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Verdict: 
Looks great and has some impressive details, but can't quite compete with some cheaper rivals
Weight: 
21,000g
Contact: 
Tacx Neo Smart T2800
6 10

The Tacx Neo Smart 2800 is Tacx's flagship turbo trainer and touted as "the quietest indoor trainer currently available on the market". It certainly lives up to that claim, and there is no denying the Neo is a really nice trainer, but there are a few issues that need to be ironed out before it can knock the Wahoo Kickr, king of the direct-drive trainers, off its throne.

Tacx has long been a big name when it comes to indoor cycling. It first started producing rollers in 1972 and has been making indoor trainers in Holland ever since. The Tacx Neo is its first direct-drive turbo trainer, a relatively new breed of trainer that requires you to remove your back wheel and mount your bike directly onto the trainer via your rear dropouts.

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The Neo has attracted a lot of attention since its launch last year, which seems to have been helped somewhat by the popularity of software such as Zwift and TrainerRoad, and also by the exposure that other direct-drive trainers have been getting from their use by the pro peloton.

First impressions

The first thing that will get your attention when you see the Neo Smart is the styling. The futuristic design is in stark contrast to many of the other trainers on the market, and it works well too. The footprint of the Neo is fairly similar to a more traditional turbo trainer but feels a great deal more stable. The Neo generally feels very sturdy and inspires a fair amount of confidence.

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - back.jpg

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - back.jpg

Something you might not notice straight away but will certainly want to try out as soon as possible is the downhill drive. When you are riding, virtually, with software that simulates a negative gradient, a motor in the Neo spins up and mimics the effect of freewheeling down a hill. In practice, this was of limited training use but it was cool nonetheless! And I often found myself freewheeling during my Zwift sessions just to watch the back wheel spin up as if by magic.

Realism

The Neo uses a virtual flywheel to dynamically control the brake force in an attempt to create the most realistic ride that it can. Unfortunately, although the realism is very good, it isn't as good as some of its competitors and you still get that "I'm on a turbo trainer" sensation. The realism is still way better than you will get from any dumb trainer out there, but when you are paying best-on-the-market prices, you expect best-on-the-market performance.

ERG

For those of you yet to experience the joys of riding in ERG mode on a smart trainer, the basic premise is that, before your training session, you decide what power output you want to achieve and at what time. You can use software like Trainer Road or Zwift to program your ride, or you can download rides you've done in the past and experience them all over again using Simulation mode.

Once you are all set up, you simply pedal at the cadence that you choose and the trainer will adjust the resistance, forcing you to stick to the pre-defined power output.

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - direct drive.jpg

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - direct drive.jpg

Some trainers are stricter than others in ERG mode. The Kickr Snap, for example, will only let you ride at the pre-defined power and, if you start to struggle, if your cadence starts to drop, the resistance will get greater and greater until you grind to a halt (at this point ERG mode will deactivate and allow you to slowly get back up to speed, while contemplating your failure...).

The Neo is less brutal in this respect and allows you to ride at a lower power when you start to suffer, and seems to slowly readjust the resistance as you get back up to your target power.

Despite the fact that the Neo is a little more forgiving in ERG mode, it also suffers here too. When riding at a constant power output, it feels like Tacx takes your average power for the last three to five seconds as a basis for the resistance setting. When you ride above or below your target power output for longer than a few seconds, it noticeably increases or decreases the resistance setting to bring you back in line. This results in the sensation that you are riding along a slightly undulating road, with resistance going up and down quite frequently.

I noticed that riding at sweet spot in ERG on the Neo seemed to be a lot harder than expected. This was confirmed by a higher than usual heart rate, and became so annoying that I stopped using ERG mode completely.

Direct drive

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the Neo, compared with other, more traditional turbo trainers, is the lack of noise. This is due, in part, to the lack of your back wheel in the setup.

