A lot of treadmills on the market today are quite good. In fact, one could say that most are really quite good with the thumbs-up or thumbs-down sometimes merely depending on personal tastes or needs, such as size, programs, heart-rate controls, appearance, console design and, yes, price.
A relatively new company on the equipment block, Fitness Master makes a line of equipment called Fitnex, which debuted in late 2003, that looks quite a bit different than other lines. It doesn't try to blend in using subtle shades of grays or BMW brown tints with a luster; instead, it's a bit of an in-your-face, race-car metallic silver with big blue button controls on the console.
We used the Fitnex T60 treadmill for a number of months, dabbling with its range of programs, heart rate controls and other buttons. We had runners going sub-7 miles, walkers power-stepping at 3-4 mph, and hikers sweating their way up inclines of 12 percent. Bottom line is, the T60 is sturdy, functions well, feels really stabile yet soft underfoot while both walking and running, runs super smoothly and quietly, and reacts quickly to changes in speed and incline.
Don't be put off by the running/walking surface at 20 inches being slightly narrower than some in this price range. Unless you are quite unsure on your feet and wobble a lot or you're a very large person, 20 inches works just fine AND allows the treadmill to fit better into slightly tighter spots while looking just a bit sleeker. What the company didn't chintz on was belt length â€“ a must for long-legged or taller folks or galloping runners. A full 60 inches will accommodate anyone doing anything.
The heart-rate control picks up your heart rate well when using a chest transmitter and although our version didn't have contact heart rate (places on the handles you grip to get a heart rate reading), we understand that is now being added. We like the big blue can't-miss-'em pause/reset buttons to catch a quick break to grab a drink or a fumbled towel or to call it a day. We also like the magnet emergency stop that can be locked up in a drawer far away from the treadmill to keep kids from dangerous playtime. Another safety feature is a really slow start after a countdown when a user hits start -- no surprise jolts here â€“ and the user then has to manually increase the speed from its 0.5 mph.
We really, really like the one-touch speed-control buttons. For example, if you are jogging at 6 mph and decide you can try 7 mph, just tap 7 on the row of numbers and the belt speeds up slowly. Or, conversely, if you are speeding along at 7 mph and decide it's high time to slow down, just tap 5 and the belts slowly drops to the lower speed. This feature is not a given on some treadmills and should be a must-have for anyone, fast or slow. One caveat is for someone who may be used to a console that shows up and down arrows labeled "speed" and up and down arrows labeled "incline." The buttons on this treadmill are slightly different. The console has side-by-side keys labeled simply "up" and "down," but those are for incline. For speed, you must remember to find the "-" and "+" buttons (minus and plus) near the numbers (one at the far left and one at the far right). One user kept hitting the "up" or "down" when she meant speed but instead got incline. Can't teach an old dog new tricks we guess.
Three annoying points that have nothing to do with construction, stability or mechanics:
1) The treadmills have no place built into the console to put a water bottle, CD player or anything else a user may have along for the ride like a pager or cell phone. Would seem like a no-brainer these days; even cheap-o treads have somewhere to stow gear.
2) The alleged water-bottle holder that comes with it is a goofy, chintzy, plastic thing that hooks onto a side rail and may as well be tossed before you even start. Unfortunately, it's quite snug for normal sport bottles: Try to remove your bottle with one hand and the carrier comes with it, or try to push the bottle back into the holder with too much oomph and it twists off the rail and rolls to the floor or even under your feet â€“ a dangerous fault that left one of our testers leaping into the air to avoid the bottle and holder which were bouncing around on the belt below his feet for a few seconds during a particularly difficult interval. Although no knees or ankles were turned -- and he managed not to fly off the treadmill -- an MP3 player that was yanked loose died a violent death underfoot. NOT good!
3) And then there is the manual, which is basically little or no help. It has no explanation of what the different programs will do when you start them â€“ no profiles or descriptions. It's a bit of Russian roulette when you pick "Endurance" or "Cardio" or "Walking Courses." They all work of course and they won't throw you off the back since you can always adjust speed and incline as you go. But the "adventure" of not having a printed list to choose from could be a bit uncomfortable for some. Then there's the nifty feature that allows you to program the treadmill for a 30-minute workout of your own design ("custom learn"). Problem is, the manual doesn't explain how you do it; all of our testers gave up on that one, unfortunately.
We have been told the company intends to add more instruction to the current manual. We'll look forward to that. (Meanwhile, if you email the company, representatives will gladly send you the profiles and detailed how-to information.)
We won't go into the other technical specs, including speeds, motor size, etc, but they include pretty much what all users would ever need.
We'd like to finish by stressing that we are not comparing this treadmill to any other; or are we saying this is the best of all treadmills. In fact, some of these features we like a lot aren't uncommon on other pieces. We are just saying this is a dang good treadmill for the money that will likely last you and your family a lifetime. It's actually sold to clubs and other centers that have heavy, daily use. With better instruction and explanation in the manual, and a console that will hold music and water (Niggling? Perhaps. But important!), this treadmill would easily achieve a much, much higher rating.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 3.5 hands clapping, but fully worthy of a solid 4 once the company figures out stowage and a manual that's worth having (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $3,000
For more information: www.fitnexonline.com or 1-866-4FITNEX