CityRow vs Hydrow: Which Rower Should You Buy

CITYROW vs Hydrow

As a gym owner and personal trainer, I’ve been championing the rowing machine as the ideal form of cardio exercise for more than 30 years. With many clients who exercise at home, I’m often asked which rowing machine is best. As a result, I’ve kept a close watch on the home rowing market.

In recent years, there have been huge strides in terms of rower technology. One of the most exciting advances is in the smart rower market. New players are entering the space regularly, so it can be difficult to make a smart buying decision. That’s why we go to great lengths, and invest many hours, to provide you with comparisons you can trust.

In this article, we’ll be putting two of the most popular smart rowers, the CityRow vs Hydrow, head to head to determine, once and for all, which is the best. 



  • Immersive fitness experience
  • 3,000+ workouts
  • World-class instructors


  • Boutique style fitness classes
  • Real-time data with hundreds of classes
  • 19.5" sweat resistant touchscreen

CityRow vs Hydrow: Quick Overview

I have had the opportunity to try out both the Hydrow Rower and the CityRow Max. Both machines are well-made and have their strengths and weaknesses.

Personally, I love the Hydrow Rower for its immersive experience. The on-demand classes that take place on real waterways with world-class instructors make it feel like I am actually rowing outdoors.

The 22-inch touchscreen is impressive and the hardware is top-notch. The computer-controlled magnetic resistance system allows for a smooth and quiet row. However, for people who are operating in confined spaces, the Hydrow Rower may not be the best option due to its size and weight.

On the other hand, the CityRow Max is a great option for those who want a water-resistance rower but still get the interactive coaching experience. The water swooshing with each row is very soothing and provides a mindful workout experience.

The machine is made from American Ash timber and can be folded for storage. For me, the rotating touch screen is a nice touch and it provides real-time data with hundreds of classes.

While both machines are excellent, I have to give the edge to the Hydrow Rower. Its sleek design, world-class instructors, and quiet resistance system make it the better machine for me. However, for those who prefer a water-resistance rower and a more classic look, the CityRow Max is a great alternative.

Here’s what you should consider:

  • Do you want a specific resistance type? Some people just love the soothing swirl of water rowers. No matter how good the Hydrows electromagnetic resistance system is, it won’t be able to replicate that.
  • However, the Hydrow does produce a better, more consistent rowing stroke that is more responsive to your rowing effort.
  • Hydrow’s workout experience is top-notch, with live and on-demand classes led by experienced rowers and stunning visuals of waterways around the world.
  • CityRow offers a more boutique fitness class style of workouts.
  • Both machines require a monthly subscription to make them worthwhile.
  • The CityRow Max is more compact and easier to store, while the Hydrow Rower is larger and may require more space.
  • The Hydrow Rower is more expensive than the CityRow Max.

Key Takeaways

Hydrow Rower: Experience the power of on-the-water training led by world-class athletes

  • Unique and immersive workout experience. With live workouts and exceptional streaming video production.
  • The quality of the production and instructors is exceptional, with professional trainers and Olympians leading the workouts.
  • Suitable for taller users, the long rail allows for a full range of movement during your rowing stroke.
  • Buy the Hdrow Rower

CityRow Max: Ultimate boutique rowing experience

  • The CITYROW MAX Rower features innovative water resistance technology and a built-in touchscreen with high-fidelity speakers for an immersive workout experience.
  • If you want to combine water resistance with a wide variety of on-demand in-studio classes, along with off-the-rower workouts, then you should opt for the CityRow Max.
  • The 19.5-inch sweat-resistant touchscreen with easy navigation and premium user experience allows for real-time progress tracking and integration with Apple Watch.
  • The elegantly designed rower fits in any room and can be stored away in less than 20 seconds.
  • Buy the CityRow Max

Keep reading to get an in-depth breakdown comparison of the Hydrow and CityRow Max so you can make an informed buying decision.

Hydrow Rower

Hydrow Rower
Immersive Rowing Experience

The Hydrow rowing machine aims to provide the ‘feel of the river’ whilst working out from the comfort of your home. The state-of-the-art rower offers a truly immersive rowing experience. 

