Home » Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower Review

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower Review

SF-RW5801 Rower Review

Looking for a low cost magnetic rower? Have you seen the Sunny Health & Fitness models and wondering whether the SF-RW5801 is right for you?

If yes, then you’ve come to the right spot to learn everything about the SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine!

Plus, learn how it compares to the other budget magnetic rowers like the SF-RW5515.

Sunny Health & Fitness has done an amazing job bringing low-cost magnetic rowers to the market but they’ve also made it very confusing by adding 5+ models that are all very similar!

They also made it super confusing by calling each model by multiple names! For example, this model can go by “SF-RW5801” but it’s also listed on their website as the “Synergy Power Motion Rowing Machine” or “SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine”.

I’ll use the different names interchangeably, throughout the review while you learn about all the pros and cons! Plus, I have a section at the end of the review that compares it to the other similarly priced magnetic rowers.

Resistance Type

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 is a magnetic resistance rowing machine. This means the rower uses a metal flywheel and a magnet to control the resistance.

As a user pulls the handle, the metal flywheel will spin. A magnet interacts with the spinning flywheel to create resistance.

You can twist a knob to move the magnet closer or farther away from the flywheel to create more or less resistance. The ability to control the resistance with a knob is the reason we call it “adjustable” resistance.

Adjustable resistance is a bit different than “variable” resistance, which is found on air and water rowing machines. On these rowers, the resistance is controlled by how fast or slow you are rowing.

Check out my article about air vs. magnetic resistance by clicking here. The video below is a great representation of how magnetic resistance works:

SF-RW5801 Resistance Benefits

The Synergy Power Motion Rower comes with 16 levels of adjustable magnetic resistance. This leaves users with a lot of options on how strong/easy they want their resistance to be during their workout.

One thing to note is “more” resistance levels does not mean “more” resistance. It just means more options within the range. Many rowers in this price range have 8 levels of resistance but the strength of the resistance is the same. They just don’t have the ability to fine-tune the level.

Sunny Health & Fitness SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine

Users liked the smooth, quiet resistance provided by the SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine and really liked that you could watch TV while rowing without blasting the volume. The quiet stroke also means it’s great for apartments or using early in the morning while your family is sleeping.

Another benefit of magnetic resistance is that you can row slowly and still feel strong resistance. This is due to the magnet always interacting with the flywheel. This is not possible on air or water rowers because you need to be rowing at a faster pace to feel more resistance.

So if you envision yourself wanting to row a bit slower and watch TV, while still feeling the resistance, then magnetic rowers would be a good choice.

Resistance Downsides

The big downside with the SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine is the overall resistance strength. You will find a lot of reviews mentioning the resistance is too weak.

First, I want to say that on every magnetic rowing machine in this price range you will see reviews about the resistance being too weak. If you are looking for stronger resistance, I will list some options in my final section.

Second, some of these reviewers are new to rowing and may not understand that rowing is more of a cardio workout than a strength-based workout. Yes, you will feel your muscles being worked but it will not be similar to lifting weights.

With that being said, I think this rower is good for the right person. If you are a beginner or older individual who is looking for a fun way to get in shape, the SF-RW5801 will have plenty of resistance! If you are strong or already a workout enthusiast, you should probably bump up to the next price range for higher levels of resistance.

Resistance Overall

Overall, the resistance on the SF-RW5801 Rower is smooth, quiet, and effective. It’s a perfect amount for a beginner rower and great to use while watching TV.

If you feel you want to be challenged and feel very strong resistance, this model may not provide adequate resistance levels.

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Monitor/Control Panel

The monitor on the SF-RW5801 Rower is fairly basic but that’s the case with most monitors in this price range.

It will display the following data:

  • Scan
  • Time
  • Count
  • Calories
  • Total Count

So as you can see from the monitor below, it’s very basic and has a minimal amount of data points. There are also only 3 buttons so it’s very easy to use and it uses 2AA batteries (included) so no need to plug it into an outlet.

SF-RW5801 Monitor

One thing you will notice is the “monitor” has a place to hold a tablet or phone which means you can use different rowing apps to track workout data or follow along with guided workouts.

Monitor Downsides

A lot of users were disappointed in the amount of data displayed. However, the monitor is where companies cut costs to make the rower more affordable, so I can understand the dilemma.

People mentioned they had a smartwatch that can calculate some metrics so they weren’t too bothered. The only item that I would like displayed would be ‘distance’ but it wouldn’t be that accurate on a lower-priced rower anyway.

Calories is another data point that is fairly inaccurate since it does require heart rate to properly calculate. If you are looking to track calories burned, you should use a smartwatch.

