NordicTrack 12.9 Elite Elliptical Machine Review

The NordicTrack Elite 12.9 Elliptical is a mid-range machine in a collection that also features the entry level Elite 10.7, and top-of-the-line Elite 16.9.

But which features have been upgraded since the 10.7 model, and does the 16.9 actually represent better value for money?

Those are two of the questions we’ll be answering in this elliptical review, by taking an in-depth look at everything from the design features and console functions, through to the workout programs and entertainment options.

Design and safety features

NordicTrack 12.9T Elite Elliptical

Each of the ellipticals in NordicTrack’s Elite collection are front driven, which is in contrast to the center driven design of their FreeStride Trainers.

While this does have its benefits, it also has its drawbacks, some of which include a larger footprint, shorter stride range, and less adaptive stride motion.

But this is reflected in the price, with the NordicTrack Elite 12.9 usually retailing for less than half the price of the FS7i or FS9i FreeStride machines.

In terms of the advantages, the Elite 12.9 offers a reversible stride motion for switching the focus between different muscle groups, and adjustable pedals.

A forward running motion at lower inclines will focus more on your quads and glutes, while a reverse running stride (or forward stride at higher inclines) will focus more on your glutes and hamstrings.

Compared to the earlier 12.7 model, the pedals are one of the features to be upgraded. They now have a cushioned design that improves traction and stability, and offer three toe-to-heel angle settings to create a level of ankle flexion that matches your natural running stride.

The stride itself is adjustable, but not to the same degree as their FreeStride trainers or A.C.T. ellipticals, with a range of 20 to 21 inches. This only changes when you take advantage of the 20 degrees of adjustable incline.

If you’re looking for a high intensity workout, you can also combine this maximum incline with one of the higher resistance levels. With 26 to choose from this is another feature that got upgraded since the Elite 10.7, which was limited to 24.

Under the covers this is controlled by a system called Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR), which creates a smoother and quieter transition between the different levels.

This is helped by having a heavy 32 lb, inertia-enhanced flywheel, which delivers a smoother stride motion and keeps the center of gravity low to the ground for improved stability.

To switch between the different incline and resistance levels you have a couple of options. Either you can use the buttons on the console, or you can use the controls that have been integrated into the handles.

However, you have two sets of handles, but only one set fitted with the controls.

This isn’t a problem with the FreeStride trainers as you don’t have the static set, only the moving handles.

Although there may have been some benefit to fitting the controls to both sets of handles, we think that if any set should have them it’s the static handles, which is also where you’ll find the CardioGrip touch sensors for heart rate monitoring.

One final feature worth mentioning is the water bottle holder. It may not seem like much, but staying hydrated during high intensity workouts can lead to a boost in endurance levels and improved performance throughout.

Safety features
Ellipticals are generally considered a very safe piece of fitness equipment, due to the fact that all motion is controlled by you.

Modern treadmills are also very safe, but only if you have a model that disables the belt without the safety key. Otherwise you can build the belt up to the top speed without even being on the machine.

Safety is something that’s becoming more of a feature on the latest generation of ellipticals, and the NordicTrack 12.9 Elite actually has a passcode so you can lock the console.

This prevents any unauthorized access to workout programs and resistance levels.

Precor have actually taken this a step further, and combined the password protected console feature with a locking pin that prevents the foot pedals from moving until it’s removed.

We’ve also seen the passcode on some of NordicTrack’s treadmills, and it helps to make the 12.9 Elite safer for family environments.

NordicTrack 12.9T Elite Elliptical

NordicTrack 12.9 Elite – Features Summary

  • 7″ Web-enabled color touch screen
  • 26 Digital Resistance Levels
  • 35 Onboard workout programs
  • 20″-21″ Stride length
  • iFit Enabled
  • Digital Incline 0 to 20 degrees
  • Multi-Position Upper Body Grips
  • Adjustable Oversized Cushion Pedals
  • 32 lb. inertia-enhanced flywheel
  • Bluetooth Smart wireless chest strap included
  • NordicTrack® SNAP Assembly

Console features

NordicTrack 12.9T Elite Elliptical

One of the things we love about NordicTrack fitness equipment is how they create a console interface that’s so full of functions, yet intuitive to use.

This is partly due to their use of symbols, but with the NordicTrack Elite 12.9 you’re also getting OneTouch™ controls for the resistance and incline.

The screen itself is also a 7″ web-enabled, full colour touch screen, with a menu system designed to help you find your desired workout program quicker than buttons alone.

Because this is one of NordicTrack’s iFit enabled ellipticals, you can use this colour and wide viewing angle to create a more immersive running experience via Google Maps and StreetView.

Some of the iFit workouts you can download allow you to track your progress around a real life running route, where StreetView is used to view the actual location you would be walking, jogging, or running in.

But being web-enabled doesn’t just give you access to iFit. You can also use the built-in browser to watch sports, read emails, or even catch up with your social media profiles while you workout.

NordicTrack have even added a tablet shelf to the top of the console to act as a kind of second display screen.

This doesn’t support quite the same TV and DVD watching capabilities as the HDTV screen on their Commercial treadmills, but if you have a tablet it can be a great way to watch movies without losing sight of important workout feedback.

Workout stats include:

  • Time
  • Calories burned
  • Distance
  • Heart rate
  • Current resistance level
  • Current workout program

The entertainment features also extend to iPod and MP3 connectivity, with integrated speakers and volume control directly through the console. This allows you to choose between watching movies or listening to your favourite motivational music while you workout.