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - back 2.jpg

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - back 2.jpg

The Neo isn't completely silent – there is a soft whirring that spins up when you plug the unit into the mains. This gets a little louder during use and carries on after your workout as the unit warms down. It sounds more like a quiet laptop fan that a traditional turbo trainer and, once you start riding, will be almost impossible to notice. The loudest noise you will hear is likely to be your transmission, your fan or your own breathing...

Software

You can get Tacx-specifc software for a PC, tablet and smartphone. One notable absence from this list is Mac software, which feels like a bit of an oversight until you consider that third-party software like TrainerRoad and Zwift is by far the most popular way of using your smart-trainer these days. The type of user who is willing to pay more than £1000 on a turbo trainer is likely to be looking for a bit of high-end hardware to partner with their existing training software, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Tacx Trainer Software never gets ported to Mac. It would be a nice addition though.

> Check out our guide to the best indoor trainers

You can connect to the Tacx Neo via ANT+ or Bluetooth, and you can also use it without power, in which case it acts a bit like a fluid trainer, the resistance increasing proportionally with speed. The Neo might be a little bulky to frequently take to events for warming up on, but it isn't impossible, and the only things that would really put me off using it as a travel trainer are the 21kg weight and the fact that it doesn't look very rainproof.

Design

The Tacx Neo does look pretty impressive, in my opinion. Unfolded, it's fairly large and imposing and looks like something Batman might have kicking around his cave. It looks almost as aesthetically pleasing when folded, and seems to take up less space than a traditional trainer (probably due to the lack of a resistance unit).

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - drop out.jpg

Tacx Neo Smart T2800 trainer - drop out.jpg

It is slightly fiddly to unclip the locking mechanism to fold it away, but I can overlook this for the sake of its handsome looks.

Conclusion

The Tacx Neo is, in a lot of respects, a very desirable indoor trainer. It looks great and performs almost as well as the best of its rivals. That, though, is the biggest problem. Being more expensive than most of its rivals means it really needs to perform as well as, if not better than them. For me the Neo isn't quite as polished in terms of its ride and general user experience. There is part of me that would consider buying the Neo if it were a bit cheaper but, at the current price point, I would probably go for the Wahoo Kickr – or even the non-direct drive version, the Wahoo Kickr Snap

Verdict

Looks great and has some impressive details, but can't quite compete with some cheaper rivals

road.cc test report

Make and model: Tacx Neo Smart T2800

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Tacx says: "The NEO Smart offers the best in power and intelligence and is the quietest indoor trainer currently available on the market. The lack of any physical transmissions means this is the first true direct drive. Road feel is simulated in a highly realistic manner, there is no loss of power. The powerful motor is able to apply resistance up to 2200 Watt and simulate slopes realistically up to 25%. It also speeds up during descents. This ensures the most realistic cycling experience, also during climbs."

The NEO is certainly a quiet indoor trainer but while the road feel might be more realistic than a regular 'dumb trainer', it isn't up to the same level as its competitors.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Resistance unit Direct drive

Realistic slope 25%

Descent simulation To -5%

Max brake power (10 sec.) 2200 Watt

Mass inertia 125 kg

Includes front wheel support

Android, iOS & Windows compatible

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Apart from the slightly unwieldy leg locking process, the NEO feels like a top quality product.

Rate the product for performance:
 
6/10

The ease of set up is really convenient, but the ride isn't as realistic as some competitors and ERG mode is very frustrating.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10

The unit has a nice heft to it which make you feel safe, even during sprints, but I would have preferred a slightly heavier flywheel to improve realism.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
6/10

Resistance changes felt a little brutal and ERG mode feels very tiring.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

The build quality of the NEO is great and it looks exactly as I'd want my smart trainer to look, but there is no denying that is is expensive and, for the price you are paying, you will want it to be at least equal to its competitors. I'm not sure it is quite there yet.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

The Tacx NEO is super-simple to use and doesn't require calibration. It does what it is meant to do as a smart trainer but it could feel more realistic. ERG mode in particular isn't the best experience, especially when compared with its arch-rival the Kickr.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The NEO looks great and is really easy to set up. It can be used with or without power and it makes hardly any noise at all.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

