Live Science Verdict
The Ergatta Rower has the uncanny ability of making fitness fun. With its engaging range of games and classic workouts, emphasis on a connected Ergatta community and motivational progress-tracking, this machine soon had our tester hooked. The fact that it can fold flat against a wall and looks incredible courtesy of a handcrafted cherry wood frame definitely didn’t hurt its overall score either.
Fun games and classic workouts on the Ergatta platform
Community element for motivation
Compact and stylish design
Narrow foot plate and low seat
Expensive monthly membership
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The Ergatta Rower isn’t perfect, but it’s not far off. What’s more, of all the rowing machines our fitness experts have tested, this is the one that had them most excited for their next home workout.
You see, it has a clever way of making fitness fun, gamifying exercise sessions so you forget your sweat-sodden brow in the hunt for a win or high score. Is it any wonder then, that The Ergatta Rower sailed its way into our roundup of the best rowing machines?
It’s made with apartment living in mind, benefitting from a chic, handcrafted cherry wood frame that can fold flat and be stored vertically when not in use (taking up a patch of floor measuring just 23in by 22.5in). As a water rower, it’s quiet too, generating realistic-feeling resistance by spinning a paddle within a water tank with each stroke. But don’t let these classic features fool you, underneath the hood it’s packed with smart features.
A slim 17.3in android-powered touchscreen sits atop the water tank, offering a selection of interval workouts, an open rowing option, challenging “push programs”, live sessions, games and races. The races in particular are incredibly enjoyable (think Mariokart, sans blue shells and bananas) and kept us coming back for more.
Dimensions - 86” x 23” x 40”
Weight - 103lb
Smart features - Yes
Workouts - Live and on-demand games and workouts via the Ergatta platform
Warranty - Five years on the frame, three years on the parts and one year on the tablet
We were also fans of the 1,000 meter calibration test every user must complete when signing into their Ergatta account for the first time, with the results used to assign us a “class” and customize our workouts to suit our ability level - ensuring we were always challenged without being overstretched to the point of demoralization.
The seat is quite low and the foot plates are narrow which, though it emulates the feel of a real rowboat, may be less comfortable for people with limited mobility. The seat is on the smaller side too, which may not be suitable for bigger bodied users.
But, overall, this is an excellent rowing machine offering a smooth, low impact rowing action alongside immensely engaging (and in some cases addictive) games that will make sweaty workouts fly by in the blink of an eye. So, if you want to sprinkle some fun back into your fitness routine, we couldn’t think of a better piece of home workout kit.
Price and release date
Ergatta launched its rowing machine in the US in March 2020. The Ergatta Rower is available on the company’s website for $2,499 and a subscription to the Ergatta platform (granting you access to games and workouts via the touchscreen) costs $29/month or $319 for the first year — and $348 for every year afterwards.
The machine is also available in the UK, where it costs £2,495.00. Similarly, the subscription to the Ergatta platform costs £29/month or £319 for the first year.
Design and set-up
The first thing you’ll notice about The Ergatta Rower is that it looks stunning. This might seem like an odd way to describe a rowing machine, but the handcrafted cherry wood frame, water tank and slimline touchscreen really do look the part. As a result, the machine wouldn’t look out of place in a slick New York apartment (the city where Ergatta happens to be based). Its home-friendly credentials are further bolstered by the fact you can fold it flat and store it vertically, so it takes up the equivalent floorspace of a bedside table.
When it came to the assembly, setting up the Ergatta was a simple experience for one main reason: they do it for you. When you purchase the rowing machine, assembly and installation come as part and parcel of the package.
Setting up an Ergatta account is simple enough as it has an android-powered touchscreen which feels similar to using a tablet. So, all you need to do is purchase a membership to the Ergatta platform, set up an account, enter a few details, and you’re ready to go.
When using the rower, we found the seat was quite small and low to the ground, and the footplates were narrow compared to other machines we’ve tried. This is similar to what you might experience in a real rowboat, but may present some problems for anyone with limited mobility in their knees and ankles. However, from a performance standpoint, we enjoyed the power we could generate from this position. And, though we found it wasn’t the most ergonomic rowing machine we’ve tried, we were still able to complete lengthy sessions in relative comfort.
Our tester found the overall feel of the rower was fantastic too, with the water-based resistance mechanism providing a realistic stroke that felt smoother and less strenuous than air rowers like the Concept 2 RowErg.
Ease of use
With the assembly outsourced, The Ergatta Rower got off to a flying start when it came to reviewing its ease of use. And it continued to impress as we got to grips with the machine.
The set-up was simple — just create an account with an email and password — and getting started was a speedy process. You’ll need to take a quick 1,000 meter calibration test (more on this in the functionality and performance section below) then you’re free to navigate the homescreen.
