- Working out at home can be tedious and grueling but a high-quality rowing machine can make it more enjoyable.
- The best at-home rowers should mimic the proper rowing motion and work most of your muscles for a complete, full-body workout.
- The Hydrow Rowing Machine is a new at-home rower that offers workout content similarly to Peloton in that there are live and on-demand workouts catering to whatever level of intensity you want. You can even compare your performance to other users.
- Though it’s a steep investment at $2,200, the Hydrow comes with a six-year warranty on the frame, and the company is constantly improving the software for better user experience.
The popularity of interactive at-home workout machines continues to grow with brands like Peloton and NordicTrack leading the charge. Though similar at-home products have been around for years, advancements in the space have allowed these machines to be highly effective workout tools and more widely accessible.
Take the above-mentioned Peloton, for example. What started as a simple group cycling class seven years ago has since expanded into an at-home stationary bike outfit with highly interactive videos and classes. Put plainly, it’s revolutionized our relationship with the stationary bike – and the startup is now estimated to be worth $4 billion.
But one nitpick some have with these bikes is how the machines tend to neglect your upper body. This is where the Hydrow Rowing Machine comes in, an at-home rower poised to become the Peloton of rowing.
Unlike cycling, rowing is said to engage 86% of your muscles. With this $2,200 at-home unit, you can participate in live or on-demand rowing classes led by world-class athletes, all in the comfort of your living room.
Curious about its benefits, I tried a Hydrow prototype for a month. Here’s what I thought of the experience and if the $2,200 price tag is worth the investment.
Updated on 01/24/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated pricing and links, added a section on alternatives and “should you buy it,” and updated formatting.
Read more: The best rowing machines you can buy
Specs for the Hydrow Rowing Machine
The Hydrow is an 86-inch-long by 25-inch-wide rowing machine featuring an easily-accessible 22-inch HD touchscreen mounted on the front. The monitor is sweatproof and features Hi-Fi speakers, a two-megapixel camera, a built-in microphone, USB 2.0 connection, and both Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities.
Here are a few other important specs:
- Aluminum and steel frame with a flat anthracite polymer body
- Soft rubberized feet to protect floors
- Low-stress handle grip with ergonomic design
- 1920 by 1080 Full HD screen resolution
- Over 500 pre-recorded river and studio rowing sessions
- Four types of rowing videos: Live Rowing, Rows on Demand, Serene River Rowing, Whole Body Fitness
- Quiet, electromagnetic resistance that adjusts 240 times per second
- Heart rate monitoring
- 10-roller seat roller system facilitating a smooth operation
- 25-degree monitor pivot in each direction
- 18-month labor warranty; 2-year warranty on wear items, screen, and other electronics; and a 6-year structural frame warranty
A recurring $38 monthly membership is required to experience the full functionality of the Hydrow (i.e. the classes). This includes live virtual outdoor rows with instructors and athletes (including a selection from the U.S. National Rowing Team), access to a live leaderboard during classes, Hydrow’s full on-demand library, and other exclusive off-machine fitness content.
My setup experience was slightly different than what should be expected as Hydrow coordinated both the delivery and setup with a team of its own. The rower was fully assembled when it arrived, so the brand’s technician just needed to screw the screen onto the frame, plug in the machine, and connect it to my Wi-Fi.
Once complete, the technician walked me through how to use the machine before he left and even showed me how to access the rowing tutorials – all of which I found really helpful.
If purchased via Best Buy, there is a white-glove treatment available for anyone who wants complete setup done for them. Best Buy offers a delivery and installation option just about everywhere in the US for $249.99. There’s also a flat $69.99 delivery charge but that gets waived if you go with the delivery and installation option – something Best Buy strongly encourages. You may even qualify for free installation and delivery if you reach out to customer service.
If you go the full installation route, a Geek Squad member delivers and sets up your Hydrow wherever you want it in your apartment or home. They’ll also connect it to your Wi-Fi and ensure the rower is workout-ready before leaving.
What makes the rower stand out
To get the most out of my month of testing the Hydrow, I challenged my wife to see who could put in the most mileage. My wife is fairly sedentary while I’m very active, yet the spirit of competition and ease of use motivated her to
I often loaded up a pre-recorded video class first thing in the morning to hit the digital water, due mainly to the fact the trainers all had upbeat attitudes. This helped to guide my workouts and started my day off on the right foot – thankfully, they weren’t annoyingly positive. Their encouragement got me to push a little harder while focusing on my form.
