For those looking for the best compact rowing machine, the SF-RW 5801 Magnetic Rower is the one. It folds and stands vertically. It is compact both when folded and when in use.

Want more options?

This guide has some of the best foldable rowing machines.

To filter our top picks, we looked for two main factors:

So with the above criteria, here are our top picks:

1. Sunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Magnetic SF Rw-5801

best compact rowing machine

The Sunny SF-RW5801 operates on magnetic resistance. In this rower, the seat rail can be folded up for storage. It also has transportation wheels that let you move it without any hassle.

Resistance

It has eight levels of magnetic resistance so that you can enjoy a wide range of tension during each workout. The resistance is strong enough for beginners to intermediate level users. However, professional athletes and stronger users will find it lacking.

Magnetic rowers have fixed resistance which doesn’t change with the speed of rowing. If you want the natural feeling of rowing on water, it is better to go with an air or water rower.

Build Quality

The 5801 is built with a steel frame and has a solid build quality. It supports up to 285 pounds of weight. It comes with pivoting footplates with heel guards for comfort.

Monitor

The performance monitor is quite impressive on this rower. It tracks all the basic workout metrics and also tracks RPM. You can set targets and start a countdown for each workout. It has a scan mode that shows a different metric every few seconds.

Compact

It can fold upright for compact storage. Whether you want to tuck it in a closet or stow it in a remote corner of your house, the 5801 can do it all.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions:

L x W x H

In-Use Size: 77” x 23” x 22.5"

Folded Size: 36.3” x 23” x 47”

Weight: 49 lbs.

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2. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Monitor

Concept2

Concept2 builds the best-selling rowers on the planet. They are used by Olympic athletes and navy seals. Even Jocko Willink, a retired U.S. Navy Seal officer suggested this rower to a person who asked him for fitness advice on Reddit.

Build Quality

Concept2 Model D rower isn’t cheap, but it is well worth the price. Because of its superior build quality, this Concept2 rower can last over a decade and over ten million meters of rowing distance. It is built with aluminum front legs, steel rear legs and an aluminum I-beam monorail. This robust construction is the reason it can support up to 500 lbs. of weight. With a 38-inch long inseam, the rower can accommodate tall people as well, with height up to 6 feet 10 inches.

Resistance

Resistance is an integral part of a rower - how strong it is, the range it provides and how smooth it is. The Concept2 Model D rower is used by Olympic athletes - so there is no doubt that it has an intense level of resistance throughout its range. The Concept2 rower also comes with 10 adjustable resistance levels. Changing the resistance setting on the damper lets you get the most out of workouts.

PM5 Monitor

The PM5 monitor on the Concept2 Model D is considered the best fitness monitor ever. This is because of its perfect accuracy and user-friendly features. It can track time, distance, stroke rate, calories, watts, 500m split time and much more.

The preset workout routines get you started without any previous experience. You can create customized workouts that fit your physique and fitness levels and save them on a USB flash drive. If you are new to rowing, you can learn the proper form with a fun game.

The PM5 monitor also has wireless ANT+ and Bluetooth technology that lets it connect to heart rate monitors. Connecting with heart rate monitors, you can work out in your optimal heart rate zone.

Comfort

The Concept2 Model D rower is also more comfortable than its peers. It offers a smooth rowing experience. It surely isn’t as quiet as magnetic rowers, but it is exhilarating. The seat is contoured and padded enough for comfort - although if you are a beginner, it may feel hard and take getting used to.

The foot pedals are made meticulously and allow you to workout with your feet secured in place. Many rowers struggle with ineffective velcro straps that can’t prevent feet from slipping, but not this one. This is one of the few rowers that is comfortable enough to row barefooted. The straps can be adjusted to accommodate all shoe sizes.

Storage

The Concept2 Model D rower is easy to store. You can disassemble the rower within ten seconds - into two components: flywheel and monorail. The monorail can stand vertically while the flywheel leans on it. Despite being a high-end rower, the Model D can be assembled and disassembled within minutes. This is rarely seen and this is the reason this rower is a bestselling one.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions:

When in Use: 96.0″ x 24.0″ x 42.0″

When Folded: 33.0″ x 24.0″ x 54.0″

Weight: 57 lbs.

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3. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

trac glider 1050 compact rowing machine

The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is foldable and portable, being a hydraulic rower. It operates on hydraulic resistance and offers a great bang for the buck.

Resistance

With 12 levels of resistance, you can have a solid workout with a large range of resistance available to you. The knob that is used for adjusting resistance is located right under the seat. So when you are in the middle of a workout, you can adjust the resistance without getting up.

