Rowing provides a lot of benefits to both physical and mental health. It’s a low impact cardio exercise for the whole body that puts less stress on the knees and joints. To make these benefits accessible without even stepping aboard a boat, magnetic rowing machines provide the best type of resistance for home use. Among the top-rated premium quality, indoor rowing machines today are the Hydrow and NordicTrack rowers. But which one is actually the best?
Magnetic rowing machines are great for indoor use particularly because of the quiet, smooth strokes they create as opposed to traditional indoor rowers. Magnetic resistance also offers a range of adjustable levels to choose the intensity of your workout. Both the Hydrow and NordicTrack models excel in these categories. They also include an interactive screen with access to a large library of workout videos and live rowing classes from world-class trainers, for an additional monthly fee.
Below, we’re going to compare the features of the Hydrow and NordicTrack rowers, and discuss the workout options each of them offers. If you’re in a hurry, we can tell you now that Hydrow is overall the better option, but it doesn’t come without drawbacks. Consider all of the factors below because ultimately, the choice is up to you alone.
Hydrow Rower vs NordicTrack RW900 Rower
|NordicTrack RW900 Rower
|86 x 25 x 47 inches
|82 x 22 x 54 inches
|User Weight Capacity
|375 lbs (170 kg)Up to 36” inseam
|250 LBS (115 kg)Up to 36” inseam
|22” touchscreen displayHydrow membership (sold separately)
|22” touchscreen display30-Day free trial iFIT membership
|5-Year Frame & Storage Kit1-Year Components, Screen, & Other Electronics1-Year Labor
|10-Year Frame 2-Year Parts 1-Year Labor
• 22” HD touch screen with interactive features
• Sync to Strava to track your progress, heart rate, and other metrics
• Pairs with Bluetooth speakers and headphones
• Upright Storage Kit for vertical storage
• Hydrow App Membership includes unlimited profiles
• Gives you access to 4,000+ workouts on the rower
• Smooth gliding rowing motion
• Ergonomic comfortable seat
• Pre-recorded and live workouts
• Adjustable resistance
• Sleek and stylish design
• Easy assembly
• High-quality build
• Higher price
• Membership not included in purchase
• Cannot be folded for storage (storage kit can be purchased separately)
• 22” Tilt & Pivot Smart HD Touchscreen
• 30-Day iFIT trial included
• Bluetooth Headphone Connectivity
• Silent Magnetic Resistance with 26 digital resistance levels
• Get access to iFIT workouts recommended by world-class trainers
• Add up to 5 users using your iFIT family membership
• Experience interactive workouts on any iFIT-compatible equipment
• Works with iFit to access training programs
• Versatile workout options with 26 resistance levels
• Access to on-demand workouts with world-class trainers
• Ergonomic molded seat
• Folds easily for storage
• Longer warranty on frame
• Similar features available in other variations (RW700 and RW600)
• Requires iFit membership to access most features
• 250-pound weight limit
• No heart rate monitor
Features of the Hydrow Rower
The Hydrow Rowing Machine offers an immersive rowing experience with a sleek design that would feel as though you’re rowing on a boat in open water. Hydrow specializes in indoor rowing machines, currently only offering the Hydrow and the smaller Hydrow Wave rower. The Hydrow has a distinctive sleek and stylish design with its steel and aluminum frame. It includes a 22-inch HD interactive touchscreen where you can access all of Hydrow’s online content.
The Hydrow is also sturdy and built to last, weighing around 145 pounds. Although on the heavier side, it’s easy to assemble. However, you must have a dedicated space for this rower as it cannot be folded up for storage. There is the option to store it vertically using the Hydrow upright storage kit you can purchase separately. You can fold the monitor inwards and attach the storage kit on your wall to keep the rower in place when not in use.
Unlike other rowing machines (including NordicTrack), Hydrow doesn’t have “resistance levels” to adjust when you row. Hydrow uses a patented drag mechanism controlled using the touchscreen. Hydrow has 300 levels of ultra quiet electromagnetic resistance automatically adjusted based on your strokes. The Hydrow’s drag is set at 104 to simulate the real experience of rowing on water.
The Hydrow has an ergonomic, padded seat to keep you comfortable no matter how hard you’re training. The seat rolls on the special 10-roller system for extra smooth rowing motion. It can support users of up to 375 pounds. Unlike most other traditional rowers, the seat is higher up from the ground at 16.5 inches. The rail can accommodate tall users up to 6’6” in height. The adjustable foot straps will also feel comfortable and large enough for most users to fit into with no problems.
