TACX Vortex Smart Vs Elite Qubo Smart

Screenshot 2017-02-18 07.26.24The Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ was recently compared to the TACX Vortex Smart here at Athletic Tech Review.  We were surprised at the outcome since the Qubo comes in at near 190 dollars cheaper than the Vortex Smart.  Both trainers stack well against each other on paper.  Athletic Tech Review did full reviews on the Vortex Smart and Qubo Smart.  You can find those links below.  It was only natural to then compare the trainers in a head to head match below.  Also, I will provide some affiliate links to purchase either of these trainers.  Any purchase through the affiliate link helps cover the costs of doing reviews.  I purchased all of this equipment myself and with that comes some losses when reselling the trainers.

Vortex Smart Review
1. Part 1, The Build
2. Part 2, Calibration
3. Part 3, The Ride

Purchase TACX Vortex Smart

Qubo Smart Review
1. Part 1, The Build
2. Part 2, Calibration
3. Part 3, The Ride

Purchase Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+

If you want to skip all the words, you can just watch the video below.

Head to Head on Paper

On Paper
Vortex Smart Vs Qubo Smart.

The Vortex Smart and the Qubo Smart both match up on paper very well.  The two outliers here are the price point and the sprinting capacity of the Qubo Smart.  The Qubo Smart can sprint up to higher wattage numbers than the Vortex Smart and it does it at a lower price.  However, there are some drawbacks and issues with both trainers.  There is nothing wrong with either of these trainers.  I would be very happy owning either one.  I will look at these trainers in 8 rounds of competition below.  Strengths and weaknesses will be pulled out in each category and a winner will be declared by what strength is more important or what weakness is too big to overlook.

 Round 1: Style

Vortex Style
Vortex Smart looks better.

In Round 1, we look at the style of the trainer and how well put together it is.  The Vortex Smart has a more refined look than the Qubo Smart.  There is no denying this.  The decals are all flush on the Vortex Smart.  The colors all match the resistance unit which is well put together and the resistance unit is well engineered giving a polished look.  The Qubo Smart is very rough around the edges.  The decals are peeling off and not fully seating along with the very cheap plastic that holds the resistance unit together.  The win for Round 1 goes to the TACX Vortex Smart.

Round 2: Build

Wide base plate for stability.

In Round 2 we look at how well built these trainers are.  The Qubo Smart may not be appealing on the outside, but there are some design features that give a boost to those rough edges.  The main boost is the ability to put any bike on this trainer.  The Qubo frame has a swing arm design.  The swing arm design allowed me to put my kid on this trainer with a BMX bike and 16 inch tires.  This may be the only trainer capable of that feat, with the exception of the Bkool trainer (haven’t tested it yet).  The 2nd engineering plus of this trainer is the base of the trainer.  The base of this trainer is spread out more on the ground.  This is very important because it only weighs 20 pounds.  This wide base helps with the stability of the trainer during sprints and out-of-the-saddle climbing efforts.  However, the Vortex Smart is engineered and built very well overall.  I am calling Round 2 a Draw.

Round 3: Road Feel

Electromagnets struggled a bit.

Road feel is a very hard thing to replicate.  The reduced flywheel size of the mid range trainers limits the ability of these trainer to replicate that road feel inertia.  Honestly, true road feel can only be attained on the road.  However, bigger flywheels on the Wahoo KICKR and KICKR Snap do help replicate road feel.  Those trainers are much more expensive than the two we are looking at here.  The Qubo Smart did a decent job for road feel.  It felt very similar to a standard Mag trainer.  You had decent inertia above 185 watts, and could tell things fell off a bit below that.  The Vortex Smart felt the same way, but it really struggled at lower wheel speeds down at 100 to 135 watts.  There were massive gaps in the pedal stroke.  Road feel on both trainers feels the same except under low wheel speeds.  The Qubo Smart wins out by a small margin.  I am calling Round 3 for the Qubo Smart.

Round 4: Sound

I use a sound meter to measure sound on all of my trainers.  I measure sound at 20mph and 35mph.  You can look at the videos and hear the difference between these two trainers.  The Vortex Smart and the Qubo smart emitted a 65dB sound level at 20mph.  At 35mph, the Vortex Smart was at 78dB and the Qubo Smart was at 75dB.  This is a very minuscule difference, but the win goes to the Qubo Smart by 3dB.  Round 4 goes to the Qubo Smart.

