aviron impact smart rower lead

Rowing machines have long been one of the least accessible home gym machines. For years, they seemed destined to remain utilitarian, clunky and — sorry — boring, even as comparable pieces of equipment like the treadmill and stationary exercise bike received futuristic updates that propelled them from the gym to people’s living rooms.

Over the past two years, though — thanks to technology advancements and an unprecedented surge in equipment for working out at home — rowers have joined the 21st century, incorporating competitive games (Ergatta; $2,199), automatic resistance adjustments to approximate wind and water conditions (NordicTrack RW900 Rower; $1,699) and immersive workouts filmed on scenic waterways around the world (Hydrow; $2,495).

The $2,199 Aviron Impact Series rower offers all of the above in addition to a sturdy, folding frame made from steel and aluminum and a dual air and magnetic resistance system that combines the real-world feeling of rowing on water (like the Hydrow does) with smooth magnetic resistance (like you’d get with the NordicTrack). But Aviron leans heavily into the gamification of fitness, using gaming psychology to keep users entertained. And you know what? It really works. Of course, like most other home gym platforms. accessing all the extra content will cost you — and that includes the games, competitions and guided programs. Aviron’s monthly fee is $25 (cheaper than Hydrow’s $38 and Ergatta’s $29 subscriptions), but without a membership you can still row and track your metrics (including watts, distance, calories, pace, output, strokes, stroke rate and elapsed time) and progress over time.

At $2,199, the Aviron Rower is a competitively priced home rowing machine that uses fitness games and entertainment to pump up your exercise experience. Though you can use it without the $25 monthly content fee, we think that’s what really makes it worth your while as an engaging home gym staple.

What we liked about it

The gaming approach

aviron impact smart rower screen

Aviron’s approach to fitness is driven by entertainment. Instead of live and on-demand classes led by professional rowers or trainers, Aviron’s content library holds 14 video games and hundreds of other gamified workout programs and arcade-inspired games.

Aviron’s competition mode allows you to race against yourself, the machine’s artificial intelligence software and other members; you can choose the resistance setting (there are 16 levels, maxing out at 100 pounds), and the machine will automatically push you toward the end of the race to increase the challenge. There are several times of competitions you can opt into: Lightning Lap (which pits you against yourself to beat your best lap time), Lightning Lap Knockout (which involves other humans or AI players), Head to Head (a one-on-one match against another human or an AI player) and Grand Prix (a 10-person race against other humans or AI players).

I thought I would prefer this mode (I was a Flywheel devotee in the heyday of boutique fitness, thanks to the company’s focus on leaderboards and power totals), but I actually found myself more engaged using the games. For example, I can’t remember a time in the gym where I lasted longer than 10 minutes on the rower, but while playing Brick Breaker — Aviron’s take on the classic video game — I rowed for over 20 minutes without even noticing the clock because I was so focused on keeping the “ball” in play (there’s no option to pause during games, because that would give you an unfair advantage). Other games include Bug Blaster (the harder you row, the farther and bigger your shot), Zombie Apocalypse (where you row to outrun the undead) and Explore (in which you row to explore fantasy worlds).

The versatility

aviron impact smart rower bicep curl

Aviron’s philosophy is one in which you “choose your own adventure” — and that goes beyond the video game-esque competitions. There’s also a section called Power Play, where you can find more fitness-focused games that challenge you to stay within a certain watt range, maintain a certain split time or hold your stroke rate. You can even race against progressional athletes in prerecorded workouts. I appreciated the fact that this was not just competing with other rowers — as a runner, I enjoyed comparing my performance to Olympic sprinter Isatu Fofanah’s. (Spoiler alert: She’s fitter.)

Finally, there are guided strength training programs that allow you to use the machine for moves like bicep curls and tricep extensions. For example, during bicep curls, you stay seated on the rower and pull the cable toward your body to generate resistance but don’t use your legs to push back as you would if you were rowing; it feels more similar to using a resistance band than a dumbbell. Rowing is already a great total-body workout (research shows rowing uses 86% of the body’s musculature), and this feature ensures you’re getting the most bang for your buck when investing in a pricey machine.

Unlike most other pieces of at-home equipment, Aviron also integrates streaming platforms including Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Prime Video for those who prefer to zone out while rowing along to their favorite show. When you’re streaming, you’ll see your stats overlaid on the 22-inch HD touchscreen in a subtle way that doesn’t distract from the show. The company also just launched an integration with Spotify, so you can listen to your own favorite tunes while playing games, competing or just simply rowing.

What we didn’t like about it

The size

aviron impact smart rower feet

The Aviron Impact Series Rower has a footprint of 97 inches by 21 inches. That’s comparable to the Concept2 RowErg (one of the most common rowers you’ll find in gyms), but nearly a foot longer than the NordicTrack and Ergatta, and almost 2 feet longer than the recently released Hydrow Wave. It does fold up to 54 inches by 21 inches by 62 inches, compared to the Ergatta’s 23 inches by 22.5 inches by 86 inches, which has a footprint no wider than a barstool. (The more expensive Aviron Tough Series Rower is slightly larger and heavier, and does not fold.)

I know, that’s a lot of numbers, but the point is: It’s big. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you have the room for it, but it’s not a great option for those working out in small spaces or who have limited storage. If you do have the space to store it out of sight, it’s only 97 pounds (compared with the 103-pound Ergatta and 108-pound NordicTrack) and equipped with wheels, which makes it easy to maneuver. (For what it’s worth, that extra bulk is put to good use, with a seat height that’s higher than most competitors for easier accessibility, an ergonomic seat that allows for foot and hip width adjustments, adjustable foot pads and a dual air and magnetic resistance system.)

The Aviron Rower also leans more toward the utilitarian in appearance (à la Concept2), which means you won’t want it out for everyone to see. Compare this to the sleek, futuristic Hydrow or the beautiful wood Ergatta, neither of which you might mind having in your living room.

Bottom line

Staying motivated while working out is tough, especially when you’re in one place. You’ll find all the basic features of most modern rowers (immersive workouts, automatic adjustments, smooth and quiet resistance) in the Aviron Rower, at a comparable price to other high-end models.

For those who need an extra push toward making at-home training a habit, Aviron’s gamified features, streaming capabilities and guided programming can be extra enticing. Plus, you get strength equipment embedded in the hardware. It’s a smart way to hit the trifecta of at-home training: cardio, strength training and multitasking.