We don’t blame you. While both rowers are the two most popular choices for people planning to buy an indoor rower, they can also be a bit too expensive for some.
But just because you’re not getting either of them doesn’t mean you can kiss goodbye your dreams of working out on a rowing machine at home. May we suggest another option?
It’s the Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower, and if you’re here because you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for Concept2 or WaterRower, you’re in the right place.
In this review, we’re going to dig deep and look at all the ways the Stamina Avari rowing machine is the right equipment for you.
First, we’ll talk about the kind of resistance the Avari uses and how different it is from other kinds of resistance you might be more familiar with. Is magnetic resistance better or worse? Is it fully adjustable? Is it self-paced? All these questions and more we’ll cover in a minute.
We’ll also talk about the Avari’s build quality and design, and whether it can stand up to the rigors of home workouts. (Take note, the Stamina Avari is not for commercial use. If you’re looking for something you plan to thrash, we suggest you take a look at the Concept2 Model D.) We’ll also discuss the rower’s fitness monitor and how it lives up to your expectations.
Finally, in this review, we tackle issues such as shipping, assembly, maintenance, and storage. By the end of this review, you will find all the information you need about the Stamina Avari to help you decide whether it is a good buy for you.
If you would like to read only a portion of this review, you can click the appropriate links in the Table of Contents below.
In a Nutshell...
What We Like:
- Compact yet sturdy
- Constant resistance all throughout
- Easy to adjust resistance level
- Extremely quiet
- Different resistance profiles for varied workouts
- Comes with wireless heart rate monitor
- Basic but reliable fitness monitor
- Rail has backward incline for extra-hard leg workout
- Well-padded grip handles and pivoting foot rests
- Easy to assemble, store, and maintain
- Phone support is phenomenal
What We Don't Like:
- Uncomfortable ridged seat
- Not long enough for very tall people
- Velcro straps for foot rests
- Only 12 resistance levels
- Email support is lacking
Stamina Avari Magnetic Resistance
The Stamina Avari is a magnetic rower that relies on electromagnets to adjust the resistance. The magnets reduce the speed of the flywheel, creating more resistance on your end. It is somehow similar to the way high-speed trains and roller coasters slow down using electromagnetic braking systems.
There are quite a few advantages to this. The most prominent of all is that you will get an even, consistent resistance all throughout the stroke. There is no delay at the catch or any lag during the release. You will work out against the same force the entire time.
It’s not like air resistance or water resistance, where you regulate the intensity of your exercise simply by rowing harder or the other way around. The benefit of this is your body is forced to work hard all the time. There’s no room for inertia to take over since the same amount of external force is felt all the time.
The magnetic resistance also makes the Avari extremely quiet. If noise is your uttermost consideration, this is the perfect rowing machine for your home. It's a particularly good choice if you live in an apartment. and you don’t want your neighbors calling in to ask you to tone it down. If you have a baby who demands to sleep all the time, you won’t make her angry with the Avari.
To control resistance, you can set the level using the machine’s InTouch Fitness Monitor, which we’ll discuss in further detail below. You can do this simply by pressing a button on the monitor’s console before your workout or in the middle of it.
The monitor offers 12 resistance profiles. Six of these are preset 30-minute cardio programs that automatically adjust the resistance levels during the workout. For instance, the Intervals profile alternates between low and high resistance levels to give your muscles a good smashing during your workout.
On the other hand, the Fat Burn profile starts off at a low resistance and quickly builds up to a high resistance and stays there for a certain length of time. This keeps your heart rate up in the optimal zone, allowing you to burn more fat. The four other programs (Rolling, Valley, Mountain, and Ramp) have you going through different resistance levels during the workout.
There’s also a manual resistance profile, where you set the resistance level yourself, four custom profiles, and one heart rate profile, which we’ll talk about below.
Whether you’ll be stretching out the Avari’s full resistance spectrum to the limit soon enough is the question. For the average Joe and Jane who aren’t intent on winning the Olympic rowing competition, you’ll get more than enough resistance from this rower for a good, long time.
Stamina Avari InTouch Fitness Monitor
The Stamina Avari InTouch Fitness Monitor is simple enough to understand, yet comprehensive enough to give you a good understanding of your daily workouts. It’s not fancy, no. It can’t hold a candle to the Performance Monitor 5 on the Concept2, or even to the more basic S4 Monitor on the wooden WaterRower models.
But again, we’re not elite athletes here. If you’re looking for a rower for the purpose of improving your health – and perhaps losing a few pounds or more or building muscle strength – the InTouch monitor will do its job just fine.
It tracks essential rowing stats, including time, number of rows, strokes per minute, heart rate, and watts (the amount of power expended in a single stroke). It also displays calories burned, although the monitor is specific to a person with 150 lbs. of weight. Unless you’re lucky and that’s how much you weigh, the calorie-counter is pretty much useless, though.
The monitor allows you to do distance workouts, but a word of warning if you’re used to other rowers at the gym. Somehow, Stamina, thinks the standard for measuring distance in rowing is in miles. It’s not; it’s in meters. You can, thankfully, change that, although inconveniently, by taking the monitor out of its frame and turning on a switch in the back.
Aside from that minor quibble, the InTouch monitor is for the most part easy to use. The screen is backlit LCD so you can see your stats better, especially when rowing at night. There are only five buttons, so don’t stress if you’re, uh, technologically challenged. You’ll figure things out soon enough.
Also, although you’ll most likely not fuss over this, but we'd like to mention that the InTouch monitor doesn’t have the bells and whistles of a PM5. It doesn’t allow you to save your data (important if you want to track your long-term improvement), it’s not compatible with your computer or a fitness tracker, and there are no virtual online races to join.
Stamina Avari Heart Rate Monitor
A unique thing about the Avari’s monitor is the pulse recovery system. It tells you how soon your heart rate goes back to its resting state after a workout. The faster your heart recovers, the better shape it is in. For this system to work, you’ll need a heart rate monitor for that.
You don’t have to go out and buy one if you don’t have one. The Stamina Avari comes with its own wireless heart rate monitor and a chest strap, something you’d have to pay for if you choose to buy another indoor rower.
This alone could make the Avari the best rowing machine on the market. Being able to track your heart rate before, during, and after exercise is essential if you want to know how hard you’re working and if you’re any closer to your fitness goals.
Studies show if you keep your heart rate at a target level (55% to 90% of your resting heart rate) at short intervals, you can vastly boost your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel, increase stamina, and improve aerobic capacity.
When using the chest strap, be sure that the hexagons covering the electrodes that detect your pulse are moist with water or conductive gel. This ensures the monitor accurate picks up signals from your heart. As you sweat more during your workout, you won’t need to worry about this anymore.
You can also use other heart rate monitors if you’re not a fan of the one that comes with the Avari. Any monitor with a 5 kHz receiver is compatible with the rower.
Stamina Avari Quality and Durability
Despite its appearances (the Stamina Avari is a small piece of equipment that can easily fit itself into tiny spaces such as apartments), the rower is actually a pretty good, sturdy machine that is built to last for several years.
There are no complaints about it rocking or wobbling on the floor, which is owed in large part to the steel frame and extruded aluminum beam that keeps the Avari solid and stable on the ground.
Even when you’re doing the more vigorous workouts, such as the intervals, you’ll find this rower standing steady while you torture yourself on it. In some way, this also thanks to the low center of gravity of the Avari.
The pulley system is made from high-quality nylon attached to the handle. The nylon strap measures around an inch in thickness, which helps prevent it from easily fraying or tearing. This contributes to the overall quietness of the rower, since nylon makes barely a sound when passing through its housing, as opposed to a metal chain.