Large, brightly-colored thumbnails show the different options available to you; push programs, interval workouts, races and open row. There is also a short description of each one, so you know what to expect.
Any smartphone-literate individual will be able to select a session using the straightforward touchscreen, and there are tutorial videos on the likes of rowing technique, generating power and using the Ergatta’s customized “intensity zones” if you need a helping hand in nailing down your form.
Functionality and performance
If you’ve ever wished you could boost your fitness while playing video games then (Wii Fit aside) your wait might finally be over.
The Ergatta does just that, gamifying fitness to deliver an incredibly addictive workout experience. For example, rather than regular interval sessions (which can grow tiresome if you’re overly familiar with the format) it has modes called “Meteor” and “Pulse”. These require you to keep a ball within a set zone or hit a series of targets by rowing at selected speeds or stroke rates. We found these provided the same stimulus as a regular hardcore rowing session (namely, burning calories while taxing our muscles and cardiovascular system) but didn’t feel nearly as arduous thanks to the distraction of chasing a high score. In one case, we were shocked to discover we had racked up almost 2,500 meters during a seemingly short session.
You can also compare your scores against thousands of fellow real-world Ergatta members, creating a sense of community, and you’ll be rewarded when you hit milestones like accumulating 10,000 meters (invoking the “one more level” spirit of moreish mobile phone games).
However, for us, the jewel in Ergatta’s cherry wood crown has to be its race mode. If you have a single competitive bone in your body, this format will find it, pitting you against eight-or-so other Ergatta owners (either live or based on their previously recorded times) in a straight race to the finish line.
There are a range of courses to choose from each day, each one covering a different distance and with some having short rests built in to vary the intensity. Your progress is shown on the Ergatta’s screen as a simple lane-based graphic (below) with each racer represented by a bar of light, so you can constantly see how you’re stacking up against fellow racers.
We found that, when we might usually ease off the gas in the middle of a workout, this kept us engaged and motivated to keep our speed up. And, when we fell short of our fellow competitors, we soon found ourselves back in the hotseat to improve on our performance.
The result? More workouts, more fun and more excitement for our next session.
But how do you ensure you won’t leave competitors in your dust, or be pitted against pro rowers? Well, when you switch on the Ergatta for the first time and sign in you’ll be asked to take part in a 1,000 meter calibration test. Based on your performance, you’ll be placed in a certain “class” so you only compete against rowers of similar abilities (or friends who you can connect with and challenge via the Ergatta platform, adding yet another edge to the competitive element we enjoyed so much).
Your results in the calibration test will also be used to determine your “paddle, steady, race and sprint” intensity zones. This may sound complicated at first, but it works similarly to cardio heart rate zones to define the intensity of your workout, with paddle being the slowest pace and sprint being the fastest. So, an interval (or Meteor) session might have you rowing for 20 seconds at a “sprint” before recovering for a minute at “paddle” pace.
We loved how this means each workout is customized to you, and every few workouts the Ergatta system will check your performance and adapt these zones appropriately to ensure you’re being consistently challenge without being pushed beyond your capabilities — a surefire way to increase your fitness and performance through progressive overload.
The Ergatta Rower is a smart, stylish and space-savvy machine with a unique, enjoyable take on traditional rowing workouts. It turns regular exercise sessions into games, and we found our time in the hot seat would fly by as we chased down high scores and race wins - to the point where exercise, while still challenging, barely felt like exercise at all. The pristine touchscreen is easy to use, and the smooth stroke action provided by the water resistance put little stress on our joints while still delivering an effective full-body workout. The low seat and narrow foot plates may be uncomfortable for those with limited mobility in their lower body, but that’s the only real drawback we found.
If this isn’t for you
The Concept 2 RowErg is the industry standard for rowing machines, with C2 ergs found in boathouses, CrossFit boxes and commercial gyms across the world. This no-frills rower doesn’t require a mains outlet - ideal for shed or garage use - and offers a realistic stroke thanks to its air-based resistance.
It may only have a small, monochrome screen with a smattering of buttons on either side, but don’t let this basic appearance fool you. Here, you’ll find all the in-depth metrics you need for an intense rowing session. And, with no ongoing membership program, you only have to pay a one-off cost too.
The Hydrow Wave is the ultimate smart rower for realism. It has an innovative electromagnetic resistance system that emulates an on-water experience better than most while barely making a sound, and a crystal clear touchscreen that shows engaging follow-along workouts with former Olympians, top instructors and more. Each session is filmed from your coach’s boat as they row across some of the world’s most picturesque lakes, rivers and oceans, making the Hydrow Wave a great pick for those who love getting out on the water.
Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.
When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.
Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.