NordicTrack RW500 Rower Review

NordicTrack RW500 Rower ReviewAre you looking for a more interesting rowing workout?

Do you want interactive training sessions to keep you engaged?

Well check out the NordicTrack RW500 Rower!

This rowing machine has dual air & magnetic resistance that is controlled by an interactive training system monitor.

You can follow along pre-recorded training sessions, row down famous rivers, or select a street to cruise down using Google maps!


The interactive training system isn’t the only great feature on this model. The RW500 Rower provides smooth, strong resistance with a very comfortable rowing stroke!

While at first glance this rowing machine may look like a must buy, you’ll need to weigh your other options. Like the other Nordictrack models or other famous rowing machines in this price range.

Read my full NordicTrack RW500 Rower review below to find out all the great features. Plus, learn how it compares to other models in my final review section.

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Table of Contents
(click a title to jump ahead!)

1. Resistance Type
2. Monitor/Control Panel
3. Build Quality
4. Comfort
5. Storage
6. Capacity
7. Dimensions
8. Assembly
9. Pros and Cons
10. Consumer Reviews
11. Warranty
12. Price
13. Overall Review

Resistance Type

The NordicTrack RW500 Rower is a combination model that utilizes air & magnetic resistance.

This unique blend of resistance gives users the best of both worlds.

Air resistance is great for high-end resistance and operates by pulling the handle and spinning the fan flywheel.

As a user rows faster, in return, they spin the fan faster. The faster the fan spins, the more air it must displace, and the greater the resistance a user will feel.

Due to resistance becoming stronger the faster a person rows, we call this “variable” resistance.

Magnetic resistance is great for low-end resistance. It operates by moving a magnet closer or farther from a spinning metal flywheel. The closer the magnet is to the flywheel, the stronger the resistance.

Due to the resistance being controlled by adjusting the distance the magnet is from the flywheel, we call this “adjustable” resistance.

You can learn more about both air & magnetic resistance types here.

Resistance Benefits

With the dual air & magnetic resistance, users are getting the high-end benefits of air resistance and the low-end benefits of magnetic resistance.

This creates a smooth, strong rowing stroke that is great for all fitness levels!

RW500 Rower Resistance

As shown in the photo above, there are 10 different air resistance settings and 26 different magnetic settings!

If you can’t find a setting that fits your needs, I’m not sure you will find a model that will!

Air Resistance Adjustment

The air resistance is controlled by a lever on the front flywheel. This lever is called a “damper”.

Dampers are usually only seen on higher-end rowing machines and allow users to have greater control over the feel of the rowing stroke.

Nordictrack RW500 Rowing Machine Resistance

Technically, a damper does not control the “resistance” but controls the “feel” of the rowing stroke. It’s close to the same, so people just call it the “resistance” setting for simplicity.

Damper settings allow more or less air into the flywheel, which makes the rowing stroke feel lighter or heavier.

A lower damper setting (1-3), is a “lighter” rowing stroke. Think of it as rowing in a boat by yourself.

A higher damper setting (7-10), is a “heavier” rowing stroke. Think of it as rowing in a boat with 3 people.

That’s about all you need to know on dampers!

Magnetic Resistance Adjustment

The magnetic resistance adjustment is a bit easier to understand and is controlled by pressing a “+” or “-” button on the console (shown in the photo below).

Simply hit the plus button to increase the resistance or hit the minus button to decrease it!

There are 26 different levels, which is an amazing amount of adjustment capability!

NordicTrack RW500 Rower Resistance

Magnetic resistance is also virtually silent, so you won’t have to worry about disturbing neighbors or waking someone up in your house.

The resistance will automatically change if you are using any of the iFIT workout programs. So if the trainer wants to pump up the intensity, you just keep rowing and start to feel the burn!

There’s no way to cheat yourself out of a hard workout on this rowing machine!

Resistance Overall

Overall, the resistance on the RW500 Rowing Machine is excellent and there were very few negative things to be said about it.

It’s strong enough for the most elite athletes and can adjust downward for beginners.

The combination of air and magnetic resistance also makes it quieter than air-only rowers, which is great if you are looking to keep the noise level down.

Monitor/Control Panel

One of the biggest selling points of the NordicTrack Rowers is the monitor.

It’s also what makes these rowers cost a bit more, so you have to make sure it provides enough value to make it worth the cost!

The NordicTrack RW500 Rower comes with a 5.0″ backlit monitor on an adjustable arm. This section of the monitor tracks

  • Watts
  • Strokes Per Minute
  • Total Strokes
  • Time
  • Calories
  • Distance
  • Speed
  • Heart Rate
  • 500m Split

On top of that, NordicTrack includes a FREE 10.0″ portable tablet to sync with their iFIT training program! (more on this below)

Nordictrack RW500 Rower Monitor

The tablet allows you to follow along and watch training sessions in full color and uses the two built-in digitally amplified monitor speakers to keep you alert and engaged!

Worried about the speakers being too loud? No problem, just plug your headphones into the auxiliary port.

The monitor does need to be plugged into an outlet and be unplugged after each session. This model also doesn’t come equipped with a heart rate monitor, so one will need to be purchased separately if you want to utilize that feature.

