Sunny Health and Fitness Rower Review (2024)

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When building out your home gym, the best rowing machines can be excellent for delivering low-impact training opportunities rich with full-body engagement… and there’s practically a silhouette for every setting. For example, the Sunny Health and Fitness Rower (also known as the SF-RW5801) offers up 16 levels of high-quality magnetic resistance and a compact, foldable frame for less than $300 — a sliver of the average cost of rowers, many of which cost more than $1,000. 

We’ve tested more than 15 of the top rowers, including the SF-RW5801, and feel it’s a good beginner profile, especially for athletes training in tighter quarters. The weight capacity, ergonomics, and flywheel performance are all efficient, but those wanting a tech-riddled silhouette with a roster of integrative workout programs will need to up their standards (and budget). Considering the SF-RW5801 for your training space? Let’s hop into our Sunny Health and Fitness rowing machine review and get down to the finer details.






Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine




Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Magnetic Rowing MachineSunny Health & Fitness Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine






Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine


This compact and foldable Sunny Health & Fitness rowing machine can provide a challenge with 16 levels of magnetic resistance. A budget, bare-bones unit, this well-made rower is ideal for those tight on space but with a desire to sweat. 

Main Takeaways

  • The foldable slide rail creates a storage footprint of 5.8 square feet — roughly the equivalent to an average coffee table. (1)
  • Athletes that prefer an immersive touchscreen display will be underwhelmed by the SF-RW5801’s basic LCD console, which doesn’t feature preset programming.
  • At less than $300, the warranty is not substantial at three years for the frame and 180 days for other parts and components.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower Highlights

  • Price: $299.99
  • Product Dimensions: 77” L X 23” W X 22.5” H
  • Product Weight: 49.6lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 285lbs
  • Resistance Type: Magnetic
  • Resistance Levels: 16

This Sunny Health and Fitness rower comes in at roughly $300, a steal considering many rowers cost more than $1,000. The SF-RW5801 is also a compact rowing machine with a footprint of 12.3 square feet. 

These dimensions, along with the foldable slide rail and lightweight 46.3-pound profile, can be excellent for those looking at rowing machines for apartments. According to Amanda Capritto, our expert reviewer, “You’ll need to ensure the machine will fit in your space and it’s relatively easy to move if you won’t be able to leave it stationary.”

The SF-RW5801 also operates with a magnetic resistance system, which helps cut the noise factor down when compared to a water or air rower. The 16 levels of magnetic tension are toggleable via an ergonomic knob below the LCD display, meaning you’ll need to adjust your settings before getting into your stroke motion.

Speaking of the display, this Sunny Health and Fitness rower does not feature any preset programming, but the digital monitor is capable of displaying key workout metrics, including time, stroke count, total count, and calories burned. There’s also a built-in device holder at the top of the center console if you prefer to train to the tune of your favorite best fitness app.

This media shelf is right in front of a water bottle holder, which our tester, a CrossFit Level-1 instructor, said was more of a nuisance than a convenience in training. “It’s practically impossible to grab your beverage without knocking your phone or tablet out of position,” they commented.

In terms of comfort and body positioning, the SF-RW5801 is surprisingly stable and cozy during sessions thanks to its wide, well-cushioned seat and non-slip foot pedals with adjustable straps. 

The weight capacity of 285 pounds should also be accommodating enough for a wide range of athletes — we’ve determined that the industry standard weight rating for most rowers is at least 250 pounds. However, the SF-RW5801 sits less than 12 inches off the ground, so athletes dealing with joint issues may find it difficult to get into and out of the saddle for a given workout.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly price point at less than $300
  • Stable frame can support up to 285 pounds
  • Foldable slide rail and front transport wheels improve portability

Cons

  • 43.5-inch slide rail inseam may be too short for some
  • No preset workouts available across the center console
  • Water bottle holder interferes with the built-in tablet holder

Training With the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower

We used the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 for multiple weeks, examining its performance, features, and ergonomics through multiple full-body workouts and low-impact cardio sessions. We also maneuvered this magnetic rowing machine routinely around our training space to get a better feel for its portability and storage perks.

We used a multi-point methodology to rate the SF-RW5801 in categories such as overall footprint, available tech, dynamic programming, durability, and more, scoring them on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). For further information on how we trial and test products, read the BarBend Equipment Testing Methodology.

In-Training Ergonomics

In our experience, we’ve found that the best budget home gym equipment tends to be less stable or cozy than higher-priced profiles given that many silhouettes skimp on material quality for the sake of keeping costs low. While the SF-RW5801 definitely falls into that wallet-friendly price range, our tester, a CrossFit Level-1 instructor, was pleased with the design.

“I really liked the wider padded seat that had enough cushioning to keep me supported during longer workouts,” they stated. “Plus, I felt no wobbliness or shaking during sessions, even when cranking up the resistance for higher-intensity intervals.”

That said, we rated the durability at 3 out of 5 for this Sunny Health and Fitness rower given the abundance of plastic components across the profile. Yes, this does help keep the overall weight of the machine below 50 pounds, but plastic can be more easily damaged over time than metal, especially when routinely rolling or moving your machine in and out of storage.

