Last Updated: January 9, 2020
The NordicTrack x32i is the Best Overall Treadmill for 2020. This is a premier machine and one of the Best Home Treadmills in 2020. With a whopping 32” inch touchscreen, a -6% decline to 40% incline range, sled push options and a cushioned deck, the x32i is designed with all the features and specs (i.e. bells and whistles) available on a home-based treadmill.
Treadmill Awards: Best Treadmill Overall 2020
The NordicTrack x32i is our best treadmill overall for 2020. In other words, if you asked us what treadmill to buy for any situation and don’t have budget constraints, we would answer to buy the x32i from Nordictrack. We love everything about this treadmill – how it feels when you run, the high quality frame, the amazing 32” touchscreen, the extreme +40 degree incline, the integration with iFit, and more. Bottom line – the x32i won our ‘Best Treadmill’ award because it is the best, top of the line treadmill.
Who It’s For: Serious athletes who want all the features and tech
The x32i is designed for athletes looking for:
- Fierce calorie burn
- Serious incline training
- An iFit subscription with 16,000+ workouts
- Automated incline/decline controls that are as smooth as they are intense
- A high-end machine on a solid frame with all the newest tech
This treadmill caters to athletes who expect a wide range of training options and resistance workouts on a high-tech machine. Built of reinforced steel, the x32i doesn’t fold up — but it’s sleek design and impressive geometry will look good in any home.
- +40% Incline to -6% Decline Range
- A +40% incline is the steepest available on the market. You won’t find another machine that can match this grade. Seriously, you only need to hold that angle for a minute or two before those glutes and hamstrings start to whine. A -6% decline is another impressive feature rarely found on in-home treadmills. When in an iFit program, the incline/decline settings will automatically adjust to follow the class format or terrain. Incline adjustments are smooth on the x32i so there is no instability when the track starts to move. The -6% decline facilitates downhill training or gentle conditioning.
- 32” Smart HD Touchscreen
- The striking full-color 32” touchscreen is the most prominent feature on the x32i and it definitely brings a real-world feel to your training. I was seriously wowed by this screen. These days, users expect both solid construction and high-end tech to provide a cushioned, engaging workout experience. Subscription options have also increased users’ demand for an interactive, real-world feel. Gone are the days when skinny marathoners ran alone for hours on their basement treadmill. The x32i reflects a new generation of exercise equipment — one that makes exercising interesting and exciting.
- A free, 1-year iFit subscription brings over 16,000 workout options right into your home. The generous x32i screen makes you feel like you are part of the class in a studio-based workout — or it brings the world to you as you run along with a trainer on one of the outdoor trails. The graphics on this screen are bright and the size of the screen pulls you into the program, so you never feel isolated or alone when working out at home.
- Another benefit of the 32” screen is that it is easy to see from anywhere in the room. Many iFit classes are combo-sessions, so there is training on the treadmill combined with plyometric or strength training off the treadmill. With the large screen, you can stand to the side or behind the x32i and still easily see and follow the trainer.
- Reflex Cushioning
- NordicTrack’s Reflex Cushioning reduces foot impact by more than 40% when compared to outdoor running. This is a tremendous benefit to the x32i incline trainer! Joint impact and overuse injuries are common in runners as the downward force from each step can be more than double a runner’s weight. The cushioned feel on the x32i is impressive and noticeable. I’ve spent years running on outdoor surfaces — even in the best shoes, concrete and asphalt are hard on your body. The cushioning on the x32i stabilizes your footing while supporting a smooth forward-motion.
- The built-in “Reflex” feature subtly responds to each footstep to enhance comfort and reduce foot fatigue. A composite construction in the deck combined with carefully situated springs provide added flexibility to absorb heel impact while maintaining stability as you push off from the toe.
- 1-Year iFit Membership
- Ultimately the impressive tech on the i32i is designed to showcase the abundant iFit training options. With over 16,000 different workouts to choose from, you can join a trainer-led class working alongside other participants, or follow along on a virtual run as the trainer helps you navigate outdoor trails. Hills, drills, intervals, sprints and steady-state options are all there — along with resistance training off the machine, yoga, stretching, and cross training options. It’s hard to get bored or ever run out of options with iFit.
