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Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Review

Today we’re reviewing the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 magnetic rowing machine–that’s a mouthful of a name! There’s a Classic (light gray) and Smart (darker gray) version of the machine, with Bluetooth (included with the Smart version) being the only difference.

It was important to use this machine several times before making a recommendation because I’m skeptical of rowers in this price range. I wasn’t disappointed.

sunny health fitness sf rw5515 magnetic  rowing machine - indoors
Not a bad-looking machine!

Right now it holds first place for the best magnetic option in this price range.

In short, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine is a good option for those who want a low-cost magnetic rowing machine without sacrificing quality. It offers quiet resistance that’s smooth yet strong. Also, it doesn’t make the squeaky noises typical of budget exercise equipment.

Downsides include those that apply to most budget rowers like a basic monitor (no distance tracking, for example) and low-cost materials.

Add to that the limitations that apply to magnetic rowers, in that they’re great for cardio workouts, but not suitable for getting into the hobby of indoor rowing (joining CrossFit gyms, rowing studios, racing online, etc.).

Either way, it offers good value. So, if you want a good entry-level magnetic rower at the price of a cheap hydraulic piston rower, the Sunny Health SF-RW5515 is a great choice.

Of course, to be a true budget rower, shipping must be included. For the lowest price, pick it up from a place that offers free shipping.

Sunny Health SF-RW5515 Review

Resistance Type

The SF-RW5515 is a magnetic-resistance rowing machine.

These machines use a magnet inside the flywheel to create resistance against a spinning metal drum.

Magnetic rowers differ from air, water, and hydraulic-piston rowers in a couple of ways. Namely, they provide:

  1. A virtually silent rowing motion.
  2. Resistance that operates independently from rowing speed.

With air and water rowers, pulling the handle takes little to no effort at low speeds. With the magnetic type, resistance stays the same so the workout can remain challenging at a slow pace or made easier at high-speed.

You can read more about all the different resistance types in this article I wrote.

You can also read how a magnetic rowing machine compares to an air rowing machine in my magnetic vs. air article.

Magnetic Resistance Operation

The Sunny Magnetic Rowing Machine has 8 different resistance levels. Each level can be adjusted by turning the knob on the center panel.

Level 1 is the easiest and is great for beginners, while level 8 will give even the most serious athlete a great workout.

As you turn the knob from level 1 to level 8, a magnet inside the flywheel moves closer to the drum. As the magnet gets closer, more resistance is created.

Here is a video that can help explain the resistance a little better.

People of varying fitness levels mentioned how great the resistance is on the SF-RW5515. Most users row at a resistance level of 4 or 5 which is great because it leaves a lot of room to grow.

The resistance is easy to adjust and all you have to do is turn the knob right or left. The only downside is you have to stop rowing to adjust the resistance but this really isn’t a major problem.

Sunny health fitness sf-rw5515 magnetic rower Resistance

Resistance Benefits

The Sunny Magnetic Rower is very quiet, so people with folks sleeping in the next room. It’s also perfect for watching TV or movies while getting a great workout.

The times I’ve used the machines, I’ve found the resistance to be strong, smooth, and consistent.

Consistent resistance is what you expect with magnetic rowers. I.e., unlike air resistance which varies as you row faster/slower.

Bottom Line

Overall, folks seem pleased with the resistance, including both beginners and experienced rowers. I didn’t have any issues with the intensity, feel, or noise level.

The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515 magnetic rower provides a full, normal rowing stroke and adjustable tension. When resistance is adjustable (instead of variable), the tension (muscular strength needed to row) doesn’t change with rowing speed.

You can go heavy and slow, light and fast, or any combination. The choice is yours. This gives you the flexibility to focus on cardiovascular conditioning, strength, power, or all of the above!

Update: nowadays, they advertise a newly-improved “smoother and quieter magnetic tension system” so it may have improved on this front even more compared to the model I tried.

Monitor/Control Panel

sunny health fitness sf rw5515 magnetic - monitor
Basic monitor with LCD display

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 magnetic rowing machine comes with a basic digital monitor in the form of a convenient, large LCD console.

Basic monitors are expected at this price.  In my experience, you won’t find the more advanced monitors until $500+.

