NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 Elliptical Cross Trainer Review

One of the major names in the home fitness market, NordicTrack have been producing feature rich, reliable ellipticals for many years. One of the reasons they have been, and remain, a market leader is the fact that they’re not content to rest on their laurels. As the years have gone by the quality has continued to improve and more and more features have been added to their machines. One of their latest efforts, the NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 Elliptical Cross Trainer, has a spec sheet that grabs your attention and simply can’t be ignored – so we got one in to inspect it up close and put it through its paces.

As always, the first thing is to get everything set up. Assembly of the C 12.9 cannot, realistically, be made any simpler than it has been. We’ve put together a LOT of cross trainers and along the way have come across everything from the sublime to the ridiculous and can honestly say that the C 12.9 is as good as it’s likely to ever to get in terms of ease, without paying someone else to put it together for you. The box is pretty big and can look daunting, but in truth there’s really nothing to worry about here. While it’s possible for one person to put this together it’s recommended that there are two people and that’s a piece of advice we’d strongly recommend is followed. The C 12.9 is partially assembled so the amount of work required to build it is significantly less than most other cross trainers that are packed into the box in a more conventional way. We had it fully assembled and up and running in just 35 minutes and while it’s true we’ve got experience it’s also true that we really didn’t need it when it came to assembling this model. It really is a cinch and hats off to NordicTrack for taking a type of machine that’s traditionally really quite fiddly to put together and making it something that absolutely anyone can do.

Looks-wise this is a really great looking machine. It’s silver, grey, black colourway could easily have resulted in  a very drab run of the mill boring looking bit of kit. Instead NordicTrack have done a great job in making it look uber-modern. It’s a really nice design that will make the C 12.9 look at home in any home. It also looks beefy and from the first glance it makes you believe that this elliptical is has been built to take a real hammering.

The first time you climb aboard there’s no mistaking that this is a substantial cross trainer designed for working. Regardless of how nice the C 12.9 looks we wanted to jump on and see how it felt and first impressions were excellent. The motion feels really  smooth thanks to the combination of double rails and the 15kg flywheel. Throughout the entire cycle the action is consistent and smooth and quiet which of course is exactly what one looks for in an elliptical. One of the common issues with front drive elliptical trainers (especially the less prestigious ones) is that they tend to use a single roller that runs on a single rail on each side. That type of setup can at times make it easy for the rollers to slip and come off the track during intense bursts of activity. The C 12.9 helps to avoid this by using a double roller, double rail design. Each side has dual rails and twin rollers which helps the rollers to stay in place, not only providing more stability and durability but also significantly reducing the chance of a pedal coming off the tracks during hard, intense sessions. Another benefit of having such a heavy flywheel is that it not only provides consistency throughout the cycle, it also helps to reduce side-to-side rocking increasing stability and making it feel rock solid. The motion, action and general feel is really reassuring. No squeaks, rattles, knocks or rocking from side to side. It feels like it’s bolted to the floor and along with the overall smoothness this contributes to a feeling of real quality. This is enhanced by the fact that you can adjust the angle of the footplates to suit your particular biomechanics providing additional support and reducing the chances of developing a strain or an injury.

NordicTrack advertise this machine as having an adjustable stride of 18″ to 20″ but it’s worth noting that the stride is adjustable by way of changing the incline settings. Select a flatter incline and the stride is 20″, select a steeper incline (up to 20%) and the stride is 18″. The motorised incline gives you the ability to change the steepness of the stride mid workout, enabling you to work different muscle groups at the touch of a button without stopping, it also means that any user, regardless of their size, should be able to find a setting that works especially well for them.

Getting started is simply a case of pressing the start button on the 7″ web-enabled full colour touchscreen display and starting to pedal. Resistance is adjusted by way of buttons on the console and very handily also on the fixed handlebars. There are 26 levels of resistance to choose from and at the maximum setting it provides plenty of resistance so even if you’re already in good condition you’re still going to be challenged. The incline is also controlled via the buttons on the handlebars or console making it easy to alter the settings mid-workout. It’s amazing how many ellipticals out there don’t have buttons on the handlebars and it really does make all the difference having them there!

A word on the touchscreen display because it’s worth mentioning here. While it’s not quite as slick as a top end tablet, it’s still a thing of beauty and NordicTrack should be congratulated on incorporating one into a home elliptical. It functions in the same way as other tablets with all the basics such as swiping to scroll through menus and workout feedback displays (though it doesn’t zoom in and out by pinching the screen) and is a cinch to use. When first booted you need to set up the WiFi  connection and then run a firmware update which went without a hitch on the unit we received. There are also a host of settings you can play around with such as automatic logins to your iFit account if you have one, or enable/disable access code protection that prevents unauthorised use of the machine. Here you can also set the unit of measurement you’d prefer between metric and imperial, which will appeal to a lot of people and there’s also a web browser. The look and feel of the user interface is slick. It’s well thought through, logical and easy to use while the screen itself is nice and bright with vibrant colours. It’s a really great way to interact with the cross trainer and takes the C 12.9 to another level.