There are several levels of intensity to choose from and it took a bit of experimentation to figure out which level and workout length were ideal for my exercise needs. I felt the Warm-Up, Breathe, and Sweat videos were fairly light and didn’t get my heart rate going as much as I wanted. Instead, I was more into the Push videos. The first 20-minute, Push interval session I did really worked out my body.
I also enjoyed the real-time leaderboard that appears on the right side of the screen a Live Rowing session. It compares your distance to the distances rowed by other users at each point of the video. I found it to be an incredibly useful motivating tool – my wife also noted how it often pushed her to row harder.
Although I preferred the interactive classes, some of my wife’s favorite sessions didn’t have live instructors. She liked the Serene River Rowing in which you go through beautiful natural areas and hear nothing but the water. There’s still a leaderboard but no one is pushing you, so you’re more likely to go at your own pace.
Another impressive aspect was the video streaming quality. There’s nothing worse than having a video freeze in the middle of a guided workout, especially when you’re challenging for the top of the leaderboard. During my testing, the screen froze just once – something my wife experience as well, at the same point in the same video. If this happens, you’re able to just press the help icon on the screen and instantly send feedback to Hydrow, who was responsive.
Cons to consider
Perhaps the Hydrow’s biggest drawback is how big its 15-square-foot size is. I kept it in my living room for the short term but in the long term, you’d want a dedicated workout area.
You can, however, store the Hydrow vertically if you want to free up space. When stored vertically, it only takes up a 33-inch by 25-inch patch of space. I did this a few times and with the front wheels, it was easy enough for me to move and stand up the 145-pound machine on my own.
To the Hydrow’s credit, the machine is incredibly quiet, which is certainly nice if you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls, or just don’t want to make too much of a racket. The only time it wasn’t quiet, though, was when I had the resistance cranked up to 100% and was trying to do a high stroke rate. I’d hear a knocking sound where the foot pedals met the machine. My wife never experienced this but I weigh 250 pounds, which is 80 pounds more than her, so it might’ve just been a weight issue. Either way, I brought it up to Hydrow who told me that they’d fixed it in subsequent versions of the machine.
The price might also give you a bit of sticker shock. At $2,199, it’s definitely not cheap but considering a Peleton bike costs $1,995, I’d say it’s comparable. You’re also getting a full-body workout as opposed to only cardio.
Hydrow’s base price doesn’t include the $38 monthly membership fee, which does make the final price a bit higher than what’s advertised. Depending on how often you’d use the machine, an ongoing subscription might be an unnecessary and sunk cost – or a financial motivator.
The bottom line
Overall, I loved the Hydrow. So much so that I was sad when the technicians came to take it away. On my humble freelance writer wages, I’d likely be unable to buy it at its current price of $2,200 (plus membership fees). I just can’t afford it. But if I had $2,200 to put toward my physical fitness, or was willing to part with $61 per month with Best Buy’s financing payment, I’d buy the Hydrow today.
- Should you buy it? At a comparable price to the Peloton, the Hydrow gives you a full-body workout. Plus, with its software updates, a new app, and constant improvements, Hydrow has demonstrated it’s committed to producing a top-quality experience. If you have the money and are looking for a way to stay motivated with a fun and challenging full-body exercise, I strongly recommend giving the Hydrow Rowing Machine a try.
- What are your alternatives? Though there is a variety of at-home workout equipment like stationary bikes or treadmills, interactive at-home rowers are relatively new (outside of the traditional, analog water rowers or stationary, screen-less row machines). The closest alternative would be the Ergatta Digital Rower, a machine unveiled at CES 2020. Like the Hydrow, the Ergatta rower features an onboard screen that displays workouts, leaderboards, and pre-recorded classes. The rower itself is even in the style of a water rower in that it uses water flywheel technology to produce a smooth row experience.
Pros: More than 500 on-demand videos of varying lengths and intensities, live broadcasts with live leaderboards, full-body workout, durable construction, quiet and precise electromagnetic resistance
Cons: Expensive, requires membership for access to all of the features, takes up a lot of space