Numerical investigations of heat transfer and fluid flow have been carried out to study the effect of variation of longitudinal and transverse pitch-to-diameter ratios for a cross-flow heat exchanger with elliptical tubes. A total of 17 configurations of varying compactness are investigated. This investigation also covers the effect of aspect ratio (0.40, 0.53, 0.78, 0.92, and 1.00) and tube arrangement (inline and staggered) on the performance of a cross-flow heat exchanger. Details of heat transfer, friction factor, goodness factor and heat transfer per unit pumping power of (3 × 5) elliptic tube bundle are evaluated in the Reynolds number range of 5,500–14,500. Based on these criteria, weighed by the compactness, the configurations with the longitudinal and transverse pitch-to-diameter values of (2:1.75) and (1.75:2) are recommended. © 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.