Rowing machines are great – you get low impact cardio exercise that’s easy on the joints AND both an upper body and a lower body strength training workout. Did you know you engage 86% of your all your body’s muscles when you’re rowing?
And with smart rowers, not only do you get these benefits, but you also get live coaching right at home, with real time feedback, plus access to loads of additional classes on demand.
And if you’ve heard of the Hydrow, the Ergatta and the Echelon Rower, then you’ll know they’ve each been hailed as the new Peleton of rowing machines, which is high praise indeed. But with such good equipment on the market, how are you supposed to decide which one to get?
That’s where we come in. We’ve been looking into it, and this article compares and contrasts these three rowers. First we’re going to give you an overview of each machine, followed by a run through of the specs, and a look at the actual classes available.
Then we’ll summarise the differences between the three machines, and then we’ll round up with a final conclusion (feel free to scroll straight down if you like).
The whole idea behind Hydrow, is for you to get a totally immersive experience and make you feel that while you’re working on your rowing machine at home you could actually be in a beautiful setting, out on some gorgeous plane of water elsewhere in the world.
It works to achieve this through the moving images on its 22 inch high definition screen. But that’s not all, the machine is ergonomically designed and engineered to make each stroke feel exactly as it would if you were out on the water.
When laid out for doing your work outs, the Hydrow measures 86 inches long by 25 inches wide. But if you were to pack it away for storage (there’s an upright storage kit sold separately) it becomes 86 inches high by 25 inches wide and 33 inches deep. So obviously it doesn’t fold flat, but does take up less horizontal space.
And although it is quite weighty (145 pounds), there’s a wheel system so you can glide it around and out of the way when not in use.
As to how much weight the machine can take, that comes in at 375 pounds, which is 26 stone, so it can accommodate many heavy users.
You can adjust the foot bed as necessary, which is handy if you’re going to have several people in the household using the machine.
The screen, as we mentioned earlier is a full 22 inches wide and is in a high definition resolution of 1920 x 1080.
It’s Bluetooth 5.0 enabled, which means that not only can you hook it up to a chest worn heart rate monitor and wrist based fitness trackers, but you should also be able to hook it up to your headphones, which means you can carry on with your work out classes without disturbing anyone else.
We’ve got to say, the Hydrow workouts are pretty amazing. You get to explore scenic waterways, sightseeing some really breathtaking destinations the world over. They have a huge library of workouts, and you can choose between classes designed to get your heart pumping or you can go for something a little more laid back with a more meditative rowing session.
Their coaches for the classes aren’t actors, but are actually skilled authentic oarsmen and women in rowing. And that makes a huge difference, as you can benefit from their insights and experience. There are live workouts, where you move completely in sync with your coach. And all these live workouts are recorded, so if you really like a particular workout you can access it as much as you like on demand.
But you don’t have to check in with a coach every time if you don’t want to. You can explore the various waterways at your own pace.
A stand out feature with Hydrow is that they also offer workouts for your exercise mat. You simply swivel the screen over and you can do workouts in yoga, pilates, or other strength training where you use your body as it’s own gym.
With Ergatto on the other hand, the ethos behind the rower is more game based, and they believe that working out should feel like playing a sport, and not like taking a class. To that end the work outs are set up for the user to set their own goals and targets rather than follow some leader.
But that’s not all, the Ergatta actually uses real water in a waterflywheel with the machine in order to create a smooth resistance that increases naturally with your effort, while still going easy on the back.
When laid out for working out, the Echelon measures 86 inches long by 23 inches wide.
But when you want to store it upright, the dimensions become more like that of a bar stool, measuring 23 inches by 22.5 inches.
If you don’t want to fold it up for storage, but wanted to create a bit more space, you’ll find that the arm is collapsible, which is good if you want to protect the machine’s screen, which is 17.3 inches wide (notably smaller than that of the Hydrow, but not too small) and is touch screen enabled.
Ergatta makes no mention of what is the maximum weight the machine can take, and to be honest, we see that as a bad sign, and we are tempted to assume that it can’t take a large weight of user.
Although it’s not Bluetooth enabled, it does of course hook up to your wifi for your classes.
With Ergatta, your workout challenges are all calibrated to your particular fitness profile. Which means any goal set should be within your reach. The workouts aren’t so much classes but rather fitness games with real time feedback, and you don’t have to just challenge yourself, but you can take this one step further and join competitions, group challenges, and head-to-head races.
The workouts are made up of 4 different types. There’s Push programs, which are goal based training plans that include a series of different workouts all aimed at meeting one end goal.
Then there are Interval and HIIT workouts. For those who don’t know HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This method of exercise involves lots of sharp bursts of intense exercise with breaks interspersed between. People are known to achieve greater weight loss with this method compared to more mediocre long period cardio exercise classes. Again, you get real time feedback and work towards personalized targets.
Then with the race workouts, you get to race head to head with any member of the Ergatta online community.
And last, but not least, you can also choose a more relaxed, self led row, where the goal may be to reach a particular length of time or distance, rather than a particular speed.
Echelon meanwhile isn’t marketed with the same level of mystique that accompany the other two machines.
The focus instead is on affordability, and to that end, Echelon are far more transparent and even up front about the costs of both the rowing machine itself and they appear to pride themselves on making their products and services as something that the customer can afford.
