The Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 Elliptical Trainer is the lowest priced rear driven elliptical available in the CE collection, and joins the CE 7.4 in being one of the first designs to be upgraded to a 2014 model.
This review takes a look at all aspects of its design – including the display console and ergonomic features, as well as your workout options and the ability to track your stats through the mySMOOTH Fitness website.
We’ll also compare the CE 3.6 to other elliptical trainers in the same price range, to help you find the best machine for your fitness goals and budget.
If you’re looking for a form of cardio that’s lower impact than running and with the added possibility of including upper body muscle groups, an elliptical trainer can often be your best option.
The only downside is that they tend to be one of the largest pieces of home fitness equipment you can own, so it’s worth checking you have the space needed for the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 before buying (76″ L x 26″ W x 67″ H).
The first thing to notice about the CE 3.6 when comparing it with the CE 9.0 and CE 5.5 in particular is the more conventional handle design.
Unfortunately the CE 3.6 doesn’t offer the same button functions on the short handles, but this is partly why it’s considered more affordable, with the list price on the CE 5.5 being $1000 more than the CE 3.6.
One of the more subtle design features that Smooth Fitness added to the CE 3.6 was the ergonomic pivoting foot pedals.
This allows the pedal to follow your foot’s range of motion as you run, relieving pressure on your ankles and creating a more efficient transfer of power from your legs to the stride motion.
Unlike some of the later models (CE 5.5 and CE 9.0), the stride on the CE 3.6 is actually fixed, meaning that you are slightly more restricted as to who can use the machine.
Although this probably won’t be so much of an issue if you intend to use the machine only for your own workouts, if you’re looking to buy an elliptical that adjusts to suit a variety of user heights (such as a family), then the CE 5.5 may be more suitable.
Stride length and transport
It’s also worth pointing out that the stride measures 18 inches, which may not be ideal if you’re taller than around 6 feet 2 inches. In this case, if you want to be able to build up to a full running stride, an elliptical with a stride length over 21 inches would be a better option.
Another important feature to point out is that this is what’s classed as a ‘rear-driven’ elliptical. This simply means that the flywheel is placed at the back of the machine, and will usually have a slight impact on the muscles worked and the path of motion that your stride follows.
Whereas a ‘front-driven’ design (such as the Smooth CE 3.0DS) emulates more of a stair-stepping motion that can also feel like running up a slight incline, ‘rear-driven’ machines will more closely resemble the feeling of cross country skiing.
This is generally considered the form of elliptical training with the lowest impact on your knee and hip joints, and promotes a more natural upright running posture.
The rear driven design does also mean that you don’t have the ability to change the incline of the stride motion, but you can still increase the intensity through 16 levels of magnetic resistance.
One last feature we wanted to mention was the addition of transport wheels to the front base stabilizer, which make it much easier to move the elliptical between rooms if required.
Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 – Features Summary
- The motion of the pivoting foot pedal mimics the natural motion keeping your ankle, knee and hip from suffering impact and strain
- With a oversized, backlit LCD display, you can easily read course profiles, speed, time, distance, heart rate, calories & resistance level
- The CE 3.6 offers an iPod docking station with speakers for you to workout to your favorite music
Display console design
One of the most impressive things about the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 is the way that it’s been designed to interact with modern technology.
Firstly there’s the iPod docking station that also lets you connect your iPhone so that you can listen to your favourite music via the built-in speakers.
Although other ellipticals do offer a similar feature, they usually rely on an input jack which requires a wire to connect the smartphone to the console.
There’s also plenty of space for supporting a tablet, which can remain well supported during your workout thanks to the integrated display shelf.
Unfortunately this does mean that you can’t view your workout information on the backlit display at the same time, but does allow you to create a more visually attractive training experience.
This is using the technology that Smooth Fitness have put into a piece of online fitness tracking software, called mySMOOTH Virtual Trainer.
Tracking your progress with mySMOOTH Virtual Trainer
Along the right hand side of the display console you’ll find 3 ports; USB, MP3 jack, and mySMOOTH Virtual Fitness Trainer.
After installing some basic software on your computer, the USB port can be used in conjunction with the USB drive to synchronize exercise and health metrics into your mySMOOTH account.
Once you’ve done this the first time it simply becomes a case of clicking on a desktop icon and won’t require you to be logged in. Only that the USB drive is inserted into a port on your computer.
You can even enter your health and fitness goals online via the mySMOOTH Trainer website, which will also automatically create a recommended workout calendar and routine for you to follow.
Video of the mySMOOTH Virtual Fitness experience:
This calendar will be created based on your goals, and includes what type of exercise you need to perform, at what level of intensity, and for how long.
As well as the more functional workout data sync, you also have the virtual outdoor workout experience that can be set to display on the screen of your tablet.
This doesn’t affect your current workout program, but does help add an extra level of variation to your training routine.
Preset workout programs
If you simply want to start your workout without worrying about creating a profile or setting targets, then the manual program is probably the only preset workout that you need.
However, the console for the Smooth Fitness CE 3.6 also allows you to create user profiles for up to 9 people, which require basic information that will be used to provide more accurate feedback throughout your workout.
In terms of the workout programs themselves, you actually have 14 different options to choose from, 3 of which require target setting, and 5 are based on your own personal configuration (custom workouts).
- P1-3: Target time, target distance, target calories – Lets you work towards a specific goal, which is then displayed on the screen and gradually counts down to 0.
- P4: Fat burning – Less variation in resistance than other programs, this is designed to keep your heart rate at the most efficient level for maximizing fat burn for the majority of your workout.
- P5: Interval training – 8 different intensity level combinations are available for the interval training program, with the entire workout split into a maximum of 16 segments.
The segments then alternate between one low and one high level of resistance, helping to increase aerobic capacity and overall fitness.
- P6: Random – Creates a random workout profile based on a target resistance level and time.
- P7: Endurance – 8 different intensity levels to choose from, each designed to gradually increase the difficulty over the duration of your workout to build stamina and endurance.
- P8: Watts control – The resistance is automatically adjusted to match their desired workout load (watts).
- P9: Target heart rate – Available when wearing the heart rate chest belt provided, this program automatically adjusts resistance to keep you within your target heart rate range.
In order to make sure this is done safely, the CE 3.6 automatically drops into a ‘warm-up’ stage if your heart rate drops below 65%.
If you fail to reach the 65% level after 3 of the 3 minute warm up rounds, the program will end.
- P10 – 14: Customer course – 5 programs with a maximum 60 minute duration each. These let you create your own custom workouts, choosing when the intensity level varies and by how much.
The fact that the CE 3.6 is supplied with a heart rate chest belt for continuous connectivity with the inbuilt receiver also ensures that the feedback for your heart rate is always as accurate as possible.
What’s covered by the warranty?
- Frame: Lifetime
- Brake: Lifetime
- Parts: 5 years
- Labor: 2 years
While this certainly appears like a comprehensive and lengthy period of warranty coverage, after reading through many of the reviews on other ellipticals in the range, there appears to be issues with how quickly and efficiently Smooth Fitness handle any issues.
Other reviewers have reported that the customer service department is difficult to get through to at the best of times, which isn’t helped by the fact that they are closed at weekends, when many of us are looking to get our equipment setup.
It’s certainly something worth bearing in mind and perhaps even worth giving the customer service department a call before you order to see how well they can respond to any questions. Just make sure it’s not a weekend and before 7.30pm during the week (6pm on Fridays).