Sunny Health Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Monitor

The monitor tracks and displays basic fitness data such as:

  • Time
  • Count (Strokes)
  • Calories
  • Total Count (Total Strokes)

The SF-RW5515 monitor’s convenient scan mode displays data dynamically by scanning through each data set every few seconds. This provides feedback throughout the rowing session.

It’s battery operated so no need to worry about having an electrical outlet.

The monitor did receive a few complaints such as users being disappointed that it doesn’t record distance or meters rowed.  I heard one user mention they found the display small and difficult to read. It’s not backlit, which doesn’t help on that front.

I should also mention that on basic monitors, the calorie counter is not accurate and should only be used to compare workouts. The calories calculated are based on an average user, so they are not specific to the person rowing.

Just know that if you burn 300 calories in one workout and 500 calories in the next, the second workout was much more strenuous and better for losing weight.

Other than that the monitor is pretty basic and straightforward. It tracks all the necessary fitness data and is comparable to others in this price range.

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Build Quality

I felt sturdy when using the SF-RW5515, but the one I used was quite new.

I expect signs of wear (e.g., squeaky noises) on budget fitness equipment after a while, so I searched high and low for complaints of this kind. I didn’t find any such complaints, but it’s still possible in the long run.

The Sunny Health and Fitness magnetic rowing machine is made with a heavy-duty steel mainframe, so it feels stable (no wobbling).

Sunny Health & Fitness sf rw5515 magnetic build quality

The rowing handle is attached by a reinforced nylon strap to avoid any fraying and allows for a smooth rowing stroke.

Check Lowest Pricing

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This form of cardio involves sitting for longer periods, so comfort is important for an enjoyable rowing workout.

The Sunny SF-RW5515 magnetic rower comes with a comfortable, fully-padded seat and non-slip grip handlebars.

I found the padded seat to be comfy but you might still want to get a seat cushion at some point.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Seat

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Foot Pedal

The foot pedals are large enough to fit any shoe size and come with adjustable foot straps to make sure your feet stay firmly in place.

It comes with floor stabilizers but some users suggested that in order to add more stability when rowing on slick hardwood, you can put down a rowing machine “fold-to-fit” exercise mat. This keeps sweat off of the floor, too.

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The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine has a big footprint in use but can fold up for storage. It takes very little floor space in the upright position.

sunny health and fitness sf rw5515 magnetic rower storage

Storing is very simple and can be done in under 30 seconds.

Just unscrew a bolt, take out a pin, fold up, and reinsert the pieces. Boom. Done.

There are built-in transportation wheels on the front of the rower that make it easy to move around.

The rowing machine can easily be stored in a closet or in the corner of a room.

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The weight capacity of the Sunny Fitness Magnetic rowing machine is 250 lbs [114kg]. In my experience, most rowing machines at this price have a weight limit of 300 lbs.

Don’t worry if you’re tall. The seat rail on the SF-RW5515 is fairly long and should be able to accommodate most. I found users between 5′ and 6’7″.

There’s no lower limit for height so kids can use the machine.

If bordering on 250 lbs and you’d be more comfortable with another machine, consider the Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower. It’s one of the best magnetic rowers on the market with a 275 lb. weight capacity.

The #1 bestselling rowing machine overall is the Concept2 air rowing machine with a 500 lb. weight capacity.

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Sunny Health SF-RW5515 Dimensions

  • Assembled Dimensions:
    • 82.0″ x 19.0″ x 23.0″ (L x W x H)
  • Assembled Weight:
    • 59 lbs
  • Shipping Dimensions:
    • 51.0″ x 10.0″ x 26.0″ (L x W x H)
  • Shipping Weight:
    • 71 lbs

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Pros and Cons


  • Strong resistance
  • Great price
  • Comfortable seat
  • Large capacity
  • Very quiet
  • Foldable storage


  • Basic monitor with no distance measurement or pre-programmed workouts
  • Large footprint when not in storage mode
  • Short warranty period

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  • Frame:
    • 1 Year
  • Parts:
    • 90 Days

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Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Price

The Sunny Magnetic Rower SF-RW5515 is usually priced at $249 but the total cost can reach $500 when shipping is charged separately.

This puts it in the budget rower category (<$250), making it the best magnetic option in its price category. Good magnetic options typically start at $500 or higher.