You get a five-year warranty on the frame and storage kit, one year on components like handles, screen and labor.
Hydrow Workout Options
The Hydrow membership gives you access to all of the rower’s cool features that set it above the rest. It comes equipped with a large selection of live and on-demand classes. It also provides virtual locations presented on the high-definition 22-inch touchscreen to keep your workouts more interesting. You can pair your Hydrow with your Bluetooth speakers or headphones and sync to Strava app to track your progress.
Your Hydrow membership gives you access to thousands of pre-recorded workouts from the Hydrow screen or the Hydrow app on your phone. Hydrow constantly adds more videos to their library including trainer-led workouts in yoga, Pilates, and resistance training to complement your rowing workouts. You can also stream live rowing classes and follow along with coaches and compete against other members during workouts.
One Hydrow membership allows you to set up unlimited profiles for your family in one Hydrow unit. All of the above features are only available with a membership. The membership currently costs $38 per month and is not included with the price of the rower, though prices are always subject to change.
Without the Hydrow membership, your rower only operates on the “Just Row” mode. This allows only the basic rowing workouts with adjustable resistance setting, on-screen tracking metrics, and Bluetooth connection only for heart rate monitors. Hydrow is best with all of its features, including membership.
Drawbacks of the Hydrow Rowing Machine
As you can expect from all of its features, the Hydrow doesn’t come cheap. It also needs a monthly subscription fee to access all the features.
Hydrow takes up a large space and it’s definitely not for those who have limited floor space. It also doesn’t fold up for storage. Instead, you need to purchase the storage kit separately to fasten it to the wall vertically.
Taking everything into consideration, the Hydrow makes every bit of money you spend worth it. Check other reviews for the Hydrow Rowing Machine.
Features of the NordicTrack RW900
NordicTrack offers top-rated fitness equipment for all your fitness needs, including treadmills, bikes, and rowers. For those looking for a high-end rowing machine, the RW900 magnetic rower is NordicTrack’s flagship rowing machine packed with smart features comparable to the Hydrow. The RW series of rowers is also available in smaller models with similar functions, namely the RW600 and RW700.
With an iFIT membership, you can access pre-recorded and live rowing workouts and global rowing locations presented on a 22-inch HD interactive touchscreen. The NordicTrack rower features a type of hybrid resistance that combines both magnetic and the traditional air-powered resistance. You can digitally adjust the magnetic resistance in 26 levels and control the manual air resistance to scale the intensity of your workout.
Although heavier than traditional rowers (but smaller and lighter than the Hydrow), the NordicTrack RW900 is as smooth and quiet as a magnetic rower can be. It is also designed for your comfort with a molded seat, ergonomic handle, and large foot pedals. However, a maximum user weight capacity of 250 pounds is too low for the unit’s size.
The NordicTrack folds in half for easy storage. The heavy-duty steel frame is guaranteed a 10-year warranty with two years on parts and one year on labor.
NordicTrack Workout Options
More advanced rowing machines like the NordicTrack come with a variety of workout routines. The NordicTrack gives you access to iFIT’s large library of workouts you can watch anytime and anywhere on your NordicTrack rower or any iFIT-compatible device.
You can stream recorded studio classes or follow professional athletes rowing on waterways around the world. You can also join live interactive classes led by elite trainers. The AutoAdjust feature allows your trainer to adjust the resistance remotely during sessions. Connect your Bluetooth earphones so you can listen to the trainer more clearly.
Besides rowing, some of the popular training programs that NordicTrack features include boot camp, yoga, HIIT, and strength training. You’re sure to find a good variety of options to keep your workouts fun and motivating. Purchase of the rower includes 30 days of free iFIT family membership for up to five people. Afterward, you need to pay a monthly fee of $39 to use all of your rower’s features or pay for 12 months in advance for only $396 for the family members.
What’s great about your iFIT membership is it’s not limited to one piece of equipment at a time. You can use it to record your workouts on other exercise machines connected to iFIT. So, if for example, you have a treadmill compatible with iFIT, one subscription is all you need. If you also like to train off the rower such as walking, running, or weight lifting, you can still use the iFit app to track all of your stats and progress. You can do so even with non-internet-connected treadmills or bikes, but the only difference is you’ll need to adjust the intensity yourself.