- 22 x 65” Running Platform
- At 22” wide by 65” long, the x32i running platform is 5” longer than other high-end comparable models which usually max out at 60” in length. The 22” lateral width gives you room to wander without hitting the side foot rails. Because the motor in the x32i is in the rear base of the deck rather than at the front, the elongated 65” inch belt wraps up under the console, so you have more foot room on the front end. This allows users to increase both incline and speed without kicking the hood. The added length is also a must-have for tall runners or those with a long stride.
- 0 – 12mph Speed
- You won’t be able to out-run the x32i. Calibrated to achieve and maintain a peak speed of 12 miles per hour, you’ll be hard pressed to keep up. However, the added speed is useful for sprint drills, interval training and when working a fast downhill. The motor boosts the speed at just the right click so you can keep up but there’s no lag.
- Sled-Push Feature with Push Bar, Sled Grips
- Drop that speed to 1 mph to engage the sled push option. The new 2020 model includes a push bar that sits horizontally at the base of the console. You can also grab the sled grips that extend vertically off the handrail. Either position allows you to lean in as you push the belt along with your feet. (Be prepared for high-intensity, full-body engagement — you’ll be anaerobic in seconds.) For safety, you can only operate the sled push option at 1mph and a 0% incline. Do not try to engage manual mode when the treadmill is off — this can damage the motor and walking platform.
- 4.25 CHP Motor
- The continuous horsepower motor is self-cooling and regulated to handle numerous users and a heavy training schedule. The motor is quiet and situated conveniently at the rear base of the machine to facilitate that steep incline.
- Reinforced Steel Frame
- The x32i reinforces its treadmill structure with added steel components instead of plastic or epoxy covered composite. Handles, side beams and the back of the console are all solid. The x32i weighs just over 400 pounds
- 4.25 CHP DurX™ Commercial Plus Motor
- Reinforced Steel Construction
- 2.5” Precision and Balanced Non-Flex Rollers
- 22” x 65” Commercial Tread Belt
- 76.5” L x 40” W x 73” H Footprint
- 32” Smart HD Touchscreen
- Bluetooth® Audio Capabilities
- Two 3” Digitally Amplified Speakers
- Dual AutoBreeze™ Workout Fans
- Two water bottle pockets behind the touchscreen
- 0 to -6% Decline
- 0 to +40% Incline
- 0 to 12 MPH Speed
- OneTouch® Controls
- Reflex™ Cushioning
- 1-Year NordicTrack iFit® membership
- 50 On-Board Workout Programs
- Bluetooth® Chest Strap Included
- 300 Lb. User Capacity
- 10-Year Frame Warranty
- 2-Year Parts Warranty
- 1-Year Labor Warranty
In-depth Review of the NordicTrack x32i Incline Trainer Treadmill
NordicTrack isn’t shy about the x32i. In a field of quality players, this is a superstar. Built of reinforced steel, the powerful x32i nestles the 4.25 CHP motor under the base of the deck which allows for extended deck length and a steeper incline. The frame is composed of two steel side beams and three cross beams (one at the top, two in the center). A joist at the bottom secures the walking platform to the cross beams which allows the top end to pivot upward when inclined while the base stays stable. Four 3” steel springs, two at the base and two at the midline of the deck, are situated directly under the side rails. These span a gap between the bottom of the platform and the top of the side beams to stabilize the deck while still allowing for necessary travel. The spring system also makes cushioning proportional to the user’s weight — so it is not over-cushioned for a large person and stiff for a lighter runner. The side handrails and sled push bar are all steel as well — an unusual feature on an in-home treadmill. Confident in the quality of this machine, NordicTrack backs up the construction of the x32i with a 10-year frame warranty.