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Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine Review: Conclusion

So, there you have it.

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is the best budget magnetic rowing machine to hit the market.

Again, if looking to get into the sport or hobby of indoor rowing, this isn’t the best option. (though advanced rowers can still get a good rowing machine workout). For example, the monitor tracks some rowing-related stats like stroke count, but not meters (or any units of distance).

But if the goal is simply to get in shape, you can’t do much better for the price. It’ll provide a great full-body workout that hits all the major muscle groups.

If you’re in the market for a low-cost machine with adjustable magnetic resistance, then this is the best option.

While not quite as cheap, another budget magnetic rowing machine worth taking a look at is the Stamina 1110 Magnetic Rower. You can read my full Stamina 1110 Rower review here.

If you want to take a look at the best low-cost air rowing machine, then I recommend the Stamina 1399 Air Rower. Check out my full Stamina Air Rower review here.

For getting into the sport, consider the Concept2 RowErg Model D. It’s the industry standard and is even used by outdoor rowing professionals for conditioning work.

I hope you found my SF-RW5515 review to be informative. Please ask any questions in the comment section below and good luck on your fitness journey!


  1. Thanks for the informative reviews. I just finished reading this one about the Sunny Health RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine and before that the review about the Stamina 35-1399 Air Rowing Machine. We are about to buy our first rowing machine for our home and wondered if you had any thoughts comparing the two ( either the two specific models or more importantly the two different types of rowing machines ).

    Thanks again for your site.

    1. Hi Calvin,

      Thanks for the kind words! Both rowing machines are excellent budget rowers and two of the most popular selling rowing machines under $300.

      The main difference is the resistance type, magnetic or air. It is really a personal preference between the two types. Air rowers have ‘variable’ resistance meaning you must row faster to feel more resistance. You cannot row slow and feel a strong resistance. This more closely mimics the resistance felt while rowing on water.

      Magnetic rowers are ‘adjustable’ resistance, meaning you turn a knob or press a button to change. If you set it to level 3 you will feel the sme resistance no matter how fast or slow you row.

      Air rowers are also louder than magnetic rowers so some people who want to watch TV will choose magnetic. Magnetic machines also tend to weigh a little more.

      Those are the main differences between the models and resistance types. Hope this helped!!

      1. Hi, I would like to know the difference between the SF rw 5623 air magnetic and the rw 5515 magnetic. Your review refers either to magnetic or air. The air magnetic is priced slightly higher than the magnetic . Thanks

        1. Hi Sandra,

          The main differences between the SF-RW5515 and the SF-RW5623 is the resistance.

          The SF-RW5515 is a magnetic only rowing machine. You can adjust the magnetic tension using the knob and that is it. It has 8 levels of resistance.

          The SF-RW5623 is an air/magnetic rower. This means it has both magnets and a fan for air resistance. You can also adjust the 8 levels of magnetic resistance with the center knob. However, on this model, as you row faster the resistance will also increase due to the fan resistance. If you row faster on a “magnetic only” rowing machine, the resistance will remain constant.

          You can read my SF-RW5623 review here which will describe air/magnetic resistance a little more.

          You can also read my Air vs. Magnetic comparison which will describe both resistance types. An air/magnetic rower like the SF-RW5623 will be a blend of both.

          I hope this helps!

      2. Just wonder which one is more efficient? To burn calories at the same speed? Air rower I guess must have to do it fast to feel the resistance , but the manegtic can be adjust. Do u have any work out plan for us ? Personally, which one would you pick, Rw 5515 or air 1399.
        Because I am worry if I have the air rower, if I am doing it slow, will there be any resistance.

        1. Hi Terry,

          I would read my air vs. magnetic comparison article here to help decide between the two. Burning calories is a formula based on age, weight, heart rate, etc. so if you plan on rowing slowly you will probably like the magnetic rower best.

          I personally would choose the 1399 because I like doing faster workouts or sprints, which translates better to air resistance.

  2. Thanks so much for this helpful review. I have just ordered the Sunny SF-RW5515 and am expecting it to arrive soon. As a beginner looking for an entry model, the low price and positive reviews were what sold me. I have never used a magnetic rower but appreciated the comments re limited noise. Got rid of an older elliptical that was so noisy, couldn’t watch tv without cranking the volume – annoying! Looking forward to see if it measures up. Cheers

  3. I assume the batteries are just for the monitor.
    What about the magnet ?
    Is the magnet an electromagnet ?
    How long does/will the magnet last and is there any maintenance required for the magnet to stay magnetized ?

