The StairMaster SM3 StepMill is probably the most common model people come across when searching for a compact stepmill. This is likely because it comes from StairMaster, which invented the stepmill in the 80s and popularized this entire category of equipment.
However, the SM3 is StairMaster’s home-use model and as I’ll explain later, they are discontinuing it and replacing it with a newer model.
The STEPR Stair Climber is a newer, high-tech “connected” stepmill that also has a compact design for use in the home.
Without further ado, let’s see how the StairMaster SM3 StepMill compares with the STEPR.
RELATED: Read my in-depth STEPR review
Table of Contents
|Steps Per Minute
|26 to 162
|24 to 137
|Minimum Ceiling Height
|Check Price Here
Design and Footprint
The STEPR combines functionality with a sleek black design, boasting a compact 42” L x 27.5” W footprint that can comfortably fit in most home spaces, including in rooms with short 8’ ceilings. It is built with welded steel and molded casing that is protective and attractive.
In comparison, the StairMaster SM3 StepMill is lighter than the STEPR by 63 lbs, making it a bit easier to move since it also has wheels. It has a slightly larger footprint at 46” L x 29” W, but is nonetheless a compact machine. Like the STEPR, the SM3 will also work in rooms with ceilings as low as 8’.
The SM3 is built with a steel frame and injection-molded plastic shrouding, but the shape and lighter colors give it a dated design aesthetic.
The STEPR uses stadium-style 5.2” tall steps for compactness and accessibility for smaller users. The SM3 does have slightly taller steps than the STEPR (6” vs 5.2”), which some prefer because it makes for a more challenging experience, at any given speed. That said, the steps on both units are significantly shorter than steps on full-sized commercial machines (~9”).
The built-in wheels and removable lift handles on the STEPR make it easy to move around the unit as needed. Plus, it can fit through doors with ease due to its narrow width.
The SM3 is also easy to move thanks to its wheels, lighter weight, and similarly narrow width. However, it lacks lift handles, making the process a bit more awkward compared to moving the STEPR.
Performance and Features
The STEPR is loaded with innovative features, including the 27″ rotating touchscreen that offers nearly 360º of movement for a dynamic workout experience. It also boasts the “Step Sync” feature (coming soon), which matches your pace and rhythm with that of the coach in the on-demand classes that you follow on the screen. The large display is also great for watching Netflix or other included streaming apps.
The SM3 StepMill has a more rudimentary backlit LCD console that provides basic progress tracking and stats. As such, it obviously does not have any entertainment options. And it also lacks anything like STEPR’s on-demand classes and “Step Sync” feature.
The closest thing to that is the SM3’s ten programmed workouts for different goals, ranging from quick starts to heart rate intervals, for a variety of training options.
STEPR’s “Silent Step” feature refers to it being designed for a quieter workout. It’s just 77 decibels at the highest speed; comparable to an average treadmill. It can go as slow as 24 steps per minute up to 137, providing enough speed for the vast majority of trainees.
The SM3 is on the louder side. The elevated noise level is actually one of the complaints I’ve seen from other users, making the STEPR the superior choice for those who need to keep noise at a minimum while working out.
Notably, the SM3 has a higher max speed of 162 steps per minute vs 137 for the STEPR. Although most people will rarely if ever want or be able to go that fast, some advanced users may appreciate the SM3’s faster max speed for short-duration sprints during HIIT.
Also, the SM3 has both contact heart rate monitors in the handles as well as a wireless Polar® chest strap sensor. Whereas the STEPR only has a wireless Bluetooth chest strap. While contact monitors aren’t nearly as accurate as chest monitors, they do offer some convenience.
However, many people will just use their smartwatches for heart rate monitoring. STEPR is planning for Apple Watch and other smartwatch integration in future software updates.
Regarding the handles themselves, the ones on the STEPR are better than the SM3, despite not having the contact monitors. This is because they extend off the rails and are angled for a natural arm and hand position. Plus, they have easy-to-access buttons to control speed and pause, resume, or stop your session.
The SM3 doesn’t have distinct handles. You simply grasp onto the rails, which puts your arms in a less natural position. It would be more comfortable for your wrists and shoulders if there were separate ergonomically positioned handles like the ones on the STEPR.
Connectivity and User Interface
Connectivity is another area where the STEPR excels. Equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth, and a USB-C port, it’s a modern fitness tool.
Its large rotating touchscreen allows for seamless transitions between stepping and other exercises performed behind the unit (e.g. resistance band exercises, which are included in some of the bootcamp classes), allowing you to watch the screen regardless of where you are. The large library of on-demand classes further enhances the user experience.
The SM3 StepMill features an easy-to-read blue backlit LCD console, but it only displays basic information. The SM3 lacks modern connectivity features such as WiFi, Bluetooth, or USB ports.
Durability and Safety Features
The STEPR includes features designed to increase longevity, such as metal covers inside the chassis that protect the electronic components from sweat. In my testing thus far, I’ve experienced no electrical issues, chain issues, or any other frame or parts issues for that matter.
The SM3 StepMill has an okay build quality overall, but is not as sturdy as the STEPR, as evidenced by its lighter product weight (223 lbs vs 286 lbs) and lighter user weight capacity (275 lbs vs 300 lbs).
Beyond the build quality, the SM3 suffers in the durability department because it’s been plagued by a lot of mechanical issues over its life. I’ve heard that that’s one of the reasons Stairmaster decided to sunset its production and replace it with the Stairmaster 4G.
In terms of safety on the STEPR, there are two emergency stop buttons on the front and rear rails. There’s also an infrared auto-sensing emergency stop sensor at the base if you go too low, or if someone or something approaches the base of the steps.
For safety on the SM3, there are unfortunately no physical emergency stop buttons on its frame; only the main stop button on the console. There is, however, an automatic safety stop sensor base of the steps, similar to on the STEPR.
Price and Warranty
The STEPR is priced at $4,999, which reflects its premium, tech-heavy features. The machine comes with a 10-year frame warranty, a 2-year parts warranty, and a 1-year labor warranty.
The SM3 StepMill retails for around $3,800-4,500 for new units depending on where you buy it. However, refurbished versions are sometimes available for as low as $3,000, though those will have some wear.
The SM3 has a stronger warranty than the STEPR, with lifetime coverage for the frame and 3 years for parts and labor. However, this coverage is only valid if you buy it new. Refurbished models will likely have a shorter warranty.
The STEPR and StairMaster SM3 StepMill are both capable machines, but they cater to different user needs.
The STEPR Stair Climber, with its modern design and extensive technological features, is suited for individuals who want a comprehensive, connected workout experience.
The SM3 StepMill, on the other hand, is a reliable machine for those who prefer a straightforward, effective workout.It’s also worth noting that the SM3 is being phased out and replaced with the new StairMaster 4G. Over time, fewer and fewer new SM3 models will be sold, with only used and refurbished versions available.
If you’re interested in buying either of these units, you can buy them below:
- Buy the STEPR Stair Climber — Use code KING for a free 36-month extended warranty
- Buy the SM3 StepMill
If you need to do further research to choose the best compact stair climber for your home gym, check out these resources: