Ergatta Rower review – Gloriously gamified immersive endurance training

The water-driven Egratta Rower gamifies the great outdoors – right from your living room

T3 Platinum Award
Ergatta Rower review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

Featuring a durable hardwood design, space-saving ergonomics, and a growing library of gamified workouts, the unique Ergatta Rower rowing machine blurs the line between fashionable furniture and functional fitness.

Reasons to buy
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    Durable cherry frame

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    Whisper-quiet operation

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    Weekly workout updates

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    Large library of game-based programs

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    Includes competitive racing and leaderboards

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No lumbar support

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    Display is a fingerprint magnet

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    Smaller touchscreen than competing brands

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Our Ergatta Rower review might just turn the tide of your current cardio routine since this is one of the most amazing indoor fitness equipment we’ve tested for simulating the open-water experience. If you lovingly long for that salty sea air when you work out, good news: the future of fitness is already here, matey.

While older rowers of yore featured the formidable footprints of full-sized fish-finders, the water-driven Ergatta Rower sports an elegantly ergonomic design that’s surprisingly mobile when flipped on its end, bringing the great outdoors right to your home gym in a matter of seconds. It’s an excellent way to organically gamify your current cardio hustle and a fantastic workout for both experienced gym-goers and casual calorie-crunchers of all body types. Bonus: rowing machines are fun as hell, especially once you get the proper form down.

The best treadmills and best elliptical machines can absolutely get your blood pumping, of course, but the Ergatta Rower, admittedly one of the best rowing machines right now, might be just what your lanky limbs have been lacking to round out that weekly weight-training routine, especially during the colder months. Besides, when it comes to rowing vs running, all the cool kids are doing both. 

After test-splashing the Ergatta Rower for a few weeks, I’d say it improves dramatically on the original WaterRower, and it’s among the best home gym equipment I’ve tested to date, hands…err, feet-down. Heavy wears the crown, but does the Ergatta Rower deserve to dethrone its distant cousin? Read on to find out.   

Ergatta Rower review: Price and availability 

Akin to other rowing machines and smart gyms of this caliber, the Ergatta Rower is available for $2,500 (approx. £2,195/AU$3,908) directly from Ergatta, which includes a five-year warranty on that beautiful cherry frame, three years on parts, and one year on the tablet. The rowing machine also comes with a free 30-day trial, complete with a complimentary pickup if you opt for professional assembly during checkout.

About that. It’ll be another $249 for professional assembly, but you can opt for self-assembly during checkout to save a few bucks; I went with the latter option for my review unit, and it took me about an hour to get everything up and running; the setup process was intuitive enough.

Hold onto your butts. Like other uber-connected fitness tech flooding the market, there’s an obligatory $29 monthly membership (discounted to $319 total for the first year when paid annually) to accompany the Ergatta Rower, which includes an easy-to-navigate mobile app and unlimited user profiles for family and friends. 

Thanks to a growing community of highly engaged (human) rowers – about 75K total, as of this writing – you’ll never run out of new friends to compete with; there’s plenty of unique fitness content to track your progress and build endurance as you paddle away.  

Since the rower itself doesn’t rely on that touchscreen display to operate – the resistance is 100% water-driven, and it increases the harder you work – the Ergatta Rower is technically useful even if you let that membership expire and ready to rock your socks off at a moment’s notice. (Minus any meaningful data tracking or digital gamification, of course. But still.) 

Note: You can also pause your membership (to match any upcoming travel dates you might have), which is neat.

Ergatta Rower review: Specs

Ergatta Rower

(Image credit: Future)

Resistance Levels: 1
Display: 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080) touchscreen
Machine Height/Weight Capacity: 6 foot 8 inches / 500 pounds
Dimensions: 86 x 23 x 40 inches (unfolded), 86 x 23 x 22.5 inches (folded)
Weight: 105 pounds (with water), 76.5 pounds (without water)
Warranty: 5 years (structural frame), 3 years (parts), 1 year (tablet) 

Ergatta Rower review: What's the difference between WaterRower and Ergatta Rower?

At first stroke, you could easily mistake the Ergatta Rower for the original WaterRower (read our full WaterRower review), and for a good reason: WaterRower is the manufacturing partner for Ergatta, handcrafting each machine in Rhode Island from slabs of actual cherry wood. What makes Ergatta’s flavor of rowing machine unique, however, is the digital training platform attached to that rustic construction, which includes an unobtrusive 17.3-inch touchscreen display for accessing oodles of game-based fitness content, including live racing competitions, monthly challenges, and scenic workouts that are filmed all over the planet.

Ergatta Rower review: Ergonomics and aesthetics 

Let’s start with the obvious, for this is no ordinary rower. Most of the magnificent machine is handcrafted from American cherry wood, and sitting down in the curvy, cushioned seat for the first time felt like climbing aboard a half-digital, half-analog canoe – in an Uncanny Valley sort of way.

