Recently highlighted as our top rowing machine under $500, the Stamina 1215 Orbital is one of the few models at this price point to maintain such a high average review rating (average 80%+) in customer reviews.
So what is it that makes the Orbital stand out in such a crowded market? That’s one of the questions we aim to answer in the following review, where we’ll also be taking a look at the design features, assembly process, warranty coverage, and what it means to have a hydraulic shock resistance system.
Ergonomic design features
Strictly speaking the Stamina 1215 Orbital rowing machine is classed as a fixed-head ergometer, with the display console and resistance system remaining stationary while your body moves along the glide rail via the seat.
To make this motion as natural as possible, the foot pedals will pivot to follow the natural flexion of your ankles when you switch from the catch phase to the recovery phase of your rowing stroke.
This helps to relieve pressure on your ankle joints and ensure the exercise remains low impact. You also have foot straps to secure your feet to the pedals, making it easier to bring your body back up towards the monitor.
If you’re more used to seeing rowing machines like the Stamina Avari or Sunny SF-RW1205 then the free motion arms probably represent the biggest difference in terms of design.
Rather than bringing a short handle towards your abs and torso during the pull-through stage of the stroke, you can actually choose to bring your arms out to the sides, giving you complete control over the range of motion.
While you can still keep your elbows close to your upper body throughout the exercise, by adjusting the angle so that your elbows move out to the sides, you’re going to recruit a lot more muscle fibres and stimulate greater muscle activation in your shoulders, arms, and back.
In terms of comfort, the seat has a thick padding to support its maximum weight capacity of 250 lbs, which also removes any discomfort that may have been caused by the steel rail.
Stamina 1215 Orbital – Features Summary
- Compact rowing machine with full range-of-motion rowing that mimics rowing on the water
- Smooth hydraulic cylinder resistance
- Adjustable tension controls
- Single button monitor shows speed, distance, time, row count, calories burned, and miles rowed
- Thick, padded seat
- Pivoting foot plates
- Some assembly required
How does the hydraulic resistance work?
If space is limited, a rowing machine that uses a hydraulic piston system to control the level of resistance will often be your best option.
Because they don’t require a flywheel, fan, or series of internal magnets to generate resistance, their dimensions are considerably smaller, which also makes them easier to store away if required.
The tension in this type of system is created by the amount of fluid that’s compressed within the piston. The Stamina 1215 Orbital has two of these cylinders, with one attached to each of the handlebars.
By changing the position that the cylinders attach you’re able to affect the range of motion, and is the method Stamina use to adjust the resistance. This means that if you wanted to, you could have each arm working at a different resistance level, helping you resolve any imbalances in your muscular development and upper body strength.
Display console features
Because the console is powered by a single AA battery, and the resistance is hydraulic rather than magnetic, there are really no restrictions on where you set it up.
The monitor itself features a single button for scrolling through the various feedback metrics, which include speed, distance, time, calories burned, and stroke count.
We’re not surprised this machine doesn’t offer heart rate monitoring or preset workouts, which is mainly due to the lower price category.
As with any console that doesn’t let you enter your weight or age, you shouldn’t place too much importance on the accuracy of the ‘calories burned’ reading. This is something that relies on too many variables to remain accurate for all users, and should only be used as a general performance measurement between workouts.
Unfortunately there’s no mounting bracket for the console, meaning you can’t adjust its angle to make the screen clearer to read in bright sunlight. However, with a product weight of 52 lbs, it’s not the heaviest piece of fitness equipment to move around if needed.
Ease of assembly / Maintenance required
Although it’s far from complicated, the Stamina 1215 Orbital does require a small amount of assembly.
With no heavy lifting involved you shouldn’t need to worry about having an extra pair of hands around when you’re getting everything setup. You can also check all the parts you need are there by using the hardware identification chart contained in the user manual.
Unfortunately with this particular rower the level of pre-assembly is virtually non-existent. This means you have to connect everything from the pedal straps through to the handlebars and tension adjusters.
Taking this into account, we would recommend you allow around 60 minutes of assembly time before you’re ready to start enjoying your first workout.
In the unlikely event that any part is missing, or if you get stuck on a particular step, Stamina has an excellent customer service record, and can be reached contacted throughout the week by phone or email.
One of the major benefits of indoor rowing machines is the fact that most models require a very low level of maintenance. This is partly due to their compact size, but also their limited number of moving parts when compared with machines such as treadmills or elliptical trainers.
The maintenance required for the Stamina 1215 Orbital is what we would expect from a hydraulic rower, which is slightly more than models that rely on a magnetic resistance system.
Checking the shock tension is something that will naturally be done each time you start a workout. The best time to check is at the start of a new session, as the pistons tend to warm up as the workout progresses, which will have an effect on the tension provided by different resistance levels.
The rest of Stamina’s recommendations are really very quick and simple, such as checking that bolts are properly tightened and that external surfaces are wiped with an absorbent cloth after each workout. Because the hydraulic cylinders are self-enclosed, you also don’t have to worry about dust gathering inside the machine in the same way you might with machines that use fan resistance.
The compact design and full range of motion rowing that’s created by the free motion arms are just two of the reasons why the Stamina 1215 orbital has proven to be such a popular choice for an indoor rowing machine.
Its popularity is reflected through its highly rated customer reviews, of which over 150 are currently available to read on Amazon.
To help provide a balanced overall impression of the 1215, we’ve put together lists of pros and cons, based on the points most frequently mentioned throughout these reviews.
- Smooth and quiet rowing motion
- Different rail inclines available, which work together with the resistance settings to make workouts more / less challenging
- Length of the seat rail provides enough space for the rowing stroke of taller users up to 6ft+
- Assembly instructions are clear and easy to follow
- Quick responses from Stamina’s customer service department
- Compact dimensions and a folding design allows you to slide the rower under your bed when not in use
- Free motion arms create a wider range of motion and encourage you to use more muscle groups
- It would be useful if the resistance settings had one extra lower level, as the current lowest setting is still quite challenging for beginners
- The parts warranty period of 90 days is quite short compared to some other models, with shocks being the item people mentioned most frequently as needing replacing
- Calories burned feedback isn’t particularly accurate or based on any meaningful calculation
- Adjustments to the resistance level effectively need to be made twice – once per handlebar
What’s covered by the warranty?
- Frame: 5 years
- Parts: 90 days