The Echelon Smart Rower is the home fitness brand’s entry-level indoor rowing machine, and is the perfect choice for beginners upwards looking to blend cardio and strength in one targeted workout. The Echelon Smart Rower can be used solo or in conjunction with the brand’s home rowing workouts (viewable via a paid-for Echelon United Membership), and is designed to help you build full body strength, week on week.
As we discuss further into our Echelon Smart Rower review, it could be a superb addition to your home gym setup if you want to target more of your muscles per workout (rowing uses up to 86% of your muscles, according to researchers). You don’t need any prior experience to use this app-connected smart rower either, as Echelon’s rowing instructors will show you the proper indoor rowing machine form in a series of introductory videos and beginner-focused workouts.
While the machine itself isn’t eye-wateringly pricey (though you can get non-smart rowers with displays for the same price or less), the monthly cost of an Echelon United Membership drives up the overall cost. However, if you’re looking for a well-made rower to become the central piece of your home workout routine, the Echelon Row is hard to ignore. Here’s why…
Echelon Smart Rower review: Overview
The Echelon Smart Rower is available to buy now from Echelon US and Echelon UK, priced from $999.99 / £1,199, placing it in the upper mid-range of commercial home rowers. While the machine can be used manually (so you can get in a rowing workout while watching your favorite TV show).
We found the machine worked best with the Echelon Fit app (you'll need an Echelon United Membership). This is the brand’s online fitness program platform, and it’s where you’ll find a range of rowing workouts, plus other types of exercise.
Typical live and on demand Echelon United Membership classes range from running workouts for treadmill users and those who jog outdoors, to yoga, body strength training, and spin classes for exercise bike fans. The Echelon United Membership cost is $39.99 a month, or $399.99 for a yearly plan, giving you access to over 6,000 classes and counting each month.
It’s also where, via the Echelon Fit app (iOS, Android), you’ll be able to view all of your workout metrics, such as how many calories you burn during each rowing workout, and where you place on the leaderboard for live and on-demand classes.
The warranty on the Echelon Smart Rower is a pretty miserly one-year affair, but the 30-day return policy is welcome.
Echelon Smart Rower review: Specs
- Type: Magnetic resistance
- Resistance levels: 32
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Weight: 124lbs
- Weight capacity: 300lbs
- Length: 83.46”
- Height: 41.73”
- Width: 20.47”
- Return policy: 30 days
Echelon Smart Rower review: Design
We’ve reviewed a few pieces of Echelon’s home fitness equipment now, so we’ve come to expect a decent build standard, based on our experiences with the brand’s other machines, including the Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX3. The Echelon Smart Rower doesn’t disappoint. It’s durable and well-made, with transport wheels that make it easier to move around (we found it easier to push on hard flooring rather than carpet).
Our Echelon Row arrived fully assembled and unboxed, so we can’t comment on how easy it is to build from scratch, but you do have the option of purchasing the machine fully assembled too. We can tell you that it’s quite slim compared to bulkier indoor rowers, though if you haven’t used one before, you might be surprised at how long they are.
So break out the measuring tape before you get anywhere near buying, and make sure you have enough space for its 83.46-inch length. Speaking of space, this Echelon rower needs to be positioned near a mains power outlet, which will dictate where you position it at home or in your garage.
At the top of the rower sits a 180-degree rotating, 90-degree swiveling console (cradle) with adjustable arms. This is where you slot in your tablet (the console accommodates up to 21.5 inches), though we found the adjustable arms a bit stiff to begin with. Our favorite design feature is the lever at the back of the Echelon Smart Rower used to fold the machine quickly. In this position, the rower is much easier to tilt then push around on those transport wheels.
The wide handlebars offer good grip, are comfy and not at all heavy. The resistance controls are positioned here too, so you can quickly toggle between levels for a more challenging or casual workout. The foot pads are easily adjustable too, with three different settings for a range of sneaker sizes. A velcro strap fastens over the midpoint of your feet, keeping them secure during each workout so that your feet don’t fly out.
When you power the rower on, a large blue light begins to flash, going solid blue once connected to the Echelon Fit app on your tablet.
Echelon Smart Rower review: Features
The Echelon Row uses magnetic resistance and offers 32 resistance levels, which is more than ample for beginners to really push themselves, and enough at the top-end for more experienced users to feel the burn with. Magnetic resistance rowers are quieter than water or air rowers, making them a good choice for apartment-dwellers, especially those living on the top floor.
Unless you’re a hardcore indoor rower, there’ll be plenty to keep you on track with your fitness goals here, including a decent spread of rowing workouts available via the Echelon Fit app, all soundtracked by licensed music and led by peppy (but not annoyingly so) instructors.
You’ll need an Echelon United Membership to access these online workouts. The cost is expensive compared to a Peloton Digital Membership ($12.99 a month), but there is a wide variety of exercise types on offer, on and off the rower. You’d need to commit to getting in at least a few workouts each week to get the most value for money when signing up to an Echelon subscription.
