Saturday, 20 April 2024

Elliptical Trainers

ProForm Smart Strider 535 Elliptical Trainer Review

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The ProForm Smart Strider 535 is the entry level folding elliptical trainer in a collection that also features the mid-range 735 and top-of-the-line 935 models.

So how does it compare to the other Smart Strider ellipticals, and are there any other folding ellipticals that represent better value for money?

In this review we’ll be comparing the Smart Strider and Endurance collections to highlight the pros and cons of each design. We’ll then take a closer look at the design, workout programs and entertainment options to help you decide which model is best for your own home gym.

Design and safety features

ProForm Smart Strider 535 Elliptical Trainer

As a company ProForm continue to be one of the global leaders in fitness equipment design, with a number of elliptical trainer collections that use front and rear drive systems.

The Endurance collection is their front drive collection, while the Smart Strider ellipticals are built around a rear drive system, creating a shallower incline and a motion that’s more reminiscent of cross country skiing.

ProForm currently have 3 models of elliptical trainer active in each range, which often share many of the same features. We’ve added a quick reference guide below:

The Smart Strider 535 has the same warranty coverage, same number of Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR) levels (18), and same EKG™ Grip Pulse heart rate monitors built into the static handles as the Endurance 520 E does.

One of the big differences between the two collections is the weight of the inertia-enhanced flywheel, which is 7 lbs lighter in the Smart Strider models compared to the equivalent elliptical in the Endurance series.

In addition to a 13 lb flywheel, the ProForm Smart Strider 535 also has an 18″ stride length, Soft Touch upper-body workout arms, a commercial-gauge steel construction, and oversized foot pedals.

Unfortunately these pedals aren’t adjustable, and there’s no layer of cushioning to help reduce the impact on your knee and ankle joints. These are both features that are included on the later 735 and 935 ellipticals.

Despite following a very similar steel construction to their other ellipticals, the Smart Strider 535 also has one of the lowest weight capacities, supporting just 275 lbs. That’s compared to 300 lbs for the 735 and 325 lbs for the Smart Strider 935.

But one of the biggest disappointments is having to rely on a manual incline system, rather than the power incline that’s available with the other Smart Stride ellipticals.

Although the 535 model still has an incline range of 0° to 10°, this needs to be set manually before you start your program, as there’s no controls on the console to power you through the different gradients mid-workout.

There are several other major differences between the entry level console on the Smart Strider 535 and the consoles on the 735 and 935 models. This includes only being iFit compatible instead of iFit enabled, and having no quick-select controls for switching between resistance levels.

ProForm Smart Strider 535 Elliptical Trainer

ProForm Smart Strider 535 – Features Summary

  • Out-of-Box Easy Assembly
  • Soft Touch Upper-Body Grips
  • Incline range of 0° to 10°
  • 18 Digital Resistance Levels
  • iPod Compatible
  • 18 Workout Apps
  • 18″ Stride length
  • 13 lb Flywheel
  • Large LCD Monitor
  • SMR Silent Magnetic Resistance
  • Commercial-Gauge Solid Steel Construction
  • Water Bottle Holder
  • Space Saver Design
  • AC Adapter Included

Display console design

ProForm Smart Strider 535 Elliptical Trainer

NordicTrack and ProForm both make very similar elliptical trainers in terms of the features on offer at each price range. But if you’re on a strict budget, ProForm tend to extend their collections to a slightly more affordable price point, closer to the $500 level.

The Smart Strider 535 is currently their rear-drive elliptical in this price range, but being the most affordable also means you have to sacrifice a lot of the features we’ve started to take for granted on most modern ellipticals.

Although you still have the MP3 compatibility, you’re missing the integrated tablet holder, quick-select resistance controls, and CoolAire™ workout fan. The LCD is also much more restricted in the amount of workout feedback it provides due to its compact size.

The 535 elliptical is still actually listed as iFit compatible, but because you don’t have the full color touchscreen, tablet holder, or even the quick-select iFit navigation controls, you’re not going to enjoy the full experience, and it’s much more difficult to use.

But even if you were thinking about switching to the NordicTrack SpaceSaver series, the SE7i is usually priced just under $1000 and the top-of-the-line SE9i is closer to $2500. Considering the Smart Strider 935 is virtually identical to the NordicTrack SE9i and often available for under $1000 on Amazon, you’re actually better off saving for the 935, which is the top elliptical in ProForm’s Smart Strider collection.

Heart rate monitoring
Built-in, dual-grip EKG™ touch sensors for measuring your heart rate are still available via the stationary handles, but telemetry heart rate monitoring (chest strap) isn’t available unless you choose the top-of-the-line Smart Strider 935.

Workout programs and user profiles

The first thing we noticed about the workout programs for the Smart Strider 535 is how much more limited they are compared to the selection you get on the 735 and 935 ellipticals.

Although you still have a good selection of onboard workouts in the ‘Calorie’ and ‘Performance’ categories, you’re missing the ‘Intensity’ series of workouts completely, and you can’t select any of the ‘Set-A-Goal’ programs.

This means you’re left with 3 main workout categories; Manual, Calorie, and Performance. Unfortunately there aren’t any fitness tests either, which is a regular feature we’re used to seeing on Precor ellipticals, but not on any of the ProForm models.

