Most connected-fitness equipment uses the studio-class model, in which a trainer instructs the at-home user to follow a set of exercises, offering commentary and encouragement along the way. But Ergatta provides a game-based model, using an animated, interactive 17.3-inch touchscreen—placed on top of a water rower—that shows you (or your avatar) moving along through a variety of workouts, from races to interval programs. The handle provides smooth, even pulls, and the water tank makes a pleasant swishing sound as you row.
I’m a sucker for charismatic, athletic people shouting out encouraging mantras, so I’m partial to studio-style classes—which is not what Ergatta offers. But this didn’t stop me from enjoying Ergatta’s guided rowing sessions, available on its accompanying app for an extra fee. In the games, Ergatta tells you a speed to row at certain intervals, from a low-key “paddle” to an all-out “race.” At the same time, a display on the screen shows how you measure up against these goals, as well as the usual metrics like distance (in meters), time, strokes per minute, and a calorie burn estimate. You can also choose to race against people on a certain course, either through an individual challenge or racing against anyone who has rowed the course, in which case you simply want to go as fast as you can through each set. In some ways, the game-based style made the objective of the workout more clear—the instructions were right there on the screen, and I didn’t have any distractions from a hyped-up instructor. On the flip side, I found that this made me get a little bored of the workouts faster than I would with an instructor-led workout, but someone who finds trainers grating or who is more into rowing for rowing’s sake probably won’t have this problem.
One thing I think is a bummer for everyone, though, is that Ergatta’s app only offers rowing classes. This means no off-rower strengthening, cardio, or stretching classes, which every other connected rower we tested provides. Ergatta’s app is less expensive than the others, so you could conceivably get another workout app to use on the side, or simply trawl YouTube for additional workouts. Either way, you’ll want to complement your workouts with some cross-training exercises—rowing is a great full-body exercise, but everyone needs to mix it up now and then.
Professional assembly is included with purchase. When built, the rower measures 86 inches long (just over 7 feet), 23 inches wide, and 40 inches tall—comparable in length to the NordicTrack and Hydrow and a little bit less tall. You can tilt the screen down, which brings the height to 22.5 inches, or prop it upright against the wall where it will take up about the space of a tall overhead lamp (as long as you have high enough ceilings), but it does not fold. However, I thought it looked the best out of all the rowers we tested with its understated wooden frame, and it didn’t strike me as something most people would want to hide. The rower itself is top quality, with a weight limit of up to 500 pounds and a height limit of 6 feet 8 inches, and feels solid, supportive, and well made.
Ergatta offers no-interest financing for qualified buyers. You must purchase at least one month of the Ergatta membership at checkout (after that, it’s possible to use the rower and tablet without a membership, and still see basic stats like time, distance, and strokes per minute). It automatically comes with a five-year warranty on the rower's frame, three years for components, and one year for the screen. You may also add an extended warranty with your purchase that provides an extra two, three or four years of full protection for an additional fee.
Approximate first year cost, including app membership: $2,750