That said, the Stamina Avari has a low weight limit of 275 lbs. For people who weigh more, the WaterRower has a very high limit of 700 lbs. The Concept2 Model D claims to have a max weight limit of 500 lbs., although external testers say the limit is actually 350 lbs.
Stamina Avari Rail and Seat Height
Now let’s discuss ergonomics – those little things in the design of the machine that affect how comfortable you can get on it. Let’s start with the Avari’s rail.
Unlike other rowers, the aluminum beam of the Stamina Avari comes up a little short. The maximum inseam measurement is 37.5 inches, which generally translates to a height of 6 ft., 4 in.
Other rowing machines have a bit longer rails and can accommodate people with longer legs. The Concept2 Model D, for instance, has an option for a rail extender for extra-tall people.
The shortness of the rail can also be a source of minor annoyance for some, since it can prevent you from getting a full range of motion during your stroke.
For example, you might find that you won’t be able to extend your arms past your knees at the catch. While that isn’t too detrimental to your form, it can quickly become a pet peeve if you’ve always been able to do this on other rowers.
However, the nice thing about the Avari’s rail is its slight backward incline. The front of the rail measures 8 inches off the ground. By the time you reach the release, the seat is now 13 inches off. This means you’re getting a pretty good workout for your legs and butt, since you have the added benefit of pushing against gravity at the drive.
The height of the seat could be a disadvantage, though, if you’re suffering from mobility issues. If you have knee problems or if you’re on a wheelchair, for instance, it might be difficult to get on and off the rower’s low seat. The alternative is to get something like the Concept2 Model E, and is just about the height of a regular chair.
Stamina Avari Seat Comfort
Speaking of seats, you could very, very possibly have a lousy time on the Stamina Avari after all. The seat on this rower is unlike the rest of the machine. A lot of people have complained that it is too hard and seems to have zero padding anywhere except in all the wrong places. There are also questionable ridges in spots where the seat would’ve been better off smooth and ridge-free.
For the most part, it’s not something to gripe about. There’s an easy way to solve this problem. You can get yourself a gel seat pad or an old, folded towel and use it as a cushion.
Or you can grit your teeth and just let your butt suffer until it becomes too tough to feel any pain. But seriously, a lot of users lament the hardness of the Avari’s seat, so you might want to think of an alternative, or at least a quick fix.
Other people blessed with, err, abundant protection, won’t probably experience this. However, if you’re not one of them and you think an uncomfortable seat is a deal-breaker, the Bodycraft VR500 has a large, contoured seat that will have your butt singing praises. It’s much more expensive than the Stamina Avari, but at least your butt won’t fall asleep.
Stamina Avari Handles and Pedal Caps
The handles of the Stamina Avari are covered with foam padding to help ensure a comfortable grip. This might not sound like a big deal to you, but a good, loose grip is essential if you don’t want to develop blisters while rowing. (Anything that has your skin rubbing up against something all the time will inevitably lead to blisters if you’re not careful.)
The foam protection on the handle is soft enough to help prevent blisters, but not too soft that it feels cheap and doesn’t give you a good hold.
Below the handles are the pedal caps, placed on either side of the front of the rail. These are the foot rests, where you place your feet as you row. The pedal caps pivot naturally as you slide up and down the rail, which gives you more comfort than if your heels simply lifted and lowered off the foot rests.
Also, if you’re a bit knock-kneed, or if you simply have long legs, the placement of the pedal caps is beneficial to you. The rail between the foot rests gives you enough space to prevent your knees from banging against each other as you row.
However, one thing you may have to pay attention to is the straps on the pedal caps. The Stamina Avari uses straps with strips of Velcro to fasten around your feet. This is good since you can adjust the tightness of the straps easily, but Velcro isn’t really a material to use for the long term.
Over time, the Velcro will wear out because of exposure to dust and dirt, and you’ll either have to replace them or regularly clean them if you don’t want replacements. Stamina sells Velcro strips specifically made for the Avari.