The wood is so darn fancy, in fact, that it comes with Danish oil to treat the frame with. And if Viking ancestry is involved, you know there’s quality behind the craftsmanship. (Though not much buoyancy, in this case.) Instead of a belt or fan-driven mechanisms, there’s a crystal-clear water tank to provide a considerable amount of resistance as you depart the digital shores. 

Similar to competing smart rowers like the NordicTrack RW900 and Hydrow Wave (both Platinum Award winners), the Ergatta Rower is equipped with a snazzy 17.3-inch HD touchscreen, which can be pivoted from side to side during use. There’s a discrete power button behind the display, and one side contains a USB port, Ethernet port, and serial port. On the other side, you’ll find an SD card slot, headphone jack, HDMI port, another USB port, and a DC-in port; the last two connections are used to power the display and tether all the tech together. With science.  

Ergatta Rower review

It's easy enough to roll the Ergatta Rower against the wall.

(Image credit: Future)

Once the rustic rower was fully assembled, it was time for some futuristic fitness! After plugging in the machine, filling the water tank, connecting to Wi-Fi, and quickly creating a user profile, I was ready to explore Ergatta’s unique library of virtual rowing content. In my testing, touchscreen navigation was smooth as butter as I swiped from one menu to another, though the display picks up fingerprints pretty easily when your palms are sweaty. (Probably on account of the sweat, but who knows? I’m no scientist.) 

There’s a transparent water tank to drive the machine’s resistance; you’ll find the usual handlebar and adjustable foot pads situated above the tank, along with monorail-style seating – complete with nylon straps to keep your feet snugly tethered in place. As we noted in our original WaterRower review (linked above), these fast-release straps can loosen up during competitive sweat sessions, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker, and it’s easy enough to tighten the straps mid-stroke when you’re *ahem* in the flow. 

The Ergatta Rower measures 86 x 23 x 40 inches when unfolded, and you’ll need a bit of breathing room to swing your elbows as you row, row, row your boat to better health. When you’re done, however, folding up the machine is as simple as pulling a hidden lever that’s attached to the wooden arm that’s attached to the display.

Ergatta Rower review

The resistance is 100% water-driven.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you gently lower the arm down and lock it into place, the whole apparatus can be flipped on its end and easily rolled about like a sloshy dolly. Ergatta says the rower “stores in the space of a barstool” – albeit a very tall one – and as a part-time barfly, kudos to the truth in advertising: true to form, the surprisingly mindful ergonomics make the bottom-heavy machine easy to move without spilling a drop of aqua, and the rower can easily be pushed against the wall. 

Ergatta’s water-driven resistance is meant to mimic an authentic on-the-water experience, and each stroke felt smooth as the Carribean tide as I experimented with various training modes. Bonus: the splashing water inside the tank is the perfect aural complement to every workout, but it’s an otherwise silent rowing experience from the machine itself as you glide back and forth. The overall effect is zen as the lapping tide.

The cushioned seat is situated 12 inches off the ground – much like an actual canoe, which keeps your hips fairly close to water level once you prop up your heels. In my testing, this was an acceptably comfortable height for sitting up and down, with anatomical indentations in the cushion to keep my rear in gear. I’m 6-foot-3-inches tall, but the Ergatta Rower was designed to accommodate fellow fitness fanatics up to 6-foot-8-inches, and cherry wood is a fine choice for overall durability. Good news: if any WNBA players ever have my lovechild, the resulting giant can still use my rowing machine throughout early adolescence. 

Note: You can purchase Ergatta's Hi-Rise kit for an extra eight inches of elevation.

Ergatta Rower review

The monorail-style seating is as comfy as it is ergonomic.

(Image credit: Future)

 Ergatta Rower review: Ease of use 

The development team took a mindful look at the fluid fundamentals of rowing and stripped away any unnecessary features on the software side of things. The end result organically captures the essence of outdoor rowing, even if the nearest body of water is hundreds of miles away.  

From a mechanical perspective, folding and unfolding the Ergatta Rower was a breeze, and the machine was easy to roll around my apartment once tipped on its end. The seat was plenty comfortable for my boney butt, with the drive belt extending and retracting in one smooth, uninterrupted motion that gently pulled my body back toward the water tank at the end of each stroke. The handlebar is easy enough to grasp, though with my albatross wingspan, a longer bar with multiple grip options might have been nice. (Granted, my shoulders are somewhat broader than the average monkey man.)

The WaterRower concept is simple yet effective, delivering a satisfying rowing experience that’s somehow physically demanding yet mentally soothing at the exact same time. The water tank provides stronger resistance the harder you row, and the splashing sounds are undeniably comforting. (Especially if you close your eyes.) In short, each workout is as holistic as it is therapeutic, particularly with proper form in play.  

Ergatta Rower review

You can recalibrate your Intensity Zones whenever you like.

(Image credit: Future)

Ergatta Rower review: Membership features and perks 

At $2,499, this rower is already an extraneous investment for any home gym, and you might be wondering how to justify that extra $29 monthly membership. Whereas the original WaterRower we reviewed was equipped with a simple S4 Performance Unit to monitor basic metrics, the Ergatta Rower’s 17.3-inch screen is your personal portal to hundreds of gamified workouts and curated content, personalized to your original rowing calibration during setup.

