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Last Updated: January 30, 2023
When it comes to rowing, is air or water better? The Concept2 RowErg and WaterRower are two of the best rowing machines, but which one is better? More importantly, which one is right for you? These rowers have some similarities, as well as stark differences including their designs and resistance types. In this comparison review of the WaterRower and Concept2 RowErg, I’ll go over what to consider with each of these rowers to help you find the best rower for you.
Why You Should Trust Our Comparison Review
When we create comparison reviews, we pull each machine next to each other and our reviewers hop back and forth, to see how they compare. For rowers we factor in noise, resistance type, overall stroke feel, seat and handle comfort and functionality of the consoles. As you might have noticed in the top image, the rower pictured is actually the Ergatta Rower. Ergatta partnered with WaterRower to include their touch screen and subscription content on the WaterRower. So, the rower itself is actually the WaterRower, but when you purchase the Ergatta you’re getting a touch screen with subscription programming mounted to the WaterRower. The WaterRower is similarly priced and more comparable to the Concept2, so that’s why we’re comparing these two rowers instead of the Ergatta. If you want to learn more about the Ergatta check out our full review. For the sake of this comparison, since we have the Ergatta in our studio we used it to compile this comparison with the Concept2 RowErg. And speaking of the Concept2, this is the older Concept2 Model D Rower, fyi.
Pros & Cons of the Concept2 RowErg
Pros & Cons of the WaterRower
- S4 Performance Monitor Display
- Frame: Wood
- Footprint: 84” x 21” W 22” H
- Stores Upright
- Weight Capacity: 500 lbs
- Rower Weight Without Water: 66.5 lbs
- Rower Weigh With Water: 103.5 lbs
- Belt Drive
- Water Resistance
- Warranty: 5-years for the frame and 3-year for parts
- PM5 Monitor
- Frame: Steel and Aluminum
- Footprint: 96″ L x 24″ W x 14” H
- Stores Upright
- Weight Capacity: 500 lbs
- Rower Weight: 70 lbs (Standard Legs)
- Chain Drive
- Air Resistance
- Warranty: 5-year for the frame, 2-years for all parts
Recommendation: Concept2 vs WaterRower
Both rowers are excellent, well-made cardio machines. The Concept2 RowErg is best for garage gyms and homes where noise isn’t a factor. It’s also used in competitions and CrossFit. It’s loud, but the air resistance offers an unlimited amount of tension to pull against. You can change how much resistance you feel with the damper and your intensity. The PM5 monitor is consistent when tracking metrics and compatible to connect with tracking apps and for competing against other Concept2 owners. This rower is lightweight, stores upright, and is proven to be durable. If you’re familiar with indoor rowing, you’ve most certainly heard of the Concept2.
The WaterRower on the other hand has a completely different design. It’s lower to the ground and made of wood. This rower will look good in any home- it’s beautiful. This rower uses water resistance so the stroke sounds and feels more similar to outdoor rowing. Like the Concept2, when rowing on the WaterRower, the resistance will feel more challenging the harder you work. In order to adjust the tension felt, you have to change the amount of water in the tank. The WaterRower also stores upright and is fairly lightweight and easy to move. WaterRower is considered the top rower that uses water resistance on the market, hence why Ergatta partnered with the brand to include their subscription content on the WaterRower.
Ultimately, we recommend both rowing machines, but for different reasons which I’ll dive into below.
In-Depth Comparison of the WaterRower vs Concept2 RowErg
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Content
As far as content, the WaterRower and Concept2 offer onboard workouts that are built into their consoles. The Concept2 PM5 monitor has more functionality overall though.
The WaterRower has an S4 Performance Monitor. It is battery-powered so it turns on when you start rowing. Metrics like your strokes per minute, duration, calories, watts, and distance are displayed on the LCD screen.
The workout programs let you choose different goals to focus on during your workout. For example, you can set specific distance or duration goals. For basic tracking and workout options, the S4 monitor does just fine.
If you’re interested in a touch screen with gaming content on the WaterRower, then check out the Ergatta. As I mentioned above, the Ergatta is the WaterRower with an attached touch screen that offers Ergatta’s subscription content.
As far as a battery-powered monitor, the PM5 has more capabilities than most. When rowing, your time, strokes per minute, calories, duration, and more are displayed. You can even see a chart for your watts, and your power through every stroke. There are also games and different workout settings preprogrammed into the PM5.
The PM5 is also Bluetooth-enabled to connect to apps like ErgData to track more of your metrics. The PM5 Monitor is known for being so accurate that you can compete against others virtually with the Concept2 RowErg to see how your rowing compares. As far as battery-powered monitors on other rowers, the PM5 is certainly one of the best.
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Console
While both consoles are battery-powered LCD screens, they vary a bit in their functionality and capabilities. The PM5 is our top choice between the two. As far as storage, there isn’t a place to hold your water bottle on either. The Concept2 RowErg has a clip for your phone, which is helpful, especially if you connect a compatible app to the PM5 Monitor. The WaterRower doesn’t offer anywhere to place your phone or tablet.
Construction Quality & Durability
Now, let’s get into the overall construction and build quality of the WaterRower and Concept2 RowErg. As far as size, both rowers will take up around the same amount of space. The Concept2 is slightly longer. Rowing machines in general, require a pretty significant amount of floor space to use. What helps make these rowers convenient for home use, is that they can be stored upright. This helps them take up way less space than when you’re using them. The Concept2 can also be split into two pieces for easier transportation.
