Just a few years ago, it was very rare to hear of someone buying a rowing machine for their home. Treadmills, elliptical machines, and exercise bikes dominated the market for home cardio equipment, with a mere sliver of the sector going to rowing machines. However, between CrossFit and Orange Theory, the popularity of rowing for fitness has boomed, spurring the development of engaging, high-quality rowing machines for home use. Rowing is a fantastic total-body exercise, and although it’s not easy or feasible for most people to get out on a river for a workout, a rowing machine can provide all the benefits of rowing right from the comfort and convenience of your home or local gym.
There are quite a few rowing machines on the market these days, but the two clear front runners when it comes to the best rowing machines are the Hydrow and the Ergatta. Hydrow and Ergatta have shattered the glass ceiling of at-home rowing machines, and elevated the product and user experience exponentially. The Ergatta and the Hydrow are premium home rowing machines that each feature touchscreens and subscription services. They both are well made and designed to be engaging, effective, and durable, but they have quite a few differences as well.
If you’re looking to buy the best rowing machine for home workouts, you’ll likely end your search trying to decide between a Hydrow or Ergatta, so we’ve put the two machines head to head to describe the ways they are different so that you can choose the best rowing machine for you. Before you check out with your virtual shopping cart, read our thoughts on Ergatta versus Hydrow and make sure you’re setting yourself up for success on the virtual river.
Structurally and aesthetically, the Ergatta and Hydrow rowing machines look quite different because the frames and construction are quite different. Ultimately, aesthetics are a matter of personal preference, and some people will gravitate more toward the sleek, chic, modern look of the Hydrow while others will like the elegant look of the Ergatta.
The Ergatta rowing machine is crafted in Rhode Island out of premium cherry wood. It is classy, elegant, and easily blends into any living room or bedroom. This means that if you don’t have a designated workout room or garage for your fitness equipment, you can still place your Ergatta rowing machine in the living room without it being an eyesore or detracting from the aesthetics of your home. It looks more like furniture than fitness equipment.
The Ergatta uses a dual-track system with a seat that rolls on four rollers. The seat on the Ergatta is smaller and shallower than the seat in the Hydrow. If you have wider hips and a larger butt, it may be potentially uncomfortable on longer rows, but an inexpensive seat cushion may do the trick. The footplates are closer together than on the Hydrow. Both are comfortable, but if you have particularly wide hips, again the Hydrow may be more comfortable. If you have narrow hips, the Ergatta may feel more natural.
The Hydrow features an aluminum and steel frame with a flat anthracite polymer body and is manufactured in Boston. It has a monorail with a ten-roller system for the large, comfortable seat, giving you a super smooth rowing stroke and comfortable operation.
The Ergatta is pleasantly lightweight, portable, and storable. It weighs a mere 76.5 pounds without water (103 pounds when the tank is full), and has wheels for easy maneuverability. Despite being relatively lightweight, the Ergatta supports users up to 500 pounds. When activated and placed down for use, the Ergatta rowing machine measures 86 x 23 x 40 inches, but it can be tipped and stored upright, taking up a small 23 x 22.5 x 86 footprint. If space is a concern, this is a major plus for the Ergatta.
The Hydrow, while still sleek, is more of a beast than the Ergatta. It weighs 145 pounds fully assembled (197 pounds when boxed), so it’s not particularly mobile. The Hydrow rowing machine measures 86 x 25 x 47 inches, which is similar — though slightly wider and taller than — the Ergatta. The rail that the seat slides on is notably higher off the floor than the Ergatta, so if you have trouble getting up and down from the floor, the Hydrow may be easier for you to get on and off. However, the main difference when it comes to the footprints of the two rowing machines is that the Hydrow doesn’t easily stand upright for storage. While there is a storage kit you can purchase separately for $80, it requires wall mounting into studs. When stored upright with the kit, the Hydrow measures 33 x 25 x 86 inches. Heavier users should note that the weight limit for the Hydrow is 375 pounds.
