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Is The Hydrow Rowing Machine Worth Buying? [A Review]

hydrow rowing machine review

The Hydrow was the first rower to offer live streaming and on-demand workouts using a large, built-in HD touchscreen monitor. Other companies (first Peloton, but many now) have applied the same principle to spin cycles, treadmills, and even home gyms.

It makes sense that a company would eventually apply this idea to rowing (and I’m a little surprised Peloton hasn’t come out with one yet).

But looking at the Hydrow (great name by the way), I don’t get the impression they rushed into getting this thing on the market.

I mean it’s elegant, hi-tech, and loaded with commercial grade components.

In other words- it truly is the Peloton of rowing.

But, just like Peloton, it comes with a hefty price tag. My goal for this review is to help you decide whether or not the Hydrow is worth investing in.

Off we go.

The Hydrow Rowing Machine

The age of on-demand workouts is among us. This is good news for folks looking to get the experience of a boutique gym from the comfort of home. Especially in the time of COVID-19, it’s nice not having to leave home to get a great workout in.

I hate to keep bringing Peloton up, but it’s just such an obvious comparison. Especially since Hydrow took so many pages directly out of their playbook.

Which isn’t a bad thing, quite the contrary.

Peloton was a complete game changer in the world of home fitness. When other companies realized people are willing to pay monthly subscriptions for streaming home workouts, they quickly followed suite.

Not all companies offering streaming equipment are equal. Some are higher-end and more luxurious than others.

Hydrow, to the best of my knowledge, was the first company to apply the streaming process to a rowing machine. Others, like Echelon and their Smart Rower, are starting to follow Hydro’s lead though.

But just like Peloton still remains (in my opinion) the best streaming cycle, Hydrow is still the best streaming rower. It’s high-end and luxurious from top to bottom, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Pros

  • Interactive workouts from home
  • Heavy-duty, single piece frame
  • 375 lb weight capacity
  • Advanced, computer-controlled magnetic resistance system
  • Adjustable drag
  • 22″ HD touchscreen monitor
  • Access to hundreds of live and on-demand workouts
  • Smooth gliding seat/rail system
  • Easily adjustable foot pedals
  • Easy assembly
  • Good warranty

Cons

  • Vertical storage kit not included

Resistance

Rowing machines can usually be divided into 4 categories based on what type of resistance system they use: hydraulic, magnetic, air, or water.

Some magnetic rowers are actually hybrid machines that use a combination of magnetic and air systems, but this classification is usually the easiest way to think about rowing machine resistance.

Each has their advantages and disadvantages, but that’s a little outside of the scope for this review (for more info on this, check out my rowing machine guide).

What’s interesting about the Hydrow is that it seems they’ve developed their own resistance system.

They describe it as a “computer-controlled, electromagnetic resistance system”. What this sounds like to me, is that it’s designed to mimic the feel of rowing in water, but electronically.

I would put this in the magnetic category we described above, but unlike traditional magnetic rowers that keep a constant tension regardless of how fast your row, rowing the Hydrow because easier or harder based on your speed.

Just like an air or water rower. Or rowing a real boat on a real lake.

In a boat, the faster your row, the more resistance you get from the water. It’s a physics thing. Air and water rowers use fan blades that mimic this feel, but they make more noise.

The Hydrow combines the benefits of magnetic and air/water rowers by giving us a silent rower that still adjusts the resistance based on the speed of our strokes.

Genius.

Unlike traditional magnetic rowers, there are no “resistance levels” to adjust during your workouts. Instead, you can control the drag using the touchscreen.

This is similar to setting the drag on an air rower by adjusting the vents.

The Hydrow’s drag settings can be adjusted on a scale from 0-300, although a setting of 104 is recommended and considered a good starting point.

Something to consider- increasing the drag doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better workout. Rowing at a lower drag and higher speed can be significantly more challenging.

One of the Hydrow trainers puts it like this- think about doing bicep curls in the gym: if you’re lifting at a pace of 30 curls/min, you’re going to need less weight than if you were lifting at 12 curls/min.

I paraphrased him big time there, but I think the point remains.

The drag is basically how “heavy” each stroke feels, but rowing at faster speeds also makes the resistance go up. Rowing at slower speeds reduces the resistance, making it easier.