The screen is also not backlit, which can make it hard for some people to read.

Monitor Overall

Overall, the SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine has a very basic monitor. Users should go into buying this rower not expecting much from the monitor and should use their smartwatch if they are looking for more accurate tracking.

It does have a cool tablet/phone holder, which makes it easy to watch videos or use a 3rd party app.

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Build Quality

The build quality on the Synergy Power Motion Rower is good for this price range. Buyers should understand they are not going to get commercial-grade equipment on a budget rower!

With that being said, a majority of users felt the rowing machine was well-built and would not break easily.

The SF-RW5801 comes equipped with an alloy-steel frame and a long, sturdy seat rail. There is even a center support beam on the seat rail for extra support and sturdiness! This enables it to have a weight capacity of 285 lbs and handle some larger users!

SF-RW5801 SPM Magnetic Rower

There are also stabilizers on the back support beam that can be adjusted so your machine will not wobble or shake. Users felt the seat, handle, strap, and bearings were all good quality and provided a smooth, strong rowing stroke.

The only complaint I saw that had some merit was the footrests are a bit flimsy. Due to the footrests being a “pivoting” style, there is some pressure added to the footrests without any backing support. If you are rowing hard and you are powerful, this could potentially break the foot pedals over time.

One thing to keep in mind is the lower priced rowing machines sell a lot of units, so there are quality defects that can happen and you will see those in the reviews. This is the case for most budget rowers and it can sometimes be luck of the draw, but understand a majority of the rowers do not have defects.

Overall, users felt the build quality was inline with other rowing machines in this price range. You can check out a video of the SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine below:

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The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 has a smooth, quiet rowing stroke that is very comfortable!

Users love rowing while watching movies on their tablet in the device holder and not needing to have a speaker blasting over any loud noise!

There is also a water bottle holder on the front of the rower which is kind of cool! But also a bit unnecessary as you can just have your bottle on the floor next to you.

Users enjoyed the smooth glide of the seat over the long, sturdy seat rail. They felt the seat was comfortable and the bearings provided a smooth rowing stroke. They also felt the handle had a nice padding and the strap went quietly into the housing.

Some comfort issues mentioned were the pivoting footrests, which are a personal preference. Basically, the foot-pedals pivot which is nice for people who are not flexible because it allows you to slide the seat farther forward. However, it does not give a sturdy surface to drive off, like the higher-priced rowing machines.

The Synergy Power Motion Rower also does not provide the most “complete” rowing stroke. If you look at where the handle enters the front housing, you will see it’s about 8 inches in front of the foot-pedals. If you look on more advanced rowers, you will see they leave a lot of room in front of your feet. This is to ensure taller users can have their arms fully extended forward in the starting position (catch), without it hitting the housing.

Some taller users mentioned it really didn’t bother them, but if you are used to rowing on a Concept2 or WaterRower, then you may notice the difference in the rowing stroke.

Besides those 2 downsides, users really felt the SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine provided a smooth, sturdy rowing stroke!

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Ok, now a quick and easy section! In a nutshell, the SF-RW5801 has a very simple and straightforward storage mechanism.

First, unscrew the top knob and take out the pull pin. Slide the seat forward and lift up the seat rail. Reinsert the pin and screw in the knob. That’s it! It should only take about 30 seconds to complete!

SF-RW5801 Synergy Power Motion Storage

After you are finished, you can roll the rower around on the built-in caster wheels. It is also easy to move around when the seat rail is flat.

The dimensions are 36.3″ x 23.0″ x 47.0″ (LxWxH) when folded upright.

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One issue with budget rowing machines is the “capacity” can sometimes be small. Meaning, it’s only good for smaller people!

Luckily, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower has a fairly large capacity!

The rail length is 43.0″ which means it can fit a person with an inseam of 43.5″ (slightly longer because the footrests are in front of the rail).

An inseam length of 43.5″ is pretty long and usually equates to someone around 6’6″. If you are tall, it would be worth checking your inseam length because it can differ between people.

SPM Rowing Machine Capacity

The maximum weight capacity is 285 lbs which is great because a lot of models in this price range are listed at 250 lbs. You’ll probably be ok even if you are 300 lbs but don’t tell Sunny Health & Fitness my blog said that!

There are no lower-end restrictions so any smaller person can use this rowing machine with no problem!

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  • Assembled Dimensions:
    • 77.0″ x 23.0″ x 22.5″ (LxWxH)
  • Folded Dimensions:
    • 36.3″ x 23.0″ x 47.0″ (LxWxH)
  • Seat Dimensions:
    • 11.5″ X 15.0″ X 2.0″ (LxWxH)
  • Slide Rail Length:
    • 43.0″
  • Item Weight:
    • 49.6 lbs
  • Shipping Dimensions:
    • 42.5″ x 9.6″ x 25.4″ (LxWxH)
  • Shipping Weight:
    • 58.4 lbs

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Assembling the rower is super easy! It should take about 30 minutes and only requires one person.

