The Treadmill Sensei and company are still very hard at work on this year’s Ichi-Ban Best Buy Awards which we hope (cross your fingers) to post sometime in early October. We are still waiting to find a few more units to test and are sad that some new equipment won’t be shipping until late October after the awards go live. This is one of the most fun parts of doing this website. We sit down with all of the reviews we’ve done (including some that haven’t been posted yet) and compare specs, pricing, positives, negatives, complaints we’ve come across (heard, experienced) and put together the best buy lists. We’re also doing another round of Baka Awards this year for the compaines, people and equipment that was just plain Baka (“stupid”) from this past year. Lots and lots of fun.
However, in all that fun I’ve been neglecting the site just a bit and am going to try my darnedest to get back to posting a new review once a day. Today’s review, for the Horizon T81 treadmill, is one of the more difficult ones. Not because of anything exceptionally good or bad about the treadmill, but because the lower end units are harder to rate and rank. One of the things I had to decided when I started this site was “do I rank budget units in the same manner, and up against, the more expensive units?” or “do I rank budget units only against other units in the same class and price range?” Both modes of thought are valid – budget treadmills (and ellipticals) are ALWAYS going to be less sturdily constructed and with lower cost components than higher end or commercial equipment. There’s no way around that.
2008 Best Buy Award Winner.
What I decided was to rank units against others in their own class. A budget treadmill goes up against a budget treadmill and I give you my opinion on which one is better. What that doesn’t mean is that a 4.5 buddah budget treadmill is better than a 4 or even 3.5 buddah commercial treadmill. You’re comparing apples to oranges at that point and, most of the time, the lower ranked commercial treadmill will blow away the budget one.
With that incredibly long build up to a fairly short review, we received in a batch of equipment we ordered from Horizon Fitness a few weeks ago. In that batch was the new Horizon T81 Treadmill, which replaces the 2006/2007 Horizon T71 Treadmill (check out the T71 Review). Now, a lot of you may be wondering why Horizon seems to come up with new model numbers every year for what is generally the same equipment. I can’t answer that question for Horizon but my guess would be that they are pressured to do so by their big box (Sears, Amazon, etc.) retailers so those retailers have something shiny and new to sell, even if it is basically the same unit.
The Horizon T81 Treadmill is indeed, basically the same unit as last year’s T71, with a few decent upgrades. The main differences (aside from the cosmetic differences in the console and plastic tooling) are in the slightly larger motor in the T81, which clocks in at 2 horsepower this year versus 1.75 in the old Horizon T71. It really isn’t a major change and not one most people will notice.
The other change is in the size of the running area on the Horizon T81. This year the model gets an additional 2 inches tacked on to the sides with a 20″x50″ inch deck. As with the motor, this isn’t something most people will notice.
Overall, the Horizon T81 Treadmill is a very decent budget treadmill for under $600 and should more than meet the needs of anyone looking to do a light work out a few times a week. If you’re working out daily or putting any major mileage on it, I would suggest moving up to a heavier treadmill.
For being a solidly built treadmill for those on a budget, the Treadmill Sensei gives the Horizon T81 Treadmill 4 out of 5 Golden Buddahs.
Another solid budget treadmill for Horizon, the T81 gets 4 gold buddahs.
Horizon T81 Treadmill Specifications
Readouts: Speed, Distance, Time, Calories and Heart Rate
Rollers: approximately 1.75″
Running Area: 20″x50″
Max Speed: 10mph
Max Incline: 10%
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Heart Rate Control: No
Max User Weight: 275lbs
Unit Weight: 175lbs
Price: Under $600