    Thank You

    1. Hi Mike,

      Yes, batteries are for the monitor only. The magnets require no electricity to operate or create resistance.

      Magnets should never lose there magnetism. There are only a few events that can cause this but they shouldn’t happen to any magnets in your rowing machine.

      I would not be the best at explaining how eddy currents work, but I’m sure there are some physics websites that do a great job!

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      1. Thanks for the reply.
        I went ahead and bought the row machine today.
        I have a bad knee so I am hoping this will be better than the treadmill.

        1. Awesome! I have to be pretty active with rehabbing my knees to be able to run pain free (stretches, hip exercises, etc.). I have absolutely zero issues with it from rowing, so hopefully you will be the same.

          Good luck and let me know if you need anything else.

        1. Hi Kevin,

          You should be able to just pop the monitor out of the main frame and disconnect the wires. You will then be able to remove the old batteries and put in replacements.

          I don’t believe the SF-RW5515 Manual has the instructions but the SF-RW5623 Manual has the instruction for the same monitor.

          Hope this helps!

  4. HI Kevin
    we just purchased one of these rowing machines and cannot get the resistance to change,it is very low. we did buy it from a online auction and did not pay much but would like to find out what is wrong with it. we turn the resistance knob and it does not change
    any information would be greatly appreciated

    1. I would try calling Sunny Health & Fitness and asking their technical center first. (877)-90SUNNY

      Your next option is to take the housing apart and make sure all the parts of the resistance mechanism are connected and not stripped.

  5. I am trying to decide between the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 and the SF-RW5634. Can you provide me with any information explaining the difference between these two models?

    1. Hi Ryan,

      Sorry I have not had a chance to do a full review of the SF-RW5634 because it is a new arrival but from what I can tell the weight capacity is 30 lbs. higher on the SF-RW5515 (250 lbs.) and the slide rail length is longer. I believe the SF-RW5634 weighs less.

      You can check out a quick comparison chart here.

    1. Hi Bill,

      I don’t think you can upgrade the monitor but you can always buy a fitness tracker that records more metrics. Some even have a “rowing” feature like the iWatch.

  6. Should I be nervous that there are no adjustments for the footplates? On the Concept 2 at the gym they were very specific that the strap should go over the widest part of my feet so that the mechanics worked out properly. I’ve heard the same thing for the waterrower too.

    1. Hi Jason – thanks for reaching out! For the average person, the placement of the strap is going to be fine. If you have very small or large feet it could feel a little uncomfortable but it’s not going to have a huge effect.

      Having the straps over the widest past of the foot allows for a comfortable fit and allows the heel to come off the footrest more easily on the Concept2 if you don’t have good flexibility. The footrests on the SF-RW5515 are on a swivel, which means the placement of the strap does not matter as much because your heel will never come off the footrest (it swivels if you do not have a lot of ankle flexibility).

      I hope this helps!

      1. This was a great help. I’m not super flexible in my ankles, so I wanted to make sure I could maintain proper form, regardless of where the footplates are. This is my quarantine rower and I’m enjoying it a lot. Great review…. looking forward to getting back to the gym with a Concept2.

    1. Hi Betty – thank you for reaching out! Sorry I have not done a full review on the SF-RW5801, however, I can offer some insight.

      Most Sunny Health & Fitness rowing machines are very similar (almost identical in some regards). The SF-RW5801 is “newer” than the SF-RW5515 so there are some additional features like a tablet holder, slightly different seat design, center support beam below seat rail, cup holder, and 16 levels of resistance.

      I believe the overall resistance strength will be the same but the SF-RW5801 offers more levels for precise adjustments, where the SF-RW5515 has only 8 different levels. They are both very similar and made by the same great company. It’s probably time for me to give the SF-RW5801 a full review.

      As you can see from the ratings, they are both very close but the SF-RW5515 has been around a longtime and racked up over 2,300 ratings!

