Hydrow is a smart rowing machine with an attached display and loads of guided workout classes.
Editors' note (March 1, 2022): The Hydrow Rower originally reviewed here at $2,399 is now available for $2,495.
The Hydrow Rower has a lot more tech than your standard indoor rowing machine. It comes with a built-in touchscreen display and a $38 monthly subscription service that gives you a pass to live and on-demand classes.
The classes range from different types of rowing workouts to a smaller selection of floor exercises. The rowing machine itself is silvery and sleek-looking; two wheels in the front make it easy to move around a room. Its attached display swivels so you can watch classes from your yoga mat and from the rower.
My main hesitation about Hydrow is its price. The initial cost and the monthly fee is a lot to ask. But if you are a dedicated indoor rower and want a little extra guidance from classes taught by athletes coaching you from the water, this could be a great fit.
Strapping my feet into the Hydrow Rower gave me flashbacks to high school crew. I was a sweep rower and sat in "2 seat" in the bow pair. While I loved being on the water (and still do), I was never much of a fan of rowing machines (or "ERGs," as our coaches called them). They use roughly the same muscles as actual rowing without the fun of being out on the water.
That said, rowers are a great full body workout, and Hydrow didn't disappoint.
Compared with the loud chain rowers I used to train with back in the day, Hydrow has a significantly quieter belt and a magnetic resistance that you can adjust yourself in the settings.
The machine is made of aluminum, steel and polymer. It weighs 145 pounds and it can support up to 375 pounds.
Setting it up is easy enough, thanks to the built-in wheels and a button that collapses the display for safer transport.
A toggle switch on the front of the rower turns the machine on and off, but you can also leave it on and it will go into sleep mode on its own.
The main difference between Hydrow and most rowers is its display -- it has a 22-inch 1080p HD touchscreen display. Simple buttons on the right side adjust the volume, but everything else is controlled via touch.
Create an account on the Hydrow display (or from the related Crew app) and start rowing. Hydrow is compatible with Bluetooth heart rate monitors, but that isn't included with the basic purchase so I didn't use one while I tested it.
Hydrow classes cost $38 per month compared to the Peloton Bike, the Peloton Tread and Mirror, each of which cost $39 monthly. ClassPass Live offers more affordable fees at just $19 per month.
Hydrow's rowing classes vary from a short how-to row tutorial to a 45-minute intensive rowing session. The mat classes Hydrow offers aren't as varied, but you get enough options to choose from -- things like 5-minute cool downs and 20-minute core classes.
Peloton's bike and treadmill have a similar cache of classes, focused on cycling or running, but they also offer select floor exercises. Mirror and ClassPass Live offer a wider variety of floor exercises of varying lengths and levels of difficulty. They aren't tied to exercise equipment, either, so they take up less space.
My favorite Hydrow feature is its swivel display. It can actually rotate away from the machine so you can set up your yoga mat independently of the rower and don't have to awkwardly crane your neck to see what's happening on the screen. Just pivot it back toward the machine when you want to row again.
I really like how the rowing classes are taught, with athletes actually out on the water. (Most of Hydrow's classes are shot in Miami.) As they row, cameras mounted to the boat -- and a separate boat with a filming crew -- record them at different angles. This makes it much easier to see their form and you get to see lovely views of the ocean while you row at home.
Hydrow's display shows real-time stats like the distance you've rowed in meters, your estimated calories burned and your average pace for 500 meters. The average rowing race is 2,000 meters, so tracking your 500-meter pace helps keep you on pace as you row. It also has a leaderboard that ranks you against other people taking the class.
I found it annoying that each class has a playlist and there's no way to mute it or reduce its volume independently of the instructor's audio. On more than one occasion, I had trouble hearing the instructor because the songs were drowning them out. Hydrow says you'll have more control over the audio mix in the fall, but for now you're at the whim of the instructor's music choices and the possibility of not being able to hear them over the songs very well.
You also can't pause, fast-forward or rewind the videos.
While there is a related app, there isn't much use for it at home, since you get all of the same stuff on the larger display. The app could prove useful if you're at the gym and want to use a rowing machine, but would prefer to follow a guided work out. The app won't log your stats like Hydrow can, but you do get access to workouts.
Similarly, if you wanted to take a Hydrow floor class while you're on vacation or otherwise away from your rowing machine, the app could come in handy.
While the app works well enough, it defaults to landscape-horizontal mode from the moment you press the app icon. Most apps open in regular portrait-vertical mode at launch and switch to landscape when you're playing a video. This isn't an issue, really, just something I noticed and found odd.
Hydrow joins Peloton, Mirror and ClassPass Live as another subscription service that offers you workouts at home. Like the Peloton Bike and the Peloton Tread, Hydrow is a specialized piece of equipment. Because of that, you'll want to make sure that you really like indoor rowing before you commit. The initial price and the monthly cost won't be worth it otherwise.
I really enjoyed Hydrow, though, and it could work well for anyone passionate about indoor rowing. It's easy to set up and use -- and it has the unique ability to offer you classes at home with instructors on the water.
If you aren't sold on a rowing machine, you might consider ClassPass Live instead. ClassPass doesn't require a specific type of exercise equipment, but instead gives you access to a variety of floor and bodyweight exercises that you can do from the app or on your TV. It's the most versatile of the fitness devices products I've tested so far -- and a good alternative to niche products like Hydrow.