One advantage of this Stamina 1050 rower is that it offers a large range of motion which is not possible with the usual t-bar handle you see on most rowers.

But note that hydraulic resistance isn’t as strong as air, magnetic, or water resistance - no matter which hydraulic rower you buy. The level of tension hydraulic rowers provide is best suited for beginners and intermediates. If you have a strong physique or plenty of rowing experience, hydraulic resistance won’t be enough.

Build Quality

Even on a budget, the Stamina Body Trac Glider has good build quality. It is constructed using a steel frame and an aluminum center beam. It can support up to 250 pounds of weight. Hydraulic rowers are generally lightweight. The Stamina 1050 rower just weighs 40 lbs.

Monitor

It has a basic display monitor that tracks time, stroke count, total count and calories. But the calorie count isn’t accurate - which is generally true for all budget rowers. The monitor also has a ‘SCAN’ mode that toggles and displays the different workouts with an interval of a few seconds so that you don’t have to look for them manually.

Comfort

The seat isn’t comfortable so an extra seat pad is required. Foot pedals feel comfortable but the velcro straps can’t keep the feet secured and prevent them from slipping. So one would need to buy new velcro straps.

Storage

The Stamina 1050 rower is extremely easy to store. Using two screws, the arms can be folded and the rower can stand vertically taking little space. It isn’t small enough to be tucked under your bed, but it can be stored in a closet. However, it doesn’t come with any wheels for moving it around.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions:

L x W x H

When In Use: 58.25” x 42.5” x 18.5”

Footprint: 23.5” x 46”

When Disassembled: 49 ½” x 11 ¾” x 9 ½” (Source: Sears)

Weight: 39 lbs.

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4. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Foldable Rowing Machine 

fitness reality compact rowing

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus comes with many high-quality features. Since this is a magnetic rower, it is also whisper-quiet. You can work out early in the morning without waking anyone up.

Resistance

It has 14 resistance levels - an amazing range when you want to set precise fitness goals. The resistance on this rower is strong enough for beginners as well as experienced rowers. The seat is hard though and adding a seat cushion is necessary for comfortable workouts. The foot plates are comfortable and the velcro straps do a good job of preventing one’s feet from slipping.

Inseam

Despite being compact, foldable and portable, it has a long inseam. It can accommodate people as tall as 6’6”.

Monitor

The display monitor on the 1000 Plus Rower does a good job of tracking performance. It also has the scan mode that toggles and shows different metrics every few seconds.

However, some users reported how the distance and calorie metrics aren’t accurate. Keep in mind that most rowers, in general, can’t calculate calories accurately because they don’t take into account your weight and heart rate data.

The rower has footpads in the front that can be used to do additional exercises. It also connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to the company’s app for better performance tracking.

Storage

This rower is not small per se but it is foldable. The seat rail can be folded upright for easy storage. It has built-in wheels that let you move it around easily. However, customers have reported how the wheels are small for such a solid rower.

Overall, this is a solid quality rower with strong resistance under its hood and a capable performance monitor.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions

In-Use Size: 88.5” L x 21.5” W x 21.5” H

Folded size: 39. 5”Lx21. 5”Wx53. 5”H

Weight: 63.6 lbs

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5. Stamina 35-1215 Orbital

Best compact rowing machine

The Stamina 1215 uses hydraulic resistance and provides a full-range of motion. Since it is a hydraulic rower, it is compact even when assembled and unfolded. The free arms can be folded toward the foot plates to make the rower even more compact for storage.

Resistance

It has two hydraulic pistons, one on each arm. This rower is quiet and has five resistance levels with enough resistance/tension for beginners to intermediate users.

The resistance labeling is counter-intuitive though. Level 1 is the strongest while level 5 is the weakest level of resistance. The free arms allow you to mix your workouts and bring some variety to them when you are bored. The display monitor on this rower is quite basic - it tracks the basic metrics and has a single button.

Build Quality

What is impressive though, is the build quality. Users reported that it was way stronger than they expected. Some even used it to do sit-ups or dumbbell presses. It can support 250 lbs. of weight.

Another remarkable thing about this rower is that it has high-quality pistons. Hydraulic pistons generally get hot after a short workout and need constant maintenance. But the pistons on the 1215 are higher quality.

Overall, the Stamina 1215 offers great value for small spaces.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions

In-Use Size: 48” x 32.5” x 27.75”

Folded Size: 48” x 32.5” x 10”

Weight: 52 lbs.

