Fitness pros will tell you that you won't get gym-quality equipment in this price range, and generally they are right. However, the Fitness Quest 1400 stands out in the sub-$1000 market as exceptionally well built, quiet, stable and suitable for serious use. Gym-quality is isn't, but it is remarkably close in many ways. It comes packed in a large box that is around 200lbs. It took 4 Walmart guys to carry it to the car (a PT Cruiser - it only just fit), and it was too heavy for 2 of us to get it out again so we had to cut the box away and unpack it in layers! Putting it together was very straightforward. The manual has clear instructions for each stage with diagrams, and each step matches a numbered pack of parts required. All the tools needed are supplied. It took a couple of hours of steady work, most of which was in ensuring everything was done up tight. Overall, it is remarkably compact and stable, but it is too heavy to easily move about. It does have a small set of wheels on the front crossmember, but it has to be lifted up quite high at the back to use them, and that isn't a job for the faint-hearted or muscularly challenged! In use, it offers a manual mode where the user controls the choice of resistance level between 1 and 16, and a program mode where the user selects one of 8 pre-programmed workouts, designed to simulate various types of terrain by varying resistance levels as often as every 1/10th of a mile. The display is pretty basic, offering no backlight and little interaction. There's no audio system or connection for an iPod, as is found on some other machines. When inactive, the displays reverts to showing date and time and ambient air temperature. In use, the display is divided into 3 sections. At the bottom it shows resistance level in manual mode, or the current program, while to the right is a small stack of readouts for exercise time, speed and rpm, distance, calories used, pulse rate, and load (resistance). Any of these readouts can be selected and be displayed is larger digits on the main part of the display, otherwise the main display will continuously rotate between the readouts, changing every 2 or 3 seconds. That can be rather confusing if you don't realize what's happening! Controlling selections on the display can be a little confusing too, because it's not clear or consistent which buttons to press to get which settings or results, but a little familiarity takes care of that. Using the machine feels very comfortable. The foot pedals are sufficiently large that it is possible to find a stance that fits the workout required - the further back the user stands, the more effort is required. Because this elliptical has smaller flywheels than the 'step-through' type, the stride is more like a natural walking/jogging motion than other machines, so it's very easy. It's also possible to also vary the workout by going backwards if required, which helps exercise different muscle groups. With 8 programs this machine is not particularly versatile for a guided workout, but the programs themselves reflect a wide range of intensities, and the user can vary resistance settings in any program at any time. It would be nice if the user could not only create personalized programs that way, but also save them for future use, but sadly that option is not included so personalizations have to be re-created with each use. Many inexpensive ellipticals suffer noise or seems to require fairly constant maintenance to prevent them loosening up. If care is taken with assembly, making sure all the bolts are done up tight, neither of these are issues with the FQ 1400. It remains remarkably quiet and totally rigid. When high resistance settings are selected, the user can feel a little vibration through the handlebars, and the overall noise level increases, but the only thing I found annoying about the machine was that the small coiled wires connecting the pulse rate sensors in the handlebars to the body of the machine tend to trail across the edge of the water bottle holder, making a constant 'clicking' sound in time with the motion. It isn't loud is easy to fix, and can't be heard more than a foot or two away, but it gets annoying! All in all, this is not the best elliptical on the market, nor the cheapest. But it is certainly the least expensive machine to even approach gym-quality, and as such the compromises made in design and features do little to inhibit a good exercise regime, while still allowing the machine to do the job it is meant to do. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering an elliptical, and say that it is great value for money. A better display and more versatility in programs would be nice, but at this price, the FQ 1400 is better than the competition, and the criticisms are quite minor.
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