Between the two speakers you have a cooling fan similar to the one on the Elite 10.7 elliptical, which has several speed settings as well as an auto mode.

Buttons on the console can be used to manually adjust the speed of the fan, or you can switch to auto mode for the speed to automatically adjust based on the pace of your stride.

One final feature worth mentioning before we look at the workout programs is the heart rate monitoring.

The NordicTrack Elite 12.9 gives you two options to choose from. Either you can use the CardioGrip™ heart rate touch sensors built into the static handles, or you can use the iFit® wireless chest strap with Bluetooth connectivity.

Having the telemetry heart rate monitoring via the chest strap is a real benefit, as it means you can take advantage of multiple grip positions on the set of moving handles to create more of a full body workout.

Workout program selection

NordicTrack 12.9T Elite Elliptical

Whether your goal is to lose weight, improve muscle definition, or overall cardiovascular fitness, you need to create a routine that’s realistic and motivational.

Although setting realistic goals is dependent on your current level of fitness, motivation can be increased by having access to a variety of workout programs.

This variation brings with it a number of benefits. Not only are you helping to avoid muscle adaptation which could lead to plateaus and a stall in progress, but you’re also making your routine more interesting.

Nobody wants to follow the same plan for every workout, which is why the NordicTrack Elite 12.9 has been pre-programmed with 35 onboard workouts, iFit programs, and a number of goal setting options.

  • Onboard workouts

    This is a category that we’ve seen on NordicTrack’s exercise bikes and treadmills, as well as their ellipticals.

    However, for their recumbent bikes the programs are limited to either calorie burning or performance based.

    With the Elite 12.9, because you have the 20 degree incline range, the 35 onboard workouts are split across the following four categories: Calorie, Intensity, Ramp, Perform.

    Every program has been designed by a certified personal trainer, and is made up of different segments. Each segment automatically adjusts the resistance and/or incline level, and is tailored towards helping you achieve a specific fitness goal.

  • iFit workouts

    This is an iFit enabled elliptical, which means you don’t need to purchase the iFit module, but you will need an iFit subscription and connection to a wireless network.

    If you have both of these things then you can browse iFit’s library of workout programs and download straight to the console.

    The touch screen menu system makes it relatively easy to find new programs, some of which walk you through the route as you run it using Google Maps.

  • ‘Set-A-Goal’ workouts

    NordicTrack has included these programs for anyone that takes a target driven approach to fitness.

    You can set a target for the workout duration, number of calories burned, or distance.

  • Manual program

    The complete opposite of the onboard workouts, ‘manual’ doesn’t follow any preset profiles, and puts you in complete control over when the resistance and incline levels change.

Ease of assembly / maintenance required

NordicTrack 12.9T Elite Elliptical

As with most of NordicTrack’s fitness equipment, the Elite 12.9 elliptical arrives mostly pre-assembled, which helps cut down on the steps you need to follow once you get it out of the packaging.

The way NordicTrack have designed the console upright to fold down inside the pedals is really very clever. Not only does it protect the console against any damage during transit, but it also means you can simply raise it to the vertical position to complete that stage of the assembly.

With the base stabilizers attached and console upright raised, all that’s left is to secure the arms and tablet holder.

In the user manual the entire process requires less than 10 steps, each of which is clearly explained using written instructions, diagrams, and parts references.

You’ll need someone to help with the heavy lifting, but having a second pair of hands available will also reduce the setup time.

Considering the clarity of the instructions and minimal setup involved, assembly shouldn’t take much more than 45 minutes to complete.

Transport options
Although NordicTrack do an excellent job of minimizing the footprint for their front-driven ellipticals, the Elite 12.9 still measures about 12″ longer than their center drive FreeStride Trainers.

However, you do still have the front-mounted transport wheels and a section to lift the machine by at the back.

Unfortunately, due to the weight of the machine, this isn’t a task for just one person, so we recommend finding a location where it can remain setup even when not in use.

What’s covered by the warranty?

  • Frame: Lifetime
  • Parts: 5 years
  • Labor: 2 years
NordicTrack Elliptical Trainer Guide

Review Overview

Overall Review Rating

4.5 / 5

As a mid-range elliptical in their Elite series, the NordicTrack 12.9 has clearly benefitted from a number of advanced entertainment features that aren't available on most of their 'E' series models.

Having the tablet shelf attached to the top of the console is a clear improvement over the earlier 12.7 Elite, and allows you to comfortably use the full colour screen and your tablet at the same time.

The 35 onboard workouts is really approaching the top end of what you can expect from any elliptical trainer, and the fact that this is an iFit enabled machine only adds to your workout options.

We're also impressed by the length of the warranty, which is close to the industry-leading support provided by Yowza Fitness on their ellipticals (Yowza give 2 more years on parts).

Although the console screen is half an inch smaller than the E35 from Sole Fitness, the NordicTrack 12.9 has a number of major advantages. It's web-enabled, full color, and touch screen, whereas the E35 is only backlit.

Overall, the 12.9 is well positioned in NordicTrack's Elite series, offering the same number of workouts and resistance levels as the top-of-the-line 16.9 Elite, for between $400 and $700 less (depending on time of year). The only major difference is the lack of 15" HDTV screen, which is a key selling point of the 16.9 model.

Product dimensions: 80.25" (L) x 25.75" (W) x 65" (H) Weight capacity: 375 lbs