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6. Stamina ATS 1399 Compact Rowing Machine

Stamina ATS Rower is one of the best compact rowing machines. For those who want an air rower but don’t want to spend a grand on the Concept2 rower, this is a great alternative.

Storage

It is a space-saver as you can fold the seat rail up to reduce its size to half. Folding it is easy - just remove a bolt from the frame and fold the rail up and then re-insert the bolt.

The whole thing takes ten seconds maximum. The rower also has built-in wheels so one can move it from one spot to the other without any hassle.

Build Quality

The Stamina ATS 1399 has a solid build quality. The handle is attached to a nylon strap, that is much tougher than the straps available on most budget rowers. As with all air rowers, the harder you row, the more resistance there is. It can support 250 lbs. of weight, which is the standard in this price segment.

Comfort

The foot plates are comfortable and even rowing without shoes isn’t uncomfortable. The pivoting motion helps move the foot plates along an axis so that there is no pressure on your ankles.

The rower has an inseam that is longer than the average rower. User surveys indicate that a person 6’4” or 6’5” will have no problems with full extension on this rower. However, if you are even taller, it is best to contact the company’s customer care number to confirm it.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions

In-Use (L x W x H):

Storage (L x W x H):

Weight

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7. Waterrower Rowing Machines (Natural, Club, A1)

Waterrower is a respected brand and makes some of the highest quality rowing machines in the market.

Build Quality

It is different from all other brands because it doesn’t use a steel frame to construct its rowers. Instead, it uses robust solid wood that makes the rower visually appealing. Waterrower machines are not only great gym equipment but a nice addition to your home furniture.

Resistance

Another feature that makes Waterrower rowers unique is how they simulate the feeling of rowing on water. Since they operate on water resistance, with flywheel paddles moving through water, they are the closest as one can get to the real deal.

The rowing experience is smooth and pleasant with the swooshing sound of water splashing in the water tank. In short, if you love the zen feeling of rowing on real water, the Waterrower machines are for you.

All Waterrower machines can be stood up vertically for storage.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions

In-Use (L x W x H):

Storage (L x W x H):

Weight

There are many models you can choose from. Check our Waterrower Reviews Guide for more details.

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8. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

best folding rowing machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is one of the best compact rowing machines.

Storage

It can be folded for compact storage. All it takes is taking out a bolt and a pin and then putting them back in after folding the frame. This can be done fast. The rower also comes with built-in caster wheels for moving it from one spot to the other.

Resistance

It has eight levels of magnetic resistance and provides enough tension to get a strenuous workout even at levels 4 or 5. However, the resistance isn’t enough for athletes or people with a stronger physique. Adjusting the resistance is easy - a handy knob does the trick.

The rower is dead quiet, like most magnetic rowers. So you can workout at odd hours without waking anyone up.

Build Quality

The build quality is decent but not great. There is only a 90-day warranty on parts which doesn’t seem reassuring. Some users also reported how the rower broke within 6-12 months of use. However, the seat is comfortable and has enough padding. Foot plates are big enough for all shoe sizes, but the stock Velcro straps can’t prevent one’s feet from slipping.

The rower can support 250 lbs. of weight. It has a long inseam. Users as tall as 6’7” have reportedly had no problems using this rower. The display monitor shows all the basic workout metrics and also has the scan mode that toggles between them.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions

In-Use (L x W x H):

Storage (L x W x H):

Weight

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10. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower 

Stamina Avari Programmable Rower has a superb build quality, like most Stamina rowers. It features a steel frame and aluminum beam construction. The strap is made of nylon, which can take years of abuse. The rower is quiet and the seat glides smoothly along the rail.

Storage

The Stamina Avari Rower is fully foldable. To fold it, all you need to do is take out the locking bolt and the spring knob and then put them back in after folding it up. Built-in caster wheels on the front make it easy to move.

Comfort

The Avari Rower accommodates users on the taller side too. Users with height up to 6’4” could have full extension on the rower. If you are taller than 6’4” though, we recommend checking with their customer care or trying the rower in person at a local store. The seat is a bit hard, so you will be better off using a towel or buying a seat pad.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Dimensions

In-Use (L x W x H):

Folded (L x W x H):

Weight

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How to Choose the Best Compact Rowing Machine

Size

When buying a compact rowing machine, the main thing to check first is its dimensions. Check its dimensions when it is in use or assembled. Then, check its dimensions when it is folded for storage.