Round 5: ERG Tracking/Smart Trainer Control

I found that both trainers tracked ERG mode very well.  The Vortex Smart and Qubo Smart stayed pretty consistent here.  You can look at both images below.  The one on the left is the Vortex Smart and the one on the rights is the Qubo Smart.  As you can see, they are near identical in ERG tracking.  They don’t hold the power line as well as the Wahoo trainers, but they still stay pretty consistent during the workout.  Round 5 is a draw.

Round 6: Sprinting

I love testing the sprinting capacity of trainers.  I think it is really fun to get on them, fully ramp up the resistance, and then see what they can do.  The Vortex Smart is rated at 950 watts.  This is a true statement.  I was able to achieve 900 watts on this trainer doing sprints.  The Vortex Smart was easily overpowered.  The only down side is the trainer rocks a lot when I’m trying to put down the power.  You have to concentrate on staying steady in your sprinting effort.

The Qubo had more watts to grow in the sprinting department.

The Qubo Smart is rated up to 1600 watts on the sprint.  I found that to be an unbelievable claim at first.  The Qubo smart did sprint up to 950 watts in the seated position.  I say “seated” position, because the swing arm design starts to work against you in sprints.  I’m the kind of sprinter that likes to explode out of the saddle.  When I tried this on the Qubo Smart, the wheel would start losing contact with the roller.  So, I believe this trainer could attain up to 1300 and maybe even 1600 watts on a sprint.  I have one user reporting that they could achieve a 1250 watts sprint on this trainer.  I can’t personally do a seated sprint above 1000 watts, so I’ll have to take their word for it.

We need to look at all of the variables here.  The Vortex Smart only sprints up to 950 watts, but rocks a great deal when there is extensive side to side movement on the bike.  The Qubo Smart can hold more wattage and is more stable on the sprint, but when jumping out of the saddle you get some tire slip.  This could be seen as a draw.  However, we need to highlight that the Qubo has the ability to attain a higher wattage number.  We have to give the Round 6 win to the Qubo Smart because of max attainable wattage.

Round 7: Climbing

I test the trainers climbing prowess by putting my bike in the 39×27 gear ratio.  This creates a slower wheel speed which then tests out the limitations of the trainer under low rotational velocity.  I find this to be a very good test for climbing simulations.  It shows us what a trainer can and cannot do in the lower gears.

climbing power
The Vortex Smart struggled with the 39×27 gear ratio.

The Vortex Smart struggled significantly at this lower wheel speed.  Even though this trainer has 8 small electromagnets on the flywheel, those electromagnets struggled at the low wheel speed.  I felt a huge gap in the pedal stroke when trying to climb.  The gap was significant and threw off my rhythm.  The Vortex Smart could only hold 100 watts on the 39×27 gear ratio and you needed to be in the 53×15 to simulate a high powered climb at 65rpm.

The Qubo Smart also struggled at this lower wheel speed, but struggled a bit better.  This trainer moves a set of magnets forward and onto the flywheel using a motor and a screw.  This means there are no electromagnets and the pedal stroke stayed fluid the whole time.  The Qubo Smart held a wattage number of 115 watts at that lower wheel speed.  We give Round 7 to the Qubo Smart. 

Round 8: Price of the Trainer

When talking about budget trainers, we also have to talk about the price of these trainers.  The Vortex Smart can be purchased for $550 or lower.  I would say a good price for the Vortex Smart is $499 or under.  The Qubo Smart can be purchased through Athleteshop.co.uk for $310/£247 right now.  That is super cheap.  Without a doubt, the Qubo wins Round 8.  Athlete shop

Overall Winner

This is not what I expected the outcome to be when I first unpacked these trainers.  I was certain the TACX Vortex Smart was going to crush the Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+.  There is no denying that the Qubo doesn’t look well put together.  However, it performs better than it looks.  Both trainers are great trainers for the price.  You won’t regret owning either one.  Right now I can’t believe you can buy a Qubo Smart form Europe for $310.  That is unbelievably cheap.  Athlete Shop will ship to the US.  You just need to buy a Euro to US plug adapter.  Those can be found at Best Buy for about $15.  If you do click on the Athlete Shop affiliate link, it will take a minute to load.  Just give it a minute to load up my affiliate data, then navigate to cycling, then to trainers and you can then find the Qubo Smart in there.  Make sure you are buying the Qubo Smart Digital B+.  Thanks for reading everyone. Now, I’m off to start looking at the TACX Bushido Smart.  Can this trainer dethrone the Wahoo KICKR Snap as the best Mid-Range Trainer.

Also, don’t forget to check out my basics page where you can purchase all the accessories or sensors you may need for your indoor setup.

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 60 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

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