Life Fitness vs. Precor vs. Matrix…Which is the Best High End Treadmill?
When you’re looking for a high-end treadmill for your home, three brands come up more than any others…Life Fitness, Precor and Matrix. Those are the biggest names in the industry, and they pretty much compete head to head not only with treadmills, but also elliptical trainers, exercise bikes and other cardio equipment.
But when it comes to Life Fitness vs. Precor vs. Matrix treadmills, which one is the best? Which machine should you choose for your home gym? Well, there are pros and cons to each, so it’s just a matter of comparing the three to see how they stack up. After seeing what features and capabilities each has to offer, you’ll definitely be able to narrow your choices down.
Let’s take a closer look at all three high end brands to help you make a more informed decision…
Life Fitness vs Precor Treadmills – Battle of the Titans
Who wins when it comes to Life Fitness vs. Precor? These two brands are probably the biggest and the most well known. Their offerings are very similar and they share many of the same characteristics.
Let’s look at both of them to determine the pros and cons of each….
Life Fitness is probably the name you are most familiar with as they have dominated the commercial and residential market for quite some time, virtually unchallenged. Gyms across the world feature their treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and strength equipment, and many people choose their cardio machines for home as well to mimic that health club experience.
Their treadmill lineup consists of about seven different treadmills, ranging in price from around $2,200 for the base F1 Smart treadmill up to $7,000+ for the top of the line Life Fitness Platinum Club Series. The lineup doesn’t change too often as it does for more residential brands like NordicTrack and ProForm, but they did recently add a new Plus version of their Club Series treadmill in response to new offerings from their competitors.
Precor is another very popular brand, perhaps more in the commercial space than the residential, but they also feature a wide selection of treadmills for home use. They currently offer six different treadmills, ranging in price from $2,199 for the base TRM 211 to $5,299 for the top end TRM 445. They do have the even higher end Experience and Assurance treadmills that compete head to head with the Club Series from Life Fitness, but those are more for commercial use.
When it comes to Life Fitness vs Precor treadmills, at first glance they look quite similar. But when you dig a little deeper you’ll notice some significant differences worth noting, especially if you are trying to decide between the two.
To make a fair comparison, we chose models with a base price between $2000 and $5000, as each company has at least three treadmills that fall into that category.
Let’s start with their similarities between the two…
Both brands offer similar strong yet quiet 3.0 CHP motors, 300-350 maximum user weight capacities, and comparable strong warranties.
They both also have well-cushioned running decks and durable, commercial-grade construction with premium components. So as far as the real meat and potatoes, Life Fitness and Precor are pretty even.
Now the differences between the two…
One thing you’ll notice right away is that none of the Precor treadmills fold, while Life Fitness offers two folding models: the F1 and the F3. Also, Precor offers decline capability on their step-up Precision Series, while none of the Life Fitness treadmills decline.
The lower end models from Life Fitness have shorter running decks than the lower end Precor treadmills, i.e. 55″ L x 20″ W vs. 57″L x 20″ W. However, it’s interesting to note that the opposite is true for the higher end models, with Life Fitness having longer 60″ L x 20″ and 22″ W decks and Precor having shorter 56″ L x 20″ and 22″ W decks. Keep this in mind while choosing a model, especially if you are on the taller side.
All of the Precor treadmills top out at 12 mph, while the lower end Life Fitness models top out at only 10 mph. That’s worth noting if you are more of a runner. Also, Precor does not give you any console options, while you have a choice on some Life Fitness models.
So as you can see there are benefits and drawbacks to each brand, so choosing between Life Fitness vs Precor is a matter of deciding what features you need and what features you can do without.
Here’s a table showing you the main features of each of the two brands:
Life Fitness vs. Precor - Feature Comparison
|Heart Rate Monitoring||Yes||Yes|
|High Grade Cushioning||Yes||Yes|
How Do Matrix Treadmills Factor Into the Equation?
Matrix is relatively new to the home market, building on their huge commercial success with a small, well thought out line of residential treadmills. They currently offer only four machines: two folding and two non folding models, all solidly built with the same features and capabilities found on their popular health club counterparts.
The prices range from around $2499 for the base TF30 up to $3,999 for the top of the line T75. So the base model is a little pricier than the base models from Life Fitness and Precor, but it is a more advanced machine so the price is justified. Matrix does not offer any models over $4,000 as the others do.
A unique feature to Matrix is the choice of three consoles on any of the four treadmills…so you can customize any of the machines as opposed to just some of the Life Fitness treadmills.
The basic XR console is included in the price, but it’s an additional $500 for the XER with 10″ touch screen and $1000 for the top end XIR console with 16″ HD touch screen. Life Fitness and Precor only offer touch screens on their priciest treadmills, which are more expensive than the price of the Matrix treadmills with the touch screen options.
