Review of our Life Fitness Platinum Club Series bike with Discover SE3 HD Console

We recently purchased our first home exercise bike. While I’m glad we have a bike now, I regret buying this bike in particular. I expect I’d be getting comparable (daily) use from a bike that costs one tenth the price. I would feel very differently if the bike had been designed as I had anticipated based on wonderful experiences using the prior version (SE console) at our community gym. Our new bike (esp. the console) was designed without the home user in mind and is missing the features from the prior version (SE console) which I had most enjoyed. It also has an unmutable beep which defeats our purpose in choosing an exercise bike as equipment that can be used quietly while family members are sleeping.

The major selling point of this bike is the console, and the most advertised feature (e.g. on the LifeFitness website) is Apple Watch compatibility. This works well for logging purposes, but they’ve somehow made the design decision that using the Apple Watch automatically means you can’t get calories to display on the screen while watching a video fullscreen. Other metrics show up, but total calories burned (which is a major goal I like to track throughout a workout) can only be viewed by looking at the watch on your wrist. That is, unless you don’t use the Apple Watch, in which case calories show up on the screen just fine.

Another expectation one would have for a bike which is advertised for its big screen is the ability to easily watch videos. One needs to log in (e.g. to Netflix) each time one starts a workout. You have to keep cycling to avoid the workout ending prematurely and, while cycling, have to enter your username and password on the touchscreen each time. This is an entirely avoidable and quite annoying barrier to starting a workout with the entertainment they advertise. This might make sense in a shared gym environment, but this bike model is only for home users. They are using the same console for this and other (shared gym) bike models, but this could easily have been addressed as an option in the bike’s settings.

As distant second choice, I would have expected to be to have put my own video content on the screen either using the built-in USB port on the front of the bike or an HDMI input port. While the USB port on the original SE console allowed one to bring one’s own media and play it during a workout (a feature I used often, in combination with the excellent content from Virtual Active), the new SE3 HD console’s USB port is only for charging and can’t be used for media playback. Worse still, the USB port doesn’t have enough juice to power a tablet, so you can’t just charge a tablet while putting it in front of the display (although at that point, why buy this particular bike?). The old console had an external HDMI port. It turns out this one has an HDMI port which is accessible by taking the console apart with a screwdriver to access an HDMI port buried on an internal circuit board. One then needs to leave the console open with circuits exposed in order to run an HDMI cable out of the back.

Another major issue – the simplest, but the most critical, as it prevents the bike’s use – is that bike beeps loudly through a speaker when changing intensity, starting a cool down, etc. Thus, I can’t use the bike at odd hours without waking up my family, but odd hours are a main use caseĀ for a family with kids.

So, in summary, don’t buy this bike. I look forward to more cardio equipment coming out which support direct communication with the Apple Watch and other wearable fitness trackers. Meanwhile, I’ve found that the watch does a pretty good job of tracking caloric expenditure without connecting to fitness equipment; it just doesn’t log other attributes like mileage.

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