Echelon Smart Rower review TL;DR: a quiet mid-range indoor rower for smart TV owners.
I'm always looking for the next best rowing machine. For example, as much as I adore the sound and look of the Waterrower Natural series, I admit that it doesn't help people new to rowing get comfortable with the exercise. The NordicTrack RW900 rower does a batter job at onboarding new users, thanks to its huge screen and the iFit workout library, but admittedly, this premium indoor rower is a quite expensive. The Echelon Smart Rower offers a similar indoor rowing experience to the NordicTrack model for less money, although this cardio machine is not without caveats either, as we'll discuss in this Echelon Smart Rower review.
As you can probably tell, I love rowing machines, they are the best home gym equipment for cardio freaks like me. Treadmills and exercise bikes are also great but when it comes to building endurance and full body strength, nothing beats rowing machines. In order to row efficiently, you need to use your leg, back and arm muscles in perfect harmony which does require some practice. But it's definitely worth the hassle!
Echelon Smart Rower review: price and availability
There are three subscription options (monthly, yearly and biennial).
As an example, in the UK, the monthly option includes the Echelon Smart Rower plus a one-month Echelon United Membership for a grand total of £1,238.99, paid in £39.99/month instalments. This option has a delivery charge (from £99.99) calculated at checkout.
The yearly subscription option includes the rower and a one-year Echelon United Membership (worth £399.90) for a grand total of £1,598.90, as well as 'free premium delivery'. £399.90 charged every year.
The biennial subscription option includes two-year Echelon United Membership (worth £599.90) for a grand total of £1,798.90, as well as 'free premium delivery'. £599.85 charged every 2 years. The total saving over monthly plan is £459.90 and I'm not even going to do the math on this one as I have no idea where this number came from.
Echelon Smart Rower review: build quality
I wasn't blown away by the Echelon Smart Connect EX3 a few months back when I tested the it: it's not a terrible exercise bike but it's also not the best either. I found the resistance dial and the heavy flywheel a bit awkward to use. Based on that experience, I wasn't expecting the Echelon Smart Rower to provide a rowing escapade but I must confess, I was pleasantly surprised by it.
It's a slim machine and despite all the crackly plastic that covers the front of the rower, I would characterise the overall build quality as good-to-excellent. The rower feels stable and the components look sturdy too. The Echelon Smart Rower hardly makes any sound when in use and even has a dedicated on/off button, unlike the more expensive NordicTrack RW900.
The Echelon rower needs to be connected to the mains which I assume is required because you need to power the tablet that's mounted on it, or maybe it is because of the magnetic (?) resistance system, I'm not sure. There is a USB port near the tablet holder so you can charge the tablet while it's docked on the rower. Just make sure the charging cable is not hanging too low as it may end up pulling the whole thing down with the handle as you row.
Echelon Smart Rower review: features
As mentioned above, the Echelon Smart Rower is a rather slender machine, albeit a bit long, but then again, what would you expect from a rowing machine, it needs to be long. Anyhow, despite the narrow profile of the rower, the Echelon Smart Rower stands firmly on the ground, even on a carpeted floor, where I tested it.
The Echelon Smart Rower is foldable and has transport wheels, so when not in use, it can be trollied away to wherever it's stored outside business hours. The folding process is pretty straightforward: there is a handle under the rail, press it down and lower the rail down to the ground. As a finishing touch, grab the handle at the top of the rail, in the middle of the rower, and lift it up until you hear a metallic click sound; the rower is ready to use.
Well, you also need to plug it in and turn it off first: the on/off button is located near the cable at the front. Once turned on, you also want to mount your tablet in the holder and load up the Echelon App. You will also need to pair the rower with the app when you use it for the first time but that's easy to do. Now you are ready to use the rower.
The rower itself is really comfortable, though, and I particularly enjoyed the large seat and especially the handle. The resistance toggle is ergonomically-placed, just under the thumbs, which means you can adjust the resistance without having to stop rowing. This is a pretty cool feature and I wish more rowers would use it.
Echelon Smart Rower review: Echelon workouts
The Echelon workout library is not even nearly as extensive as similar offering from Peloton or iFit (NordicTrack) but there are a good many workouts to choose from nevertheless. You can also filter the results by duration, difficulty etc. plus stream live classes as well. There aren't many of these but you'll find a handful scheduled for each day.
I was a bit disappointed with the 'row around the world' footage as it was very low quality. The issue is, you are not only watching this on a presumably small tablet but because the video quality is poor, there is absolutely zero point in trying to 'immerse' yourself in the experience. To be fair, I assume it would be even worse on a large screen, so never mind.
It is worth noting that you can use the Echelon Fit web login on any smart TV and watch Echelon workouts on a big screen. If you want to see your Smart Rower stats on a smart TV, Echelon recommends using an Apple TV, or Screen Mirror for your TV. There are third party apps you can use as well like Mirror for Samsung TV and Video and TV Cast.
There are other types of workouts available in the Echelon App, not just rowing content: there are meditation classes, strength workouts, boxing, pilates etc., neither dedicated workout library being too extensive but there is a bit of a variety at least.
Echelon Smart Rower review: verdict
I was breaking my mind over whether I should recommend the Echelon Smart Rower or not. It is a decent rower with added smart functionality as well as being ergonomically designed and foldable. It's not a bad package overall.
But, the Echelon Smart Rower is also quite expensive for a rower with virtually no screen, not even a small LCD screen to display basic stats. And when you take into account the price of a non-micro-sized tablet – 11-inch iPad Pro costs approx.£900/$1,000 – you realise that for the price, you can get a rower with a built-in screen. The NordicTrack RW600 is $999 and that has an 10-inch screen and comes with a 1-year iFit membership included in the price.
I would still recommend the Echelon Smart Rower for people who have tablets (or a smart TV) and want a quiet indoor rowing machine to workout with. I would definitely recommend going for at least the yearly payment option: that includes free delivery a 1-year Echelon App subscription.
Echelon Smart Rower review: also consider
The NordicTrack RW600 is roughly the same price as the Echelon Smart Rower but has a built-in screen and comes with a year-long iFit membership included in the price. You also get 26 resistance levels, dual air/magnetic resistance system, real-time, on-screen resistance controls, quick-adjust pedals, SpaceSaver foldable design, Bluetooth audio and more.
With its aluminium construction and nickel plated steel chain, the JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine feels like a sturdy piece of kit, albeit a bit loud. A built-in computer offers a plethora of rowing read-outs, while the 16 levels of resistance and multiple training programmes ensure there's a workout for all abilities.