Live streaming on a rowing machine debuted with the Hydrow Rower. Before Peloton released their own streaming rower, Hydrow was referred to as the Peloton of rowing machines.

While its 22-inch touchscreen and on-demand on-the-water classes are a focus, Hydrow’s hardware is top-notch. This rower has a strong single-piece frame, easy-adjust foot pedals, a sophisticated computer-controlled magnetic resistance system, and a smooth glide rail for a very smooth row.

Hydrow Rower Highlights:

  • Immersive workout experience with live and on-demand classes led by professional trainers and Olympians, as well as scenic rows on waterways around the world.
  • High-quality construction and design, with a sleek and sturdy frame, a comfortable and adjustable seat, and a smooth and quiet resistance system.
  • Personalized coaching and progress tracking through the Hydrow app, which syncs with the machine and provides detailed metrics and insights on your performance.

Hydrow Rower Disappointments:

  • High price point compared to other rowing machines on the market, as well as the additional cost of monthly membership for full access to the Hydrow workout library.
  • Limited adjustability for certain features, such as the footrests and resistance levels, which may not accommodate all body types.
  • Requires a significant amount of floor space, which may be challenging for users with a limited home gym or workout room space.

Check out our full review on the Hydrow Rower

CityRow Max

Boutique Fitness Rower

The CITYROW Max offers a unique boutique-style fitness class workout. Manufactured by the mighty WaterRower, its quality design and functionality, combined with a huge workout library make it one of the top rowers on the market.

The CityRow Max is an outgrowth of the City Row boutique gym, based in New York City. Their entry into the digital rower market took place in 2018, with the release of the CityRow Classic. In 2021, they introduced a second machine, the CityRow Max. That is the rower that we are reviewing. 

The CityRow Max is a water rower. It is manufactured in the United States by the WaterRower company, known for its impressive hardwood timber finish machines. A subscription-based service provides access to a large studio-based workout library.

The CityRow Max is made from American Ash timber and can be folded for storage.

CityRow Max Highlights:

  • Innovative water resistance technology for a realistic rowing experience.
  • 19.5″ sweat-resistant touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity for audio devices and integration with Apple Watch.
  • Elegant design that fits in any room and can be easily stored away.

CityRow Max Disappointments:

  • No live workout classes or instructor-led training.
  • Limited selection of workout types compared to other rowing machines.
  • More expensive than some comparable rowing machines on the market.

Check out our full review on the CityRow Max.

In-Depth Comparison: CityRow vs Hydrow

Let’s now take a look at how these rowers compare in a straight head-to-head in all departments. 

CityRow vs Hydrow: Appearance, Construction, And Design

The Hydrow doesn’t look like your typical rowing machine. It’s got a futuristic design typified by smooth lines, polished silver, and sleek curves. As a result, it fits in well with most decors, representing a stylish addition to your living room or basement.

The CityRow Max is made from a combination of timber and aluminum. The American Ash finish of the timber looks great. However, this rower has a far more traditional rowing machine look than the Hydrow. It is more compact and body and less streamlined than the Hydrow. 

The CityRow Max is a Water Rower with CityRow technology attached to it. The combination of timber and aluminum provides a very solid, secure platform to row from. The machine is finished in black and is foldable. That allows for compact vertical storage.

The rail on the CityRow Max is lower to the floor than you’ll find on most rowers. It is 7.5 inches from the floor, while the seat sits at a height of 10 inches. That may make it a challenge for people with limited mobility to comfortably get on and off the machine. 

The maximum user weight on the CityRow Max is 375 lbs. That is impressive for any rowing machine and attests to the durability of the frame. 

The Hydrow weighs 147 pounds, which is considerably more than the CityRow Max’s dry weight of 75 lbs. Even when filled with water, the CityRow Max still weighs 30 pounds less than the Hydrow. That combined, with its foldability, makes the CityRow Max easier to maneuver than the Hydrow. 

The Hydrow dimensions are slightly more than the CityRow Max. Yet, it has the same 375 lb max user weight. It’s just as solid and secure feeling when you’re in the throes of your workout. 