Overall, the computer-guided resistance system is sophisticated and unique. Utilizing a magnetic system, it runs quietly and smoothly and can offer enough resistance to challenge even the most talented rowers.

Frame

Frame integrity is an important thing to consider when looking at any type of fitness equipment. Nobody wants to buy something that’s going to feel cheap and flimsy.

And most importantly, we need to ensure the piece of equipment is strong enough to hold our body weight safely without failing.

At first glance, the Hydrow looks elegant and modern in design. More importantly, the frame looks thick and solid. Closer inspection shows that the frame and rail are all a single piece.

This means the Hydrow can’t fold, but it’s going to feel rock solid during use.

More specifically, this rower is made out of high-end steel and aluminum and is strong enough to hold users weighing up to 375 lb.

For the sake of comparison, most home rowers top out with weight capacities around 300 lb.

Fully assembled, this rower weighs 145 lb, giving it a robust feel. You shouldn’t have to worry about any unwanted wobbling or shaking during strenuous use.

The seat is contoured for comfort and slides smoothly over the rail with its 10-roller system. The handles are also contoured and attached to the flywheel via a high-end, polyester strap.

Straps (or belts) are quiet and low maintenance, making them good choices for rowing machines.

Although this frame doesn’t fold, it can be stored vertically, but you have to purchase the storage kit separately (for $70). Given the price of this rower, I think Hydrow should include this kit with purchase.

Overall though, the frame on this rowing machine is high-end and heavy-duty. It has a massive weight limit, indicative of frame integrity and overall durability.

Monitor

Most rowing machines come with simple LCD screens as monitors- not this one though. After all, the monitor is kind of a big deal when it comes to streaming workouts.

The Hydrow comes with a 22″ HD touchscreen display. It’s basically like having a huge iPad sitting in front of you- all selections and adjustments are made by touching the sweat/dust resistant screen.

Very cool.

The monitor is gorgeous and comes with built-in forward facing speakers, giving you a more interactive feel with the instructors. It’s also compatible with bluetooth, wi-fi, and ethernet connections.

Speaking of the instructors, they’re all professional trainers who make a living providing fun and motivating workouts.

To make sure we’re all on the same page- you have to pay a monthly subscription to get access to all the live and on-demand workouts (there are hundreds, with new ones being filmed every day).

There’s really no getting around the monthly fee, which I believe is $38 ($456/year). You have to sign up for it to use your Hydrow.

Which makes sense, because there wouldn’t be any reason to get this machine if you weren’t in it for the streaming workouts- that’s the point of the Hydrow.

So, there are hundreds of workouts you get to choose from, both live and previously recorded on-demand. What I think is really cool is that the workouts are filmed on the water- the trainers are actually rowing on scenic waterways, how cool is that?

You get to see and hear water during your workouts. And by scenic, we’re talking pretty rivers with sunsets and all that jazz.

There are workouts to fit every experience and fitness level out there. There’s even plenty of informational info to ensure beginners are rowing correctly to begin with.

Overall, the Hydrow comes with a very advanced monitor. It’s perfect for viewing all the streaming material available through Hydrow’s streaming service.

Assembly

Getting the Hydrow unpacked and running is a very easy process. The folks behind this rower have done an amazing job of making this model simple to assemble.

Considering the majority of the rower comes preassembled, there’s not much you have to do.

You basically just have to attach the front legs, attach the monitor, and plug it in. Yeah, it’s that easy, should only take a few minutes.

I’m always a fan when companies think of the small things to make our lives easier. Hydrow did this by including a cardboard square cutout thingy for us to prop the rower on while attaching the front feet.

This makes it a lot easier to position the feet and get them bolted correctly.

Assembly the Hydrow is an easy job, but considering its substantial weight, still might be a good idea to have a second set of hands available.

Warranty

The Hydrow comes with the following warranty:

  • Frame: 5 years
  • Screen and electronics: 12 months
  • Wear items: 12 months
  • Labor: 12 months

I’ve got to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by the generous warranty being offered here. Five years on the frame is pretty good for a rower (the amazing Concept2 Model E only offers 5 years on their frame).

A year on electronics and wear items is also pretty decent (although when Hydrow first came out it offered 2 years). FYI- wear items include the handle, seat, and strap.

12 months on labor is standard, as most companies offer 12 months in this department (if they offer any labor warranty at all that is).

Overall, a pretty good warranty on this rowing machine (although it used to be a little better).