Luckily, you can buy a good one like the Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor for a fairly low price.

iFIT Coaching Program

As I mentioned above, the monitor syncs with the NordicTrack iFIT coaching program. This is an interactive online training program that has tons of workouts you can follow along.

Have you ever heard of Peloton? It’s basically the same concept.

When you buy the NordicTrack RW500, you get a 1-year free iFIT membership! This is currently valued at $468!

The iFIT membership gives you access to over 12,000 workouts, many of which are rowing specific. This means you can follow along as world-class trainers take you through a rowing workout or follow them as they row down famous rivers.

You can even use Google Maps to “row” down different streets or rivers around the globe!

NordicTrack iFIT Rowing

The iFIT membership isn’t exclusive to rowing-only workouts. You will also get access to weight training, yoga, kick-boxing, and many more!

If after 1-year you don’t want to use it, then simply don’t renew and use the 30 pre-loaded workouts that come on the monitor apart from the iFIT program.

There’s so much information on the iFIT program that it’s difficult to cover it all here. You can learn more about the coaching programs by visiting the NordicTrack iFIT website here.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section and I will help get them answered.

Monitor Downsides

There really aren’t too many downsides to the monitor. The biggest complaint is the tablet cannot be used to stream or surf the internet.

Basically, the tablet can only be used for the iFIT program, so no watching Netflix or YouTube on it while rowing.

I do think this is a huge downside considering it would be nice to watch your favorite Netflix show when you aren’t in the mood to follow a workout program.

I did list a few other small gripes in the monitor section of my NordicTrack RW900 review here.

Monitor Overall

Overall, the monitor on the RW500 is one of the best features on this model. It’s excellent for people who find it hard to stay engaged while working out and need a program to follow.

The programs are extremely energetic and create an environment that pushes you to workout harder!

I think the iFIT program is currently the best interactive rowing program and I look forward to seeing NordicTrack improve and expand on this platform.

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Build Quality

Luckily for consumers, NordicTrack is a very well-known fitness brand so you can be comfortable knowing you are going to buy a quality product.

Seeing as it’s sold in other big retail stores like Sear, BestBuy, Costco, and Target – you know you aren’t buying piece of junk or from a company with no customer service!

RW500 Build Quality

The RW500 Rower is built with an oversized steel seat rail to support a smooth, sturdy rowing stroke.

All of the plastic housings, footrests and supports are made from quality materials that didn’t show signs of breaking easily.

The seat glides on industrial-grade ball bearing rollers and the seat & handle are made from durable foam material.

A strap is used instead of a chain on the pull mechanism to reduce noise, but the strap is made to last and showed no signs of fraying or breaking from extended use.

Overall, the build quality on the NordicTrack RW500 Rower is excellent and it’s backed by a great warranty (more on this below). So there is really no need to worry about this section!

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As I always like to tell my readers, you need to make sure the rowing machine you buy is going to be comfortable.

If the model you choose is uncomfortable, you aren’t going to use it, and it will end up being a towel rack in the corner of your room.

Luckily, NordicTrack knows a thing or two about building great pieces of fitness equipment.

The RW500 has a very smooth rowing stroke and is fairly quiet. The magnetic resistance is virtually silent but the air resistance will make some noise.

NordicTrack RW500 Comfort

The ergonomic, molded seat and “SoftTouch” ergonomic handle are comfortable enough to use for long rowing sessions, although some people do say their butt starts to hurt a bit and they may get a few blisters in the beginning from the handle.

I wrote an article about how to prevent rowing butt pain and you can use workout gloves if you are concerned with blisters.

The footrests comfortably fit any shoe size and the oversized straps adjust quickly and easily over your shoe.

There really were no complaints about the comfort of this model and people felt it provided a great rowing stroke!

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Being such a good looking rower, you may wonder who would want to store this thing!

While it’s completely fine to leave out (which I recommend!), the RW500 does have a patented SpaceSaver® design.

NordicTrack RW500 Rower Folding

NordicTrack RW500 Rowing Machine Storage

You can fold the RW500 by following these two very easy steps:

  1. Lift the center handle and allow the seat rail to fold inward.
  2. Tip the rower forward and allow the seat rail to fold in and clip into the front support bar.

Once the rower is folded, you can tilt the rower and roll it into the corner of a room or closet on the built-in caster wheels.

You can also move the rower in the un-folded position by lifting the back of the seat rail until the wheels are the only pieces touching the floor.

The folded dimensions are roughly: 52.4″ x 22.0″ x 47.2″ (L x W x H)

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The NordicTrack RW500 Rower capacity is one slight downside of this model but it shouldn’t affect too many people.

The manufacturer suggested weight limit is 250 lbs., which is relatively low for a model in this price range. Other rowing machines in this price range have weight capacities of 500 – 1,000 lbs.

While 250 lbs. is decent, I do think people can use this model if they are close to the limit. I think NordicTrack is being conservative with this number and I’ve seen some websites list the capacity higher.

For example, on (UK-based Amazon) the weight limit is 130 kg or 286 lbs.