There are 5 easy to follow steps in the manual and mainly consist of putting the front support on, the back support, and attaching the foot-pedals and seat rail.

No users complained about the assembly but just make sure you lay everything out and go slow. It’s when you rush that things go wrong!

Everything required for the assembly and to start rowing is included in the package!

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Pros and Cons


  • Smooth, quiet magnetic resistance
  • Great price point
  • Good capacity for budget rower
  • Tablet & water bottle holder
  • Easy assembly


  • Resistance can be light for advanced users
  • Basic monitor
  • Short warranty / poor customer service
  • Some users dislike pivoting foot-pedals

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Consumer Reviews

When reading the SF-RW5801 reviews, you will see people are typically split into a few categories.

First, there are the people who love this rower and think it’s a great deal! They are very happy with their purchase and give 4 or 5 star reviews.

Second, there are people who feel the resistance is way too low and think the rower is almost useless. They normally give 1 or 2 star reviews.

Third, there are users who may have received a malfunctioning machine or broke a component and had a poor customer service experience. These users give 1 star reviews and rightfully so!

There are some in-betweeners but luckily a vast majority of people felt the SPM Rower was a great buy. I understand the frustration of the people who gave low reviews but I think if you are aware of the downsides, you can avoid being one of those consumers who is surprised by the lower resistance or potential for poor customer service.

You can read more Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower reviews here.

Average Rating: 4.5

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Warranties are always tricky on lower-priced rowing machines. Manufacturers are trying to make the lowest cost rower, which means margins/profit are lower, and it becomes harder to maintain those profits if you are dealing with a lot of warranty claims.

Sunny Health & Fitness offers the following warranty on the SF-RW5801:

  • 3-Year: Structural frame
  • 180-Days: Other parts and component

This is a decent warranty and it’s at least long enough for you to know whether any parts are defective. The main issue seems to be that customer service is super slow to respond so if you break a critical component, it could take a month to get the replacement part!

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SF-RW5801 Rower Price

One of the most attractive features of the SF-RW5801 is the price!

It’s extremely affordable and it allows people to buy a rowing machine when they aren’t 100% sure if they want to spend the money on a higher-end model.

Sunny Health & Fitness sell mostly on Amazon and it seems they prefer to sell through that marketplace. They are listed on some other big box retailers but I think buying from Amazon is your best bet.

Amazon typically has great prices, free shipping on qualified orders, and they act as a layer of protection between the consumer and the manufacturer. If a rower shows up broken and the manufacturer won’t refund you, a lot of times Amazon will step in and help!

SF-RW5801 vs. SF-RW5515

Many of the budget rowing machines are very similar! In fact, they are basically the same machines with a few cosmetic differences.

Two rowing machines that often get compared are the SF-RW5801 vs. SF-RW5515. Both are popular Sunny Health & Fitness rowers.

The SF-RW5515 has been a bestseller for many years and is usually priced very close the the SF-RW5801. A lot of people also ask about a comparison to the SF-RW5622.

Luckily, Sunny Health & Fitness gets these questions a lot so they created a comparison chart:

SF-RW5801 vs SF-RW5515 vs SF-RW5622 vs SF-RW5941 vs SF-RW5856

As you can see from the comparison, the rowers are virtually identical. The SF-RW5801 has a higher weight capacity due to the extra support on the seat rail.

It also has 16 levels of resistance compared to 8 levels on the SF-RW5515. However, overall resistance will be the same and it only allows for more adjustments.

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Overall Review

Overall, the Sunny Health & Fitness SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine is a great buy for the right person.

As mentioned in my review, the resistance can be a bit light for experienced users and the monitor is a bit basic. However, these downsides are seen on most of the budget magnetic rowers.

If you want to compare your options, Sunny Health & Fitness has been selling the SF-RW5515 for years as the bestselling budget magnetic rower.  It’s very similar to the SF-RW5801 and you can read my review here.

Another great budget magnetic rower is the MaxKare Magnetic Rowing machine. It’s worth a review.

If you want to spend a bit more money for better resistance and quality. Then I highly recommend checking out the Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine.

Finally, if you aren’t 100% sold on magnetic resistance, then the best place to start would be to read my review on the Stamina Air Rower 1399. It’s a great budget air rowing machine and has been a bestseller for years!

I hope you enjoyed my SF-RW5801 review! Please leave any questions or comments in the section below!

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