Final Thoughts

There’s no question the Hydrow is a nice rowing machine. Every aspect of this rower is designed with both form and function in mind.

I love that the frame consists of a single piece and that it comes with such a high weight capacity. I’m also impressed with the computer controlled magnetic resistance system that combines all the benefits of air and magnetic rowers.

The monitor is huge and technologically advanced and this machine is even backed by a great warranty.

So, is the Hydrow awesome?

Yes.

But is it 2 grand awesome?

That’s a little harder to answer, because it’s so subjective. But, if we look at the comps, it can give us a better idea.

Based on the price of the Peloton, I would say yes, the price of roughly $2000 is appropriate, considering a 22″ HD display is included.

The closest rower for comparison is probably NordicTrack’s RW900, which is about $500 cheaper, but isn’t quite as high-end and luxurious.

The Hydrow is pricey, but it’s also the highest-end, most technologically advanced rower on the market (and easily the best magnetic rower around). If that’s what you’re looking for, then this rower is definitely worth the money.

 

 

Will

10 Comments

  1. Great review – very much appreciate it. However, please review the warranty information. It appears that they have made it much less generous, which makes me wonder if they’ve seen warranty issues already.

    • Thanks for the tip, you are correct sir. It does look like the warranty has been shortened a bit in all categories. I’ve corrected in the review and I’ll keep an eye on it. Thanks again!

      • Thanks! It is a bit disappointing given the higher price point than the Nordic Track and yet offers an inferior warranty. From your RW900 review:
        The NordicTrack RW900 Rower comes with the following warranty:
        10 year frame
        2 year parts
        1 year labor

        Also, one of the “cons” for the Nodic Track RW900 was that it did not include a heart rate monitor. Does the Hydrow? I don’t see it mentioned above and comparing the two reviews made me curious.

        As you can likely tell, I’m torn between the two. I’ve seen a lot of negative comments about the Nordic Track service, but the warranty is substantially better. And it is a lot cheaper overall.

        • I agree, I’d like to see a longer warranty on the Hydrow given the price, but it seems to be an ongoing thing with luxury fitness equipment (Peloton only offers 5 years on their frame). When it comes to heart rate monitors, the Hydrow doesn’t come with one either, and I agree it would be awesome if they included one. According to Hydrow, the rower is compatible with both ANT+ and Bluetooth HRMs, but ANT+ is their preferred method.

          In terms of comparison, it’s hard to deny that the Hydrow is a nicer model (even though its warranty is shorter). Looking at the weight capacities, the Hydrow can handle 125 lb more than the RW900, which says a lot.

          Hydrow’s on-water workout videos also set them apart, but NordicTrack has a nice rower for the price (especially if you don’t want to have to pay for the monthly subscription fee).

          • Thanks Will. My assumption regarding the weight capacity difference is that the RW900 folds up so the hinge reduces the structural capacity/frame rigidity (which makes me wonder if there is a long term impact that might cause some wobbling long term). Regardless, very much appreciate all of the information you have provided and your thorough, understandable reviews!

          • Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head there. My pleasure, thanks for reading!

  2. I’ve been looking at the Hydrow and Nordictrack 900 rower. The NT has a ton of negative reviews on Amazon. Did you encounter any of that in your testing of it?

    • I haven’t actually gotten my hands on the RW900 yet. I checked Amazon and it looks like its averaging a 4.1/5 rating for their user reviews- but you’re right, 15% of those reviews are 1 star. Looks like a lot of the problems people are having are with defective parts on arrival and issues with customer service. And it’s no secret that NordicTrack (and all ICON brands) have a bad reputation for their customer service. The Hydrow looks like a much nicer product to me and the price difference isn’t that big. The Hydrow is still relatively new, so time will tell in terms of their customer service.

  3. Nice review- I’m also interested in the Hydrow. Too bad we cant play our playlist thru Hydrow’s screen. $500/year fir programming is also a concern, especially not being able to use hydrow without their programming! I’m reminded that last year at this time, Hydrow was offered fir same at holiday price of appx $1699. – that price point would make me a buyer (Hydrow & Best Buy are you reading this???).

    • Thanks man. I agree with ya on the playlist, that would definitely be a nice feature and it’s something Hydrow should consider adding in the future. That holiday price you mentioned is a great deal, I wonder if they’ll do something similar this year??

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