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How to Pick the Perfect Console

24 Oct, 2022 | 5 minutes read

Buying fitness equipment is a big decision. It's a major purchase with many options to consider. There are a lot of decisions to make when evaluating the best equipment purchase for your family. What type of equipment do you need — a treadmill, bike, elliptical, or what about a ClimbMill? Which frame features are most important to you? Do you want incline on your elliptical? And how important are instant resistance adjustments to you?

In addition to deciding which equipment type and which model is right for you, with Matrix you also have the opportunity to pick the console that best fits your needs. With four consoles to choose from and a wide range of cutting-edge technology options, this can be a hard decision to make. We're here to help! In this article, we'll explain all the options, outline the pros and cons, and highlight some features and benefits you may not have considered.

Pro Shopping Tip: Download this convenient Quick Console Comparison Guide. As you read through the details below, note the features important to your family.

group of consoles on gray background

Introducing the Console Options

With four consoles ranging in price, features, and size, you're sure to find an option that fits your needs and your budget. Keep it simple with an LCD console (XR) or step up to a touchscreen console for a wide variety of endless entertainment options, training programs, and advanced Bluetooth (XER, XIR, XUR).

LCD console on gray background

XR Console

The XR console features a clean, bright 8.5" / 21.6 cm LCD display that makes it easy for you to check your workout data at a glance. This is the most basic option but also the most budget friendly.

The LCD display features white text on a blue background to make it easy to read workout data in all light conditions. As with all four of the consoles, it includes a reading rack for your phone, tablet, or reading materials.

This console includes Bluetooth FTMS to connect to third party apps. It also includes a Bluetooth heart rate receiver compatible with most Bluetooth chest straps available for purchase.

This console features a USB input for software updates. Simply download the software update file to a USB drive and install it manually into the console.

The XR console includes five built-in workout programs. All equipment types except the ClimbMill include Sprint 8, a sprint intensity training protocol that burns fat and builds muscle in short 20-minute workouts. However, this console provides a basic Sprint 8 display, which is very different experience from the touchscreen console experience, and it doesn't include the Sweat Score rating for tracking progress.

 Pros:

  • Just the basics, making it simple to just get on and go
  • Most budget-friendly console option
  • Available on all Matrix home cardio products
  • Does not require WiFi
  • Includes Bluetooth FTMS and CSCS to connect easily to third party training apps on your mobile device
  • No need to worry about technology lifespan (i.e. some third party apps stop supporting operating systems after a few years)

Cons:

  • Buttons require more pressure to engage compared to a capacitive touchscreen
  • No built-in entertainment apps, immersive programs, HDMI to stream content, etc
  • No custom workout option to create and save your own workouts
  • Sprint 8 program is very basic and does not include Sweat Score
  • No connection to ViaFit workout tracking
  • Bluetooth heart rate strap not included
  • Not capable of automatic software updates

group of touchscreen consoles on gray background

Touchscreen Console Characteristics

With a variety of entertainment, training apps, and programs at the touch of a button, the Matrix touchscreen consoles offer more options than any other home fitness equipment being sold today. And unlike many other popular smart fitness brands, with Matrix, subscriptions are not required. If you're into apps, you can choose the subscriptions you want to invest in or already have. If that's not your thing, there are plenty of other great programs and features to motivate you to move.

The three touchscreen console options (XER, XIR, XUR) vary in size and some features, but the following key characteristics are core to all three.

Touchscreen Technology

Capacitive touchscreens for quick, precise button taps and swipes will feel similar to your tablets and mobile phones.