- Reflex Cushioning: This feature reduces foot impact by 40% compared to outdoor surfaces. Joint impact and overuse injuries are common in runners as the downward force from each step can be more than double a runner’s weight. The combination of a solid, sturdy deck cushioned by four 3” springs does two things: first, the springs help reduce impact by absorbing foot shock, thus encouraging a mid-foot strike; second, the composite deck material stabilizes the gait by supporting a solid toe push-off with each step. If a walking platform is too cushioned it will start to feel like you are running through sand — sure, it’s soft, but a lot of energy is lost in that abundant downward-motion. Similarly, with too stiff a surface, you’re back to heavy joint impact. The Reflex system provides needed cushioning with no energy lost in between steps.
- Walking Platform: Part of the reason the x32i can incorporate a lengthy 22 x 65” walking belt has to do with the overall design of the machine. Since the motor is positioned at the base of the platform, there is no need for a large hood or motor cover at the top of the belt. This opens up the available track by several inches. Add a few inches to the side and you have a nice running surface on roughly the same size deck as other machines; the space is just more efficiently used.
- Belt: A treadmill belt is a single piece of material that glides along the top of the deck, over the front and down underneath. Rollers inside the walking platform grab the belt and move it along. The belt surface is what you feel when standing on the treadmill and even with shoes on, the surface of the belt impacts your running experience. If the belt is cheap, loose or floppy, you will both feel and hear it as you run along. The x32i 2-ply belt not only wraps tightly over the top of the deck, it is tucked snugly alongside the side rails to keep it in place so there’s no floppiness. Designed to be sleek and durable, the belt on the x32i rolls evenly underfoot as you run.
- Large 2.5” Rollers: Two rollers flank the underside of the running platform and move the belt along. The larger the roller size, the greater surface area there is to grab and move the belt. At 2.5” the x32i rollers are large enough to provide continuous movement without tension. These rollers also have to be particularly durable because in manual mode, the user engages body strength to push the belt along. If the rollers are loose, unbalanced or delicate, this feature would destroy them after not much use. The combination of a quality belt and large, balanced rollers in the x32i enable a smooth feel regardless of incline.
At 4.25 CHP, the motor in the x32i is powerful yet quiet. Tucked securely under the base of the deck, the motor is responsible for speed and incline adjustments. It needs enough power to pivot the deck upwards while also maintaining speed. I ran on the x32i and manipulated several speed and incline adjustments to see if it could do both at once. While working speed intervals at a 6% grade, I toggled my speed between 6 – 8mph every 30 seconds. Then I added incline intervals to the mix, inclining the deck for one set and declining for the next. The motor performed seamlessly, easily resetting incline and adjusting speed at the same time.
The console in the x32i feels nothing short of opulent. At 32” in size, with clear graphics and a full-color display, I felt like I was strolling casually along the roads of London on my walking tour with guide Duncan Duff.
- This screen means business. Clear enough to rival any HD television screen, the graphics are impressive and the images clear. It’s unusual to find this degree of clarity in a touchscreen; on other machines, there is often a pixelated-quality to the display. The screen also pivots gently up and down so you can adjust it to your visual range. Certainly, the point of the x32i is to bring the iFit programs front and center. These days users are looking for more out of a treadmill than just a moving track to run on at home. The x32i’s screen size and quality graphics combined with engaging iFit routines really make you feel like you are part of a class — or running outdoors anywhere in the world. It overcomes the monotony and isolation of exercising at home.
- Visually the console is clean and easy to navigate. Quick speed controls on the right and incline controls on the left are easy to reach. I found it a plus that there is a button for every speed — some treadmills skip two by two, which is kind of annoying. Speed and incline can also be adjusted below the screen with and +,- buttons.
- Dual 3” fans are nestled just below the screen. With four power options you can find the right amount of air flow. It didn’t take me long to turn the fans on — and then up. They are very useful when working hard indoors. No need to adjust the thermostat or buy an extra standing fan, these dual fans provided plenty of breeze during my run. Noise output from the fans wasn’t noticeably intrusive. Even at full speed, I didn’t have to adjust the speaker volume to hear the trainer.