ERG mode was my biggest frustration and, as with all of its competitors, the inability to calibrate the power reading against your on-board power meter means that transitioning from indoor training to outdoor training still isn't where it needs to be.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? No

Would you recommend the product to a friend? No

Use this box to explain your score

It is a great product and I really wanted to love the NEO, but it is undeniably expensive and, for the price you are paying, there are better alternatives out there.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 34  Height: 6'2  Weight: 70kg

I usually ride: Rose Xeon CRS Road at the moment  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides

15 comments

Avatar
Stueys [13 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I'm guessing this review was done on the old firmware (updated last year), that had issues adjusting power in erg mode on TR, etc? Did you guys get the unit upto date?

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djfleming22 [40 posts] 1 year ago
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Got to agree with the above statement, i have tried both the the Kickr and the Neo and very hard to find any of them dissapointing in anyway including ERG, one part were the Neo is much better is that it is very quiet the only thing you hear is the chain drive and this is night and day compared to the Kickr  or any other trainer.

A lot of Tacx owners will agree with me on this, that Tacx has got some work to do on there software and this should have been sorted out a long time ago, but it is getting better and the updates are coming through and they are listening to the customer base even though sometimes there customers service could answer complaints a bit quicker.

The Tacx equips itself very well when working with 3rd party apps and i have not seen and problems working with the Trainer Road software etc and feel the tester has given it a very low score i would have given it  **** and its nothing to do with the Tacx Neo but more to do with the Tacx software.

All in all i am very happy with my Tacx  Neo and as the tester says £1000 is a lot of money but i live in Scotland and when you cannot be bothered going out again in high winds and rain you have always got the Neo and it still puts a smile on my face and the says a lot about a trainer.

 

 

Avatar
Simon Ker [11 posts] 1 year ago
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Stueys wrote:

I'm guessing this review was done on the old firmware (updated last year), that had issues adjusting power in erg mode on TR, etc? Did you guys get the unit upto date?

 

Hi Stueys,

The Software version appears to be up to date at version 0.5.1/0.2.1/0.6.3.

I wound't say that the the Neo, technically, had any issues in erg mode. It just didn't seem a smooth as the Kickr. 

Avatar
Simon Ker [11 posts] 1 year ago
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djfleming22 wrote:

Got to agree with the above statement, i have tried both the the Kickr and the Neo and very hard to find any of them dissapointing in anyway including ERG, one part were the Neo is much better is that it is very quiet the only thing you hear is the chain drive and this is night and day compared to the Kickr  or any other trainer.

A lot of Tacx owners will agree with me on this, that Tacx has got some work to do on there software and this should have been sorted out a long time ago, but it is getting better and the updates are coming through and they are listening to the customer base even though sometimes there customers service could answer complaints a bit quicker.

The Tacx equips itself very well when working with 3rd party apps and i have not seen and problems working with the Trainer Road software etc and feel the tester has given it a very low score i would have given it  **** and its nothing to do with the Tacx Neo but more to do with the Tacx software.

All in all i am very happy with my Tacx  Neo and as the tester says £1000 is a lot of money but i live in Scotland and when you cannot be bothered going out again in high winds and rain you have always got the Neo and it still puts a smile on my face and the says a lot about a trainer.

 

Agree with you on the noise point. The Neo was impressive in that respect. Even my girlfriend commented on it.

With regards to the score, 3 stars is, according to our system, "above average", so I wouldn't class it as "very low". I admit It does seem a little harsh but I had to take into consideration scores given to it's competitors and what hey lost points for. I too would be very happy to have this as my "go-to" trainer and it is in no-way a bad product. There are, however, trainers that I would be even happier to use (and they are a bit cheaper).

On the subject of the software, I actually found the software that I did use (specifically the Tacx Utility & Tacx Training Apps), really good. As mentioned in the review, I kind of feel that the bundled software isn't really going to be used by the majority of Neo users who will probably opt fro Zwift or TR, so the Neo didn't lose any marks from me on this.

