In today's day and age - the treadmill is practically a staple in just about each and every home gym around the globe. And when it comes to feature-rich affordable treadmills, Sole and Bowflex are two of the best-known brands that have consistently distinguished themselves in the category, they make great treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, etc.
Both models make an absolutely fantastic case for themselves, and picking out the one that would finally deserve the honor of taking its placein my home's backyard gym was definitely a challenge given how closely matched these treadmills may seem upfront.
We'll get up close and personal with each treadmill, explore their in-depth details, and see how they stack up to one another - all to figure out which treadmill is going to be the absolute best fit for you and your needs.
Let's get started!
A Quick Overview Of Both Treadmills
Keep reading to get an introduction to each model, as well as an overview of their key features, pros/cons, and the main differences between the two.
If you're after reliability, top-notch tech, incline treadmill and a good helping of ergonomic feature comforts on a very modest budget - the Sole F63 is a true gem that you should keep on your radar.
Coming in as the affordable headliner of Sole's already all-too-popular series of treadmills, the F63 might just be the cheapest and best-packaged folding treadmill on the market today.
From an industrial-grade frame to the reliable 3.0 CHP motor, a comfortable 60" track, and a challenging 12 MPH (19.31 km/h) top speed - this treadmill boasts a lot of good stuff right out of the gate.
And when you tack on Sole's refined CushionFlex shock absorption deck, an ample media tray, a seamless array of connectivity features, and loads of technical bits and bobs, you've got quite the treadmill on your hands, all at a very comfortable price point too - something you'll definitely love if you are on the hunt for an affordable cardio machine.
What I Like
To help you get a better idea of why the Sole F63 made it onto my radar as one of the best affordable treadmills in 2020, I've put together a quick overview of it's best features.
Here's what the F63 has got to offer:
- Industrial-grade build quality, without sacrificing the portability of its clever folding frame.
- Powerful and reliable 3.0 CHP motor that powers one of the best incline systems on the market, offering up to a 15% user-controlled incline for a serious butt-toning dose of cardio after other workouts.
- Roomy 20" by 60" running track that comes with Sole's CushionFlex shock absorption deck built-in.
- Seamless wireless telemetry and a wealth of BlueTooth connectivity options with apps like Fitbit, Apple Health, Google Fit, SOLE Fitness, MyFitnessPal, and many more.
- 10 pre-programmed workouts to help you stay in shape and push the envelope when it comes to your fitness goals and is actually a great way to measure your fitness level at the start.
- Lots of creature comforts like built-in fans and speakers, dual bottle holders, a roomy media deck, charging ports, and more.
- Generous maximum weight capacity of 325-lbs, making this treadmill a great fit for a fairly diverse crowd of fitness enthusiasts.
The Potential Drawbacks
While the Sole F63 is undoubtedly a great treadmill, it still has its fair share of potential cons. Here are some of my biggest pet peeves with the Sole F63, all borne out of living with it for just over a year.
Some things the F63 could improve on:
- No Interactive Training - the tech behind the Sole F63, is a little old-school compared to some of the treadmills we've seen hit the market in 2020. As such, you shouldn't expect to be following along with any sort of interactive classes or workouts that have your treadmill hook up to an app of some sort.
- Odd Handhold Length - the handholds on each side of the treadmill are very oddly sized. They're far too short for anyone to reach unless you're running practically hunched over the console. Though, the sensor grips coming out of the center are pretty comfortable where they're at for both me and my wife.
- Slow Acceleration - in comparison with many other models on the market, the Sole F63 feels like the gears turn a tad slower than you'd expect. I don't think that it's a major turnoff for most folks, but it may take some getting used to if you're coming from another treadmill.
Let's face it - the folks over at Bowflex (and their parent company, Nautilus) have always been known for putting out some seriously cool fitness equipment.
Well, their budget-friendly BXT6 treadmill isn't an exception to that rep. This awesome foldable treadmill is perfectly geared for professional athletes and novices alike, who want to take their running indoors without sacrificing the comfort, effectiveness, and safety of their exercise. Average people who want to exercise and increase their metabolism in order to get rid of belly fat or lose weight in general will love this treadmill.