Entertainment Apps

Work out the way that motivates you with your favorite content. Built-in apps include entertainment apps like Netflix, Youtube, and Spotify, plus social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Play card games with Solitaire Suite, check the forecast with the Weather app, read your digital publications and books with PressReader and Kindle Reader (Kindle Reader not available on XER), or look up whatever you'd like with the Web Browser. Embedded apps have been modified for ideal functionality when exercising on fitness equipment.

iFIT

If you're looking for a fun, instructor-led workout experience, Matrix with iFIT® interactive training on the touchscreen consoles is perfect for you. You'll get access to live studio classes and global workouts, all led by inspiring trainers. You can take on multi-week challenges and earn badges for a little extra motivation. Or use the Google Maps Street View feature to draw a route anywhere in the world and your equipment will adjust to the terrain. A trial membership is included, so you can try iFIT for a month before committing to a subscription.

Sprint 8

Sprint 8® is the scientifically validated sprint-intensity interval training program that burns fat and builds muscle in short, 20-minute workouts. On the touchscreen console, you have the option to turn on video or audio of the Sprint 8 inventor, Coach Phil Campbell, coaching you through the workout. It's a popular program around the world for a reason. People love that they'll work up a sweat and push themselves harder than ever. You'll train with intensity, but it's a quick workout and the results are worth it. It is an interactive program for hands-free training.

Virtual Active

With Virtual Active™, you can experience immersive workouts all over the globe with high-definition destination footage synced to the speed of your workout, and incline or resistance changes to match the terrain. All touchscreen consoles include two Virtual Active courses. Additional courses are available to purchase. 

ViaFit

ViaFit™ connectivity system makes it virtually effortless to send workout data via WiFi from the touchscreen consoles to the fitness apps you use for workout tracking.

Built-in Workout Programs

All touchscreen consoles include a variety of metric-driven cardio programs to target different goals. The XER includes 12 programs, and the XIR and XUR each include 13. With the Custom Workout program, you can create your own custom interval workouts. And with Recent Workouts, you can repeat workouts automatically saved in your workout calendar.

Advanced Bluetooth

With Bluetooth FTMS as well as CSCS, sync your smart equipment to your favorite third party training apps like Zwift, Kinomap, Wahoo, Studio, and Peloton (Peloton app syncs with bikes only). Plus, you can connect a Bluetooth heart rate monitor (your own or the included chest strap) and Bluetooth headphones.

My Media

With My Media, you can connect a device to the USB port and play your audio or video files through any of the touchscreen consoles and listen through the integrated speakers. Supported devices include USB flash drives (up to 16 GB), Window phones/tablets and Android phones/tablets. The USB port can also be used to charge a mobile device on the 50 and 75 Series products, which comes in handy when you're in the middle of a workout and the phone you're streaming content from is running low on battery. 

Those are some pretty compelling features! With all that smart technology included in all three touchscreens, you may be a bit overwhelmed. So, let's get into the nuances of each touchscreen console to help you understand the key differences.

10" touchscreen console

XER Console

The XER console includes a clear 10" / 25.4 cm class touchscreen display (console screen measurements are taken diagonally). At 1024x600 pixels, it is considered a standard definition screen. This is the entry-level touchscreen console option, featuring the same intuitive home screen and user interface design that offers easy to access entertainment apps, workout programs, etc. This console is the least expensive of the touchscreen console options.

The XER offers almost all of the same features as the larger screen options, but due to the smaller screen size, everything on the screen is reduced in size, including the button sizes. This is important to consider as your finger touch target area will be smaller, which can make frequent touches on the console during a workout more difficult.

Pros:

  • As the most budget-friendly touchscreen option, it's a great value
  • Includes entertainment apps, built-in interactive programs like Virtual Active and Sprint 8, Custom Workout, Recent Exercises workout calendar, Return to Last interval buttons
  • Includes Bluetooth heart rate chest strap
  • Includes integrated 3-watt speakers
  • Provides Bluetooth connectivity to your Bluetooth headphones and heart rate straps
  • Includes Bluetooth FTMS and CSCS to connect easily to third party training apps on your mobile device
  • Connects to ViaFit workout tracking network to save and access workout data
  • Automatic software updates via WiFi

Cons:

