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First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rower Review

Quick Take

The First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR rower is another older model in the brand’s catalog, albeit a well reviewed unit that is still available for purchase via third party sellers like Amazon. Similar to the current Neptune and Pacific models, it features a simpler single rail design paired with the brand’s adjustable resistance system—hence the AR in the name. Coming in around the $700 mark, the Newport challenge is a simple, comfortable rower with a good warranty and solid overall construction. Its only downfall for some will be its lack of built-in training programs, as well as less than stellar customer service, according to some.


Adjustable Fluid Resistance
Easy Storage
Affordable for Category


Slow Response

Our Review

The Newport Challenge AR is a shiny red indoor rower offering a smooth exercise experience that feels like you are actually rowing on water. It is part of the First Degree Fitness Horizontal Series, which specializes full-sized indoor water rowers designed for compact storage.


The Newport Challenge AR offers the rare combination of beauty and function, combining an attractive metal frame, variable water resistance, and advanced session feedback. The rower can connect to a heart rate monitor via Bluetooth, however a wireless monitor is not included with the rower.


A key selling point of virtually any water rowing machine is its smooth and realistic stroke. With the Horizontal Series from First Degree Fitness, trainees can set their preferred resistance levels with a dial. For the Newport Challenge AR, interval training workouts are preset on the computer monitor too. The feedback shown includes time, distance, 500M split time, strokes per minute, calories per hour, watts, interval, and heart rate. This machines measures just under 78” long x 21” wide when unfolded and can hold up to 330 pounds.



  • Variable Water Resistance: Many competitive rowers prefer water rowing machines over other indoor alternatives. Indoor water rowers not only support a smooth stroke cycle, but also add the ambiance of a satisfying splashing water. The resistance level can be adjusted with a dial on the water flywheel. The resistance settings range from a light challenge for beginners to powerful settings designed for top athletes.
  • Cushioned Seat: The Newport Challenge AR’s sliding seat runs on higher quality bearings for a smooth ride.
  • Adjustable Footplates: The footplates have adjustable height to help most riders find an ideal fit.
  • Data: The data monitor provides heart rate feedback if used with a chest strap. Also displayed are time, distance, 500M split time, strokes per minute, calories per hour and watts.
  • USB Port: A USB port syncs this rower with fitness apps. One popular option puts trainees in a 3D virtual reality environment for solo training or racing against other connected riders.
  • Quiet Operation: This brand’s water rowers make audible splashes, but operate rather quietly. They use strong belts that require little day-to-day maintenance.
  • Easy to Store: This rowing machine can easily fold vertically for storage. Its stored dimensions are approximately 22” wide, 21” wide and 78” tall.
  • High Capacity: The Newport Challenge AR has a maximum user weight capacity of 330 pounds.
  • Good Warranty: The competitive home warranty provides five years of protection for the frame, three years for the tank and non-wearing mechanical parts, and one for wear parts.



  • Slow Response: The adjustable water tank requires a bit of time to adapt to new settings.
  • Bungee: The Newport Challenge is low maintenance but its handlebar bungee occasionally requires tightening. This process is outlined in the owner’s manual.
  • Lackluster customer service: Several long-term owners (as well as some new ones) have reported that aftersales support for the Newport Challenge AR rower isn’t all that easy to reach, should you have any kind of questions or warranty concerns.


Our Conclusion

Overall the Newport rower is a decent choice, albeit one that faces some stiff competition. It’s one of the best affordable options when compared to other water rowers, but if you aren’t dead set on a rower with water resistance, you could get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does the Newport Challenge AR Indoor Rower fold?
A: The Newport Challenge AR rower does not fold but it can stand vertically for storage.
Q: What are the dimensions of the Newport Challenge AR rower when stored upright?
A: The Newport Challenge AR Indoor rower is 53 x 51cm (21 x 20") when stored upright.
Q: How do you change resistance on the Newport Challenge AR rower?
A: The Newport Challenge AR rowing machine features Adjustable Fluid Resistance which you can change manually by the dial.

Rating: 90%

Resistance Type


Dimensions (inches)

77.8" L x 20.9" W x 20.1" H

Maximum User Weight Capacity

300 lbs

View Full Specifications