Magnetic rowing machines certainly have their advantages- they’re quiet, they provide consistent resistance regardless of how fast you row, and some come with some pretty spectacular monitors.
They can also provide a great full body workout, as well as improving cardiovascular health and strength at the same time.
If you’re looking for a new fitness machine to add to your home gym, a magnetic rower can be a smart choice, but like pretty much everything else in life, not all rowers are created equal.
You have to know what to look for and where to look to find the best ones- and that’s exactly where this guide comes in.
In this comprehensive article, we’ll take a look at the best magnetic rowers currently on the market. I’ve also included a buyer’s guide at the end that goes over everything you should consider when deciding on a magnetic rower.
Let’s start with the good stuff first though.
|The Hydrow||Computer controlled magnetic||Streaming||375 lb||5 year frame|
12 months parts
12 month labor
|NordicTrack RW900||Magnetic/air combo||Streaming||250 lb||10 year frame|
2 year parts
1 year labor
|Echelon Smart Rower||Magnetic||Streaming||300 lb||1 year all inclusive|
30 day money back
|SHF SF-RW5458||Magnetic||7 pre-programmed||300 lb||3 year frame|
6 month parts
|Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower||Magnetic||12 pre-programmed||275 lb||3 year frame|
90 day parts
The 5 Best Magnetic Rowing Machines For Home Use
#1 The Hydrow
The Hydrow is a luxury magnetic rower that really has a lot to offer. Reviewers like myself like to refer to the Hydrow as “the Peloton of rowers” because this rowing machine also allows you stream workouts through a large, HD touchscreen display.
And I hope Hydrow isn’t offended by this comparison, because it really is a compliment (if you ask me, Peloton is the best spin cycle on the market).
The 22″ HD display is a real show-stopper, but this rower has a lot of other features to be proud of as well.
Like the fact that it comes with a single piece frame made out of steel/aluminum that can handle users weighing up to 375 lb and that the monitor can tilt and adjust side to side for optimal viewing angles.
The resistance system is magnetic of course, but unlike most magnetic rowers that simply use a flywheel, the Hydrow has a computer controlled system that controls the feel of the drag throughout your workout.
This is more like a traditional air or water rower, but without the noise.
So essentially, you get the best of both worlds- a workout that mimics the feel of being on the water, but while being as quiet as a traditional magnetic rower.
That said, you can adjust the drag electronically anywhere from 0-300, depending on the feel you’re looking for (it’s preset at a drag of 104 and this is where Hydrow recommends everyone start).
The Hydrow is a streaming rower, meaning it’s designed to pair with their streaming service for on-demand and live workouts. And you have to sign up and pay the monthly subscription fee ($38/month) to access.
Speaking of the workouts, this is something else that sets the Hydrow apart from other streaming rowers- their workouts are actually filmed on the water.
This means you are seeing your instructor row a real boat on a real river during your workout. And with the huge HD monitor and speakers, this is about as close as you can get to mimicking the feel of being on the water without leaving your living room.
The biggest downside to this rower is the price of course, but if you’re looking for the most advanced rowing machine around, this is it. See full review.
#2 NordicTrack RW900
NordicTrack’s RW900 is the most advanced rower in their lineup to date and it’s basically a more budget-friendly version of the Hydrow.
And even though both rowers use the same general game plan, there are some significant differences between the 2 rowing machines.
Like the Hydrow, the RW900 comes with a 22″ HD touchscreen display that is used for streaming workouts. Being an ICON brand, the NordicTrack RW900 is compatible with iFit and this is the app that is used for streaming all workouts.
Unlike the Hydrow, the iFit workouts are filmed in a studio though.
The resistance system on the RW900 is different too. This rower uses a combination of magnetic and air to provide the benefits of both systems.
It comes with 26 levels of magnetic resistance to choose from as well as 10 levels of damper adjustment to control the feel of the drag.
With a dual system like this, you can set the magnetic resistance to act as your baseline intensity- regardless of how fast you row, you’ll always be pulling against at least this much resistance.
The air resistance kicks in if you start pulling faster- the faster you pull, the more air resistance you’re going to get.
And you can actively control the magnetic resistance throughout your workouts.
The frame on this rower isn’t nearly as heavy-duty, as the RW900 only comes with a 250 lb weight capacity, but unlike the Hydrow, this rower can fold for storage.
In order to access all the on-demand and live workouts, you’ll have to pay the monthly iFit subscription fee ($39/month), but NordicTrack includes a free year with purchase.
And with iFit, you get access to all of their workouts, not just the rowing ones (and if you own any other NordicTrack products, you may already have an iFit subscription, in which case you wouldn’t need to sign up again).
Overall, if you’re looking for a streaming rower, but the Hydrow is a little out of your price range, the RW900 is a smart choice See full review.
#3 Echelon Smart Rower
If you already own a tablet and are looking to save some money on a streaming rower, Echelon’s Smart Rower could make sense.
