NordicTrack iSelect Adjustable Dumbbells Review: No Thanks, Alexa

One of the first things I bought at the start of the pandemic was a set of adjustable dumbbells. My husband and I wanted strength training, but we needed several different weights. He had real muscles while I had my pasta arms. The problem was that our apartment could not accommodate a full rack. Adjustable dumbbells seemed like a reasonable option. And it wasn’t even. During a set of chest presses, the pin securing the weight plates broke. I got a 5-pound plate on my face. So, as you can imagine, I was concerned about testing the $429 (or up to $300 on sale) NordicTrack iSelect Adjustable Dumbbell.

While the price was definitely one thing I was concerned about, it actually isn’t outrageous. I’ll get into it a bit more, but you could easily spend as much – if not more – on 10 sets of regular dumbbells. That’s basically what you’re replacing here, as iSelect Dumbbells go from five to 50 pounds in five-pound increments. You also pay a premium for iSelect smart features.

There are two things that make iSelect dumbbells smart. The first is that these use an electronic locking mechanism, as opposed to rivets or end screws. The second is that you can change the weights using Alexa voice commands. Though, fortunately, don’t do that You have Due to the presence of a handle that allows you to change the weights manually.

The dumbbells (or smart bells?) themselves are placed in a dedicated tray. In the middle there is a hand grip as well as an LCD screen that shows you the current weight. There is also an optional tablet stand that you can install in the back. The tray itself is relatively compact, measuring 21 x 19 x 16 inches (LWH). I haven’t been able to put it in my living room, but that’s only because I already have another fitness machine connected. However, it fit easily in my home office. Most people should have no problem figuring out where to store the drawer. The only requirements are to place it near a power outlet, which is not usually considered when storing dumbbells. You will also need to be intentional about where you place the tray to begin with. Once you put those kids down, you’ll have to move 100 pounds of weight plates if you change your mind. that it not cheerful. (You should also keep this in mind when handing in weights. The box it comes in weighs 123 pounds.)

Easy to install dumbbells. All you have to do is download the iSelect app for iOS or Android and then follow the instructions to pair the dumbbells via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. (The latter is for firmware updates.) If you want to use dumbbells with Alexa, you’ll have to take a few extra steps to link the iSelect app to your Amazon account. The iSelect app is also where you can set custom weight profiles for 15 dumbbell exercises, including biceps, chest press and squat. I haven’t used this feature much, but I can see it coming in handy if you’re someone who knows exactly how much weight you need for each movement.

You can set presets in the iSelect app.

Unlike most connected fitness products, iSelect Dumbbells has one huge thing in its favor: a subscription is not mandatory. You get a one-month NordicTrack iFit family membership with purchase, but you don’t have to commit to it. Just be sure to turn off the auto-renewal if you’d rather use a different service – if you want to use a service at all. The best part is that you’re not stuck with brick dumbbells if NordicTrack decides to stop selling or supporting this device.

If you choose to stay with iFit, you will have to download a separate iFit app to access the classes. It’s annoying when connected devices make you download multiple apps to use. It’s especially annoying if neither app is particularly well-made. With both the iSelect and iFit apps, I had issues loading and connecting. It wasn’t the case every time I launched the apps and usually restarting my phone fixed the problem. But I didn’t appreciate the extra time I had to spend troubleshooting when trying to squeeze in a workout.

As for the iFit content – that’s okay. It’s not as flashy as the Peloton or the Apple Fitness Plus, but this may appeal to people who don’t like racy trainers who spread the wisdom of cookies. You also still get a vigorous workout. Structurally, the classes and exercises featured were similar to those I received in many other fitness apps. (Although I appreciate that iFit didn’t rush the breaks between sets.) It’s just a different general flavor. If the Peloton is your Starbucks Frappuccino, the iFit is more like a solid cup of coffee.

You can also attach an optional tablet stand if you’d like to continue with classes.

However, iFit does not provide special content or features within its service for these dumbbells. Unlike Tempo Move or dumbbells attached to JaxJox, these dumbbells won’t count reps or give any additional clue. The most you get is the coaches in them Some Classes on how iSelect dumbbells work while connecting Alexa function fun.