We scored the ergonomics at 3.5 out of 5 due to how low this magnetic rower sits to the ground. We had no issues bending down to get on and off, but we also realize that not every athlete has the same range of mobility. 

With a slide rail inseam of 43.5 inches, this is also a shorter rower than other profiles we’ve tested. Taller athletes may feel cramped when trying to perform a full stroke with the SF-RW5801.

[Related: Best Rowing Machines for Tall People]

Workout Programming

The SF-RW5801 is rather simple when it comes to workout performance. Sure, there are 16 levels of magnetic resistance, and we had no issues with the flywheel or stroke length smoothness. However, we scored the overall workout experience at 3.5 out of 5 since there are no preset programs to choose from across the LCD monitor. You’re inherently stuck in manual mode unless you prop your smart device across the media shelf for more interactive programming.

We appreciate the fact that Sunny Health and Fitness offers this device holder, but our tester did note that its placement can be troublesome. If you store your water bottle in the featured holder at the front of the machine, you can easily knock over your device when reaching for your beverage. “It’s a real inconvenience when trying to grab a quick sip only to have your phone go tumbling,” they added.

Storage Features

Like other silhouettes from the brand — including a wide range of Sunny Health and Fitness exercise bikes — the SF-RW5801 rower is rather compact, taking up just 12.30 square feet of space while in use. For reference, that’s less of a footprint than your average loveseat. (2) While small-statured in its own right, we also appreciated the portability and storage components built into this machine, most notably the front transport wheels and foldable slide rail.

This folding frame essentially eliminates the slide rail length (43 inches) from the footprint, making for a smaller, more stowable profile overall. “I also liked how easy this machine was to move thanks to its sub-50-pound weight,” said our tester, who rated the portability and footprint at 4.25 out of 5. “If you’re an able-bodied athlete, I have no doubts that you’ll be able to move this rower in and out of storage with little issues.”

What to Consider Before Buying the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower

As with any cardio machine, there are a few additional characteristics beyond your budget to consider before adding a rower such as the SF-RW5801 to your shopping cart. Below are a handful of factors we recommend pondering over after testing over 15 different rowing machine silhouettes.

Resistance Type

Amanda Capritto, our expert reviewer and certified personal trainer, states that your rower’s resistance mechanism should be the first thing you hone in on when looking to purchase a rower for home use.

“The flywheel mechanism dictates the rower type,” she says. Air rowers use fan flywheels; water rowing machines use fan flywheels against the resistance of water in a tank; magnetic rowers use electromagnetic resistance; and hydraulic rowers, which are less expensive but functionally limited compared to the other three types, use hydraulic cylinders in the handles to create resistance.”

The SF-RW5801 from Sunny Health and Fitness utilizes magnetic resistance, which can be a great solution for those wanting a quiet workout experience that won’t disturb your fellow housemates or napping children. However, the stroke movement may feel more synthetic or artificial than other rowing machine types when compared to the sensation of on-water rowing — there are few brands that have been able to mimic that experience with a magnetic flywheel.

Available Space

In addition to the flywheel, you’ll also need to consider how much space you have available for your new piece of best home gym equipment. Rowers, given their longer slide rails, can oftentimes take up a good chunk of space, so we recommend paying close attention to the listed dimensions before finalizing your shipping method. 

Plus, it can be wise to actually measure your available home gym space to ensure you have enough room to accommodate this all-new rower with some extra room to operate around the profile.

Available Programming

While a structural frame and smooth stroke motion is pivotal to your rowing experience, you should also consider how you want to go about your given workouts. In today’s day and age, rowers can come equipped with integrations from some of the best online workout programs offering live and on-demand training programs. 

Viewable through large touchscreens, these machines can help you keep sessions fresh and engaging, albeit for an additional cost. Many digital fitness services charge a monthly subscription rate for access to their workout library.

If you’re interested or rely on digital training tools to power you through weekly workout routines, this Sunny Health and Fitness rower may be a little underwhelming. There are no preset workout programs available across the monitor, and the DIY streaming setup can be seen as too much of a burden for some. 

Storage Needs

In relation to your rower’s footprint, you’ll also want to think about your storage needs. Can your machine be left in a seated, standard position without interfering with regular foot traffic within your home, or will you need to regain some floor space after your workouts are complete? 

If you need to make the most of your available floor plan or live in tighter quarters like an apartment, we recommend searching for a rower with vertical storage capabilities. You could also opt for one of the best foldable rowing machines.

Thankfully, the SF-RW5801 does feature a foldable slide rail, making it a top pick for those trying to pack in as much workout performance as possible across their smaller space.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower Vs. The Competition

After testing more than 15 different rowing machine silhouettes over the years, we feel we’ve become aware of which profiles fit certain fitness needs best. The SF-RW5801 from Sunny Health and Fitness is one of the best budget-friendly rowing machines we’ve come across, but there are some comparable models. Below are two similar rowers we feel are worth considering when thinking about this Sunny Health and Fitness rower — the Concept2 RowErg and Echelon Row.

Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 Concept2 RowErg Echelon Row
Price: $299.99 $990 $999.99
Product Dimensions: 77” L X 23” W X 22.5” H 95” L x 24” W x 14” H 84” L x 21” W x 45” H 
Product Weight: 49.6lbs 57lbs 106.5lbs
Weight Capacity: 285lbs 500lbs 300lbs
Resistance Type: Magnetic Air Magnetic
Resistance Levels: 16 N/A 32

Naturally, you’ll immediately notice that the SF-RW5801 trumps both the RowErg and Echelon Row in the price department, but these two profiles have the upper hand when it comes to weight capacity. All three silhouettes feature added components for easier storage, too, with the SF-RW5801 and Echelon Row boasting foldable slide rails and the RowErg breaking down into two pieces.

Speaking specifically to the Concept2 RowErg, this rower also operates via air, which can be suitable for certain athletic needs. Air rowers are sturdy and provide adjustable resistance that can emulate the resistance you’d feel on the water,” says Lauren Keary, BarBend editorial team member and our expert reviewer. “They’re a bit noisy, but when it comes to a reliable and affordable machine, an air rower is the way to go.”

As far as the Echelon Row is concerned, this can be a suitable option for athletes wanting a wider range of resistance levels. The 32 levels of adjustable resistance can accommodate a wider range of training intensities. However, you’ll need to pay more of a premium to double your available resistance — the SF-RW5801 is one-third the price of the Echelon Row.

Other Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machines Worth Considering

It takes one look through the Sunny Health and Fitness rowing machine roster to determine that the SF-RW5801 is not your only option. Below are two additional rowers we’ve tested from the brand with a brief explanation on what they can deliver to your training space.

  • SF-RW5515: This magnetic rower from Sunny Health and Fitness is very similar to the SF-RW5801, but features a lower weight rating — 250 pounds as opposed to 285 pounds — and a higher price point ($399.99 as opposed to $299.99).
  • SF-RW5639SMART: The SF-RW5639SMART operates using a hydraulic system for added resistance, which can be great for keeping the profile compact. It does, however, compromise the overall feel of each stroke in comparison to on-water rowing.

Places to Buy the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower

The SF-RW5801 rower is available directly from the Sunny Health and Fitness retail site. You can also find this machine on Amazon, which can be beneficial for those trying to track down the best deals possible.

[Related: Best Rowing Machines on Amazon]

Customer Experience

Ordering the SF-RW5801 is a simple endeavor. When purchasing this rower from the brand’s site, you also have the option to choose an extended shipping protection package for an additional $5. This service helps ensure you receive your machine and covers any potential losses due to in-shipping damage, theft, or misplacement during transport.

Assembling the SF-RW5801 is also a breeze, according to our tester. “All you really need to do is attach the rail, seat, base legs, and footrests and you’re ready to go.”

Warranties

Despite its lower price tag, the SF-RW5801 comes with a warranty package to help cover any issues after your initial purchase. That said, though, the service is somewhat underwhelming when compared to the industry standard. The brand offers three-year support for the frame and 180-day coverage for other parts and components, whereas most rowing machines offer five to 10 years on the frame, two years for parts, and a year for labor.

Company Information

Founded in 2002, Sunny Health and Fitness has been making high-quality fitness equipment that caters to budding home gym enthusiasts and elite professionals alike. The brand’s emphasis on craftsmanship, performance, and affordability make them a trustworthy option for home gym equipment, including rowers, treadmills, recumbent bikes, indoor stationary bikes, and more.

To contact the Sunny Health and Fitness brand, you have multiple pathways to choose from. The brand’s site has a live chat feature, or you can reach them through their support center or via phone (1-877-90SUNNY).

In Conclusion

For athletes wanting a budget-minded rowing machine for their home gym space, the SF-RW5801 can deliver with an impressive sense of sturdiness and convenient foldable slide rail. While there aren’t any integrated programming options across the monitor, you can follow along to your favorite trainer-led workouts via the built-in device holder — just be sure to put your water bottle by your side rather than in the cup holder itself.

Of course, before adding this compact, affordable rower to your cart you’ll need to make sure of a few things, including how much space you can afford, which resistance type is right for your needs, and how much engagement you desire from your training program. Once you have these factors (and your budget) in order, this Sunny Health and Fitness rower is worth a glance or two as you look to build out that home training center of your dreams.

Sunny Health & Fitness Rower FAQs

Does the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 fold up?

Yes, the SF-RW5801 features a foldable slide rail that can shrink the footprint from 12.3 square feet down to 5.8 square feet for more convenient storage.

How much does the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 cost?

The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 is available for $299.99.

Which muscles are worked with the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 rowing machine?

Rowing as a fitness activity can be a full-body experience with muscles including the thighs, abdomen, obliques, arms, chest, and glutes getting some movement and engagement in each completed stroke.

References

  1. The Ultimate Guide to end table & coffee table sizes. Wayfair. (n.d.).
  2. Jaramillo, C. (2022, December 29). A guide to sofa dimensions & sizes. SeatUp, LLC.

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