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Product Reviews

Best treadmill doesn’t have to be the costliest

CONSUMER REPORTS

Consumer Reports’ recent tests of 34 treadmills and 31 ellipticals found that you can get top-notch machines for as much as $4,000. But it’s also possible to get high-performing models for a fraction of that price.

All of the treadmills and ellipticals evaluated let you adjust the intensity level of your workouts, which can help you lose weight faster. You can also do interval training, a type of cardiovascular workout in which you alternate intense exercise with slower-paced work.

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Treadmills were evaluated on their ease of use, ergonomics, construction, exercise range, and safety. For the fourth year, the top-rated device is also the priciest: the well-built Precor 9.31, $4,000. But Consumer Reports also recommends the LifeSpan TR4000i, which at $1,700 costs a lot less.

For walkers, consider a budget folding model, such as the ProForm Performance 600, $800. It has a shorter deck, which can work for walking but might not accommodate a runner’s longer stride.

Ellipticals’ handgrips that move and resistance that’s adjustable allow you to turn your cardiovascular training into a full-body workout while mimicking the motion of running without the impact. The Diamondback 1260Ef, $2,200, and Octane Fitness Q37ci, $3,100, were the highest rated. Following closely are two LifeFitness and two AFG models. The AFG 18.1 AXT, $1,700, has an iPod dock, but the compatible controls and iPod-style control wheel were confusing and awkward to use. The AFG 3.1AE, $1,000, performed well and is cheaper.

Washers and dryers: dynamic duos and duds

About six out of 10 buyers choose a matching washer and dryer, even if only one machine is broken. But not all pairs make a great couple. Whirlpool’s Duet WFW9351YW front loader, $800, was noisy and mediocre at cleaning. But the matching dryer, the Duet WED9371YM, $850, aced the drying tests. Consumer Reports generally suggests that your washer choice drive your purchases.

Testers washed more than 1,000 loads — the average family does about 300 a year — to find the winners and the washouts. Here’s what they learned:

Technology is smart and dumb. Samsung offers a smartphone app that lets you remotely start and stop the top-rated front-loader, the Samsung WF457ARGS[GR], and its matching electric dryer, DV457EVGS[GR], each $1,550. It also lets you know when the cycle is done so you don’t have to keep checking the machine. But, of course, you still have to load the wash into the machine, turn the washer on, and enable the app at the machine.

Frigidaire falls off the list. Despite impressive performance by some models, the latest brand-reliability survey found that Frigidaire’s front-loaders, along with GE’s, were among the most repair prone.

Washers get bigger and slower. LG added 2 inches to the width of the high-scoring WM8000H[V]A front-loader and its matching electric dryer, DLEX8000[V], $1,350 each. The washer fit 24 pounds of laundry, about 10 more than a regular top-loader, but took more than 2 hours on normal wash. That’s substantially longer than other tested washers.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.
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