As mentioned above, Ergatta’s membership includes unlimited user-profiles and full access to the company’s ever-evolving library of games, monthly challenges, live competitions, and virtual rows. Scrolling from left to right, let’s take a look at the main menu ribbon. 

Your Library – This is a one-stop shop for viewing all your past workouts, not to mention any favorites you’ve flagged. This is also where you’ll find active Push Programs, making it easy to craft your own cardio calendar based on personalized content. 

Push Programs – From here, you’ll find dozens of sequential workout programs that are ultimately organized around a final challenge. For example, in the Colin Kaepernick: Game On program, there were 39 total workouts spread out over 15 weeks, culminating in super-speedy interval training to kick your butt. Speaking of which… 

Ergatta Rower review

Push Programs help you train like a professional athlete.

(Image credit: Future)

Interval Training – This is where you can choose from hundreds of HIIT, Endurance, and Technique workouts, which deliver personalized interval targets and real-time feedback as you row. The more focused your fitness goals, the more useful this area becomes.

Competitive Workouts – As the name implies, this is where you can go head-to-head against fellow rowers from the Ergatta community, facilitated by the platform’s intelligent matchmaking algorithms. You can compete against friends, new challengers, or even your own past performances. Friendly rivalries welcome. 

Open Row – As a New York City resident who’s constantly combating cabin fever, this was my favorite part of the whole machine. From the Philippines to Austria to Spain to Thailand, there are more than 30 relaxing environments to row in, and those aforementioned splashing sounds genuinely made me feel like I was out on the open water. (Well, to the extent that I could from my living room, anyway.) 

The bottom of the home screen is mostly dedicated to the gamified side of Ergatta’s platform, along with a shortcut to your personal dashboard for oodles of workout data (eg, calories burned, best split, distance rowed, average power). From here, you can check in on your rowing rivals and leaderboards, along with any monthly challenges you might be participating in.

To keep things interesting, Ergatta releases at least five fresh workouts every week, and there are always new games, features, integrations, and improvements on the horizon. Case-in-point: during my testing, Ergatta rolled out the beta version of their new Vortex game, which pits you against other rowers in the community to amass the most tokens before time runs out. The faster you paddle, the more tokens you draw into your vortex. 

To put the Ergatta Rower through its proverbial paces, I intermittently tested the rower for about three weeks from my apartment. In that time, I completed 17 total workouts — mostly in 5 to 15-minute increments — rowing a total of 24,378 meters. My best split was 1:29 for 500 meters, with an average split of 2:17. Are these numbers any good? Good enough to earn me an overall rank of 4,445/14,828 on the leaderboards for the last 30 days. Heyo! 

While the monitor’s built-in speakers worked just fine in my testing, you can connect your wireless headphones for a more immersive music experience since doing so puts you in your own virtual fitness bubble. It was a snap connecting my Whoop 4.0 wristband as a heart monitor, but the Ergatta Rower is compatible with a variety of other wearables, including the Polar H9/0H1, Garmin HRM-Dual, Wahoo, and Tickr. (Apple support is a no-go, but oh well.) What’s more, you can pair your Strava account directly to the platform, allowing you to automatically sync and post your workouts upon completion. 

Ergatta Rower review: Verdict

Whenever I incorporate rowing into my regular workout routine, I never regret it. That goes double for the Ergatta Rower, which brings an ergonomic angle of friendly competition to an already dynamic exercise. The price of entry may give you pause, but the more you use the machine, the more value that monthly membership accrues. And with all the digital swagger those leaderboards afford, you’ll feel like the captain of your own ship in no time.

Speaking as a novice rower but seasoned expert in analyzing futuristic fitness tech that arrives at my doorstep, I’d argue the Ergatta Rower packs a lot of value into a surprisingly stowable package, and this is the best rowing machine I’ve tested to date. Whether you want to gamify your next cardio routine or simply escape to wayward waterways of the world in a virtual canoe, the cherry-flavored Ergatta Rower makes an excellent addition to any home gym.  

 Ergatta Rower review: Also consider 

This isn’t the only rowing machine on the market, and if the gamification of gym time isn’t for you, the original WaterRower is more affordable, and the experience itself is essentially identical. (Already own one? For $549, Ergatta's WaterRower Upgrade Package lets you retrofit the frame with that 17.3-inch tablet.)

The NordicTrack RW900 Smart Rower and Hydrow Wave are also on our shortlist, especially since both machines offer larger touchscreen displays for an even more immersive virtual rowing experience. 

TJ Fink
Contributing Editor

As a freelance journalist, TJ has over a decade of multi-medium storytelling under his belt. Leveraging a quarter century of collective coddiwompling amid the ever-evolving landscape of wireless gadgetry, his unique editorial background allows him to explore a variety of tech-centric subsectors on this fascinating planet. When he's not field testing new gear in the Catskills, Adirondacks, or an actual field, he can be found sipping Negronis in his living room and crafting Dr. Seussian poetry inside a tattered moleskin.