The First Degree Neptune is a very modern looking water resistance rower (or fluid rower in their language) and the opposite to the beautifully crafted Waterrower Natural, and around $300 less. One of the main benefits of the Neptune is that it can be stored vertically in a very small space (see below for dimensions). So if space is an issue then this is a good choice, and if you live in an apartment, it's also much quieter than an air resistance rower.
The rowing position is comfortable, although the seat may not be to your liking if you're on the large side. The pivoting foot-boards are fine and aid a good technique, plus our reviewers feet stayed tightly strapped in - something that can't be said for some other machines we've tried.
One disadvantage water rowers have is that you cannot easily change the resistance level as with magnetic or air machines. You do get some higher resistance when you row faster but to get variation you have to alter the water levels (the tank can take between 9 to 17 liters.) Not a huge inconvenience but you don't get the advantage of heart rate programs as with a magnetic machine like the Lifecore R100 - although the R100 does cost around $400 more!
With some rowers you'll get a 'dead spot'. This is at the start or finish of the action where you'll feel no resistance and feel you're starting again when it kicks back in. Well with the Neptune you get none - no dead spots at all thanks to the triple-bladed 'fan' in the water tank. This means you feel an instant catch at the start of each cycle and feel a strong pull right through the stroke - a real plus.
The Console/ Monitor
It's okay but not brilliant. In our view it lets down the rower and would look more at home on a budget model than this one. The LCD display is large enough to read and will tell you the usual stuff you need to know such as distance, time,strokes per minute and calories burnt. It also has an annoying beep every time you row - this could become a distraction during long workouts.
Another disappointment is that it can't measure your pulse rate - something that is quite important in our view for both optimal training and safety if you're of a certain age. Other machines in this price range do display pulse, if you pay a little more you'll also get race functions and PC compatible consoles to monitor your progress over time. Extras like these can help with motivation and keep you coming back for more.
The Neptune is a great rower for the price and good value for money. With a better display/ console it could be a real winner - but then it would cost more. First Degree have made rapid progress in establishing themselves on the fitness equipment sector, specifically with their water resistance machines - or as they call them, a 'fluid rower'. Their commercial machines are something else - you can read us gushing about the Evolution E520 here. We'll be reviewing the next model up in this range soon (the Pacific) which we believe has more functions.
However, unless you're a serious rower or a geek for stats, the Neptune will give you good service and therefore get you into shape.