Speaking of which, one of the most annoying things about working out with traditional adjustable dumbbells is that increasing or decreasing weights takes time. This is not a problem if you are doing your own exercises. However, if you’re taking lessons, and the 30 seconds between sets isn’t enough time to reset the weights in the rack, lift a mechanical pin, and count how many extra plates you need to add, then really make sure everything is secured. When I first covered these dumbbells, NordicTrack confirmed in a demo that the Alexa combo and quick electronic locking mechanism would be fast And Safe.

In fact, Alexa was quick at times. Other times, Alexa is very confused.

It is easier and faster to use the hand grip.

To control the dumbbells, you can issue commands like “Alexa, set the weights to bicep curl,” “Alexa, increase/decrease the weights by five pounds,” or “Alexa, set the weights to 15 pounds.” When everything works correctly, it takes Alexa maybe 5-10 seconds to do what you asked. This does not include the time to reload the dumbbells, which you need to do to adjust the weight. Unfortunately, Alexa isn’t always the smartest assistant of the bunch. Often times, Alexa misuses the words “weights” and “lights”. Instead of doing what you asked, Alexa would ask which Hue lights you wanted to turn on or off. Other times, Alexa might say it can’t connect to my weights – but it will successfully change weights after a short delay.

Again, this is less of a problem if you don’t follow up with any kind of software. However, if you are, Alexa may have a hard time hearing you properly. I’ve tested using both the Echo Spot and the 4th generation Echo, and both sometimes have a hard time understanding me – the location is more so than the Echo. To be fair, Alexa It was Able to get me through a Peloton or iFit class without any problem multiple times. But, every now and then, I had to repeatedly yell at the coach or pause the class until Alexa understood my command. But even if Alexa was working properly, it was nine times faster for me out of 10 to manually adjust the weights myself using the knob.

The only time I could see myself using Alexa on the handle was if I was running to the kitchen to get water during my recovery break. Until then, I’m not sure that would be any faster than a manual tuning. I’m all for Alexa controls presence for accessibility reasons, but in this case, I want the feature to work more consistently.

The shape is a bit bulky for my tastes, but the square ends make it good for dumbbell plank exercises like the Rebellious Rows.

I was impressed with how quickly the dumbbells were manually set. Two years ago, I reviewed JaxJox’s connected kettlebell. Although it also had an electronic locking mechanism, it wasn’t always fast enough to keep up with classes. On the contrary, it is as if the weights switch iSelect dumbbells instantly. This speed does not come at the expense of safety. I’ve done triceps extensions, deadlifts, Russian twists, rebellious rows, chest presses, squats—you name it. Nothing fell.

iSelect dumbbells are also sturdy, and the planks don’t vibrate like other adjustable dumbbells I’ve tried. The handles are grippy and the square shape is good for exercises where you have to play with weight (eg, rebellious rows, dumbbell passes.) However, the shape is bulkier than I would have liked, and I won’t. To say it was much better than the standard dumbbells I already own.

At $429, dumbbells are pretty pricey. This doesn’t include the cost of an Amazon Echo device — if you don’t already have one — or the $39 monthly subscription if you choose to continue with iFit. However, whether they are too expensive to be worth it depends on your strength training needs. A full set of standard dumbbells from 5 to 50 pounds in increments of five pounds can cost a small fortune. The NordicTrack version, for example, costs $1,999. Most are in the $700-$1,000 range. When you compare iSelect dumbbells to this, you get a bargain. You also save a lot of space in your home.

Weights go from five to 50 pounds in five-pound increments.

But that’s if you really need an entire shelf. If you are a beginner, you don’t. Smaller, space-saving dumbbell sets can be found at a much lower price. Adjustable dumbbell sets with a smaller range are also on Amazon for approximately $20 to $150. Some can turn into irons. Meanwhile, if you’ve been disappointed by the lack of scales, JaxJox also has a $499 set of Connected Adjustable Dumbbells that can count reps.

If you have several people in your house with different levels of power – my husband and I – a group like this makes more sense. We happen to already have Alexa devices, although I don’t know any of us would have used voice control if I hadn’t tested the device. For me, these dumbbells have the weight range we need, save space, and adapt quickly to the classroom. Most importantly, I can work out without worrying that a board will hit me in a schnoz. I’m well aware that no one needs to spend hundreds on connected weights that don’t really have a lot of smart features. But if you’re looking for a full shelf and don’t have a lot of space to work with, you could do a lot worse.

Photography by Victoria Song/The Verge