The Renpho R3 GM171 massage gun offers similar benefits to its higher-end rivals for a fraction of the cost
- Lightweight and affordable
- Good battery life
- Easy to use
- No Bluetooth
- Some attachments don’t glide smoothly on certain clothing fabrics
Massage guns offer some of the benefits of a professional massage (the percussive therapy part, anyway) but without having to pay a masseuse or having someone physically touch you – an important consideration, given the times we’re living in.
The flagship brands can be expensive, however, which is why guns from smaller manufacturers such as Renpho are proving popular right now. The Renpho R3 GM171 Massage Gun costs only £100, compared with £175 for the most basic Theragun, and squeezes in plenty of performance and features.
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Renpho massage gun review: What do you get for your money?
Despite the low cost, the Renpho R3 GM171 massage gun is very well made. It’s available in two colours – black or blue – but whichever you choose you’ll get a sturdy carry case, the massage gun itself, and an impressive five different massage heads (ball, “air-cushion”, fork, bullet and flat heads), each of which is aimed at a specific type of massage or part of the body.
Also included in the box are a USB-C cable for charging, a user manual and a warranty card. The user manual has all the basic instructions you’ll need, including who can use it, who shouldn’t and who should first seek medical advice before using it.
The gun itself weighs 680g and consists a metal body, powered by a 16.8v brushless motor, and comes with a 2,500mAh battery that provides up to 80 minutes of usage per charge. Once you’ve drained it, it takes around three hours to charge up again.
Renpho massage gun review: What’s it like to use?
When you switch on the gun, you’ll see five battery indicator lights at the bottom of the handle and a small blue light above the power button that indicates how rapidly you want the gun to oscillate, from 1,800rpm (one light) to 3,200rpm (five lights). The number simply denotes the number of times per minute the gun oscillates back and forth.
While it’s easy to get carried away with the speed setting, I recommend starting with the lowest speed and then working your way up, as you find what speed setting works best for you. This can also vary depending on what massage head you’re using.
One of the best features of this massage gun is that it’s very quiet: Renpho rates it at only 45 decibels, which is about as loud as an electric toothbrush.
I used the Renpho massage gun as an additional means of recovery after workouts – in addition to stretching – and experienced significantly less muscle ache the next day compared with when I didn’t use the massage gun.
Using the ball head on my back, biceps, pectorals and calves provided instant relief, although I needed to use the bullet head on my hamstrings because none of the other massager heads could penetrate through the thicker muscle mass. I found the air cushion head perfect for tender areas like the elbow and knee joints, which can be sensitive to the harder plastic massager heads.
It definitely works, then, but how well? Compared with using the (much more expensive) Theragun Elite, I found it wasn’t quite as effective as the Theragun, which is faster and penetrates deeper into the muscle. While this might have obvious benefits, its sheer brute force could also deter someone who’s using it for the first time.
Indeed, several of my friends found the Renpho easier to use, and some even went out and bought one after using it for a few minutes – a testament to its effectiveness and usability.
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Renpho massage gun review: How does it compare with other massage guns?
At £100, the Renpho R3 GM171 is not short of competition. At that price, you’ll find multiple options such as the TaoTronics massage gun at £90, which comes with six massager heads and has a slightly large 2,600mAh battery. It’s also a little quieter than Renpho’s offering.
At this price, most massage guns offer a similar set of features, however. It’s only when you reach higher-end massage guns that you get obvious benefits. For example, the Theragun Elite costs £375 and comes with a triangular handle, which means you can use a number of different grips, depending on which body part you’re massaging. This makes it easier to massage normally difficult-to-access areas such as your upper back, which the Renpho struggles with unless you get someone else to massage it for you.
You can also replace your own or buy additional massager heads with the Theragun, something you can’t do with the Renpho. I also found the Theragun massage gun heads worked better in a variety of situations. The Renpho’s ball and air cushion heads sometimes get caught or stuck on clothing. Having said that, I did find Renpho’s massager heads easier to attach and detach compared with the Theragun.
The Renpho also lacks the Theragun’s Bluetooth connectivity, and isn’t as powerful. The Theragun Elite I tested has an amplitude of 16mm, indicating the depth at which it’s supposed to penetrate your muscle to activate recovery. In comparison, the Renpho massage gun has an amplitude of 10mm, which in theory means it can’t penetrate quite as deep into your muscle to promote recovery.
Renpho massage gun review: Should you buy it?
While early massage guns cost a fortune and were only used by chiropractors, that’s now beginning to change. First, Theragun popularised the category, and now Chinese brands such as Renpho are bringing the technology to the masses.
The good news, as the Renpho R3 GM171 clearly demonstrates, is you don’t have to compromise too much if you opt for one of these far cheaper models. I found this massage gun very well made, easy to use and effective; the fact that it costs a mere £100 is just a bonus.