I don't know how this machine compares to others. I have no idea. Here's what I know: I've had treadmills and elliptical machines, weight benches and several exercise appliances from infomercials. They all work exactly like they should if you use the equipment on a consistent basis. That's where the problem comes in. I would always give up eventually and the machine would sit in the corner, covered with my laundry, laughing at me. I bought this rower without ever even trying one at the gym because I was desperate to do something (and I voted for Frank Underwood). This was the one machine I was not only able to stick with, but I now eagerly look forward to using. It started a chain reaction that changed everything. You know those incredible before/after transformation pictures you see on weight loss shows? I'm one of those guys now. Rowing is like a 'secret' in the fitness world in the way there is so little emphasis. However, in terms of results, it is so much more efficient. It works your upper and lower body at the same time, huge cardio/fat burner and builds muscle like crazy. I'm glad I'm in on the secret too.
Now back to the aesthetics, this version of WaterRower’s natural wood line of rowers comes in beautiful Black Walnut, which the company chose for its superior sound and vibration absorption. It’s hand-made in the USA and comes with excellent warranties and customer service. Overall, WaterRower is known for the quality of their rowing machines and the Classic is no exception. And if you do want to get this rower just as an attractive conversation piece, it easily stores upright against a wall. That said, we strongly recommend using The WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine for fitness, not just eye-candy.
As I mentioned, the rowing experience with the WaterRower is amazing. I bought the rower for myself, but my wife was curious and decided to try it out. She loves it, and now rows almost daily. We have a treadmill that neither of us has used since we started rowing - the WaterRower is a much better workout and much more enjoyable at the same time. It's easy to adjust the intensity, pace and duration of your exercise. There is nothing to change on the rower (* see note below), you just row harder or faster, adjust how far you lean forward and back during your stroke. The WaterRower will keep up with you as your fitness increases, all you need to do is keep throwing more and more at it.
* While there is nothing to adjust from row to row on the WaterRower, it is possible to increase or decrease the level of resistance by changing how much water you put in the drum. The monitor is pre-calibrated to match 17 liters of water, but you can change that if you want. More than 17 liters = more resistance, up to the max fill line. This is not something you'll want to change frequently, it's more of a set-it-and-forget-it thing.
The WaterRower Natural is outfitted with a Series 4 performance monitor that's designed to balance technical sophistication with user-friendliness. The monitor--which includes six information and programming windows, six QuickSelection buttons, and three navigation buttons--displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance. Plus, the monitor is compatible with an optional heart rate chest strap and receiver, which helps you optimize your workout and achieve your exercise objectives.