Although nowhere near as famous as some other brands of rowing machine, HCI Fitness manufactures the commercial-grade Proteus PAR-5500 Rowing Machine, a large, well-engineered exercise device that is available to both the home and professional markets.
The rower itself is a hybrid air and magnetic resistance machine, made out of commercial aircraft-grade aluminum, sleek but robust rowing action, and a solid warranty to back up the company’s assurances. The truly standout part of this high-quality machine, though, is the computer, which displays large amounts of windows and features pre-programmed exercise routines which adjust to match user changes to them, allowing you to dynamically alter your programmed workouts.
As is typical for commercial-grade machines, the Proteus PAR-5500 is quite large, and probably is not suitable for small apartments or other limited spaces. When extended, the rower is a full 8 feet (96 inches) long, 19 inches wide, and 31 inches high.
There is a teardrop-shaped frontal casing that houses the air and magnetic resistance flywheel, with the computer mounted on a stalk atop it; and a main beam with the seat sliding on it. The footboards are located at the join between the main beam and the frontal casing.
The machine weighs 100 pounds. The beam folds upright for storage, and there are built-in wheels for moving the Proteus.
Warranty: Lifetime Frame, 4-Years Parts
The entire frame of the Proteus PAR-5500 Rower is made of extruded aluminum of the same quality and toughness as that used in commercial aircraft. Surprisingly, the maximum user weight is only 280 pounds — presumably, the seat is the weak point which will give way under heavier users, since the frame itself is extremely strong.
There is a lifetime warranty on the frame, and 4 years warranty on the parts for home use (commercial use has a 2 years warranty, based on 8 hours use per day). The machine assembles very easily as all of the parts have been precision milled and prepared for fitting, according to users.
Comfortable, Very Smooth-Gliding Seat
The seat is rather small (probably explaining the low maximum user weight) but is comfortable, and has underside rollers to provide a very smooth glide up and down the central rail while rowing. The footboards are adjustable so that users with different lengths of leg can use the machine comfortably and effectively, and, as expected, they pivot to some extent to allow the legs to move naturally during recovery.
Air and Magnetic Resistance at 16 Levels
The mix of air and magnetic resistance offers the user a range of different resistance levels — 16 different levels, in fact — ranging from light and easy rowing, to a workout that only those with muscles of steel will be able to handle. Air and magnetic resistance machines tend to be somewhat louder than those that work on magnetic resistance alone, and the Proteus PAR-5500 Commercial Club Series Rowing Machine is no exception. However, the noise level is fairly low and will not prevent watching television or a movie, or listening to the radio or CD player, while rowing.
A Smooth, Strong Workout – Low Impact on Joints
Resistance is also extremely smooth, as is the movement of the seat along the central beam, so the impact of the Proteus PAR-5500 on the joints is minimal, while working out the muscles, heart, and circulatory system in a robust fashion. This, combined with the huge range of different resistance levels, makes this rowing machine a source for a good workout for users ranging from beginners to advanced rowers.
Proteus Rower PAR-5500 Demo
A Cooling Breeze with an Adjustable Vent
Since air resistance is involved, the machine’s operation also generates a steady breeze. This cooling air passes out of a vent which the user can point towards or away from themselves, depending on whether or not they want a stream of cooling air blowing over them as they pedal.
The fact that the vent is adjustable is a pleasant detail, since different seasons may well have different standards of comfort for many users, and what is comfortable in July may not be quite as comfortable in December.
Detailed Information on a Useful Computer
Not only is the Proteus PAR-5500 a robust machine with excellent engineering and performance, it is improved even further by the top-notch computer that is built into it. This computer has a large LCD screen in two shades of blue. It functions both as a control panel for adjusting resistance, the source for workout programs, and as an information guide that provides enough detailed data to keep most rowers informed up to the minute about their progress and physical state.
The basic information the computer provides includes time, 500 meter split time, strokes per minute, a built-in heart rate monitor, total strokes, the distance you have ‘rowed’, calories burned, and watts. When switched off, the computer shows date, time, alarm settings, and temperature.
Excellent Computer Programs and Dynamic Workouts
If the computer only showed the information noted above, it would be a good asset for any rower, but it also includes 15 workout programs. Six of these are preset, 4 are user programs, 4 are heart rate control programs which adjust to allow you to exercise within a target heart rate zone, and 1 is a watt control program.
These programs ‘intelligently’ adjust themselves to compensate for user changes — changing length of workout will also change the strength of different segments to keep the workout balanced. The computer can also be set to dynamically adjust the workout to match the feedback from your rowing action and heart rate.
This dynamic, versatile approach makes the computer of the Proteus PAR-5500 one of the best on the market.
Responsive Customer Service
The company is located in Seattle, Washington, and can be reached by a variety of means — telephone, fax, and several different e-mail addresses depending on the nature of the question. HCI Fitness responds rapidly to questions and concerns — for example, one user, K. Wringel, wrote:
"to the company’s credit, I received a response in 24 hours, with a Word doc with pictures on what I might look for to troubleshoot the … error."
Responsiveness to customer concerns on the manufacturer’s part is another plus for the Proteus PAR-5500.
The Best Buy on the Proteus PAR-5500 Rowing Machine
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