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Hydrow review: Is this high-tech rowing machine worth it?

Hydrow rower review

Immersive home workouts have made great strides in recent years, thanks in part to high-tech exercise machines — some of which may even replace a gym membership altogether. 

Designed to change the way users exercise, Hydrow positions itself as the total package for those looking to workout at home. The company claims to deliver an unparalleled immersive workout with their state-of-the-art rowing machine. In addition to smooth, true-to-life resistance, Hydrow’s interactive platform promises engaging instructor-led classes, team activities and a robust online community. 

We wanted to see if Hydrow lives up to its promise as a state-of-the-art machine with a comprehensive membership program, so we decided to put it to the test with a former collegiate rower. Here’s what we found.

Testing the Hydrow

We tested the Hydrow with a former collegiate rower and current NASM-certified personal trainer. They work out at home and in gyms with free weights, kettlebells and fitness machines. The tester is a long-time member of an MMA gym and practices yoga. 

Our tester has experience using premium exercise machines, including the Peloton, both at home and in fitness studios. In the past, they’ve designed training programs around the Peloton for themselves and personal training clients. 

We asked the tester to use the Hydrow rowing machine in their home for a couple weeks and engage with the interactive platform. They primarily used Hydrow’s Live Outdoor Reality exercises, On-Demand rowing classes and mat-based exercises.

What is the Hydrow?

The Hydrow rowing machine offers an immersive rowing experience through a variety of interactive programs streamed through a 22-inch HD touchscreen monitor. With true-to-life resistance, Hydrow claims their machine is as close as you can get to an on-the-river rowing experience. 

Currently, the Hydrow platform offers over 2,000 live and on-demand workouts for rowing, as well as strength training, yoga and Pilates. Classes are led by an elite roster of world-class rowers, and they play an instrumental role in Hydrow’s interactive community through classes, online meet-and-greets and live interviews.

How to use the Hydrow?

Live Outdoor Reality exercises

Our tester participated in several Live Outdoor Reality exercises, which they said provided a more immersive experience than erg machines that only display the split. During the workout, the sound of water was authentic, and the attractive landscapes were remarkably vivid. 

The tester explored a diverse range of waterways, including familiar locations from their rowing career such as Lake Natoma and Briones Reservoir. Because users have the choice of multiple viewing angles during workouts, they have the opportunity to boost engagement with virtual teammates by focusing on their timing and rhythm. 

On-Demand classes

Hydrow offers a diverse array of On-Demand classes that are segmented by experience and difficulty levels. Our tester found these were convenient alternatives to the Live Outdoor Reality exercises and team-based activities. 

Hydrow’s On-Demand classes are enjoyable and easy to follow. Our tester noted that instructors provide familiar cues and form checks throughout classes, which were helpful to rowers and fitness enthusiasts of all levels. 

The instructors were friendly and encouraging, and they challenged Hydrow users to push themselves during workouts. Our tester took a medium-level rowing class, and they reported feeling more inspired and challenged than when they do self-paced erg workouts.

Team and community programs

While our tester didn’t participate in team- and community-based Hydrow activities, they were interested in exploring these programs in the future. However, they were able to view the community leaderboard for On-Demand classes, which our tester said boosted personal competitiveness during rowing sessions.

According to our tester, individuals interested in more competitive training will value the option of joining a team. Additionally, Hydrow is committed to social impact and sustainability and makes a charitable donation to once a user logs 25 days of rows. Our tester noted that this charitable giving would serve as a driving force for users, promoting both camaraderie and competitiveness. 

Key features of the Hydrow

Computer-controlled resistance 

The Hydrow delivered smooth, true-to-life resistance with a catch-delay that is on-par with an air erg. The tester experienced an even pull from catch to finish without any jerking or drop-off resistance through the stroke. As an added bonus, the Hydrow explains the drag levels during setup. 

Ergonomic design

The Hydrow is equipped with several ergonomic design elements that contribute to a comfortable rowing experience. 

The seat is contoured, cushioned and supportive. It’s secured to the track in a way that eliminates most rattling and wobbling. Our tester indicated this stabilizing feature was in stark contrast to other rowing machines they’ve used in the past.

The monitor is designed to be eye-level for most users, promoting the “eyes-forward” position rowers naturally have on the water. For some users, this configuration may eliminate unnecessary neck strain and encourage better posture through the stroke. Additionally, feet are well secured with an adjustable strap system, and the handle ensures a comfortable, low-stress grip. 

Low-noise artifact

One of the most notable features of the Hydrow was its quiet operation. The chain and resistance were almost silent, even at higher stroke rates. Because the seat is stable, it didn’t produce any clunky, ambient noise. The tester stated that the Hydrow was so quiet, they would feel comfortable using it in an apartment building with neighbors downstairs. 

Touchscreen navigation

The Hydrow has a 22-inch HD touchscreen that is sweat- and dust-resistant. During testing, it remained responsive even when our tester navigated it with sweaty hands. They found the user interface was intuitive and easy to follow and was generally beginner-friendly.

Hydrow price

The Hydrow retails for $2,245, which includes a 1-year home use warranty and unlimited profiles with one Hydrow membership. Hydrow membership, which is required to use the full benefits of the machine, costs $38 per month.

Payment plans start as low as $63 per month and are available to eligible buyers through Klarna.

Standard shipping for the Hydrow, in which the machine is left outside your front door, starts at $149. Delivery and in-home assembly starts at $249. 

Where is Hydrow sold?

The Hydrow is sold exclusively through Hydrow's website.

Hydrow benefits

The Hydrow provides a wide variety of workout programs led by world-class instructors. The attractive landscape and true-to-life resistance of the Live Outdoor Reality exercises highlights the machine’s user-focused, water-centric design.

Hydrow’s competitive training programs appeal to experienced rowers and fitness enthusiasts. From the leaderboard to team-based activities, the machine provides a sense of challenge and engagement that many home-based users miss outside of the traditional rowing settings. 

The Hydrow is lauded for its fine construction. It provides a quiet user experience, and it has top-notch durability and stability. The machine holds up well to heavy use, and it has a weight capacity of 375 pounds, which is higher than other premium exercise machines. 

Hydrow drawbacks

The Hydrow membership, which costs $38 per month, is required to use the machine. Without the Hydrow subscription, users have limited access in “Just Row” mode. 

Unlike other smart exercise machines, the Hydrow cannot integrate with fitness trackers, smartwatches or smartphone apps. Instead, users can only defer to their dashboards for tracking heart rate and performance metrics. 

The Hydrow has a large footprint and doesn’t fold for storage. While it can be stored vertically, it won’t fit in all settings. 

Should you get the Hydrow?

The Hydrow rowing machine lives up to its promise, delivering an immersive workout experience. Given the variety of live, on-demand and community-based training programs, it’s a dynamic exercise machine that continues to engage and challenge users.

Based on our experience testing the Hydrow rower, it’s a suitable investment for individuals looking to upgrade their home exercise experience with a high-end machine. The Hydrow also has a place in upscale fitness studios, as it offers a high level of engagement.


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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.


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