MF reviewer Chris Smith puts the latest generation NordicTrack RW900 to the test…
NordicTrack RW900 Rower
BUY IT NOW:
$1,999 / £1,999 (plus $39 / £34 monthly membership), nordictrack.com
Home-gym friendly: 4/5
- Exquisite design and quiet running
- Large touchscreen with great speakers
- Huge library of on-demand trainer-led workouts
- Workouts geared to your progression
- Monthly membership required
- Premium price tag
- Very large and bulky
- Low max weight load
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.
This is the type of rowing machine you see when you walk into a boutique gym that really cares about having 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 54″, making it 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 very difficult to slide, but if you need to move it, there are front loaded wheels to help you manoeuvre the 163lb (in-box weight) machine.
There are (very) large, adjustable foot holsters enabling a perfect motion-free fit, while the seat feels like you’re 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. On the downside, the machine is only approved for use for people weighing under 250lbs.
A weighty, but soft-touch, handle rests within a holster beneath the main event; 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 the wider array of iFit workouts like HIIT and yoga. The previous model’s display was static, so this is a nice upgrade.
NordicTrack RW900 performance
The NordicTrack RW900 is an exceptionally smooth ride and, thanks to the digital resistance, a very quiet one. A far cry from the whizzing of chains and the bubbling of water, this is something you can do with others in the room and without annoying family members or even neighbours – especially with the Bluetooth headphone connectivity so only you can hear the trainers whooping and hollering, as is their wont.
This silent 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 rhythm.
Manual adjustments can be made by tapping the display and iFit’s SmartAdjust technology will learn from every 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 like strokes per minute, time per 500 yards and, if you connect a Bluetooth heart-rate monitor, your all-important bpm. I found it super easy to connect my Whoop 4.0 tracker to the rower after placing the wristband in broadcast mode.
As someone who hasn’t spent a great deal of time rowing, I greatly appreciated the huge range of on-demand rowing workouts, even before sampling 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. The array of challenges also keeps the motivation high. 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 really get the sweat glands active. Thankfully the grip stood up to the sweaty palms. Overall, this is a superb option if you’re new to rowing, but really 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 an utter notice to someone who is proficient and can get the absolute maximum from your machine. 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 very much still usable if you’re unable to keep up your subs.
As the display runs on a version Android, I’d have liked access to the Google Play store for music apps, or maybe even some split screen video streaming from Netflix et al. 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.
How does the NordicTrack RW900 compare to other rowing machines
The obvious contender is the Hydro Wave Rower we reviewed here. At 204 x 49 x 110cm it’s a little smaller than the NordicTrack model (208 x 55 x 137cm) but has a much higher max weight capacity at 375lbs. 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 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 is 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 annum. That subscription is pretty good value if you partake in the other activities as it can replace a studio membership.
Should you buy a NordicTrack RW900?
If you have the room and will make plentiful 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 great and versatile display, seemingly unlimited variety of workouts, and all the smart connected tech you could desire. It’s everything you could want from that low-impact, but high-calorie-burn full-body workout.