  • Not a high-definition display
  • Smaller screen can be harder to read and harder to navigate when moving
  • Weaker speakers
  • Does not include Kindle Reader app
  • More expensive than XR console, but it is a great value with all that is included
  • Does not have an HDMI port for connecting and mirroring content from your mobile device or streaming media player
  • Requires WiFi connection to download software updates and use apps (this isn't an issue unless your home does not have WiFi or you have a poor WiFi connection)

16" touchscreen console on gray background

XIR Console

The 16" / 40.6 cm console features a brilliant 1080p (1920x1080 pixels) high-definition touchscreen display to bring your virtual journeys, movies, and videos to life. Until the 22" XUR console was recently brought to market, the XIR was the largest touchscreen console in the lineup and has been a very popular console.

It's a fan favorite for a reason. The larger screen size makes navigating on the console much easier when compared to the XER console. The bright, high-def display is crisp and clear in all lighting conditions, ideal for watching shows, or reading digital content. The powerful 5-watt speakers immerse you in the entertainment that moves you and won't get drowned out by footfalls on the treadmill or ambient sounds around you. 

The HDMI port on the XIR and XUR consoles is a gamechanger. If there's an app you love but it's not an app embedded on the console, no problem. Now you can connect your phone, tablet, or streaming media player to the console and mirror or stream your favorite app onto the console screen while keeping tabs on your workout data. With HDMI, your entertainment options are endless.

Pros:

  • All of the pros listed under the XER console (minus the budget point)
  • Bright high-definition display
  • Great display quality in all lighting conditions
  • Larger screen makes it easier to navigate and view content
  • HDMI port for connecting and mirroring or streaming your own apps and content from your phone, tablet, or media player
  • More powerful speakers (5-watts), compared to XER console (3-watts)

Cons:

  • More expensive than the XR and XER consoles

22" console on gray background

XUR Console

The all-new, premium 22" / 55.9 cm console offers the largest high-definition touchscreen to create a truly immersive exercise experience. The features on the XUR console are exactly the same as the XIR. But moving up from a 16" to a 22" screen makes all the difference when it comes to creating a cinematic workout experience. Whether you're watching a movie, running up a mountain trail, or cycling to a studio class workout, you'll feel like you're there with the XUR console. 

Pros:

  • All pros listed under the XER and XIR (minus the budget points)
  • Extra-large bright display offers an unparalleled touchscreen experience

Cons:

  • Most expensive option
  • The XUR console is not compatible with the 30 series products, so if you're dead set on a T30 or TF30 Treadmill, U30 or R30 bike, or an E30 or A30 elliptical, the XIR console is the largest touchscreen option available to you

    all consoles on white background

    How Do You Pick?

    So now that you know the pros and cons of each console option, how do you decide? Below are some unique thoughts to consider when making your console selection. By asking yourself a few questions and envisioning the future, we hope that your answers will point you towards the best console for you. 

    woman riding a cycle with a large touchscreen

    Visualize the Best Workout of Your Life

    Start by visualizing the future. Not just any day in the future, but your ideal workout day. Imagine you've been exercising regularly on your new cardio equipment for several weeks. You are in a workout groove. Every day you can't wait to hop on your equipment and get your heart pumping. After a short warm-up, you start to move into the heart of your workout. You're working hard, you're sweating, it's challenging but you feel fantastic. Nothing else matters right now. Your stress of the day is gone. You're not distracted by anything. You're in a state of flow.

    When you picture yourself in the flow, what are you doing? Are you following an inspiring instructor while streaming a studio class workout? Are you watching a show? Reading a book? Listening to music? Or are you watching the TV in your workout room? What type of workout are you doing? Is it a steady-state workout or a heart-pumping interval workout? Or is it a virtual destination workout synced to the equipment that gets you most excited to move?

    treadmill in a livingroom

    Design Your Workout Space

    The location of your cardio equipment can play a big part in making your console decision. Will your equipment be in an area in your house that has a strong WiFi connection? This would be important for a touchscreen console. Is the area dimly lit? A low-light room may steer you away from an XER console, which is not as bright as the other choices.