      1. Also for the SF-RW5801 vs the SF-RW5515
        16 levels vs 8
        285lb max vs 250lb max weight
        77L x 23W x 22.5H in vs 82L x 19W x 23H in

        Based on your great reviews and comments on the SF-RW5515, I ordered one…I’ll update later with another comment based on how I liked it.

          1. I got the Sunny Fitness magnetic rower SF-RW5801, it’s $220 on amazon now, and it’s a great deal.
            It was superbly packed, and took me about five minutes to even figure out how to get it out of the packaging.
            The instructions are very well laid out and easy to put together. It comes with the tools you need too (allen wrench, spanners).
            It took me about 30 minutes, and I was moving slowly and double checking.

            The build quality is excellent, the rower feels solid, and the seat is pretty comfy.
            The rower collapses really well. I have it in a room collapsed to the side of a desk and you can’t even see it from the door.
            It doesn’t need electricity, and has 16 levels of resistance that are easy to change with a dial.
            The monitor is a pretty basic and low-featured, but that’s not even a factor for me.

            The rowing is smooth and has a decent range of motion, perfect for doing mindless cardio where you plop an ipad in the groove on top, and row for 40 minutes. It even holds up to HIIT, the resistance doesn’t increase as you row, but you can still sprint in intervals as you can just move through the stroke faster.

  7. Hi Kevin,
    I am Sandip (48years). Mine is a small family composed of my wife (42years), my son (17years) and my daughter (12years). I am in search of a home gym equipment which is suitable for us all and able to provide a total whole body exercise for my family. Pertinent to note that we live in an apartment.
    Now my question is:
    1. Is a Rower the right choice for us or you would suggest some other equipment.
    2. If yes then is RW 5515 the right choice for us?
    Waiting eagerly for your response.

    1. Hi Sandip – thank you for reaching out! I think asking your family what they prefer would be the best option. Everyone has a different preference and some people enjoy a stationary bike over a rower or an elliptical. I feel a rowing machine gives the best total body workout but the best exercise machine is going to be the one that get’s used the most!

      If you all decide on a rowing machine I think the SF-RW5515 is the best budget magnetic rower. It should be fine for your entire family and will be quiet which is great for an apartment.

  8. Hi,
    Thanks for the informative reviews on all these! I think we have narrowed our search down to this one (Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515) and the Maxkare magnetic rowing machine, which you have also reviewed. Our main interest/concerns are durability and smooth, full motion rowing (I.e., monitors, Bluetooth capabilities, etc., aren’t all that important to us). Given those considerations, would you recommend one of these over the other?



      1. Hey Ben – thanks for reaching out! It’s a really tough choice as they are all very similar but have slightly different features. If one of your main concerns is full rowing motion, then I think the Fitness Reality 1000 has the furthest forward reach. Meaning, even taller rowers can complete a full rowing motion when their arms are extended forward. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi,
    I’m thinking of getting a rowing machine but would like your advice as I am an older female (I’m 70), in pretty good shape, but wondered if one type of resistance might be easier on older joints than another. I walk 5-7 miles daily with my dog, but want something to work my core and upper body plus be aerobic. And winter is coming! I’m 5’9” if that makes any difference.

    Thanks for any advice

    1. Hi Katherine – thanks for reaching out! Since you are looking at the SF-RW5515, I’m assuming you are looking in the lower price range. I would recommend air or magnetic rowers. They are both very smooth and easy on the joints.

      Feel free to check out my resistance article here. I also compare air and magnetic rowers in this article.

      1. Hi Edwin,
        After reading lots of your reviews and articles and going down the rabbit hole of reading countless rowing machine purchasers reviews, I bought a Concept2! And I love it! It’s smooth, well made and quiet, and it was easy to put together by myself. It really feels great to be on it. And…I lucked out by finding a brand new one on Amazon for the exact price Concept charges, and I received it just 5 days after ordering. It was meant to be.

        So thanks for your advice 😀

  10. Hi – curious on your thoughts between the Maxkare and the Sunny Health -both are magnetic resistance so if you had to choose.

    1. Hey Bruce – I would go with a Sunny model. They are a more reputable company than MaxKare. A lot of Chinese manufacturers started listing directly on Amazon (with decent products) but I think some of them are even getting kicked off now for doing shady tactics to help rank their products better. I can’t even find MaxKare on Amazon anymore.

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