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Hydrow Wave: Smaller, cheaper, and almost as good as the original

Review: The Hydrow Wave is more portable and compact than the original Hydrow, but the core rowing and software experience remains. The best part? It's $1,000 less.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Hydrow Wave

4 / 5
Very good

pros and cons

  • Easy to unbox, setup, and store
  • Quality construction with lighter materials
  • Virtual instructors with synchronized training
  • Touchscreen display with good speaker performance
  • Useful mobile application
  • Stroke motion is not as fluid
  • Two roller sliding seat can get noisy

It has now been about six months since I've been sliding back and forth on the Hydrow rowing machine, and it has clearly changed the way I exercise and stay in shape. In preparation for the recent Tough Mudder event, I sprinkled in just a bit of running with thousands of meters of rowing to get ready for the 15K and obstacles.

Hydrow recently announced the smaller, lighter, and less expensive Hydrow Wave, and for the past month, I've been using it instead of the larger model. The Hydrow Wave is designed to be a more accessible rowing machine with a price that is $1,000 less than the original Hydrow. It also has a smaller footprint, so it can be used in apartments, small bedrooms, and other spaces where the larger Hydrow can't.


Hydrow WaveHydrow
Display 16-inch 1920x1080 pixel resolution touchscreen22-inch 1920x1080 pixel resolution touchscreen
Speakers Two 3W front-facing at the bottom of the displayTwo 3W front-facing at the bottom of the display
Materials Stainless steel seat track with thermoplastic polymer frameAluminum and steel frame with flat anthracite polymer body
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0, ANT+, and WiFiBluetooth 5.0, ANT+, and WiFi
Weight limit Up to 375 poundsUp to 375 pounds
Height limit Up to 36-inch inseamUp to 36-inch inseam
Dimensions 80 inches long x 19 inches wide x 43 inches high. 120 pounds86 inches long x 25 inches wide x 47 inches high. 145 pounds
Price $1,495$2,495


Unlike the original Hydrow, which required coordination of the shipment with a freight carrier, the Hydrow Wave can be shipped domestically via UPS. The box is about half the length of the original Hydrow box and much easier to handle with a boxed weight of just 128 pounds. This makes the Hydrow Wave an easier package to ship to and move around in apartments, condos, or houses with smaller rooms.

One reason for the smaller packaging is that the Hydrow Wave requires more assembly than the original rower. Hydrow provides very detailed instructions, labeled packages for the bolts, and the tools needed to piece everything together. In total, it took me about 20 minutes to assemble the Hydrow Wave, which includes attaching the feet, securing the monitor, connecting the footrests, positioning the rail onto the front assembly, and sliding the seat into place.

One thing I noticed was how much more polymer material was used on the Hydrow Wave in order to make it lighter. Another significant difference is the two-roller and two-idler seating, compared to a 10-roller seat on the larger Hydrow. I'm just under 250 pounds and found the Wave model producing more noise under the seat during workouts. 

Also: The 13 best home gym equipment machines: Work out for all budgets

Assembly parts of Hydro Wave.

Assembly was very well detailed in the instruction manual with all of the tools and hardware provided to build the Hydrow Wave.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Another difference between the two is the slightly smaller monitor -- 16 inches compared to 22 inches. In addition to the smaller size, the display does not move up, down, left, or right, so you need to position yourself behind the rowing machine for the non-rowing exercises if you want to view the display.

The footrests, however, are similar to the original. And with an adjustable strap on the handles, the rowing experience should be comfortable and grippy for most users. 

Hydrow Wave at home.

You don't need much space to use a Hydrow Wave.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The rowing experience

The on-screen synchronized rowing experience on the original Hydrow is present on the Wave, so your subscription benefits are exactly the same, including full access to a suite of rowing, yoga, strength training, and other activities. 

One aspect I was not the fondest of was the inconsistent resistance when pulling the handle back on the Hydrow Wave. It was not jerky, but when I jumped back on the original Hydrow, I could feel a smoother and more enjoyable drive. The smaller display on the Wave seemed a bit darker (with more contrast,) which I found to be a good thing. Instead of a large bright display blinding my eyes during workouts, the Wave's panel was less glaring. The speakers are the same as the ones on the standard Hydrow, so I was able to hear the trainers and workout audio perfectly fine. 

In general, the Hydrow Wave was easy to move between a couple of different rooms in my house, and it was also a breeze to lift up and store in a vertical position. An additional accessory is available for secure upright stowage.

Also: If you want to stay active while WFH, try our favorite bike desks


The Hydrow Wave is stable and fun to use

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

For travelers, the smartphone or iPad app is great when you still want to work out with your favorite Hydrow athletes but don't have the machine in place. You can simply prop up your phone or tablet, open the app, select one of the equipment-free exercises, and start working out. I especially loved the post-travel mobility, whole-body stretch, and bodyweight workouts.

Hydrow says that its Circuit Training will be coming later this year, and it will even include rowing sessions mixed in with other bodyweight exercises for some interesting workout experiences.

More: Hydrow Rowing machine review

Bottom line

The Hydrow Wave is perfect for smaller spaces and is easy to assemble, move around, and get a good workout in. The $1,000 difference between it and the original Hydrow is just as compelling of a reason to buy the newer model. Hydrow says that both rowing machines will see a $100 price hike next week, so if you're on the fence about one, now may be the best time to take the leap.

Alternatives to consider

Hydrow was one of the first to launch a full rowing machine experience with actual athletes, and it still has some proprietary technology and methods for the ultimate rowing experience. But there are other competitors in this space, and the following are just as effective to help you burn a sweat. 

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