I think, on the whole, the main reasons that the Kickr was a better choice for me (even the Kickr Snap), is its big old flywheel and the ride you get because of it. The ride on the Neo is undoubtedly, very good but it's just not quite as good as the WK. 

 

 

Avatar
Concordi [6 posts] 1 year ago
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If you shop arround you can get it a lot cheaper. I got mine for £875 on tredz with the discount voucher they seem to offer once every couple of months. I've not seen the Kickr much cheaper than that.

 

I'm a big fan of the Neo. I've got freinds who say that the Kickr's power curve deviates over a session as heat changes. I'm getting a crank power meter in the next week so will be interested to see how the Neo does, especially with it not having a calibration or roll down etc. 

 

On the noise side, it is generally quieter than the fan I'm using, though to be honest the fan is pretty noisy and I wouldn't use the trainer without one so the neo could a bit noisier and I wouldn't notice! That said though, our bedroom is the floor below the trainer and the vibrations can be very disturbing, certainly could wake you from sleep, though that may be the same for any trainer...

Avatar
Simon Ker [11 posts] 1 year ago
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Concordi wrote:

If you shop arround you can get it a lot cheaper. I got mine for £875 on tredz with the discount voucher they seem to offer once every couple of months. I've not seen the Kickr much cheaper than that.

 

I'm a big fan of the Neo. I've got freinds who say that the Kickr's power curve deviates over a session as heat changes. I'm getting a crank power meter in the next week so will be interested to see how the Neo does, especially with it not having a calibration or roll down etc. 

 

On the noise side, it is generally quieter than the fan I'm using, though to be honest the fan is pretty noisy and I wouldn't use the trainer without one so the neo could a bit noisier and I wouldn't notice! That said though, our bedroom is the floor below the trainer and the vibrations can be very disturbing, certainly could wake you from sleep, though that may be the same for any trainer...

 

That sounds like a much better price!.. I'd be interested to hear your findings when you get your power meter set up too. Feel free to post any interesting figures you find.

Avatar
Dante256 [27 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I agree with the many of the points here in the review, most importantly though it's not quite special/refined enough for the large amount of money it costs. 

The KICKR is slightly less expensive, and just feels more robust, and more...consistent (?) not sure if that the right word. Reassuring? Maybe that is part of the construction, but the plastic of the Neo, again for the price, doesnt feels as good value as the KICKR, and at this price, I think the Neo just needs to be more refined

I've used the NEO with Zwift, and find it responds very well, with the almost silent drive a dream. But there are just lots of little niggles, which irriate more due to the price,

I've also done a quick review comparing the Neo to the KICKR, with a video comparing the noise between the two, if anyone is looking at buying one or the other

http://www.titaniumgeek.com/gear-reviews/tacx-neo-vs-wahoo-kickr/

Avatar
Stueys [13 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Simon Ker wrote:
Stueys wrote:

I'm guessing this review was done on the old firmware (updated last year), that had issues adjusting power in erg mode on TR, etc? Did you guys get the unit upto date?

 

Hi Stueys,

The Software version appears to be up to date at version 0.5.1/0.2.1/0.6.3.

I wound't say that the the Neo, technically, had any issues in erg mode. It just didn't seem a smooth as the Kickr. 

 

ok, then I'm surprised with the issues you found on erg.  I've ridden both kickr and Neo, the kickr feels 'smoother' holding power but it's really the inertia driven by the big fly wheel as opposed to the actual power being smooth.  I think the Neo is a truer reflection of actual work done because of that.  But it's done to the sensation you prefer.

re power accuracy the Neo tracks my vector spot on.  I spent two weeks comparing the two and don't bother putting a power meter onto the Neo anymore, it's very accurate with no drift I've seen.

Avatar
Concordi [6 posts] 1 year ago
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Stueys wrote:

re power accuracy the Neo tracks my vector spot on.  I spent two weeks comparing the two and don't bother putting a power meter onto the Neo anymore, it's very accurate with no drift I've seen.

