Xterra Free Style 3.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer Review

From the same people that brought us the renowned Sole Fitness and Spirit brands comes the Xterra Free Style 3.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer. Built in the same factory as the aforementioned brands and part of the Xterra Freestyle range that also includes the 3.9e, 4.0e, 5.6e and 5.8e, the Freestyle 3.5 represents Xterra’s entry point into the world of ellipticals. Given Xterra’s reputation for quality at a fair price and our own experience of their machines we were looking forward to seeing how one of their entry level models performed under testing.

Assembly is simple enough and took around 50 minutes so very much par for the course. Once built the very first thing that struck us is just how much more compact this model is compared with the top of the range 5.8e that we had previously tested. With a total footprint of just 57″(144.8cm) x 20.5″ (52cm) this elliptical is significantly smaller than it’s cousin and has clearly been designed to fit into the widest possible range of settings without making a nuisance of itself. This will appeal to a lot of people who don’t necessarily have space for a gym-style elliptical but still want a good quality, front drive model.

The main handles are shaped in such a way that you can get several different grip positions on them which helps to make the FS3.5 suitable for users of  different heights while the static handles are there if you want to isolate the lower body during a training session. The static handles also have pulse grip sensors included for basic heart rate monitoring. These sensors do an OK job but as always, if you’re interested in accurate heart rate readings we recommend using a chest belt for this as the Xterra 3.5 has a built-in wireless heart rate receiver. We were glad it does, and it’s good to see that Xterra have included this even in their entry point model. We’re big fans of this method of monitoring due to the excellent accuracy it delivers.

The action feels surprisingly good for an elliptical with such small footprint and the 17” (43.1cm) stride does offer plenty of stretch so you don’t feel restricted. The single rail does a perfectly respectable job in providing a firm enough platform for the rollers to run over so its relative compactness doesn’t compromise the feeling of sturdiness we’re used to seeing from Xterra. Like the other Xterra cross trainers we’ve tested, the resistance change from one level to another is fairly quick and getting through the 24 levels from min to max is quick enough not to feel frustrating. The maximum resistance level provides a reasonable challenge though if you’re already very fit then you may find it a little easy. That being said, this model isn’t aimed at seasoned hardcore Triathletes but rather people who want to either maintain a reasonable level of fitness, get a bit fitter or lose some weight, so in this instance this shouldn’t present a problem and it still provides enough resistance for most users to work up a decent sweat.

Whenever we see stated flywheel weights starting with a 5, we get nervous. This is because often a flywheel of that kind of weight can result in a less than fluid motion throughout the cycle. In this case however, the 5.6kg (12.3lbs)  flywheel actually does a really good job. Xterra have used their considerable experience of building machines to make sure that the FS3.5 delivers a  smooth experience despite the lighter than usual flywheel. The action is smooth all the way throughout the cycle and there’s no discernable change in speed as you go past the point of no return. Hats off to Xterra!

As with most Xterra machines, the console is very much a no-frills unit that’s got a clear, logical and easy to read layout. While the console unit is small compared with many others on the market, the  5” backlit dual colour LCD display is nice and bright with all the training data easily readable. The only slight criticism here, and it is only a small one, is that you can’t see all the training data at once and have to push the mode button to switch between RPM, Odometer,Watt and then Speed, Distance, Calories. That being said, all the rest of the data such as time elapsed and heart rate is permanently displayed and as most users will find the latter set of speed, distance and calories of more interest and than things like odometers and watts, this set up does a good enough job to make the experience a useful and frustration-free one. A nice touch here the inclusion of a tablet holder shelf which is really handy if you like watching TV shows, movies or music videos while you exercise.

There are an impressive 24 preset workouts plus watt, heart rate, user defined and manual workout modes providing plenty of options for setting up your workout. Each preset programme is also scalable providing a good deal of scope to stay challenged as your fitness levels improve although unlike other models we’ve tested if you want to change the difficulty level of a preset programme you have adjust each segment of the workout as you get to it during your session, rather than changing one segment and have the rest follow suit by the same amount. Ultimately this gives you far more control, but also requires more intervention while you’re working out, so whether this is a good or bad thing is entirely in the eye of the beholder. During testing it was quick and easy enough to adjust while working out, so only the upside of the sheer level of control factor was really noticed.

Programming your own workouts is straight-forward and it’s not often you’ll find an option to do that on ellipticals at this price point so this function certainly gets a big tick. Also easy to set up are the targets for the heart rate control and watt control programmes. Speaking of heart rate programmes there are four preset settings based on 55%, 65%, 75% and 85% of theoretical max heart rate and a target heart rate programme which works in the same way but allows you to enter a specific BPM target rather than rely on theory, which is, to your reviewer’s mind, a lot more useful than just presets based on theory and in real terms allows you to set the exact rate that’s best for you.

Another nice addition to the FS3.5 is the body fat measurement test. Simply enter your personal details (age, height, weight, sex etc) press start and grab the pulse sensor handles and after 15 seconds you’ll get the results. Like with all fitness machines, this is really a guide only and isn’t meant to be medically accurate, but it does give you a good idea of how you’re progressing in your quest for a fitter, healthier body.

Last but certainly by no means least, the FS3.5 comes with Xterra’s excellent lifetime frame, 5 years parts & 2 years labour warranty so once you’ve parted with your hard earned cash you can rest easy that if something does go wrong you’ll be covered. The length of cover here is testament to the faith that Xterra put in their products. and that’s always a thought that inspires confidence.

Best Price

Currently available for £349.00 from Sweatband.com

Review Summary - In Brief

All in all, the Xterra Freestyle 3.5 is a very good elliptical. It's smooth, quiet and very well built with a good range of programmes and functions. You're not very likely to find another front drive cross trainer offering the same level of all-round quality that's compact. It really is pretty impressive, especially when one considers it's a compact machine. The combination of size, quality, function and price make this sturdy little elliptical a winner in our book!

Xterra Free Style 3.5 Specifications

  • 17” (43.1cm) stride
  • 5.6kg (12.3lbs) flywheel
  • 24 levels of electronically controlled resistance
  • 5” dual colour backlit LCD display
  • Feedback: Time, speed, distance, calories, pulse, programme
  • 24 programmes (1 manual, 14 pre-set, 4 user, 5 H.R.C.)
  • Heart rate measured via pulse grip sensors and wireless receiver (chest strap optional extra)
  • Conveniences: Padded handlebars, oversized pedals, audio input jack and speakers, transportation wheels
  • Dimensions in Use (L x W x H): 144.8cm (57”) x 52cm (20.5”) x 160cm (63”)
  • Product Weight: 49.9kg (110lbs)
  • Max. User Weight: 125kg (275lbs)
  • Power Source: Mains
  • Warranty: Lifetime frame, 5 years parts, 2 years labour

Xterra Free Style 3.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer - Console / Display Unit

Xterra Free Style 3.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer - User Reviews

The Pros

  • Good range of programmes
  • Size - will fit in almost any room
  • Build quality
  • Warranty

The Cons

  • No water bottle holder
Xterra Free Style 3.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer Reviewer Ratings

Ease Of Installation - 8.5
Appearance - 8.5
Smoothness - 9
Comfort - 9
Reliability - 9
Noise - 9
Ease Of Use - 9
Controls - 9
Warranty - 10
Value for Money - 8.5
Best Price

Currently available for £349.00 from Sweatband.com

Also see our Elliptical Cross Trainer Comparison Table

Whilst every effort is made to give you accurate information we cannot guarantee the technical specification. Models change on a regular basis and may differ slightly from the above review. We recommend you contact the retailer if you have a question regarding technical data. Please read our Legal Disclaimer

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