Thursday, 25 July 2024

Rowing Machines

Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine Review

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The Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine is one of two hydraulic resistance machines produced by the company, and is usually available for around $599.

In this review we wanted to take a closer look at the frame design and console features, paying close attention to Kettler’s innovative in-ear heart rate monitoring system.

We’ll also be making comparisons between the Kadett and some lower priced hydraulic rowers, to determine which model represents the best value for money.

Ergonomic design features

The Kadett folds down to a more compact size than magnetic resistance rowers

Featuring a slightly different style of free motion arms to their lower priced Favorit model, the Kettler Kadett uses a hydraulic outrigger style of rowing that’s designed to emulate the sculling motion of rowing on water.

With Kettler’s track record for developing sturdy and reliable fitness equipment, we weren’t surprised to see the lifetime warranty on the frame, which is one of the features that sets it apart from lower priced rowers.

With a weight of 66 lb when fully assembled, the Kadett weighs in slightly heavier than some machines we’ve reviewed, which may pose a problem if it needs to be moved between workouts, as it isn’t fitted with any transport wheels.

Using hydraulic cylinders to create the resistance does mean that the rowing motion is quieter than machines that use air resistance or water tanks.

Although this type of system usually requires slightly more maintenance, the shocks should still be covered under the 3 year parts warranty, with replacements costing around $70 direct from Kettler.

In terms of comfort, the seat has actually been mounted on rollers containing ball bearings to create a smooth sliding motion along the aluminum rail, with a thick layer of cushioning added to the top for improved levels of support and comfort.

Resistance can be quickly adjusted through 12 levels using a dial on top of each industrial strength hydraulic cylinder. This is slightly more effort than adjusting the resistance for the single hydraulic cylinder on the Stamina Body Trac, but is a similar system to the one used by Kettler on their Favorit model, which has also proven to be incredibly popular.

To cater for different user heights, the footplates can also be extended, with velcro straps used to help secure your feet quicker than conventional straps.

Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine

Kettler Kadett – Features Summary

  • Rowing machine to help you stay in shape and train in your own home
  • Outrigger style rower simulates actual water rowing, resistance setting from 1 to 12
  • Training computer provides info on time measurement, number of oar strokes, speed of strokes, distance covered, and more
  • Program for desired distance covered and stroke speed, visual and audio signals
  • 250-Pound weight capacity, measures 49 x 31 x 10-Inch

Display console design

Kettler's display console design is larger and easier to read than lower priced models

One of the main benefits of the Kettler Kadett over lower priced models, like the Stamina Body Trac and even Sunny SF-RW1205, is the larger high resolution LCD screen on the console.

Not only does this mean that the information displayed is easier to read when rowing, but also that more than one feedback measurement can be displayed at the same time. This can include your time, distance, calories burned, stroke count, stroke frequency, and heart rate.

The console also gives you the option to perform a basic ‘recovery’ style fitness test. When the recovery pulse button is pressed at the end of your workout, a calculation is performed based on the heart rate data the in-build computer receives over the next 60 seconds.

This calculation then displays a fitness score ranging from 1 to 6, based on how quickly your heart rate starts to return to normal after strenuous exercise.

A number of presets / goals can also be configured at the start of your workout, where you can set yourself a target that you want to maintain or achieve.

This allows you to set goals for a specific rowing stroke frequency (e.g. 30 strokes per minute), target duration, or target number of calories that you want to burn. But as with any equipment that doesn’t let you enter your weight or age, this is one item of feedback that should only be used for comparisons between workouts on the Kettler Kadett, and not compared with the calories burned number you may find on your exercise bike.

Heart rate monitoring

Perhaps the most exciting type of feedback provided by the console is your heart rate, where you can transmit a reading to the inbuilt receiver using either Kettler’s Cardio Pulse Set, or the ear-clip.

The ear-clip is a type of heart rate measurement that’s quite unique to Kettler, and not something we’ve come across on any other type of rowing machine.

However, just because it’s different to the touch sensors and telemetry chest belts that you’re probably more used to reading about, doesn’t mean it’s any less effective as a form of measuring your heart rate.