Content aside, one of the primary differences between the Ergatta and the Hydrow rowing machines themselves is the type of resistance the rowing machine uses. The Ergatta uses water resistance while the Hydrow employs magnetic resistance. This is actually a fairly significant difference.
The Ergatta uses water to create the resistance you’re rowing against so you don’t select or set any specific resistance level on the rowing machine. Inside the machine, there is a flywheel with paddles attached that sits in a tank of water. As you pull the handle on the Ergatta, the flywheel spins and paddles against the water. This creates an incredibly realistic feel, much like you’re oaring the real Charles River. Moreover, the harder and faster you pull the handle, the greater the resistance will be. Adding more water to the tank can also increase the resistance, though it mostly alters the “feel” of the resistance. Rowing on the Ergatta creates a notable “swoosh” sound, as if paddling in a real boat on a real waterway.
In contrast, the Hydrow uses magnetic resistance, though it’s far more advanced than basic magnetic resistance systems in most rowers. The Hydrow magnetic resistance is computer guided, such that it creates the resistance based on how hard you’re pulling the handle. You can set the magnetic drag level (from 0-300) and then start rowing. Since the computer system titrates the resistance based on how hard you pull, this magnetic resistance system actually operates much like water resistance. However, it still has the benefits of magnetic resistance such as whisper quiet and smooth operation (just a mild whirring sound) and no need to change the water.
Both the Hydrow and the Ergatta come equipped with digital touchscreens for interactive training for your rowing workouts. Here, the large touchscreen on the Hydrow edges out the Ergatta’s screen, though both feel large enough when you’re on the machine. The Hydrow touchscreen almost feels like you’re in your own private mini movie theater. The 1920 x 1080 full HD is an impressive 22 inches and displays crystal clear videos of your favorite Hydrow coaches and waterways around the world. The Ergatta has a 17.3” android-powered touchscreen with the same resolution of 1920 x 1080 full HD. Note that both the Hydrow and the Ergatta also feature Bluetooth-enabled connectivity for heart rate monitors and audio/earphone devices, and require WiFi to use and stream subscription content.
We found that both the Hydrow and the Ergatta are fantastic rowing machines. Both are extremely well built. However, the main difference between the two machines really comes down to the format of the workouts, which ultimately has the most significant impact on the best rowing machine to buy for your needs and preferences.
The Hydrow workouts are all class-based. Users can stream thousands of on-demand classes, or row in live classes, where they follow professional Hydrow athletes through coached workouts with specific formats and goals. The Hydrow coaches are filmed all over the world — from Miami to London, Boston to Switzerland — rowing in real boats (though some workouts also feature them rowing in the studio on the Hydrow. There are four primary rowing workout formats: Breathe, Sweat, Drive, and Journey. The first three are instructor-led and incorporate specific intervals of harder efforts and recovery intervals, while music, instruction, and motivation are doled out enthusiastically by the esteemed coaches. There are specific rows for beginners and lots of extremely helpful coaching tips on form, fitness, and technique.
The Hydrow coaches are super positive, fun, and charismatic, and nearly any rower can find at least one or two coaches they jive with. Some workouts also feature numerous coaches rowing together, and the banter between them is pleasantly distracting while you work out. The Journey rows do not include instructors, so users just row to relaxing videos of rivers and lakes around the world.
During the rowing workouts, the Hydrow screen displays instantaneous metrics like speed (500m split), time remaining in the workout, rhythm (stroke rate), average speed, and calories burned. The leaderboard is active as well as you row. During live rows, coaches give shoutouts to rowers who hit milestones during the workout, like rowing one million meters. It’s a super positive, encouraging experience, and perfect for anyone motivated by classes, a Peloton-like leaderboard, and who wants guidance on technique to learn or progress their rowing.
Hydrow also offers what they call “On the Mat” workouts, which include Pilates, strength, and mobility routines led by coaches as well.
The Ergatta platform is based on game-based workouts rather than instructor-led classes. The competition-style workouts are challenging, engaging, and motivating, especially if you like games and have a competitive drive. The Ergatta developers clearly put a ton of time and effort into constantly innovating and creating more content, and exciting new games are added every week.