You can use the following format to shortlist your options:

Dimensions:

When in Use: 96.0″ x 24.0″ x 42.0″

When Folded: 33.0″ x 24.0″ x 54.0″

Weight: 57 lbs.

Foldable Rowing Machine

Then, check storage features. Does the rower allow you to disassemble it into parts for storage? Can it stand vertically? Does it have wheels for moving it around? Can the seat rail fold up against the flywheel housing for compact storage?

Resistance Type and Strength

Resistance is the powerhouse of any rowing machine. The quality and strength of resistance determines how good of a workout you can get out of it. So you need to make sure you get the right one.

Some resistance types, like hydraulic rowers, are small in size even when assembled or in use. But this doesn’t mean they are better than bigger rowers.

Hydraulic Rowers: Small But Limited

You should know the downsides as well. Hydraulic rowers have less resistance and structural strength as compared to air, magnetic or water rowers. So if you are physically strong or an athlete, a hydraulic rower will be useless for you.

They operate with a hydraulic piston, that can get too hot even after 15-20 minutes of workout and may have leakage issues. However, some hydraulic rowers such as the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050, have become bestsellers because of their all-round, balanced features.

Air and water rowers have variable resistance. The harder you row, the more resistance you fight against. This mimics the feeling of rowing on water.

Magnetic rowers, however, have fixed resistance. Once you set a resistance level, you have to deal with the same resistance no matter how hard or fast you row.

Comfort

You don’t want strong resistance only to realize that the machine has an uncomfortable seat, footboard or handle. So read reviews carefully to see whether the seat is padded or contoured, whether the footplates can fit all shoe sizes, whether you can row without wearing any shoes and whether the handle is padded for comfort.

Other Elements

After you have checked the three features mentioned above, look for the obvious factors such as build quality and warranty (both for parts and frame). Also check if the display monitor is good at performance tracking and if it offers additional features like customized workouts.

Final Word

There you have it - the complete guide to the best compact rowing machines.

Our top pick is the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801. It is on the top because it doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, offers 16 levels of magnetic resistance and conveniently folds upright.

Check Sunny SF-RW 5801 Below
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This guide compares the Concept2 Model D vs Concept2 Model E.

Model E has a taller seat, is heavier than the Model D and has a better finish.

Another difference is that the Model E has a robust welded steel construction throughout unlike the Model D.

While both Model D and Model E are functionally equal, some features set them apart.

To help you select the right rower, here is the in-depth comparison:

Concept2 Model D vs Model E Comparison

To compare the two models, let us look at each feature one at a time.

Concept2 model d vs e

Model D

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How Tall is the Seat?

The seat on the Model E is higher off the ground. This makes it as tall as a regular chair. The seat height is 6 inches more than model D. So people with physical disabilities, back problems and the elderly will find Model E rower easier to sit on.

How is the Monitor Arm Different?

The arm attached to the PM5 performance monitor on Model D is made of ABS plastic. It has the following features:

The aluminum arm attached to the Model E is fixed and bigger in length. Apart from changing the viewing angle of the monitor, you can’t make other adjustments as in Model D. This makes model D a slightly better choice.

concept2 model d vs e

Model E

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Which Concept2 Model Has Better Build Quality?

The Model D has aluminum front legs and steel rear legs. On the other hand, the Model E has welded steel construction throughout. It is common knowledge that steel has more structural strength than aluminum. Steel is strong and less likely to warp, deform or bend underweight, force or heat. However, steel has a 2.5 times higher density than aluminum, so it is heavier than aluminum.

Which Model Is More Durable?

The Model E has a better finish as compared to the Model D. The latter has a single powder coat while the former has a double powder coat with a glossy finish.

This makes the Model E more durable. But don’t get me wrong, the Model D is capable of lasting as long as a decade. But the Model E is slightly better. This is the reason Model E is better suited for commercial use in gyms and fitness clubs.

How is the Chain Housing Different?

Both models have a nickel-plated steel chain. However, the Model E has a fully enclosed chain housing while the Model D has a partially enclosed chain housing.

Concept2 Model D vs E: Which is Easier to Store?

The Model E is harder to store since it is bigger and doesn’t have a foldable monitor arm. Model D can also be transported rather easily unlike the Model E. Model E has steel construction throughout, which makes it heavier than the Model D, which has aluminum front legs.

Which Model is More Expensive?

Model E is a couple of hundred bucks more expensive.

Concept2 PM5 monitor

Monitor Updated

A few years ago, the Model D used to come with the PM3 monitor and the Model E with the PM4. Now both models have the superior PM5 monitor, which is considered the best performance monitor.