Although Echelon does now offer fitness equipment with touchscreen consoles, the brand became popular for their significantly more budget friendly models that paired with your own tablet or smart phone to keep costs down.
The Smart Rower is one such model.
Like the Hydrow and RW900 already mentioned, this rowing machine pairs with a fitness app (Echelon has their own app) and this is where you access all of the on-demand and live workouts.
And, like the other 2 rowers, you have to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to access it (although with Echelon, you get a discount my going annual).
This machine is more of a traditional magnetic rower, meaning you simple set your resistance level and off ya go. The resistance will stay consistent (and quiet) regardless of how fast your pull.
The Smart Rower comes with 32 levels of resistance to choose from and you can easily adjust your resistance during your workouts from the controls on the handlebar.
This rowing machine also comes with a folding frame that can hold users weighing up to 300 lb and adjustable pedals that make it easier to find a comfortable fit.
I mentioned you have to use your own phone or tablet with this rower- the included tablet holder swivels, which will come in handy if you want to keep your tablet attached to the rower while doing other types of Echelon workouts.
The biggest downside to the Smart Rower is the short warranty, but with an asking price over $1000 cheaper than the Hydrow (and over $500 cheaper than the RW900), it could still make sense as an investment for those looking for a more affordable alternative. See full review.
#4 Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine (SF-RW5854)
If you’re looking for a simple, quiet, and effective magnetic rower, then Sunny Health & Fitness’s SF-RW5854 is worth considering.
SHF has become a popular brand for providing budget-friendly alternatives that actually work. The offer a little bit of everything in their lineup and they’ve got a ton of models to choose from (I’m especially fond of their spin bikes).
Most of their machines are numerically numbered like this one is, so it can get a little confusing when comparing models, but we shouldn’t hold that against SHF because their products are legit.
With a sales price under $500, the SF-RW5854 is a significantly more affordable model than anything we’ve discussed so far.
And unlike all of the other rowers at the top of this list, this rower isn’t designed for streaming workouts. It’s just a good ol’ fashioned magnetic rower- get on, set your resistance, and start rowing.
Folks looking for a rower that’s easy to use will appreciate this- after all, everything doesn’t have to be connected or “smart”.
This rowing machine comes with 16 levels of resistance to work with as well as 7 pre-programmed workouts to choose from, including a couple of “competition” workouts where you race against the computer.
The monitor is very small and simple, but it tracks all of the usual metrics you’d expect.
The frame on this rower can fold vertically for storage and is capable of safely holding users weighing up to 300 lb. It’s also heart rate compatible, although one isn’t included.
The biggest downside to this budget-friendly rowing machine is the short warranty, although I must say, it’s a little better than the guarantee offered on the Echelon.
Overall, if you’re for a smooth-working, affordable rower, SHF has got ya covered. See full review.
#5 Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower
Finishing up our list is the affordable Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower. Like the SHF model mentioned above, this is another simple magnetic rowing machine that is easy to use without having to worry about signing up for fitness apps and whatnot.
This is another purely magnetic rower, meaning it rows quietly and smoothly. You don’t have to mess with any dampers or filling water tanks here.
The Avari comes with 12 workout programs to choose from and each one allows for resistance adjustments to fine tune the intensity to meet your fitness needs.
The monitor is simple, but easy to read during workouts. Like the SHF model above, it displays all the necessary workout metrics as well as shows which workout your currently doing.
The frame can fold for easy storage and this rower comes with a 275 lb max weight capacity.
One nice surprise on this rower is that it comes with a chest strap heart rater included (and there’s actually a heart rate program that automatically adjusts the resistance to get you in your appropriate heart rate zones).
This rowing machine also comes with a fairly short warranty, but given the price, it’s actually not that bad (and still better than Echelon’s).
The Stamina Avari is best suited for intermediate and beginning rowers who are looking for an affordable rower to add to their home gym- more advanced rowers should consider a more powerful machine.
Overall though, for the price, easily one of the best magnetic rowers around. See full review.
Finding The Right Magnetic Rower
Ok, so there ya have it. The above represent the 5 top magnetic rowing machines currently on the market (in my humble opinion).
But just in case you didn’t find one ya like, I wanted to include a buyer’s guide with tips about what to look for when searching for the right option.
As you might’ve noticed, not all magnetic rowing machines are created equal. The features different rowers come with will vary of course, but even the magnetic resistance systems themselves will vary.
Magnetic resistance systems are great because they’re virtually silent during operation (no wind or water churning sounds).
A lot of people also prefer them because the resistance is consistent- you set the resistance level, and it remains the same regardless of how fast or slow you row (which isn’t the case for water and air rowers).
But as our list shows, this last fact isn’t always the case.
Rowers that come with a combination magnetic/air resistance system are a little different, because they do provide more resistance if you row faster.