Building around a powerful and reliable 3.0 CHP motor, the BXT6 packs a 15-degree incline-enabled cushioned deck along with a maximum speed of 12 MPH to give just about anyone a serious workout. Throw in the telemetry, BlueTooth connectivity with apps like JRNY and the Bowflex fitness suite, as well as a good handful of creature comforts and you've got yourself a very nice treadmill that can go toe-to-toe with high-end competition on a total budget.
What Are The Differences From The Sole F63?
To help you get a better feel for what sets the Bowflex BXT6 and Sole F63 apart, I've looked over the general design, the tech, and the overall usability/experience to pick out the three most notable areas where the treadmills diverge notably.
Keep reading to get a better feel for the differences between these treadmills, and see whether or not either one of them might be a close fit for what you're after.
Where Sole F63 seeks to offer an ample amount of creature comforts to the runner, the Bowflex trades away a good deal of them in favor of added connectivity features.
The Sole F63 offers a good deal of BlueTooth connectivity allowing you to peruse some apps, follow along with live guided workouts, and check out Sole Fitness' extensive library of programs.
Now, while none of those account for interactive training (as the treadmill itself doesn't hook up with any apps over open standards), it's a great start!
On the other hand, the BXT6 is marketed as offering an interactive experience through the Bowflex fitness suite.
However, the whole premise doesn't quite hold up!
In reality, with the BXT6, you'll find yourself following along at your own pace with voice-guided workouts that have some degree of customizability, through the JRNY app. Of course, this is still pretty darn cool - but it's a far shot from being "interactive" in the true sense of the word.
Wonky Operational Design
As much as I love Bowflex and their occasional "crazy but it works" engineering - some of the things they've packed into the BXT6 just don't make any sense.
For example, the speed increases by 3 points, rather than going a single step up. Or the fact that the built-in workout fan is quite literally "cemented in" with no option to adjust it directionally or otherwise.
Note: Some of these were remedied down the line, however, not until the BXT216 (now called Bowflex Treadmill 11), which costs a pretty penny over the base-line BXT6.
Sole F63 VS. Bowflex BXT6 - Which Treadmill Is The Better Buy?
Now that we know all there is to know about the F63 and the BXT6, let's get back to the question at hand - how do both of these treadmills really stack up against one another?
To give you a better idea of which treadmill might be the right pick for you, I've gone ahead and broken down the comparison across some of the most common questions that people ask when choosing between two treadmills. This will help you identify a clear winner in each case, as well as the model that might suit your needs best.
Which Treadmill Is Built Better?
While I've never had much of an issue with the way Bowflex and Nautilus have built their products, I seriously have to hand this one to the Sole F63.
It kinda comes down to how long you intend to run on your treadmill, but both treadmills employ industrial steel for the frame to provide a durable and longevity base for the entire unit. However, the real difference lies in the materials used in the finishing details.
Sole put a lot more care in using materials that feel more durable and are much nicer to the touch with the F63 than Bowflex did with the BXT6. And while it may sound like a relatively minor difference, it's something that seriously starts to pop out at you a few months into your ownership experience.
Which Model Offers More Features?
At the end of the day, both the F63 and the BXT6 are relatively comparable in terms of their key offerings. However, the BXT6 does let go of a few staple creature comforts in favor of what they market as "interactive" features and putting a definite accent on the portability of this treadmill.
But as I noted earlier on, there's no real interactivity to be found. What they actually mean here is the voice-guided workouts you can follow along to via the JRNY app.
Which, don't get me wrong, the JRNY workouts offered with the BXT6 are pretty darn cool - but you can do the same (and way more) if you hook up your phone or tablet to the F63 via BlueTooth. All without losing the wealth of creature comforts you could be enjoying.
So, in terms of the best feature offering - the crown undeniably goes to the Sole F63.
Comparing The Workout Programs
In terms of workout programs, both treadmills boast some stellar BlueTooth connectivity features. On one hand, you've got the Sole Fitness app with the F63. This app allows you to use practically any compatible smart device as an auxiliary console or controller while giving you the option to mess around with some of the coolest fitness apps on the web.
