Up: 0-60% of maximum heart rate
- Weight Loss: 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- Improve Fitness: 70-80% of maximum heart rate
- Improve Performance: 80-90% of maximum heart rate
- Maximum Performance: 90-100% of maximum heart rate
But to gain any benefit from this feature you have to be certain your pulse reading is as accurate as possible.
Unfortunately the Evolve 3 elliptical only has the built-in contact grips, and offers no support for wireless chest straps. This is also true of the Evolve 5, and means you have to maintain constant contact with the sensors if you want CardioCompass to display anything at all.
This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that contact sensors are only built into the static handles. So if you want to experience a total body cardio workout and use the moveable upper body grips, there’s no way to track your heart rate. Heart rate monitoring is only possible through constant contact with the static handles.
This gets an upgrade for Horizon’s Elite ellipticals, where both the E7 and E9 models feature a Polar Wireless receiver, and even supply you with a free Polar chest strap for wireless heart rate monitoring.
Workout programs and user profiles
Boredom is one of the most common reasons people stop exercising, which is why it’s so important you find an elliptical with enough preloaded workouts.
Fortunately the Horizon Evolve 3 has 32 programs to choose from, which are split across 6 main categories. This doesn’t include any custom programs which you create yourself, as they are only available on the Evolve 5.
Workout program categories:
This is the default program that activates when you press the ‘Start’ button on the console. You are in complete control of the speed and incline settings, which follow no preset profile.
If you prefer workouts that have you work towards a goal, the Calories program might be your best option.
With the Evolve 3 you can choose from six different targets; 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600. If you were to upgrade to the Evolve 5 elliptical, you could also choose from 700, 800, and 900 as you calorie burn target.
The console requires you to input your bodyweight before starting any of these programs, which helps improve the accuracy of the calculation for number of calories burned.
The distance programs work in much the same way as the calories programs, whereby you can choose a distance target from the 10 options available; 1 mile, 2 miles, 5k, 5 miles, 10k, 8 miles, 15k, 10 miles, 20k, and a half marathon.
As with the calories goal, these workouts follow no preset resistance profile. This is something that’s only built into the Interval and Performance programs.
There have been various studies into the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps per day, but the recommendation tends to be lower for older adults and higher for young children. That’s why Horizon have included a variety of step count goals, where you can choose from a target of 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000, or 10,000 steps.
The ‘intervals’ workout category is probably more like the preset programs you’re used to, where each one follows a profile of resistance settings.
There are two types to choose from, which suit a variety of fitness goals. These are; speed intervals, and endurance intervals. Each type of interval has between 7 and 16 intensity settings, designed to cater for a range of personal fitness levels.
A series of more challenging workouts, these programs are more oriented towards helping you improve specific elements of your fitness. For example, watts is essentially your power output, which is a measure of complete effort. That’s compared to something like a distance goal, where it’s simply encouraging you to reach a target distance, with no caveats around duration or energy expenditure.
The Evolve 3 lets you choose from constant watts or interval watts, but the Evolve 5 elliptical also lets you choose from two heart rate controlled options; ‘target heart rate zone’ and ‘% target heart rate’.
Up to four users can be saved under a ViaFit account, which connects to the 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 Evolve 3 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 one 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 Evolve 3 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: 3 years
- Labor: 2 years