The interactive games make the Ergatta workouts fly by. It is one of the best exercise machines we’ve ever seen in terms of replicating the mindset and experience of playing competitive sports.
There are quite a few options for workout formats on the Ergatta: Push Programs, Interval Training, Races, Open Row, and Challenges. Each of these options is designed with a specific goal. For example, the Push Programs use the concept of progressive overload to boost your fitness. The Ergatta is responsive to your instantaneous rowing ability and does an excellent job adjusting the difficulty in the moment. By doing so, the workouts are just challenging enough to be motivating while not too difficult to feel overwhelming.
Both the Hydrow and the Ergatta have active social communities where users can turn to one another for support, advice, and even a dose of healthy competition. Hydrow has a leaderboard along the side of every workout, and when you’re rowing in a live workout, you can compete against other rowers doing the same workout in real time. That said, the vibes of the two social communities are actually noticeably different. The Hydrow social community tends toward being very supportive, encouraging, and informative. People post about their achievements and receive dozens to hundreds of likes and positive affirmations. Beginners also post many questions and the community jumps in with their best advice, even graciously answering questions that have been asked over and over. The Ergatta community, on the other hand, has a somewhat more competitive vibe, though clearly all in good fun.
On both platforms, you can add other members. With the Ergatta, you can challenge these members to see who can perform better in different workouts and games while in Hydrow, you can add members and give each other kudos after workouts.
Unfortunately, neither the Ergatta or the Hydrow can be considered cheap, but if you’re looking for a top-of-the-line rowing machine for your home, it’s going to cost you a fair amount. The Ergatta costs $2,199 plus $199 for shipping, which essentially gives you white glove service where they deliver, assemble, and fully install your rowing machine. You can also now select a self-assemble option at checkout for free shipping if you want to forego the professional service. Membership is $29 per month, or $319 for the first year, which is the equivalent of getting one month free. After that, it renews at $349 per year. Membership gives you access to the entire platform of interactive game-based workouts, the social community, real-time performance tracking, and all your workouts stats and metrics.
The Hydrow has a slightly higher base price tag — $2,295 — but includes free shipping, making the total price slightly lower. They also offer bundles that include a variety of fitness accessories with the Hydrow rowing machine. The Hydrow subscription costs $38 per month, or $456 per year, and is required to stream any of the workouts or view your live performance metrics. This all-access membership gives subscribers access to the full library of over 3,000 workouts led by professional rowing coaches filmed on waterways all over the world. There are also live classes nearly every day of the week, weekly races, and a live leaderboard to compete with fellow rowers. Membership also grants you access to exclusive milestone rewards and free access to the Hydrow app, where you can not only stream the thousands of instructional and scenic rowing classes, but also Pilates, yoga, strengthening, and mobility workouts. It’s important to note that the Hydrow has very limited functionality without the membership. There is a “Just Row” mode, but membership is ultimately integral to using the machine.
The Ergatta is backed by a 5-year warranty on the structural frame, a 3-year warranty on all parts, and a 1-year warranty on the touchscreen. You also have 60 days after delivery to return your Ergatta for a full refund, including a complimentary pickup, so they provide the ultimate assurance that you will love your rowing machine or get your money back. The Hydrow is covered by a 5-year warranty on the structural frame, a 1-year warranty on all parts, and a 1-year warranty on the touchscreen. They now offer a 30-day trial period after purchase wherein you have 30 days after receiving the Hydrow rowing machine to test it and determine if you want to keep or return it. Return shipping is free.
In the end, when it comes to the Hydrow vs. the Ergatta, the best rowing machine for you will depend on your preferences for aesthetics and workouts. The Hydrow has a sleek and modern look while the Ergatta looks like elegant furniture. The Hydrow features class-based workouts, which can be great for beginners or those who want instruction. The graphics are crystal clear and the coaches are excellent. On the other hand, the Ergatta workouts are extremely engaging and interactive, and they instantaneously adjust to your ability, keeping you engaged and improving. Pick the machine that fits you best, but you can’t go wrong with either of them.
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