In this Sunny Health And Fitness rowing rowing machine review, we’re diving into all aspects of the SF-RW5515 rower to help you decide whether or not this is the best model for you. This is their most popular rower but we also compare it to some alternatives to help you make the right choice for your needs.
For over a decade, Sunny and Health Fitness has produced quality rowing machines for an affordable price. And while they’re solid rowers, they may not be the best for intermediate to advanced fitness levels (more on this below).
Let’s get right to it…
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine has a magnetic tension system that keeps the ride smooth and very quiet. Its so quiet that you can watch movies on your phone or hold a conversation without any trouble hearing.
8-Levels Of Adjustable Resistance
This particular model has 8 resistance levels that go pretty high but not quite high enough for the true athlete. At first, you’ll find it challenging but over time you’ll likely become stronger than the highest resistance levels and need to upgrade your setup.
One convenient feature to point out though is that the resistance knob is perfectly placed just below the LCD monitor so it’s easy to reach and adjust mid-workout.
The monitor is super straightforward and easy to read. However, it doesn’t track any advanced metrics so you can’t keep track of your progress.
The only metrics tracked are the time (aka how long you’ve been working out during this session), number of strokes, and the calories burned. The calories burned is totally random though because it doesn’t ask you for your body size/weight/age/etc. It simply goes off of an average size and calorie burn.
Non-Slip Handle Bar
The padded foam handle on the SF-RW5515 makes it easy to row without the need for gloves. I will say that they’ve paid attention to overall user comfort because the seat is also very comfortable which makes it easy to workout for much longer times.
The handle is slim and easy to grip even for someone with bigger hands. Also, we like how the handle contrasts the design of the body to give it a more visually appealing look.
Non-Slip Pedal With Adjustable Strap
The footplates are non-slip and pretty straightforward. It’s easy to put your feet in them and the adjustment straps are Velcro which makes it easy to adjust on the fly.
However, the plates are made from plastic and they pivot quite a bit. So, when you’re fully compressed in your row, your toes are pointed forward and down. This puts you in a position where you can’t generate power from your heels which results in you doing a 3/4 row rather than a full rep so you can keep momentum.
I think this design feature was included for those with limited ankle flexibility. Because if you have limited flexibility in your ankles, you’ll have a hard time doing a full compressed rep anyway. So the pivoting footplates, in this case, are more helpful.
Wide Cushion Seat
Most rowing machines come with a hard plastic seat. However, this one has a padded, sweat-resistant seat that’s super comfortable. The extra padded seat helps you avoid pain in the tailbone area and relieves pressure making your workout easier to sustain.
Transportation Wheels & Foldable
If you’re tight on space, you’ll be happy to know this one folds up. When unfolded, it still doesn’t take up a lot of space (82 x 19 x 23 inches).
But if that’s pushing your living room to the max, you can easily fold it up to a tiny 37 x 19 x 53.5 inches and use the built-in wheels to move it around the house.
It’s also lightweight with the majority of the weight concentrated in the front where the wheels are. So the only part you really have to lift is the rail which is very light.
The back legs have built-in stabilizers to prevent the rower from rocking around while you workout. If you’re on uneven ground, you can twist the little knobs on the feet to level it out. It’s also worth noting that the plastic feet won’t scratch up your floor.
Extra Long Slide Rail
Another great feature of the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine is that it has a longer slide rail. The 48” rail makes one of the longest and ideal for very tall people. In fact, unless you’re an NBA player or 7’ tall, you won’t hit the back of it.
Assembly is relatively easy:
Here’s a quick video by the company on assembly so you can check it out.
- Easy to assemble
- It has longer slide Rail length (48 in.) and inseam length (44 in.) so it works for taller people
- Can be folded and has transport wheels for easy storage
- 8 Adjustable magnetic resistance levels
- Quiet and smooth operation
- Doesn’t have a device holder for your phone or tablet
- Lower weight capacity (250 lbs.)