- Two deep pockets sit just behind the screen at the back of the console. While they are hidden behind the screen, reaching for a water bottle is no big deal. It was actually nice to just focus on the program and not be distracted by a vibrating water bottle while running. These pockets are plenty deep to hold any bottle, keys, wallet, phone, etc.
- The screen pivots up and down, leaving a lip just below the screen that is wide enough to hold a phone or tablet. Although there isn’t a separate tablet holder, you don’t need one. The lip is plenty wide — it should hold devices of any size securely so they don’t fall off while running. Because the screen is so large, you can place a personal device here and not block the screen.
With all the bells and whistles, the x32i is designed to impress. We put it to the test with several performance challenges.
- The x32i is the best treadmill on the market when compared with other consumer models. The tech is engaging, the running platform supple and cushioned, and all the extras work together to make your workout experience seamless and smooth.
Incline / Decline range
- A valid question posed by one of my colleagues is: Why does anyone need a 40% incline? When lifted to its highest point, the angle on the walking platform is steep. While it is true that most of us don’t spend hours running the vertical hills in San Francisco, incorporating hill training is a valuable component in any conditioning regimen.
- For starters, working a grade enhances calorie burn significantly. A study by NordicTrack found that a 200-lb person walking at 2mph for 20 minutes burned 63 calories at a -6% incline, 157 calories at a 10% incline, 321 calories at a 30% incline, and 381 calories at a 40% incline. Which means even if you hold the same pace, just increasing the incline can produce five times as much calorie burn in the same amount of time.
- Incline training engages glutes and hamstrings to offset quad dominance. Runners, cyclists and triathletes all struggle with quad dominance due to so much exercise being conducted in the sagittal plane — meaning all movement is forward. This puts excessive demands on the quad muscles at the front of the leg to propel the body forward. Antagonist muscles in the glutes and hamstrings need to be equally strengthened to counteract this chronic quad engagement. By working an incline, you activate and strengthen the glutes and hamstrings which helps balance the anterior to posterior tension ratio.
- A variable incline and decline range also provides lots of training combinations. You can work pyramid drills, do inverted speed sets, combine a superset of speed + incline, or just run some rolling hills. Following the iFit workouts helps easily incorporate incline variables as the trainers’ routines naturally adjust the incline for you so you don’t have to overthink it. No one really expects you to get on the treadmill and run for an hour at a 40% grade — although, hats off to you if you can — it’s the variability and muscle engagement that makes this such a valuable feature.
- Adjustments to incline and decline are steady and even. When moving from a 6% to 20% grade, the incline ramped up nice and steady, so I never needed to grab the handlebars to keep my balance while it adjusted. The motor under the deck pivots the walking platform up and down. It is powerful enough to do this while a 300lb person is running on top. Whether I adjusted the incline myself, or engaged the automated system in iFit, I found the adjustments to be smooth. Just out of curiosity, I set the incline to the full 40% and it took just over one minute to fully descend to 0% grade.
- The 50 onboard workouts provide added variability in your training options. The simplest programs are basic fat burn, interval training, hill training, or speed workouts. Just select and go. You also have the option of choosing a number of outdoor routes with actual pictures of the landscape. Using GoogleMap images, the screen updates the image every 10 seconds or so as you run along. You can also upload any GoogleMap location if you have a specific route you want to train.
- These are great when the baby (or neighbor) is asleep and you want to run in quiet mode. With no accompanying audio, these programs free you up to listen to your favorite playlist or podcast on headphones without creating external noise. You can also run a Netflix program on your tablet and the treadmill will keep track of your pace, time, distance, calories, etc. so you know your stats at the end.
Subscription Options: iFit
The x32i is designed to showcase NordicTrack’s iFit database — and it is impressive. No expense was spared creating or filming the 16,000+ programs. Be advised, you need WiFi to run iFit programs. When you first set up your treadmill, the screen will prompt you to log in and connect to your personal network. It will then automatically reconnect whenever you turn on the machine. Without WiFi you will not be able to run iFit.