On days when you aren’t using your Echelon Smart Rower, you could fire up the app and do some yoga instead, or perhaps let loose in an energizing Zumba class. You can also use the rower without the app and subscription - we burned through many an episode of Nailed It! while using the rower, but we did prefer using the machine more during guided workouts (we’ll get to why shortly).
One of the Echelon Row’s best features is being able to control the resistance levels from the handlebars. That’s seriously clever and means you can adjust the tension level quickly without having to break from rowing.
Echelon Smart Rower review: Performance
Quiet. That’s the first thing that struck us when we were reviewing the Echelon Row, and it’s something other users have picked up on too. Exercising at home has many benefits, the biggest of which is saving you heaps of cash on expensive gym memberships and travel to and from the gym. However, some home cardio machines are loud in use and can really annoy your neighbors, but we don’t think you’ll have such issues with the Echelon Smart Row.
Even when we cranked the resistance level and really pushed ourselves, the machine didn’t create a lot of noise. Stick your headphones in and you won’t hear it at all. Getting started with your first row is simple too. Once you’ve synced your device with the Echelon Row, created your account and followed the setup instructions, you’re simply left to choose the rowing workout you want to do.
Here’s a list of some of the workouts you can enjoy using the Echelon Smart Rower:
- Welcome to Row! with Jamie Wilbanks
- Beginner Row 20 with Jamie Wilbanks
- Row Warm Up 5 with Michael Browne
- Low Impact 30 Row with Amber Harper
- Endurance Row 45 with Michael Browne
- Speed Row 20 with Nicole Griffin
- Power Row 30 with Rachel Hardinge
- Fusion 30 Row with John Holt
- Row boot camps - legs, upper body, core, upper body
- Scenic rows - 10-min Hamble Nature Preserve Row, 20-min Red Lotus Lake Thailand, 15-minute sunrise row, 30-min Singapore at Sunset, 30-min Dubai River row, 45-min Shelton Bay Row
As mentioned earlier in our review, changing resistance levels on the Echelon Row is simple and fast. That means you can react really quickly to the instructor’s commands in each workout, ensure you get a more challenging workout when you’re supposed to, then dial it back when needed.
Unless you’re an experienced rower, it’s better to exercise along with the instructors to begin with so that you get a feel for how different types of rowing workouts are put together, and how to switch between resistance levels to keep things varied and challenging.
We also love the friendly competition aspect of taking part in a live or on demand class. When you fire up a class, in the top left hand corner you’ll spot the leaderboard and how you’re ranking. It’s just for fun, there to give you a little extra push to work your hardest and get the most from your workout.
You’ll also see your:
- Average stroke
- Resistance level
- Output (watts)
- Distance covered
- Calories burned
- Total output (kj)
In the app you can also look at your weekly goals, weekly stats, and the badges you earn by racking up those classes.
When you click on a workout, you can also view the soundtrack / playlist on some of them (not all give a rundown of the featured playlists). If you’re motivated by music when exercising, this is a cool feature, as nothing puts us off a workout faster than a cruddy soundtrack. Michael Browne’s Endurance 45 Row is fun - you don’t see many workout soundtracks mixing New Kids On The Block, Luther Vandross and Oasis.
You can filter rowing workouts by duration and difficulty level, as well as viewing a live class timetable. There’s a small amount of scenic rows to pick from too, but the quality of footage isn’t always high-res. While we used our own tablet with the Echelon Smart Rower, you can also fire up the app on your smart TV (use the Echelon Fit web login) to watch workouts on a bigger screen in your living room. We’d recommend throwing down a protective exercise mat first, especially if you have hardwood floors.
Should you buy the Echelon Smart Rower?
The Echelon Smart Rower is a well-designed indoor rower that’s easy and fun to use. While it’s heavy, the transport wheels mean you don’t have to wrestle it or drag it around. We also love how effortlessly it folds up to give you more space. But there’s no denying that, for a rower without a screen, the Echelon Row sits at the higher end of the mid-price range.
Echelon does make a rower with built-in screen, the Row-S, priced $1,599, which could be the better option for you if you don’t own a smart TV or tablet. If you do have a tablet, and you want a reliable rower for beginners up, the Echelon Smart Rower is a good choice.
We dislike the price of the Echelon Unlimited Membership, especially when you compare the platform’s offerings to what Peloton offers for less per month (Fitbit Premium still has a way to go too), but the quality of Echelon’s workouts are excellent, the instructors are inspiring and knowledgeable, and the music is better than you'll find on a lot of other services.
Overall, we would recommend the Echelon Smart Rower for those who are new to rowing workouts, or with moderate experience, and who are looking for a full-body cardio-strength machine to help them hit their fitness goals for the longterm.