- No bottle holder
- Doesn’t track distance
Key Specs Of The SF-RW5515
- Size unfolded: 82 x 19 x 23 inches
- Size folded: 37 x 19 x 53.5 inches
- Weight of machine: ~60 lbs.
- Weight limit: 250 lbs.
- Resistance levels: 8 levels
- Resistance type: Magnetic
- Pre-programmed workouts: No
- Metrics tracked: Time, strokes, and calories burned
Things To Consider Before Buying a Rowing Machine
There’s no doubt that rowing machines are one of the most effective and efficient workouts. They’re easy to use from a “jump on and go” perspective but offer a very intense workout so you can really challenge yourself. That being said, before you buy one, you should consider the following:
The first thing you need to consider is the price. But you already know your budget so there’s not much I can say about that. The one caveat is that buying on price alone often results in a purchase you regret. So if you find one that’s a little more but all signs point to it being a better machine, I recommend you go the extra mile for something you’ll love using.
Type of Rowing Machine Resistance
Rowing machines come in multiple resistance styles including air, hydraulic, magnetic, and water resistance. If you’re not familiar with the types, read a little more about them before settling in your machine. The type of resistance can really affect your experience while using them. Here’s a quick overview:
This is the same type you find in most CrossFit gyms. The resistance generally adjusts automatically, they’re durable, and they are easy to use. That being said, the cheap ones tend to be noisy.
These mimic the feel of actually rowing a boat on the water and they’re ideal for those who participate in row clubs. They’re moderately quiet, the resistance gets harder as you row harder, and they look very nice. The disadvantages are that they’re often heavier and more expensive.
These are generally very cheap, smaller in size, and they’re quiet. The disadvantage is that they really don’t work like your typical rower and I personally don’t like the experience of using them.
Magnetic rowers are the most common for home use because they’re affordable, very quiet, and generally have multiple resistance levels. The downside of these is that they’re geared towards beginners and sometimes don’t have the high levels of resistance or durability to work for athletes. If you’re an athlete, you most likely want the air/flywheel or the water rower.
Space and Storage
The Sunny Health and Fitness is foldable and stores pretty easy but if you’re considering other models and you’re tight on space, check the specs to make sure you can keep it in the house.
The noise level is very low with the Sunny Health and Fitness rower and most other magnetic rowers. That being said, if you’re considering other models, refer to the breakdown above under types of rowing machine resistance.
Alternatives To The SF-RW5515
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622 Dual Function Magnetic Rowing Machine
This rowing machine also includes an LCD monitor, 8 levels of magnetic resistance, foldable design, and has transportation wheels the same as the Sunny SF-RW5515. But this rowing machine has a dual function which includes metal standing plates for you to do shoulder upright rows, bent-over rows, and bicep curls. And, it has a higher weight capacity of 275 lbs. And at the time of this writing, they’re very close in price.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rowing Machine
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rowing Machine has the same weight capacity (250lbs) as the Sunny SF-RW5515. It also has the same other features such as wide cushioned seat, non-slip handlebars, and ergonomic foot pedals.
What’s different about this model is that this rowing machine has 16 magnetic resistance levels instead of 8 so you can challenge yourself more. Plus, this rowing machine has a bottle and device holder so you can watch Netflix while you workout in the garage.
If you’re on a budget or new to rowing, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 or one of the similar alternatives is a great choice. It checks all the boxes for a beginner’s rowing machine and it’s built to grow with you for a while until you decide you’re ready for an upgrade.
And while it has some flaws, they’re not deal breakers. With a budget rower, you’re going to have to make some compromises and finding one that’s better than the Sunny Health & Fitness in this price range will be a challenge. After reviewing the Sunny Health & Fitness rower, I recommend it for you only if you’re new to rowing or you’re on a strict budget. But if you’re serious about fitness and you can swing a high-end model like the Conept2 Model D, you’ll be much better off with that in the long run.