In fact, Valencell, a company based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is developing technology that can perform similar tasks – such as tracking your heart rate and temperature – using ear buds resembling the ones you use to listen to music.

It’s thought that because the ear doesn’t go through as many unintentional movements as the wrist, and it’s an area where blood flow is easily measurable, that in-ear fitness trackers could eventually be a more accurate form of fitness tracker than wrist bands.

Ease of assembly / Maintenance required

Assembly instructions use diagrams without any words to describe the process

One of the trends we’ve found amongst rowing machines that use a hydraulic piston system is that the assembly process usually takes longer to complete than machines that use magnetic resistance.

This is typically due to the fact that you’re building much of the resistance system yourself (attaching shocks and building free motion arms), compared to magnetic or air resistance machines where the internal magnet or fan drive system has already been assembled at the factory.

Because the Kadett is sold in countries around the world, you’ll find that most sections of the user manual have been worded in several different languages. To negate any language barrier with textual instructions, for the actual assembly Kettler have relied solely on images and parts references to explain how each piece fits together.

That being said, anything that requires a little more clarification, such as the replacement of batteries in the console or ordering of spare parts has been clearly explained in English.

Although Kettler have added their own estimated assembly time of 45 minutes to the front page of the manual, this is based on two people. Reading through the customer reviews would suggest you need to set aside closer to 75 minutes if you’re going to be assembling the machine on your own.

Customer reviews

We would usually focus on customer reviews to build a more balanced overall picture of performance based on more people’s experiences. However, in this case we also wanted to discover how people that may never have used a sculling type rowing machine before got used to the movement.

After reading through many of the 80+ reviews currently on Amazon, it became clear that the smooth rowing motion was one of the key reasons people rated it so highly, with few reported issues with the range of motion.

Because sculling is a slightly different movement to the style of rowing you would perform on traditional ergometers, like the Concept2, it can still take a bit of getting used.

The following lists of pros and cons are the points we found were mentioned most often in customer reviews on Amazon and other online marketplaces.


  • Outrigger design creates a realistic rowing motion
  • High level of build quality and customer service
  • Folds down to a more compact size than rowing machines in the same price category that use air resistance
  • Wide variety of resistance settings to suit different fitness levels
  • Warranty coverage is a clear improvement over lower priced models, such as the Stamina ATS 1399 (3 years frame and 90 days parts)
  • Pivoting movement of the foot rests reduces stress on your ankles
  • Comfortable seat cushioning
  • Smooth and quiet rowing motion
  • Straightforward assembly instructions


  • Resistance changes need to be made twice – once for each arm – which can result in different levels of resistance being applied to each arm
  • No transport wheels
  • Some customers have reported poor durability for the footrests
  • Plastic handles are uncomfortable to grip over longer workouts

What’s covered by the warranty?

  • Frame: Lifetime
  • Parts and electronics: 3 years

Review Overview

Overall Review Rating

4 / 5

One of the goals we had for this review was to outline the main differences between the Kadett and the lower priced Favorit, in order to help determine which machine was the best value for money.

Now that we've completed our review, we were surprised to find so few differences, and plenty of similarities. The in-ear heart rate monitoring, 285 lb weight capacity, and warranty coverage are all the same. You also have the same pivoting footplates and smooth glide roller bearings under the seat.

The only real differences we found were in the weight of the machines (Kadett is 12 lb heavier), size (Kadett is significantly larger), range of resistance settings (12 on the Kadett, 5 on the Favorit), and fact that the Kadett could be folded whereas the Favorit could not.

In our opinion we don't feel there's enough of a difference in this alone to warrant the $200 price difference, which means it really comes down to the style of rowing. If you prefer the sculling motion for a more realistic experience, then opt for the Kadett, otherwise you can still get a challenging workout with the Favorit for $200 less.

Product dimensions: 59" (L) x 67" (W) x 12" (H) Folded dimensions: 59" (L) x 20" (W) x 18" (H) Product weight: 66 lbs Weight capacity: 285 lbs

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