  • ManualThis is the program that you’ll automatically use if you don’t select any of the Onboard programs, and doesn’t follow any preset profile of incline or resistance settings.Because the display screen is so much smaller than on the 735 or 935, you only have a small amount of workout feedback displayed at any one time. In most cases this will be the workout duration, distance, and a dot matrix display that indicates your progress around a 1/4 mile running track.However, as with the Onboard workouts, the information displayed on the left and right sides of this running track will change modes every few seconds, switching between elapsed time, number of calories burned, heart rate, RPM and distance run.
  • OnboardThe preset workouts for the ProForm Smart Strider 535 work a little differently to the other ellipticals in the collection, due to having no power incline feature.This means that the profile for each program only relates to the resistance level, and won’t make any automatic adjustments to the incline as you move between segments. But you do still have the target cadence (RPM), which can change as the workout progresses.Although changes to the incline are certainly still possible during your workout, this requires you to stop the pedal motion, step off the machine and make the adjustment manually. This isn’t something we would recommend. If you want to make incline training a regular part of your routine, we recommend investing in either the Endurance 720 or Endurance 920 ellipticals from ProForm.

User profiles
If you’re considering buying the ProForm Smart Strider 535 for use in a family environment, you’re putting yourself at a major disadvantage.

It’s one of the only ProForm ellipticals we know to not even be listed as iFit compatible. Not being able to use iFit with this machine means you have no access to multiple user profiles (iFit supports up to 4), and there’s no way of automatically syncing your workout results to an online profile to analyze your performance.

Comparison: ProForm Smart Strider 535 vs. 735

When we reviewed the Smart Strider 735 we recommended that you stretch the budget and upgrade to the top-of-the-line 935 model, so now that we’re comparing the 535 and 735 models, it’s difficult to fully recommend the Smart Strider 735.

But if our only option was to decide between the Smart Strider 535 and 735 models, we would have to choose the Smart Strider 735.

The 735 has more resistance levels (20 vs. 18), a heavier flywheel (18 lbs vs. 13 lbs), larger screen (5″ backlit display), a CoolAire™ workout fan, more workout apps (22 vs. 18) and has quick-select incline controls on the console because it uses a power incline instead of manual.

ProForm Smart Strider 535 Elliptical Trainer

That’s not to say the build quality of the 535 is poor, but if you’re spending this kind of money on an elliptical, the last thing you want to do is miss out on potentially life changing features for the sake of $350. Although the prices can fluctuate, this was the approximate difference between the 535 and 935 ellipticals on Amazon at time of writing.

Considering all of the additional features you’re getting, plus the fact that the Smart Strider 935 is iFit enabled (saves you the $99 cost of an iFit module), we believe this to be money well spent, and worth saving extra for.

Ease of assembly and maintenance required

The Smart Strider 535 follows exactly the same assembly process as the other ellipticals in the collection, where the majority of the setup has been done for you before you remove the packaging.

As with NordicTrack’s SpaceSaver series, all that’s required is to lift the console upright into position, lock the moveable upper body grips in place and attach any covers.

In this case the assembly process is extremely straightforward, but if you would prefer it was done by a professional, there are several services available to you.

ProForm has a number of authorized service technicians that can visit your home and assemble the equipment for you. Of course, you then have to consider the additional expense (varies based on the equipment to be assembled), location (the service isn’t available in all regions) and setting up a convenient time window for the technician to visit your location.

Amazon also offer a similar service for the assembly of cardio equipment, including treadmills and elliptical trainers, but again this isn’t something that’s available in all regions and there will be an additional cost.

Elliptical Machine Assembly
Start by confirming your service location

The instructions in the ProForm Smart Strider 535 user manual are actually very easy to follow, and once you have the base unit setup on the levelers, the whole process shouldn’t take much more than 5-10 minutes.

With the elliptical assembled you can use the adjustable leveling feet to compensate for slightly uneven ground, and the front-mounted transport wheels to move the machine to a new position if required.

Many of the recommendations ProForm provide for one of their ellipticals are also true for all others, which is certainly true of the maintenance routine.

Whether you’re buying a Hybrid Trainer, front-drive Endurance series elliptical or rear-drive Smart Strider, the advice is always the same. To inspect and tighten all parts on a regular basis, and to clean the machine using a damp cloth and mild soap solution.

The manual also includes some useful advice on how to adjust the reed switch and drive belt to save you having to call out a technician. In later models this troubleshooting section also contains steps for calibrating the incline system, but because the Smart Strider 535 only has a manual incline, that section isn’t needed here.

ProForm Elliptical Trainer Guide

What’s covered by the warranty?

  • Frame: Lifetime
  • Parts: 2 years
  • Labor: 1 year

Review Overview

Overall Review Rating

3.5 / 5

If you're looking for an entry level elliptical from one of the big names in fitness equipment, the ProForm Smart Strider 535 can seem like a great place to start. But in our opinion buying it is false economy.

In most cases there's very little difference between the ellipticals we compare, such as the Schwinn 470 and Nautilus E616, and in some cases we advise sacrificing entertainment features for more workout programs or a variable stride.

But in this case, in our opinion, you're simply starting with too few features to make the 535 good value for money.

You're looking at nearly half the number of onboard workouts compared to the Smart Strider 935, no iFit capability, a manual incline system, limited workout feedback via the screen, no user profiles and touch sensors as the only method of heart rate monitoring.

Overall, although the overall build quality of what's included is high, we highly recommend extending your budget and getting a better deal with the Smart Strider 935, as long as it's available for close to $1000 when you come to buy. If so, then it's less than half the price of the NordicTrack SpaceSaver Se9i, with virtually identical features.

Product dimensions: 65"L x 25"W x 74"H Weight capacity: 275 lbs

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