In addition to the manual mode there’s a truly huge selection of 35 preset workouts to choose from. These are accessed by way of either touching the Calorie, Intensity, or Perform buttons on the console or by touching the ‘Runner’ icon and then swiping through the options. Each workout displays the name of the workout and the estimated duration as well as the approximate number of calories it’s been designed to burn. Obviously, a calorie count on a fitness machine is just an estimate, nonetheless it’s nice to be able to select a workout based on this criteria. Once you get going you’re given a target cadence (RPM) to keep you exercising at the correct intensity. Slow down too much and the screen prompts you to speed up, pedal too fast and it’ll tell you to slow down. It’s a simple concept but a very effective one as it ensures that you get as much benefit from the programme as intended. Do as you’re told here and you’re more or less guaranteed to get the benefits you were expecting. In addition to the pre-set workouts you can also set targets (what NordicTrack prefer to call Goals) for calorie burn, distance and so on which is a feature that will no doubt appeal to a lot of users of this machine. The range of workouts is really varied and there’s something for everyone from the complete beginner just trying to get fit for the first time since their 20’s through to fanatical gym bunnies that want to cancel their gym membership and start working out at home instead.

The 7” Smart HD web-enabled full-colour touchscreen display is one of the many nice features of this machine. But as a user interface it’s simply brilliant. It’s easy to use, will be familiar if you already own a smartphone or tablet of any kind, has a vibrant and easy to see display and even has a web browser so that should you be so inclined, you can read your emails as you’re working out. It’s Android powered and as such is slick and reliable. On the unit we tested it didn’t hang or stall once and was really very enjoyable to operate. Just for good measure however NordicTrack have also added an adjustable tablet holder to the C 12.9 so if the built in console tablet doesn’t give you all you need you can set up your tablet so you can watch TV or music videos etc. The tablet holder has also been set on top of the console bringing it to up to eye level which works a treat.

The C 12.9 is also iFit enabled (subscription required) which vastly increases the already large number of training options on this elliptical. Subscribers to iFit get the added bonus of  Google Maps workouts that allow you to map out your own cycling routes on Google Maps, high-definition workout videos led by professional personal trainers, online races against other iFit members and personalised advice for nutrition, exercise routines and sleep schedule. iFit is a whole world unto itself and offers far too much to cover in this review but if you want to know more visit the iFit web site for full details

As always with NordicTrack products the C 12.9 isn’t short of the little extras. There’s the Autobreeze™ fan that increases/decreases speed automatically based on how hard you’re working (and does a pretty good job), a water bottle holder, built in speakers so you can connect your MP3 player, and if you want to measure your pulse they’ve included a Bluetooth Smart wireless receiver and a chest belt too! While hand pulse sensors are ok, if you want an accurate reading then a chest belt is the only way to go. It’s great to see that one is included in the pack as so often you need to purchase one separately. The included belt, as expected, worked perfectly during testing.

We can’t say that we’re surprised that NordicTrack have introduced an elliptical that’s built well and is packed with features.  The fact that it also has an incline mechanism that really adds a very enjoyable and effective dimension to everything just makes it stand out that bit more. It’s also very well built indeed and is backed by NordicTrack’s 5 years frame, 2 years parts and labour warranty. It offers something over and above most other ellipticals out there and it does what it does really well. This is a very good cross trainer. It’s got a heavy flywheel, adjustable pedals, is packed with features, is built well and not only goes toe to toe with it’s peers – it beats them for an all round experience. Well done NordicTrack. Wonderful!

Best Price

The NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 is not currently available from any retailers we're aware of in the UK.
It may be worth looking for a used machine on ebay

Review Summary - In Brief

There are lots of ellipticals out there at the moment and it's true that some are better than others. It's also true that one or two machines will dominate the marketplace at a given price point and that sooner or later another machine will appear that will usurp the ruling class.  The sheer amount of state of the art features combined with the excellent build quality and genuine affordability put this elliptical firmly in the driving seat. If you've got the space and you'll be hard pushed to come across a better elliptical for the home.

NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 Specifications

  • 15kg (22lbs) effective inertia, class S flywheel
  • 26 digital levels of SMR Silent™ Magnetic Resistance with QuickTouch™ console and handle controls
  • 0-20% Adjustable Power Ramp with QuickTouch™ console and handle controls
  • 18”-20” (46cm-51cm) power adjustable stride
  •  7” Smart HD web-enabled full-colour touchscreen display
  • Console Feedback: Several display modes available (the display mode that you select will determine which workout information is shown)
  • 37 programmes (manual, 35 pre-set workout apps, set-a-goal workout) + iFit® enabled (subscription optional)
  • Heart Rate Measurement via EKG CardioGrip™ pulse grips and Bluetooth® Smart wireless receiver (Bluetooth® Smart chest belt included)
  • Audio: Compatible music port for iPod®/mp3 player, two 2” speakers
  • Conveniences: Integrated tablet holder, water bottle holder, oversized levellers, front mounted tansportation wheels
  • Autobreeze™ workout fan
  • Adjustable oversized cushioned pedals
  • Soft touch multi-position upper body grips
  • Dimensions in Use (L x W x H): 204cm (80.3”) x 66cm (25.9”) x 164cm (64.6”)
  • Product Weight: 111kg (244.7lbs)
  • Max. User Weight: 135kg (297.6lbs)
  • Power: Mains
  • Warranty: 2 years parts and labour (must register within 28 days of purchase for 2nd year of coverage)

NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 Elliptical Cross Trainer - Console / Display Unit

NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 Elliptical Cross Trainer - User Reviews

The Pros

  • 15kg Flywheel
  • Adjustable Footplates
  • Motorised Incline
  • Full Colour HD Touchscreen
  • Interactive Training
  • Included Chest Belt
  • Easy Assembly

The Cons

  • Pick something, anything, ok sure - it doesn't come with a free water bottle
NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 Elliptical Cross Trainer Reviewer Ratings

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

The NordicTrack Commercial 12.9 is not currently available from any retailers we're aware of in the UK.
It may be worth looking for a used machine on ebay

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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