    Will it be tucked away in a corner or set up right in front of a TV? If you have room for equipment right in front of a TV, you might not be interested in a touchscreen. Although, even if you're not planning to use the entertainment features, there are still plenty of other important features on the touchscreen consoles only (see Don't Rule Out a Touchscreen Console below).

    man sitting on the staircase looking at his phone

    Assess Your Interest in Technology

    What type of tech user are you: early adopter (always trying new tech); follower (most of us); or luddite (still without a cell phone)? What apps do you use? Do you use a fitness tracker or fitness apps? Do you watch streaming content on a smart TV, tablet, or phone? When you read, is it on a tablet or paper?

    Your answers to these questions may help point you in the direction of the console that's right for you. 

    woman on an elliptical

    Don't Rule Out a Touchscreen Right Away!

    After answering these questions, you may be thinking a basic LCD console is all you need. Maybe you're one of those people that just hits the "go" button and doesn't like to be distracted with watching anything because it's your time to clear your head.

    Don't rule a touchscreen out right away! Even for the technology inept or for those that don't care about the entertainment features, there are some important components on the touchscreens that have nothing to do with entertainment.

    simple touchscreen

    For those that want to keep it simple, the Simple screen on the touchscreens is a wonderful option. The display shows three workout metrics at a time. You can select the metrics you care to see. With extra-large numbers and letters, it is very easy to read. 

    track screen on console

    The Track screen on the touchscreens is a simple visual that makes it easy to watch your distance progress around a virtual 400-meter track. Use the Split button if you really want to track your split times around the track.

    custom workout on console

    The Custom Workout program is only available on the touchscreens and it's fantastic. You can create your own interval workouts by building the time and speed or resistance for each segment. Save up to 100 custom workouts to your profile for future training sessions.

    recent workout on console

    The Recent Workout feature allows you to review past workouts up to one year ago. Plus, you can select a past workout to quickly repeat it. So, if you like to follow a training program schedule and repeat specific workouts like a speed interval workout, tempo workout, or endurance workout set to your pace and goals, this is the feature for you!

    console safety PIN option

    If you have young children or pets in your household, equipment safety is important. The touchscreen consoles have an optional safety PIN feature to unlock the console. After the workout, you'll have peace of mind knowing your treadmill belt or ClimbMill stairs are locked. 

    The Last Interval buttons on the touchscreen consoles allow you to adjust speed, resistance, or incline by hitting the last interval number to jump back with one touch. For example, you could be running at eight mph for one minute, then hit the button to jump back to six mph for five minutes immediately. It's much easier and quicker than constantly pushing a button up or down and perfect for interval training.

    Don't forget about the difference between downloading software updates. Even LCD consoles need software updates periodically. With the XR console, you'll need to download the update manually to a formatted USB and upload the file through the internal USB port. With the touchscreen consoles, as long as you're connected to WiFi, software updates are automatic at the touch of a button.

    woman standing on a treadmill with a large screen

    Time to Pick

    Now that you've learned about the difference between the consoles, you've weighed the pros and cons and you've thought about which choice is best for you and your family, it's time to choose. 

    So, what will it be — an XR, XER, XIR, or XUR console? With the latest in smart fitness technology on all four Matrix consoles, you really can't go wrong!

    ____________________________________________________________

    About the Author

    Barbara Jahncke, Senior Global Marketing Manager- Retail, USA

    headshot of woman smiling

    Barbara has been a marketing manager with Matrix since 2015. She leads brand strategy for the Matrix home product line. When she's not working on marketing projects at the office, you'll find her testing products or participating in lunch hour fitness classes and group bike rides. With a T70 XIR treadmill at home, her favorite workout setup includes binge-watching Netflix while running on Zwift. Matrix multitasking at its finest! In her spare time, Barbara enjoys training for and competing in triathlons and watching her children's sporting events.

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