MF reviewer Chris Smith puts the latest generation NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine to the test.

If you’re after one of the best rowing machines, I reckon the NordicTrack RW900 should be on your list. Offering a clean and sleek design and a huge library of on-demand workouts, I was impressed when I jumped on board and put it to the test.

Men’s Fitness verdict

It may be expensive, but this sleek piece of cardio kit is a great long-term investment and the subscription makes sense given the vast array of workouts could effectively replace your gym membership.
  • Exquisite design and quiet running
  • Large touchscreen with great speakers
  • Huge library of on-demand, trainer-led workouts
  • Workouts geared to your progression
  • Premium price with added monthly membership
  • Large and bulky
  • Low maximum user weight

NordicTrack RW900 design

NordicTrack’s pedigree in home fitness equipment is well established and the latest generation RW900 rowing machine looks to class up the joint with a sleeker design, improved touchscreen and a quieter ride. It retails for $1,999 / £1,999 and requires a $39 / £34 monthly membership fee to access its on-demand content. So it pays to see if this is the right rower for you before you take the plunge. However, on the UK site the NordicTrack RW900 is currently discounted buy £500, which is a significant saving.

This is the type of rowing machine you see when you walk into a boutique gym that wants to have the best-looking and most advanced tech available to members. It’s clean and sleek and the design is a huge upgrade on the previous generation RW900. However, it does have a large footprint at 82 x 22 x 54in (208 x 55 x 1.37cm). That could be a stretch for some home gym environments.

The premium design is built up from a weighty base with rubber feet anchoring it to the floor. It’s difficult to slide, but if you need to move it there are front wheels to help you manoeuvre the 163lb / 74kg (in-box weight) machine.

NordicTrack RW900 operation

There are large, adjustable foot holsters enabling a perfect motion-free fit, while the seat is so smooth I felt I was sliding back on ice. There’s also a slight incline as you push back from the start position, which somehow feels more natural. The seat is padded and comfortable meaning less chance of a dead butt during longer sessions. However, the machine is only approved for use for people weighing under 250lb / 113kg.

A weighty but soft-touch handle rests within a holster beneath the main attraction – that 22-inch high-definition (1080p) display and 30-watt front-facing speaker.

As well as enjoying rowing workouts in scenic locations like Swan Lake, Montana, the display can be rotated for a wider array of iFit workouts like HIIT and yoga. The previous model’s display was static, so this is a nice upgrade.

NordicTrack RW900 display monitor
As well as rowing, the NordicTrack iFit interface can be used for a variety of other workouts

NordicTrack RW900 performance

The NordicTrack RW900 (buy now) is an exceptionally smooth ride and, thanks to the digital resistance, a very quiet one. A far cry from the whizzing of chains and clunking of seats, this is something you can do with others in the room. There’s little chance of annoying family members or even neighbours – especially with the Bluetooth headphone connectivity so only you can hear the trainers whooping and hollering.

This magnetic resistance is automatically adjusted at the command of the trainers during your workouts, with no manual adjustment necessary. That’s ideal because you don’t have to break your rhythm.

Manual adjustments can be made by tapping the display and iFit’s SmartAdjust technology will learn from your every stroke. It’ll begin to make the adjustments automatically as it becomes accustomed to your workouts. The tech is also scalable too, so you can follow along with the iFit trainer without having to match their intensity.

That large display is also put to good use with a multitude of stats such as strokes per minute, time per 500 yards and, if you connect a Bluetooth heart-rate monitor, your all-important bpm. I found it simple to connect my Whoop 4.0 tracker to the rower after placing the wristband in broadcast mode.

Nordic iFit on-demand content

As someone who hasn’t spent a great deal of time rowing, I appreciated the huge range of on-demand rowing workouts. That was before I even sampled the Yoga, Strength, Recovery or HIIT sessions included with the iFit membership.

The on-water rows really helped to keep things interesting visually, while the tiered in-studio sessions were geared towards precision and progression. I felt the array of challenges also helped keep my motivation up. This approach allowed me to focus on developing good form with coaches (Pure Row for Beginners), while also building up towards more strenuous sessions (Fast and Fierce at Lake Avis) to work up a sweat. Thankfully the grip stood up well to my sweaty palms. Overall, this is a superb option if you’re new to rowing but want a sustainable and achievable path.

With the This is NordicTrack/iFit software, you’re not just buying a rowing machine and being left to your own devices to toil away with poor form and stagnate. You’re buying the whole experience, with the professional coaching necessary to guide you from notice to proficient rower. And with Olympic Gold medallists like Alex Gregory leading sessions, you’re not going to go far wrong.

The manual (non-subscription) experience is much more basic. You’ll get stats, access to resistance levels and a basic track interface, so it’s still usable if you’re unable to keep up your subs.

As the display runs on a version of Android, I’d have liked access to the Google Play store for music apps. Or maybe even some split-screen video streaming from Netflix etc. Ultimately, though, that’d be a backdoor to workout services outside of the iFit ecosystem. The option to link to Spotify for my own tunes, at least, would have be nice.

NordicTrack RW900 competition

The obvious contender is the Hydro Wave Rower. At 80.3 x 19.3 x 43.3in (204 x 49 x 110cm) it’s a little smaller than the NordicTrack. However, has a much higher max weight capacity at 375lb (170kg). This model has a 22-inch screen and offers a subscription experience for workouts and challenges. Contrary to iFit, the Hydro platform also offers daily live rowing workouts (on the water with Olympians no less!), if you prefer that appointment-style class.

NordicTrack RW900 display screen
Replicate real-world rowing with the immersive display screen

NordicTrack RW900 room for improvement

This generation is bulkier than the previous RW900, making it less suitable for the smaller spare bedroom/office gym. While wheels ensure it’s moveable, it doesn’t fold like the previous generation, and you can’t store it vertically. Then there’s the expense.

On top of the hardware, you need the iFit subscription if you want to go beyond manual workouts. That’s another $396/£408 (family) or $180/£144 (individual) per year. That subscription is pretty good value if you take part in the wealth of other activities, so it could replace a studio membership.

Should you buy a NordicTrack RW900?

If you have the room and will make good use of the subscription, the NordicTrack RW900 is an excellent premium rowing machine that should last a long time. It offers a wonderfully smooth and comfortable ride, a crisp, bright and versatile display, a seemingly unlimited variety of workouts and all the smart connected tech you could desire. It’s everything you could want for that low-impact, high-calorie-burn full-body workout.

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