Stamina Avari Shipping and Assembly
The Stamina Avari ships in a (relatively) compact box of 44 in. x 11 in. x 30 in. At 88 lbs., the package is much lighter than a lot of other exercise machines out there. If you’re small, carrying it won’t be as big of a problem as other rowers.
However, a few people have raised concerns about the packaging, saying their rowers arrived with minor damage because of the poor packaging. For the most part, the parts of the machine damaged were minor, and the support team from Stamina quickly and professionally handled the replacements.
If you ever find the need to contact support, we suggest that you call them over the phone. It seems nobody is assigned to the email department, so don’t expect anyone to answer your emails. The phone support team, however, is excellent.
Once you’re sure all the parts are in perfect condition, you can then move on to putting them together. Assembly is quite easy. If you’ve ever assembled Ikea furniture before, you can assemble the Stamina Avari.
The instructions are clear and easy to understand, plus you have all the tools provided so you don’t have to go looking for them at the hardware store. And there are only four things to put together. The machine is made from several different smaller components, but it comes pre-assembled.
First, you’ll have to attach the front stabilizer to the main frame, which houses the magnetic resistance system. Next, install the rail and lock it into place to connect to the main frame. Then you slide the seat into the rail and attach the pedal caps. The last thing you’ll need to do is to plug the AC adapter to a power socket to start rowing. This sends electricity to the rower’s monitor, which doesn’t need batteries to operate.
Stamina Avari Storage and Maintenance
Because of its compact size, the Stamina Avari is a breeze to store. Standing unfolded, the rower’s dimensions are 81 in. x 20 in. x 24 in. When folded, it is 36 in. x 20 in. 53.5 in.
To fold the machine, you have to remove the locking bolt on the rail and take out the spring knob. This will allow you to stand the beam upright in a vertical position. Replace the spring knob and the locking bolt to lock it into place. If you want to put the rower away in a closet, you can roll it around on the wheels on the front stabilizer.
It’s also as easy to maintain the Avari as it is to store it. The only thing you really have to do is to wipe down the roller tracks after every use. Use a clean, absorbent cloth such as cotton to remove drops of sweat and dust and dirt that may have settled on the rail.
If you hear a squeaking noise as you move the seat, you might have a few screws loose underneath. Check to see that all nuts and bolts are tightened firmly but not too much. You might also want to check for the same thing in other places.
You also need to clean the heart rate monitor with soap and water solution. Wipe thoroughly before storing, but make sure to do it carefully to avoid scratching the electrodes that read your pulse.
Every now and then, you also have to check the strap for signs of wear and tear. If you find any weakness, contact customer support immediately and ask for a replacement. Neglecting to do so could eventually lead to an injury that could have been prevented.
The Verdict: Is the Stamina Avari Right for You?
For its price, the Stamina Avari is more than a decent rowing machine for the home. Although it is more affordable than the top-of-the-line brands, it offers very good quality for its price.
The machine is durable and will last several years into the future, which makes it a pretty good investment, considering the health benefits you’re getting from it as well. The magnetic resistance provides a smooth, quiet stroke and even, consistent intensity all throughout your movement.
The fitness monitor is also quite dependable. Although it doesn’t have fancy features that elite rowers will look for, it will more than serve your needs if your goal is to row for health.
On top of that, Stamina offers a 3-year warranty on the frame and a 90-day warranty for other parts of the machine. It’s not as comprehensive as other warranties, but this should give you enough time to inspect the machine and have it repaired or replaced for free if you find any damage.
All in all, the Stamina Avari is a great choice, especially for homeowners who live in limited spaces as well as people with limited budgets. It’s not anywhere close to rowing on real water, but it will give you a punishing full-body workout nonetheless. The rower itself may not be an agitator in the rowing market, but it does a very good job at what it does.
If the Stamina Avari is not your kind of rower, you can check out our comprehensive list of the best indoor rowing machines on the market to help you find a better rower that suits your preferences.