The CityRow Max is the better option for people who are operating in confined spaces. 

Being a water rower, the CityRow Max produces a swooshing sound with every row. It’s not as noisy as you’d experience on an air rower and many people find it relaxing. However, if you’re rowing in an apartment early in the morning, your roommates may not appreciate it,

The Hydrow’s resistance mechanism provides virtually no noise at all. There is a slight whir that comes from the strap as it uncoils but it is not as pronounced as the water movement that comes from the CityRow Max.

CityRow vs Hydrow: Comfort And Feel

Both the Hydrow and the CityRow Max do a very good job of delivering a comfortable rowing experience. However, there are some differences of note. Let’s break them down. 


The seat on the CityRow Go Max is contoured for an ergonomically enhanced experience. It features a scooped-out tailbone section. The cushioning on this seat is thicker than you’ll get on competitors like the Concept2 RowErg but on par with the Hydrow.

However, the seat on the CityRow Max sits quite a bit lower to the ground than the Hydrow. That makes the Hydrow a better option for people with limited mobility. 

The Hydrow seat is also contoured for comfort with a cut-out section to accommodate the tailbone. Both seats are wide enough to accommodate large rowers.


The foot pedals on the CityRow Max are secured to a wooden board. They can be length adjusted to six positions and are secured by foot straps. 

On the Hydrow, a sturdy footboard and a molded pedal secure your shoes to the pedals. As you row, the double layer’s rigidity underfoot still permits a slight toe flex. The user’s feet are fixed into place by a wide, adjustable strap.

The adjustable molded overlay features various notched locations that move the heel support higher to accommodate both smaller and larger feet. The foot platform is ridged at the top to prevent your foot from sliding forwards.


The CityRow Max handle is 18 inches long and straight. It is also sweat resistant so your hands don’t slide. 

The Hydrow is more ergonomically contoured than the CityRow Max. It also features over-molded soft rubber grips to provide a more comfortable hold. 

Neither handle has central slots or vents to allow you to row with one hand. 


Both of these rowers have a monorail and they both provide a very smooth natural rowing movement. The monorail on the CityRow Max is made of aluminum while the Hydrow rail is constructed of steel. 

CityRow vs Hydrow: Resistance & Rowing Performance

The CityRow Max uses water resistance, providing you with as close to an on-the-water experience as you will get on dry land. Just like on an air rower, the intensity of your row is determined by the strength of each pull. As a result, there are no selectable resistance levels on this machine. 

Many people find the swooshing of the water with each row to be very soothing, encouraging a mindful workout experience.

The engineers at Hydrow have created a special electromagnetic computer-controlled resistance system. It makes use of magnetic resistance, but unlike conventional magnetic rowers, you can increase the intensity of the row by rowing vigorously. As a result, it performs like an air rower without the noise!

The tension levels on a conventional magnetic rower can be adjusted, however, the Hydrow features a drag resistance adjuster. The setting ranges from 0 to 300, with 104. 

Both of these rowers provide you with a very good rowing experience independent of the streaming services they provide. The seat on the CityRow Max slides all the way up to the point where the handles and pedals meet, allowing for a full range of motion and a natural catch position. 

As mentioned, the CityRow Max puts you closer to the ground than the Hydrow. This can make it a little restrictive for those who struggle with knee and hip flexibility. The Hydrow also allows you to ride the seat right up to the handle/pedal junction. The point at which the belt emerges from the neck of the rower is 2 inches from the floor, compared with 20 inches for the CityRow Max. 

CityRow vs Hydrow: Touchscreen Interface, Membership, And Workout Content

The touchscreen on the CityRow Max measures 19.5 inches. It is positioned just above the catch so that you are looking directly at it as you. This screen is designed exclusively for use with the CityRow app, so you won’t be able to connect to any other apps on it. 

If you don’t have a Cityrow app subscription, you will likewise be limited in what you can receive on the screen. You can’t even see your rowing metrics on the screen without a subscription.