Drawbacks to the NordicTrack RW900
Overall, the NordicTrack RW900 is packed with amazing features if you want to take your rowing experience a step up from other models. However, the 250-pound weight limit is too low considering the size of this unit.
Unfortunately, the free membership to iFIT is only for 30 days. Without iFIT, you might as well be using any other similar magnetic rower with a glorified touchscreen display. All other features come at a price, including personal training and live iFIT workouts.
Benefits of Rowing Machines
Rowing is a total body workout and cardiovascular exercise that helps improve strength and endurance. It is a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training, building both power and endurance with a low-impact workout. Because rowing involves a seated position, it’s more gentle on your knees, legs, ankles, and back, preventing injuries and muscle strain that are common problems for runners and cyclists. Observing proper form when rowing also helps build a stronger core.
Any cardio exercise such as rowing can quickly get your heart pumping harder, making it stronger to help reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic illness. Rowing also releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain and stress reliever.
Rowing engages almost every muscle group in your body, unlike running or cycling that mainly targets the lower body. When you row, you use your glutes, quads, and hamstrings to push your body back while your lower back supports your spine. Your shoulders, biceps, and upper back also work to pull back your arms while your core stabilizes your body. The continuous rowing motion and the required body coordination also present a challenge to your brain.
The intensity of your workout on your rowing machine can be adjusted based on your health and fitness level or whatever you feel you can handle at the time. You can modify your workouts to target different fitness aspects and ensure you never get bored. Magnetic rowing machines offer adjustable resistance levels suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced cardio and strength training exercises. More advanced models even come with interactive features such as instructor-led workouts.
Investing in a high-end indoor rowing machine such as Hydrow or NordicTrack gives you all the benefits of rowing (and more, depending on your subscription) without even leaving your home or paying for a gym membership.
How to Pick the Best Magnetic Rower—Hydrow vs NordicTrack
When choosing a rowing machine for your home use, it’s essential to consider the space you have for using and storing the unit. Both the Hydrow and NordicTrack rowing machines take up a lot of space when assembled and you need to make sure the model you pick can fit in your dedicated space when you’re using it or when it’s in storage.
You need also to consider the length and capacity of the rail to accommodate the user. The maximum weight capacity for Hydrow is up to 375 pounds while NordicTrack is only 250 pounds. Obviously, Hydrow has a better build quality that can support more weight. However, while NordicTrack folds in half for storage, Hydrow can only be stored vertically with the upright storage kit also sold separately.
Aside from the height and weight capacity, you should also look at the design and comfort factors such as the seat, handle, and foot pedals in your rowing machine. The seat must be comfortable and large enough to support your backside and help you maintain proper form when rowing. Hydrow comes with an even more sleek and stylish design fit for its premium price tag.
Either model offers a wide variety of training programs with a growing library of workout routines beyond just rowing on your machine. They also track all of your stats to gauge your overall progress. As of this writing, NordicTrack works with iFIT on a yearly family plan for $396 per year, a monthly family plan for $39 per month, and a yearly individual plan for $180 per year. On the other hand, the family subscription to Hydrow costs $38 per month. Either model can also work on the basic rowing function without the respective fitness app membership.
All factors considered, if you want top-of-the-line quality that provides an experience closest to real-life rowing, the Hydrow Rowing Machine is the obvious choice. While NordicTrack is definitely a premium quality rowing machine, Hydrow is almost on a league of its own. It does take up a bit more space and costs a lot more than other high-end rowing machines but the quality and experience are truly unlike any other. It’s well worth the investment if you’re really in it for the long haul. In case you do decide it’s not the right one for you, Hydrow offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you’d rather save a few hundred bucks on purchase of the rower and accessories or you already have another exercise machine connected to iFIT, then it’s best to go with the NordicTrack rower to maximize your membership perks.
Are there ongoing costs to use your rowing machine?
If you want to use Hydrow’s online workouts and features you need a membership, paid monthly or yearly. The membership perks can be used on different rowing machines by multiple users.
Can you use a smart rower without a subscription?
Yes, Hydrow or NordicTrack are both rowers that can be used with no subscription. You’re going to want to use all the features available with the subscriptions. Without a Hydrow or iFIT membership, the rowing machine only has the basic rowing function like the cheaper models, only with more options for the resistance level.
Can you watch Netflix on your smart rowing machine?
No, your Hydrow and NordicTrack indoor rower screens cannot be used for streaming any videos aside from the brand’s subscription service.