What is a Monitor used for on Rowing Machines?

Fitness machines sure have come a long way, haven’t they? As technology advances, nearly every appliance and machine we use is somehow connected to the internet. We’ve added the word ‘smart’ to everything, as our entire house has become a connected device. Well, the same can be said for the latest evolution in rowing machines. If you have checked out some of the newest, premium models, you have probably noticed that some rowing machines now come with giant monitors. They are not dissimilar from other popular connected fitness machines like those from brands like Hydrow or Echelon.

But what are these giant monitors even used for on rowing machines? Sometimes they can be used for entertainment as you workout, and other machines will use them to connect to live classes on applications or instructional videos. Others still will utilize the monitor merely to keep track of your vitals during your workout. So when it comes to indoor rowing machine monitors, is bigger always better? Not necessarily, and here’s why!


This is probably the number one factor that people will look at: the price. Slap on a large monitor and the price of the rowing machine tends to skyrocket. Just think about how expensive Peloton machines are compared to other stationary bikes or treadmills. It’s why some people criticize these high-end models as fitness machines with an iPad connected to them. In fact, you can definitely save a significant amount of money and just buy a rowing machine with a tablet holder. At the end of the day, if you are looking at a premium rowing machine with a large connected monitor, expect to fork out a premium price.

Subscription Charges

It’s not just a more expensive price tag either! Most premium rowers such as Nordictrack RW900 with a large monitor require you to sign up for the service and pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to have access to the instructional classes. I get it, the brands have to pay these trainers and it also costs money to have these instructional platforms running all the time. But you are paying a premium price tag as it is, without even factoring in the cost of a monthly subscription for the lifetime of the machine. What’s more, some brands will not even let you utilize the monitor to the fullest without paying for the subscription. If you really need to get the monitor, make sure you factor in all of the excess charges that accompany it!

They are Cumbersome

Believe it or not, it’s actually a little inconvenient to have a 24” monitor attached to your fitness machine. Sure, the latest premium models are all designed so that the monitor won’t be in your way during a workout, but sometimes they can just serve as a distraction, especially if you aren’t using it. From my experience, the monitors can also be cumbersome if you need to move the rowing machine around or store it away. It’s really just one more part that can potentially break, so it can get frustrating if you are forced to regularly store your machine away. Plus, you need to run an electricity cable across your room and always keep it connected to wall socket.

Most People Do Not Use Them

How often do you actually see people even using these monitors at home? I understand if you are participating in a class, then the monitor is handy. But for those who just want to be entertained as they work out, most will just set their fitness machines up in front of a television. There is a reason there are so many entry-level fitness machines with no frills attached. Most casual users just want the exercise and can provide the entertainment side of things on their own. Think about watching a 24” screen as you workout or your 60” flat screen television mounted on the wall. If more people found the monitors useful, then companies would include them on more models!

It’s Not All Bad for Monitors

I know I have given these monitors a hard time, but as someone who has used and reviewed dozens of rowing machines which you can find them here, I simply do not think they are a necessity. I will say that I think interactive classes and one on one trainers are an incredible feature for at home fitness machines. They sure came in handy during the pandemic, and will continue to be a viable option in the future. I am also a strong believer in connected technology for rowing machines, and believe that integration with smartphones can create an incredibly strong ecosystem for your personal health. I think the monitors and instructional subscriptions are great for people who can afford them, or for people who need the constant motivation to work out. In the end, it may just even out with what a monthly gym membership would cost you, except you get to enjoy these workouts in the comfort of your own home!

Sayed Hamed Hosseiny
Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Hi, my name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny. I am a professional health and fitness trainer with nearly 20 years of experience using ellipticals, rowing machines, and spin bikes. I also have my own EU-based Rock Fitness Pro fitness brand where I design, import and sell exercise equipment such as rowing machines and spin bikes. I and writers on my team also often receive fitness equipment to review and evaluate their functionalities and performance from tens of different exercise machines manufacturers. Fitness equipment tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on this website are my opinion (and opinions of my fitness expert colleagues) based on tens of criteria. I never accept payment to write reviews of products or say positive things about fitness equipment products. If brands are interested to have me review their rowers, ellipticals, or spin bikes, they can get in touch with me via email provided on the contact page and send a sample of their product.