What makes these two rowers impressive is their high weight capacities. They both handle up to 500 lbs! Users of most sizes should be able to use either rower without an issue. For specific preferences though, let’s dive into more specifics and where these two machines differ.
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Frame
As you’ve probably noticed, the WaterRower and Concept2 RowErg look completely different. That is in part due to their frames being made out of different materials. WaterRower is made out of wood, and Concept2 is made out of steel and aluminum.
While both are certainly durable, the WaterRower is more aesthetically pleasing. Anyone new who walks into our studio always asks about it. Whether stored upright or in use, it will coordinate well with your furniture. The Concept2 RowErg has a more rugged design and looks like a piece of fitness equipment. In a gym setting – whether in your house, garage, or training facility, the Concept2 fits in with other equipment.
Another difference in the frame is the railing height. The WaterRower has a dual rail that is low to the ground. This makes it more challenging for some when getting on and off. The Concept2 has a higher monorail and seat, so it’s easier to get on and off of. You can also purchase the RowErg with tall legs, in case you have limited mobility to sit close to the floor while rowing.
- Footprint: 84” x 21” W 22” H
- Pedals: 12” L
- Dual Rail: 40” L x 6” H
- Seat: 12” W x 8” D x 12” H
- Belt Drive: 20” from where the belt extends from the flywheel
- Footprint: 96″ L x 24″ W x 14” H
- Pedals: 12” L
- Monorail: 54” L x 11” H
- Seat: 12” W x 10” D x 14” H
- Belt Drive: 24” from where the chain extends from the flywheel
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Footboard & Pedals
The footboards is another aspect where these rowers differ. We prefer the Concept2 footboards and pedals.
The WaterRower’s pedals are closer together because of this. The Concept2 is more comfortable because you have some breathing room between the pedals and your feet. If you’re a larger person, you can feel a little cramped on the WaterRower. The pedals are also around the same level in relation to the seat on the WaterRower, which can cause some users to feel a little more discomfort in their backs when they’re in the catch, especially if they have back problems already. It’s important to remember that rowing is a technical exercise and proper form is required on any rower to help prevent injuries.
On both rowers, the pedals are adjustable to work for any sized user. You also have some room when determining the best placement for the strap on your feet. Personally, I prefer velcro, but the straps on both machines are easy enough to strap in and out of. The WaterRower uses a singular strap that can shift from side to side, however, this doesn’t affect how secure your feet stay in the strap. When adjusted, they’ll keep your feet in place so you can push off of the footboard.
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Handle
The WaterRower has a textured handle that gives a good grip.
The Concept2’s handle is round and a bit more functional because of the finger webbing. You can place your fingers in between the slats for single-arm rowing.
While we prefer rounded handles, it is completely up to personal preference. Both handles will do what you want them to, which is row.
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Seat
I will say that rowers in general don’t have the most comfortable seat you’ll ever sit on. But hey, you’re working out and not lounging on them- that’s what your couch is for. Both seats are contoured to support your positioning in the finish. They both have some padding so they don’t feel terrible, but as I said, this isn’t the couch you’re sitting on. The WaterRower’s seat is slightly smaller, so if you have a little extra junk in your trunk, you might prefer the Concept2, however, the size differences aren’t that noticeable. Worst case, you could place a pad over either for more cushion and support.
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Flywheel
The flywheel is where you get resistance to row against. The Concept2’s flywheel is a fan with blades that move and push against the air as you row, while the WaterRower has a water tank filled with paddles that move against water.
In order to feel the resistance, there is a belt or chain that connects the flywheel to the handle. The WaterRower uses a belt, and the Concept2 has a chain drive system. When rowing on the Concept2 RowErg, you hear and feel the grinding of the chain with every stroke. In comparison, the belt drive system is quieter.
The belt on the WaterRower doesn’t always stay on its track though. Ours is fraying a little bit on the sides from use. Both drive systems provide plenty of tension throughout your stroke. We don’t experience any slack while in the finish and recovery, as we do on other models, like some magnetic rowers.
WaterRower Vs Concept2 Resistance
With the nature of the flywheels, the WaterRower uses water as resistance, and the Concept2 uses air. Neither type of resistance is better than the other, it just comes down to your preference. The more intense you row with either machine, the more resistance you’ll feel. You have a bit more options for changing the feel of the stroke and amount of tension with the adjustable damper on the side of the Concept2’s flywheel. The damper adjusts how much or little air is let into the fan.
While I do have to unstrap and stand up to change the damper setting on the C2, adjusting the water level is a bit more involved.
On either rowing machine, there aren’t specific resistance levels displayed on the console. You can see the damper setting on the PM5 monitor, but not while you’re rowing. If certain resistance levels is something you like to track, a magnetic rower like this one might be a better option.
Performance & Functionality
WaterRowers and Concept2 RowErgs are considered some of the top rowing machines because they’re sturdy, durable, and provide excellent rowing experiences. While both machines do have a lot of differences, they each offer challenging, full-body cardio workouts. In our testing both performed well and provide smooth rowing strokes.
A big factor to consider when determining which one is best for you is the resistance and noise output.
The water makes a sloshing noise in the tank that most people actually like and find relaxing. The WaterRower might be a better option for you if you’re in a shared space where noise is a factor. The Concept2 RowErg is much louder in comparison. The air and chain create more sound, so the RowErg is more commonly found in garage gyms.
Both brands offer similar warranties for these rowers. They both come with a 5-year frame warranty. Concept2 includes a 2-year warranty for parts, while WaterRower includes a 3-year warranty for parts.