And then, on the other hand, the BXT6 comes with the Bowflex suite as well as the JRNY app which together offer some of the coolest on and off the treadmill fitness experiences.
However, seeing as the BXT6 never actually integrates with either app to provide truly interactive training, I'd have to hand it to Sole (even though I like Bowflex's fitness suite way more) just because it's a far more focused experience that caters far more to the equipment you're using while still allowing you the freedom to explore the global app marketplace.
Public Sentiment & Reviews
With thousands of public reviews online, the Sole F63 enjoys a 4.5-star rating, which is pretty fantastic, given that most comparable treadmills average between 3.5 and 4 stars.
On the other hand, the Bowflex BXT6 was surprisingly challenging to dig up any reviews for. There are some sparse occasional blurbs of feedback published on sporting websites and the odd forum-thread-turned-rant, but not much else aside from that.
That's very surprising given how big of a brand Bowflex is. But combined with the fact that they've pulled the base-line BXT6 from their lineup in favor of the BXT116 and BXT226, I can only imagine there's a good reason there's so little word on the base-line model out there.
How Do They Compare In Terms Of Price?
At the time of writing, the Bowflex BXT6 is roughly $140 cheaper than the Sole F63. However, those 14% in savings are actually not all too justified by my books.
That's because you're going to be losing out on some very major creature comforts, as well as the smoother and more consistent experience that you'd find with the F63 - while still offering one heck of a workout that is sure to build your quads and other major muscles, especially for those running for weight gain. All in all, I would personally rate the Sole F63 as having the better "bang for your buck" offering here.
What About The Warranty Options?
One of the things that I seriously respect about Sole is the fact that they'll stop at practically nothing when it comes to backing the products they put out.
For the F63 treadmill, Sole offers lifetime coverage on both the frame and the motor (which is practically unheard of across the industry these days). This is also coupled with 3 years on parts and electronics, as well as a year on labor.
On the other side of the ring, when it comes to the coverage behind the BXT6 - we've got a somewhat different picture. The frame itself is backed by a 10-year policy. However, the motor, along with other electronics, and major parts is only covered for 3 years, with another single year of coverage applied towards labor.
As such, the F63 is the clear winner when it comes to warranty coverage!
Which Treadmill Fits Small Spaces Better?
The Sole F63 runs 82" long, 35" wide, and roughly 57" in height. On the other hand, the BXT6 is 78.2" in length, 35.6" wide and just over 55" high (55.1" to be precise).
In short, the F63 is actually a little longer and taller than its Bowflex counterpart. But, here's the kicker - both treadmills are foldable, which makes the fit-wise difference between them pretty minute if even relevant, to begin with.
So, unless you're exactly 4" of floorspace short, either treadmill should do a stellar job at fitting well in practically any sort of modern dwelling or home gym setup that you can dream up. And thus, it's a tie for both models in this category. Among other similar space saving exercise machines that are as great for tight spaces as these two is the nordictrack space saver treadmill, the stamina inmotion elliptical, and those folding exercise bikes with a comfy backrest to mention just a few.
Ease Of Setup
Most owner reviews actually pointed out that the Bowflex BXT6 is an absolute nightmare to assemble solo. You should seriously consider involving a friend and booking off close to an hour to get the entire job done if it's your first rodeo.
By comparison, the Sole F63 takes roughly half the time to get up and running, all thanks to their super clear instructional videos that come shipped with the treadmill in order to make the assembly a tad less painful for the average user.
Which Treadmill Should You Get - My Recommendation
Now that we've taken the time to get to know each of the treadmills, including their ins and outs, their key features, pros/cons, and even how well they stack up across key areas - let's answer the underlying question at hand.
Which one should you go out and get for yourself?
After all my research and experience with both models, I personally opted for the Sole F63, and I strongly recommend that you do the same!
This is due to the fact that the F63 poses a far superior feature offering, better tech, and way more reliability, backed by a far more consistent warranty policy. And that's not to mention the fact that Bowflex hasn't been keeping up with demand on the BXT6, meaning you'll likely have to get yours with a huge margin over top of the original price tag.
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