NordicTrack RW500 Rower Capacity

When trying to figure out the maximum height capacity, I contacted NordicTrack directly and asked if someone who is 6’5″ can use this model. They responded that absolutely, it would be ok.

If you watch the assembly video below you will see there are 2 stoppers on the seat rail that prevent the seat from sliding off the back. If you remove these, you get another 1.0″ – 1.5″ of travel on the seat rail. This could help accommodate a user if they are taller than 6’5″.

So anyone who is around 250 lbs. and shorter than 6’5″ should have no issue using the RW500 Rower!

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  • Assembled Dimensions (L x W x H):
    • 86.5″ x 22.0″ x 42.8″
  • Folded Dimensions (L x W x H):
    • 52.4″ x 22.0″ x 47.2″
  • Assembled Weight: 90 lbs.
  • Shipping Weight: 115 lbs.

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Assembling a new piece of fitness equipment can either be a piece of cake or a complete nightmare!

Luckily, assembling the NordicTrack RW500 Rower is the former.

The rowing machine essentially comes pre-assembled and all you need to do is attach the seat and monitor arm. There’s a 3 minute video below that walks you through this process step by step.

The video is for the RW200 model but it’s basically the exact same steps. All of the tools are included in the packaging for assembly and there is no need for batteries since the monitor is plugged into an outlet via an included power adapter.

You can easily assemble this rower by yourself in about 15-20 minutes.

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Pros and Cons


  • 26 levels of silent magnetic resistance
  • 10 levels of air resistance (damper)
  • FREE 10.0″ Portable Tablet
  • 5.0″ monitor display (tracks fitness data separately from tablet)
  • Smooth, strong, quiet rowing stroke
  • 1-Year FREE iFIT membership (12,000+ workouts and renewable membership)
  • 30 pre-loaded workouts to use with iFIT
  • Great warranty!
  • Competitive pricing!
  • Easy fold design
  • Easy assembly


  • Low weight capacity
  • Base monitor is not great (monitor really made to be used with iFIT)

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Consumer Reviews

The NordicTrack RW500 Rower reviews have been overall very positive. In the beginning, the price of the RW500 was very high (it could go back to this) but has been lowered to be priced with the other bestselling rowing machines.

Since the price reduction, consumers have felt they were getting a very high quality rowing machine for a fair price. They really enjoyed the iFIT program that can be used with the tablet and loved the long warranty period!

There were very few complaints about quality, comfort, or resistance. People who wanted interactive workout programs (iFIT program) really enjoyed this model. Consumers who didn’t like the RW500 were more geared towards Crossfit or high-level training and wanted highly accurate data tracking.

Check out more NordicTrack RW500 Rower information here

Average Rating: 4.6

My rating is for the NordicTrack RW500 Rower at normal listed price. There are times of the year when the price is lower (in-line with the Concept2) that would bump my rating up.

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Another great feature of the RW500 Rowing Machine is the warranty!

  • Frame: 10-Years
  • Parts: 2-Years
  • Labor: 1-Year
  • Model #: RW500 Rower (NTRW99147)

During check-out, you can extend the warranties for a very reasonable price. This can sometimes make a lot of sense to guarantee a piece of equipment for 5 years or whatever is the extended warranty period.

Another great benefit of buying from NordicTrack is the great customer service. You can always get a very fast response and they have a live chat feature on their website.

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NordicTrack RW500 Rower Price

One of the biggest factors with the NordicTrack Rowers is the price. Historically, they have changed quite a bit and were at one point very expensive. I believe they are much more reasonably priced now and at some points of the year they are in-line with what other high-end rowing machines cost (Concept2 & WaterRower).

NordicTrack likes to sell their rowing machines through their own online store or other retailers that have physical locations like Sears, Costco, etc. They do not seem to like selling through Amazon.

The pricing does seem to jump around a lot so don’t be surprised if it seems high (or hopefully low).

RW500 Price on

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Overall Review

Overall, the NordicTrack RW500 Rower is a great rowing machine! A huge factor is whether it is priced competitively or not!

To focus on some positives – it has great resistance, build quality, warranty, and monitor functions.

The downside – pricing can fluctuate as much as $600!! Yep, I’ve seen the price change as much as $600 from month to month, which can really change my rating!

I will say this, if it’s price competitively with bestselling rowing machines like the Concept2 Model D – then I would highly consider it.

My choice would then factor in if you want a training rowing machine for things like Crosffit, marathons, etc. In my opinion, the Concept2 Model D is hands down the best rowing machine for serious athletes who want top of the line resistance and highly accurate data tracking.

You can read my full review here.

If you are more interested in following interactive workout programs and need to follow training programs to stay motivated, then I would choose the RW500.

However, if the RW500 is priced much higher than the Concept2 Model D, I would choose the Concept2 Model D hands down.

Other great options in this price range include water rowers like the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine (see my review here) or magnetic rowers like the Stamina Avari (see my review here).

I hope you enjoyed my NordicTrack RW500 Rower review! Please leave me any questions or comments below!

Don’t forget to check out my RW900 Rower Review here or my RW200 Rower review here.

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