 

Thats very reassuring to hear. Ultimately the problem with one meter without a reference is drift over time with no real way to tell! Ultimately if both were reading 10 watts under I wouldn't care, but consistency does.

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Tunney [1 post] 1 year ago
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Constant mention of the Kickr as a comparison but zero mention of why the Neo is vastly superior. The kickr drifts reading wise and the power is inconsistent, as in the drift and inaccuracies vary and the Kickr is not even consistent with itself. The Neo is very very close to both my SRMs and P1s.

The Kickr is a joke and a toy. The neo is a useful tool.

Avatar
CyclingLegend [4 posts] 1 year ago
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Don't be put off the Neo Smart by this review. I have one at home. For Erg based training it is extremely good. I go to a cycling gym where they have computrainers. The Neo Smart is just as smooth as the computrainer. What neither system does particularly well is "real ride" where the tcx data from a real ride is used to drive the resistance unless you are doing Alpine climbs where there gradient is pretty steady.
If you are serious about your time on the turbo then wattage based intervals are the most useful thing you can do imo. With the Neo Smart and Perf Pro Studio software driving it on pc you have a great bit of kit that is QUIET and you can actually use at home.

Avatar
Stueys [13 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Tunney wrote:

Constant mention of the Kickr as a comparison but zero mention of why the Neo is vastly superior. The kickr drifts reading wise and the power is inconsistent, as in the drift and inaccuracies vary and the Kickr is not even consistent with itself. The Neo is very very close to both my SRMs and P1s. The Kickr is a joke and a toy. The neo is a useful tool.

 

I think calling the Kickr a joke is a tad harsh, Wahoo paved the way in the smart trainer world and the kickr is a good bit of kit.  But I swapped mine for a Neo  3

 

Comparing the two, the power meter on the Kickr drifts, so you really need an external meter.  The Neo solves this.  The Kickr is also loud enough that you think twice about early morning or late evening rides; to an extent you can mitigate that in ERG mode by using a low gear but it's a constraint the Neo just doesn't have, it's quiet.  I also prefer how the Neo rides, people seem to equate the artifical smoothing effect that the Kickr flywheel gives with a smoother or more accurate erg mode, that's false it's mechanical power smoothing.  Comparatively I think the Neo tracks your efforts more immediately.

Avatar
Matt_S [297 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

So, is it possible to do a MAP test on the Neo, or will it decrease resistance before you fail?

Avatar
lio [8 posts] 11 months ago
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I don't understand this low review score at all.

The Neo beats it's rivals on almost every metric.  Steeper climbs, higher max power, faster response times and much quieter.

It has feature that the Kickr, Snap, Cyclops Hammer and Elite Drivo don't provide such as down hill simulation and road feel.  For strickly training you don't them but I still smile when I ride across the pontoons in Zwift or the bike starts freewheeling down the mountain.

I got mine earlier in the year for £850 which is also less money than the Wahoo Kickr.

Folding it up is a little tricky but there's a nack to it.  You just roll it backwards on to the case and then fold the wings in and reverse the process when you want to set it up again.

I don't have any of the undulation problems that the review reports but then again I only really use mine in Zwift so I'm not sure if the software has anything to do with it (I've never used Tacx's software).

I'm sure the other high end trainers are also really good but I have no idea why you've only given the Neo 3/5.  I'm really pleased with mine, not sure what it could really do better.

Avatar
rix [191 posts] 2 months ago
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If my experience is anything to go by, then be prepared to return your NEO for repairs...

My brand new NEO was showing wrong cadence ~170rpm, so I was advised to return it for repairs. I had to pay for shipment of 25kg package and after a month I got back brand new unit which was making loud metallic sound (see video https://youtu.be/flqlWVOzmKw ). I contacted Tacx and suggested that their quality control might be lacking or I am extremely unlucky... their response was "But we do also understand that you don't expect problems with new bought units in such a short time, so I have to agree that you were very unlucky." Bollocks! My previous trainer (Tacx Vortex) I had to send back for repairs 2 times.

NEO is a very nice peace of kit, but only when it works.