The Hydrow touchscreen measures 22 inches. It, too, is designed to be used with streaming content available via subscription. Its non-subscription functionality is just as limited as on the CityRow Max. 

Both screens provide similar diagnostics before, during, and after workouts when the subscription is activated. They are both also angle adjustable so you can get a clear view of the screen while doing off-the-rower workouts.

A difference is that there is no leaderboard function on the CityRow Max. So, if you are a highly competitive rower who loves to make your way up the rankings, you will be better off with the Hydrow. 

A monthly subscription to the CityRow app will cost you $29 month. 

When you switch the screen on, you will see the following options:

  • Recent workouts
  • Badges earned
  • Total row metrics
  • Personal records
  • Control panel to take you to classes, track, and just row

You can choose between the following class types:

  1. HIIT
  2. Endurance
  3. Strength
  4. Yoga
  5. Mobility

In addition to the rower workouts, there are off-the-rower sessions using free weights and calisthenics exercises. The workouts are filmed in a studio that looks quite dated. Instructors are engaging and demonstrate very good technique. There are no outdoor rowing classes provided.

The Hydrow home screen features a different workout of the day every morning. There are also several live on-the-water classes every week that are led by competitive rowers.

Live and on-demand workouts are filmed all over the world on some of the most amazing waterways that exist. Hydrow uses more than one camera so that you are able to view the wildlife and other sights and sounds along the riverbanks. 

Overall the video production quality of the Hydrow is much higher than the CityRow Max. 

The extensive searchable library on the Hydrow screen allows you to search for workouts based on the athlete leading the class, the duration (starting from just 5 minutes), the location, and the following workout types:

  • Drive
  • Sweat
  • Breathe
  • Warm up
  • Cool down
  • Journeys
  • Learn to Row
  • On the Mat

There is very little functionality available on either rower absent a subscription. Only a few Hydrow 101 videos and other introductory content will be available to you. Additionally, you may change the drag setting for your exercises and view on-screen analytics while you work out.

On the CityRow Max, you only have access to the JustRow feature. 

CityRow vs Hydrow: Price And Warranty

The CityRow Max sells on the official website for $2199. The monthly subscription will cost you an additional $29 per month. 

CityRow also sells their original Classic rower, with a 16-inch screen, for $1499.

The Hydrow rower retails for $2495.A Hydrow subscription costs $38 per month. 

CityRow provides a five-year warranty on the frame, a three-year warranty on non-electronic components (seat, clutch, tank), and a one-year warranty on the tablet.

Hydrow offers a 5-year frame and a one-year parts and labor warranty.

CityRow vs Hydrow: Comparison Table

CityRow MaxHydrow Rower
Screen Size19.5 inches22 inches
Screen Angle AdjustableYesYes
Max User Weight375 lbs3 lbs
Product Weight75 lbs (dry)145 lbs
Resistance TypeWaterElectroMagnetic
Dimensions85” x 22” W 45” H86″ L x 25″ W x 47″ H
Warranty5 years5 years
Monthly subscription$29$38

CITYROW vs Hydrow: The Winner

After comparing ten different features, it has become apparent that the Hydrow scorers more wins than the CityRow Max. In that sense, we can claim that it is the overall better rowing machine.

Hydrow Rower
Immersive Rowing Experience

The Hydrow rowing machine aims to provide the ‘feel of the river’ whilst working out from the comfort of your home. The state-of-the-art rower offers a truly immersive rowing experience. 

Realistically, though, comparing these two rowers is a bit of an apples-and-oranges scenario. That’s because one is a water rower and the other is an electromagnetic resistance machine. If you love the feel of rowing on the water and get inspired by the swooshing sound of the water with each pull, then the CityRow Max is the better option for you. 

However, if you’re wanting a smooth, quiet magnetic resistance that works like air resistance and want the best quality on the water classes, both live and on-demand, from all over the world, it’s the Hydrow all the way. 

Personally, the superior quality and range of workouts on the Hydrow are the deciding factor, making the extra few hundred dollars well worth it.

Related Articles

If you’re still undecided or want to check out some other rowers, I recommend checking out the following articles:

Steve Theunissen


Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and school teacher and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.