Nothing beats the feel and challenge of a real water resistance rower. But let’s face it – most of us don’t have the budget for a true water resistance unit – most models cost over $1,000. First Degree Fitness offers one of the most affordable models we’ve found (around $850): the Newport AR. And while it’s not as robust as high-end models, it delivers a sweat-drenching workout.
Features at a Glance
- Replicates the feel and sound of real-water rowing
- Adjustable fluid resistance levels
- Aluminum frame
- Computer console displays time, 500M split time, distance, calories, strokes per minute, heart rate, and watts.
- Adjustable footplates
- 300-pound weight capacity
With an aluminum frame, the Newport AR is durable and sturdy, and its red finish gives it a sleek look. The tank isn’t especially big, but it holds more than enough water to give you a challenging workout.
First things first, it’s time to assemble it. Some parts of the assembly were quite fiddly but the instructions are clear so just take your time and it’s no problem.
When you take it out of the box you may notice that most of it is already put together and all you are doing is attaching the rail to the main frame. There is no messing around with foot pedals or the monitor.
It took me just under 40 minutes to have it ready for action, I was taking my time it could have been done faster if I was in a rush.
All the tools required to put the machine together are provided even though some of the Nylock nuts are a bit more difficult to tighten with the basic tools but its possible.
Step 1 – Slide the seat onto the rail.
Step 2 – Fix the stopper to the rear of the rail to prevent the seat from coming off.
Step 3 – Now attach the rear support to the rail using the bolts provided.
Step 4 – Install the seat rail into the mainframe. This is where it gets slightly confusing if you don’t pay attention to the instructions. You must adjust the tensioning bolt to make sure that the mid-leg is just off.
Note: make sure that you have the adjuster knob set to “max” before you fill the water tank.
Adjustable fluid resistance levels range from MIN to MAX, which you can adjust with the turn of a dial.
This is the first time that I have seen a water resistance that has a dial to alter the resistance. This unique patented design works by moving water between the “storage” and “active” chambers of the AR tank.
If you are looking to increase the resistance it will do so almost instantly even as you are rowing. However, if you want to reduce the resistance it will take 10 strokes from changing the dial for the water to move into the storage tank.
Unlike other water models, you won’t experience “dead spots” with this. The baffled tank and triple-bladed impeller give you an instant catch and the same level of resistance throughout the entire stroke.
Comfort and Design
We really like that the footboard allows for more stability than the typical foot pedals you find with most models. The height of the footplate can be adjusted, too, for optimal foot placement.
The ergonomically-designed seat adds to the comfort and natural feel. The seat moves on precision bearings with low-friction seat rollers for smooth rowing. The ergonomic handle prevents wrist, hand and arm strain.
The sturdy construction of this model allows it to accommodate up to 300 pounds of user weight. The machine itself weighs just 57 pounds (with an empty tank), which is far lighter than other simialr models.
As unit is intended for home use it is designed in a way so that it can be stored vertically. Once you have finished your workout, simply wheel it to wherever you wish to leave it and tip it up in the air. The water tank on the front makes sure that it is stable.
A built-in monitor is situated just above the handlebar, and allows you to track a wide range of stats, including:
- Strokes per minute
- Heart rate
- 500M split time
The monitor is nice a clear and fairly simple to use. It has all the metrics that you would need tracked to have a good workout.
If you wish to use the pulse reading feature you will need to get the heart rate kit and chest strap which aren’t included.
It unfortunately doesn’t have any workouts programmed into the console but it does USB connectivity which allows you to race other users over the internet using NetAthlon 2 XF.
This software is used by other models such as WaterRower, so there are plenty of people to race against. It is actually great fun and just the excitement from racing against someone gets the adrenaline and heart pumping.
As with all water resistance models you will need to treat the water from time to time in order to keep the water clear.
You will need to add one water treatment tablet once you have filled the water tank.
The timing of the next water treatment tablet depends on the amount of sunlight exposure the water tank gets. Just pop another tablet in once the water starts to discolour or you start to see algae or bacteria growing. Normally it’s about every 6 months you have to add another tablet and takes a matter of seconds to do.
First Degree Fitness seem to have quite a complicated warranty according to the user manual. It seems that you get a 1 year warranty on parts, 3 years on the tank and seals and then 5 years for the metal frame.
The rowing machine does seem to built to a good quality considering that it has a lower price tag than the other similar models. I haven’t seen very many complaints about quality so hopefully you won’t be required to use the warranty.
- Easy to assemble
- Adjustable fluid resistance
- Replicates the feel and sound of real water rowing
- Adjustable footplates for added comfort
- Computer console tracks important workout stats
- Durable aluminum frame
- High weight capacity
- Resistance levels may be too low for advanced users
If you’re an advanced user, you may find that the resistance is too light for you to get a good workout. But for most users, the fluid resistance should be more than enough to give you a challenging workout.
Overall, the Newport AR is a solid choice. It offers that real-water rowing feel and it’s relatively lightweight. The 300-pound weight capacity makes it a great choice for most users, and the console lets you keep track of your progress.
If you’re looking for a water resistance but don’t have a large budget, the Newport AR is a great option. But if this is still a bit out of you price range then the Stamina 1445 Wave may be a better option even though I do think that the Newport model is better value for money than the Stamina.