Despite the fact that Matrix came late to the party, they are really starting to give the old timers, Life Fitness and Precor, a run for their money. That’s because of their fresh approach to the home gym market, incorporating the latest technology and capability into their treadmills, something that is lacking in many of their competitor’s models.
When it comes to Matrix vs. Life Fitness and Precor, you could say that the Matrix treadmills are sleeker, newer and more advanced in many ways.
To give you an idea of just how good a job they are doing, here is how Matrix treadmills are better than similarly priced models from Life Fitness and Precor…
1. Their motors are stronger, 3.25 CHP vs. 3.0 CHP on Life Fitness and Precor models.
2. Their top speeds are higher: 12.5 mph on all models as opposed vs 12 and 10 mph.
3. They have higher max weight capacities: 350 lbs. and 400 lbs. vs 300 lbs. and 350 lbs. on Life Fitness and Precor.
4. Matrix offers workout tracking on all models, not just a select few. So no matter which one you choose, you can monitor your progress and set goals for yourself and sync with popular fitness apps.
5. Matrix offers the strongest warranty: Lifetime on frame, motor and cushioning, 5-7 years parts, 2 years labor.
The only thing lacking on Matrix treadmills is that just like Life Fitness, they don’t currently offer a model with decline capability. Other than that, they either match or beat the competition, which is pretty impressive for a relative newcomer.
Here’s a look at the three entry level treadmills from each company so you can see how they stack up. This will give you a great idea of Life Fitness treadmills vs. Precor and Matrix.
Life Fitness vs. Precor vs. Matrix - Each Company's Base Model Compared
|Life Fitness F1 Smart||Precor TRM 221||Matrix TF30|
|Deck size||55" L x 20" W||57" L x 20" W||55" L x 20" W|
|Motor||2.5 CHP||3.0 CHP||3.25 CHP|
|Top speed||10 mph||12 mph||12.5 mph|
|Display||Blue LCD||Blue/White LCD||Wide Blue LCD (also two upgrades available)|
|Warranty||Lifetime frame/shock, 10 years drive motor, 5 years parts, 1 year labor||Lifetime frame, 5 year parts, 3 years console, 1 year labor||Lifetime frame, motor, cushioning, 5 years parts, 2 years labor|
|iPod/iPhone compatibility||Yes||No||Not on base console|
|Speaker system||No||No||Not on base console|
|Wireless heart rate||Yes||No||Not on base console|
|Max user weight||300 lbs.||300 lbs.||350 lbs.|
So Which High End Treadmill Brand Should You Choose?
Let me start off by saying that all three of these brands make great treadmills. They’re all gym quality, with durable construction, commercial-grade components and advanced cushioning. So you really can’t go wrong with any of the three, especially when you compare them to many of the lesser brands out there.
That said, there are cases where you might be better served with one brand over the other, and that depends on your wants and needs.
Go with a Matrix treadmill if…
If you want customization, Matrix is going to be your best bet, as every single one of their treadmills can be paired with one of three different consoles. So rather than having to choose a different model to get the better console, you can customize each one. Life Fitness gives you console choices on some models. Precor does not give you console options.
As far as value, Matrix is probably going to be your better choice as well. Looking at the base TF30 treadmill, although it starts at $300 more than the base F1 and TRM 211 from Life Fitness and Precor, respectively, you get a stronger motor, higher speeds, larger display, workout tracking capability, tablet holder, higher maximum weight capacity and more comprehensive warranty. So overall you get a much bigger bang for your buck with Matrix.
Go with a Life Fitness treadmill if…
If you want wireless heart rate monitoring without paying for an upgraded console to get it, go with a Life Fitness, where it’s standard on all of their models.
Also, Life Fitness has the popular Club Series line, which is even more commercial grade than their other treadmills. They are a bit pricier ($5,500+), but if you just want the best of the best, and your budget is open, those are definitely worth considering.
Go with a Life Fitness or Matrix treadmill if…
If you want or need folding capability, you’ll have to go with either Life Fitness or Matrix. Life Fitness has the F1 and the F3, and Matrix has the TF30 and TF50. As we mentioned, none of the Precor treadmills fold up.
Go with a Precor treadmill if…
If you want decline capability in addition to incline, only Precor offers this currently. So one of the Precision Series models from Precor is your only choice for downhill training.
Also, they offer more built in workouts than the others on some of their models, so if you like a ton of variety, those treadmills might be worth considering.
What’s the Bottom Line in the High End Treadmill Market?
The competition between Life Fitness, Precor and Matrix will likely continue to heat up, as all three companies work hard to increase their market share. It seems like Matrix’s jump into the home market has been somewhat of a wake up call for Life Fitness and Precor, as they are finally introducing some new treadmills with better technology, rather than resting on their laurels as they have for so many years.
Time will tell who emerges victorious…or there just may be a place for all three of them in the high end market.