The Echelon when laid out for a workout measures 86 inches in length and 21 inches in width. So while it’s length is exactly the same as the other two, it is a little narrower.
Again this is a machine that can be folded away upright when not in use, to give you your room back.
The Echelon is bluetooth enabled. And rather than coming with an expensive screen attached to the rower, it has an integrated tablet holder instead, so you can access the fitness classes on offer via your tablet.
This lack of screen does go some way to explaining why the Echelon is so much more affordable than the other two machines for the first purchase at least.
The maximum recommended weight for the Echelon rower is 300 pounds, which is just over 21 stone, so it can accommodate most people.
Echelon also offers live workouts. These classes are led by world class instructors, and there are live classes available to take part in every single day.
But if you don’t want to join a live class, then you can access their library of on demand classes, which is soon expected to hold over a thousand individual on demand classes.
As with Hydrow, Echelon also classes also include exercise classes you can do off the rower and on an exercise mat. You simply swivel the screen to where your mat is, tap the class you want and off you go.
But what makes the Echelon rower classes really stand out is the music. Echelon boasts the best licensed music library in the industry for rowing.
Since the Echelon classes don’t come through via the rower’s own screen (since it doesn’t have one) then instead you will have to download the Echelon rower app for your tablet, and this is available for both iOS systems and Android.
In terms of the quality of the machine, well they’re all very well made and built to last. If you buy any of them directly from the manufacturer you will also get a decent warranty for it.
And even though they can all be folded away for easy storage, they have managed to accomplish this design feature without having to compromise on quality.
Workout Experience Comparison
If you’ve read the sections on the various classes on offer by each manufacturer, then you will have noticed just how different this product offering is. But it’s worth having a recap, and giving our opinion.
We think that in terms of getting you fitter, and helping you to achieve more common targets such as weight loss, that Ergatta has the most to offer in this regard. This is because of the very nature and intention of the workouts. Ergatta’s workouts are more like games, where you’re highly motivated to beat your high score (or someone else’s) and are more encouraged to work just that little harder.
The reason we say that is, not just because of Ergatta overall ethos, but also because of their strength in their HIIT offering, which is a type of workout that’s specifically aimed at fat loss, while simultaneously offering strength training.
We also love how Ergatta classes are specifically calibrated to your particular user profile, for a truly tailored workout experience.
That’s not to say that Echelon won’t have a comparable offering in the foreseeable future, but as yet the classes on offer are not yet up to the same number.
The strong point for the Hydrow class offering, on the other hand, is more about scenery and about conveying the feeling of rowing on waterways around the world. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s more suited to workouts where you’re specifically concentrating on toning, endurance and strength training rather than weight loss.
When you buy gym equipment for the home, you generally expect it to be expensive, especially if you’re buying a brand new model, rather than going out and getting one second hand. These smart rowers are expensive machines, and are not cheap or budget versions. The price of some goes into the thousands of dollars.
But that said there is some considerable variation in the different costs. At the time of writing this article, Hydrow is the most expensive of these three rowing machines, while the Ergatta comes at a close but definite second. The Echelon machine on the other hand is considerably more affordable than the other two.
And what makes the Echelon even more affordable (if you buy through the manufacturer) is that you can pay for the machine in installments, which is so much more convenient than having to dip into your savings or take out a personal loan to cover the cost.
But that’s just the cost of the machine itself. All the rowing manufacturers want you to subscribe to their special classes. And as far as the Hydrow and the Ergatta are concerned, you’re not obligated to sign up for the classes however, and you can still get a good workout on the machine without spending another penny. But we have found that most people who buy the rowers do sign up for the accompanying classes.
These subscriptions are in fact all good value for money. Even the most expensive subscription, which comes from Hydro, costs less per month than a typical gym membership. The Ergatta subscription is a little more affordable. And to get the full value of the machine, we recommend that you do subscribe to the classes.
With regards to the Echelon rower however, you buy the machine and you sign up to the membership at the same juncture. That makes it sound expensive, but it’s actually quite affordable, especially if you decide to spread the payment.
Value for Money Comparison
In terms of value for money, Echelon is probably the best, but it does depend on what you’re looking for, since the Hydrow and the Ergatta have some very different styles of classes available on their subscription that might be more appealing to you than the standard Echelon classes.
So, in this article, we’ve introduced you to three great smart rowing machines for workouts out home. They aren’t the only ones out there at the moment, but they’re certainly amongst the best.
As you can see while these smart rowing machines do tend to have a lot in common with each other, there’s also a lot to set each of them apart. They each have something different to offer. Hydrow with it’s gorgeous scenic views, Ergatto with it’s fun games and challenges, and Echelon with it’s amazing affordability.
Judging from the available classes, we think that overall the Ergatto would be best suited for working on speed, cardio, and weight loss, whereas Hydrow is best suited for leisurely rows where the goal is not so much cardio or weight loss, but rather for working on your stamina and for a little meditative escapism.
With the incredible health benefits you can get from a rowing workout, regular strength and cardio training right from the comfort of your own home, a smart rowing machine is a worthy investment, even if you decide to opt for one of the more expensive models on the market.
Although it’s very hard to say exactly which of the machines is the best, that’s difficult to say. But at least if you buy one of these rowers on having read this article, then you can trust that you’ve been fully informed and be confident in your decision making.