These combo machines combine the benefits of both magnetic and air rowers- you get to set the baseline resistance (the rower won’t go below this even if you’re rowing slowly), but you can get more resistance by increasing your speed.
If you like the idea of this, you should definitely look for a rower that comes with a combo resistance system. And there must be a lot of people who do like it, because there are a lot of combo rowers coming out these days.
And then there’s the Hydrow, with its computer controlled magnetic resistance system, which is in a class all of its own.
Even with traditional magnetic rowers, it’s a good idea to see how many resistance levels the machine comes with and take a look at user reviews to get an idea of how intense the resistance gets (assuming you can’t actually take it for a spin before purchasing).
Generally speaking, more affordable magnetic rowers tend to come with less overall resistance. These rowers are better suited for less experienced rowers.
More advanced rowers will likely benefit from a more advanced (and usually more expensive) rowing machine.
Another key feature to consider during your search is the type and number of workout programs included. Traditionally, rowing machines were very simple devices that came with very basic consoles.
This is no longer the case though.
As the world continues to get more connected, everything seems to be getting “smart” these days. I was in a patient’s house once who had a smart toaster- yeah, he had an app to control his toaster (his toaster!).
Anyway, it just a matter of time until rowing machines where added to that list.
I think we have Peloton to thank for the fitness streaming evolution that we seem to be in the middle of- as far as I can remember, they were the first ones to do it.
And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good thing. Having the ability to stream workouts directly to your home fitness equipment is a powerful tool that can really improve the quality of your workouts (not to mention the money you can save from cancelling gym memberships).
When looking for a rower, you should consider whether or not you want one that can stream workouts.
The top 3 rowers on this last are all designed for streaming. If you don’t like the idea of having to pay a monthly fee for streaming services, you shouldn’t purchase one of these rowers.
If you’re not looking for a streaming device, consider how many workout programs come with the rower you’re considering.
Some people prefer a lot of workout variety to choose from, others don’t care as much. Either way, workout variety is something worth thinking about during your search.
I think it’s a good idea to look at the frame too. When comparing frames, there are a couple of things to look for. The first and most important in my opinion, is weight capacity.
Having a higher weight capacity is always a good thing. A higher weight limit not only means that rower can handle larger users, but it’s also indicative of superior stability and durability.
Makes sense doesn’t it? A rower that can hold 400 lb users has got to be stronger than a rower that can handle 250 lb users.
You should also look to see if the frame is foldable or not. Many rowers have frames that can fold vertically for storage, but not all do.
For example, as great as the Hydrow is, it doesn’t fold (you have to get an extra accessory in order to store it vertically).
If your workout space is limited, you might want opt for one with a folding frame.
If you’re exceptionally tall, you should probably examine the rail length as well, because not all rowers are the same length. Longer rowing machines will be able to accommodate taller users better than shorter ones.
Self-respecting rowers will include an in-seam length as part of their specs, which will give you a good idea as to the folks that should fit comfortably.
The warranty is always something that should be considering when purchasing any type of fitness equipment, and rowing machines are no different.
Simple put- longer is always better.
A machine’s warranty is like its insurance plan, guaranteeing that it’ll work for a given period of time. A long warranty can help put your mind at ease about the investment you’re making, especially when purchasing a luxury model with a larger price tag.
Rower warranties usually come in 3 different parts: frame, parts, and labor.
A lot of rowers offer somewhere between 3-5 years on the frame. NordicTrack gets bonus points for their 10-year frame warranties, because even the Hydrow only offers 5.
When it comes to parts, expect 1-3 years on quality models. Labor warranties are usually a year at best, and really budget friendly rowers won’t offer any labor guarantee.
Some rowers will also provide money back guarantees, usually for 30 days.
These are great, because you get to purchase the machine, try it out for a month, and send it back for a full refund if it doesn’t meet your expectations for any reason.
If you’re stuck between 2 rowers, and all other things being equal, I’d go with the model with the better warranty.
Ok, that about does it. I hope you enjoyed my magnetic rowing machine guide. Rowing machines can make great home fitness machines because they don’t take up that much space and you can get one hell of a workout on them.
Not only can they improve cardiovascular health, but they can also improve overall strength as well.
And magnetic rowers are especially popular for their quiet operation and smooth, consistent resistance.
All things considered, I think the Hydrow is the best magnetic rower on the market. It’s sleek, technologically advanced, and rock-solid.
I also think it’s awesome that they actually film the instructors on the water.
The NordicTrack RW900 and Echelon Smart Rower are both good, budget friendly options for streaming workouts. The SHF and Stamina are examples of simple, easy to use rowers that won’t break the budget.
When searching for your rower, I highly encourage you to consider the specs and features mentioned above in the buyers guide.
Taking the time and doing your homework before you purchase will make all the difference. It might sound like more work, but in the long run it’ll save you time from having to return a product that’s not a good fit for your home gym.