- Lots of training options: In order to fully appreciate iFit, I created an account and logged in to peruse all the classes and options. Workouts are categorized by: Most Popular, Beginner Incline Series, Quick Sweat Series, London Walking Series (yes please!) and many more. You can also hit “Browse” to toggle through all the options, which are ranked by user rating.
- Classes: Personal trainer-led classes filmed in a studio are one of the more popular options. Both male and female trainers are featured with a wide variety of teaching styles and motivational techniques. While the camera features the trainer prominently, shots that pan around the room show other participants and you can tell the class was filmed live with people actively working alongside you.
- Outdoor Routes: The live film routes allow you to wander through the French countryside; navigate the red mountains of Sedonia, Arizona; traverse the Tetons, and even scale a rather precipitous single-track trail in Alaska — all while following a trainer who somehow manages to run, talk, and breathe at the same time. I assume these are filmed via drone because the video is smooth, there’s no jumping or jarring from a running cameraman. The trainer will point out geologic or architectural features (depending on your route) as you go along. They also notify you before incline and decline adjustments so you know what to expect. All routes list the total distance, anticipated calories burned (this will vary if you go faster/slower or adjust your incline), and total time.
- There are lots of walking options. The classes are not just for runners! One of my favorite routes so far was a walking tour I did of downtown London. I love all things London, and guided by the delightfully British Duncan Duff, we held a quick 3mph pace as we briskly navigated the cobblestone streets. Filmed live, there are cars, hackneys, and Londoners crossing back and forth as you walk along, which really brings the feel of London (and it’s millions of tourists) right to the screen (but, thankfully, not into your house for tea!)
- Cross-Training, Strength Training, Yoga: Some of the more challenging workouts incorporate exercises both on and off the treadmill. You can choose a class that combines a little bit of interval running with weight training off the treadmill — or select a stretching option that has you work and then stretch certain muscles. These programs bring that added level of variability so you get a well rounded workout without having the added cost of a gym membership.
- When running a fast pace: I began running at 3mph, and then increased to 6mph and finally 8mph, all for a minute each. I shut off all other noise from the treadmill (no speakers, no fan) and listened for the noise difference between running speeds. The typical “thudding” sound from foot impact is noticeably lighter on the Incline Treadmills than the Commercial Line, probably because the additional cushioning in the deck reduces impact volume. While there is increased rhythm at a high speed because foot cadence is increased, I didn’t notice a significant difference in overall noise even when running fast.
- Running with the fan on high: Turning on the fan does create more noise, but because the fan is tucked in the console, people sitting to the side of me couldn’t differentiate between when the fan was on low or high. They only noticed the slight motor sound as the fan ran.
- Running with speakers at full volume: The speakers make noise commiserate with the volume selected. These are nice speakers and they create a clear sound. However, if you are running hard, with the fan on, listening to the speakers at a good volume, it’s going to be noticeable to those around you. This isn’t a negative feature — poor speaker quality would inhibit your overall experience. These speakers are similar to any TV speaker in a room, so just plan accordingly.
- Difference in impact noise at incline/decline: There is a greater impact noise created at a low incline than when the platform is raised, probably due to the distance of foot travel. As a safety feature, when you increase the incline above 15.5% the treadmill limits your speed so you can’t hurt yourself or the motor.
Storage / Folding
Like most Incline Trainers, the x32i doesn’t fold up. However, it does have wheels at the front so you can move it gently when needed. Increase the incline to the full 40% and then once the motor has set the grade, turn off and unplug the machine to move it.
Items of Note
The only really important thing to consider with the x32i is the size of the machine. It is built to be sturdy and stable. The reinforced steel frame makes it heavy. In the owner’s manual it says two or three people are required to safely move it. Be aware that you will need a dedicated space to get full use out of the treadmill. When sitting flat at a 0% incline, the top of the walking platform is 15” off the floor. At a full 40% incline, the front of the platform is 34” off the ground. This means that you need a minimum of three feet overhead clearance. If you are a tall person, or you plan to put your incline trainer in a basement or small room, make sure to measure first so you know what space is available.