Should I Buy the Concept2 Model E?

The features mentioned above are the only differences between the two models. If you want to make a decision, ask yourself the following key questions:

If you answered yes to all the above questions, you should go for the Model E. Otherwise, model D is the one for you.

Concept2 Model D vs E: Not So Different

Apart from the things mentioned above, everything else in the Model D and the Model E is the same. If you don’t have any problems sitting on a lower-height seat, it’s best to go with the Model D.

Are Their Build Quality Similar?

Both rowers have remarkable build quality. As mentioned earlier, the Model E is made from welded steel. In Model D, the front legs are aluminum and the rear legs are steel. They both are used in commercial settings, so you don’t have to worry about durability once you buy either the Model D or the Model E. Many customers have reported that this rower holds its value even after ten years of use.

Do They Have the Same Resistance?

Both machines use air resistance to create tension. The metal flywheel spins, it has to push through the air which creates resistance. When it comes to resistance, there is no difference in the rowers. Although the harder you row, the more resistance you can have; the rowers also have adjustable resistance. You can change the damper setting to tweak the resistance higher or lower.

Resistance flywheel concept2

Since the resistance is variable, the rowers are great for high-intensity interval training workouts (HIIT), in which you engage in short intense bursts of workout followed by shorter rest periods. HIIT focuses on the anaerobic zone, where you workout despite being out of breath. Such workouts burn more calories, strengthen your heart and improve your metabolism.

Since the rowers use air resistance, there is some level of noise in both rowers. You can hear the ‘whooshing’ sound with each stroke. But it isn’t hard on the ears and you won’t need to wear headphones. The sound is better than that of a treadmill and is a bit soothing.

However, if you have someone in the same room, they may be disturbed by the noise and won’t be able to watch tv or focus on anything. If you row at lower intensity levels though, the sound from the TV is audible. But if you row at moderate or harder levels, you won’t be able to hear the audio clearly.

Type of Resistance Used

Both rower models use air resistance. Air resistance is a bit noisy as compared to water or magnetic resistance. The upside, however, is that the resistance increases as you row harder. So you can get the feeling of rowing on a river.

Olympians and professional rowers prefer air resistance because of this characteristic.

You don’t need to worry about the type of resistance when buying a Concept2 rower. These rowers are superior to almost every other rowing machine because of their performance and ability to hold value over years of use.

The company created the first ever rowing machine in 1981 to help athletes with their training. Since then, they have been the #1 brand in the rowing industry.

The Damper Setting on Concept 2 Model D vs E

The damper settings on the Model D and E are the same. There are 10 resistance levels you can choose from the damper. The higher the damper setting, the more air is pushed through the flywheel. Hence, the “feel” of the rowing stroke is changed.

Note that the real measure of resistance is the drag factor, not the numbers you see on the outside of the machine. To see the drag factor, go to “more options” on the display and then click on “display drag factor”.

Drag factor is different from one person to the other. But typically it ranges anywhere from 110 to 130 for most people. You can use the damper settings and the drag factor to increase resistance. It is very much like shifting gears on a bike. The higher the gear, the harder it is to pull, but it produces more power (watts).

If you are a beginner it is best to keep the damper setting below 5 and work at a low drag factor.

Also note that if you want to up the resistance for strength training, it isn’t advisable to crank the damper setting to the highest 10. This is because it puts an undue amount of pressure and strain on your back. In fact, most rowers including Olympic-level rowers row at levels 4 to 6 to put the level in the middle of the flywheel.

So it is important to remember that a higher damper setting doesn’t lead to faster results. Olympic gold medalists like Hamish Bond and Eric Murray practice indoor rowing at 5-6 damper settings.

The focus should be on using the proper rowing technique, length of the rowing stroke and improving the speed of your stroke. The faster you row, the lower your split time gets.

Here is a video of the 2k world record holder Josh Dunkley Smith rowing at damper setting 5.

In the end, the resistance is not created by the rowing machine. The resistance is created when you row harder and faster.

How Good is the Concept2 PM5 Monitor?

Both models have the same performance monitor, PM5. Although it doesn’t look high-tech, it functions like one. It is regarded as the best performance monitor in the rowing community. It tracks time, strokes per minute, calories burnt, watts, 500m split and more. It has various functions with various benefits: they allow you to instantly start rowing, practice a preset workout, create a personalized workout or learn the proper form with an interactive game.

Wireless Connectivity

The PM5 monitor has ANT+ and Bluetooth technology, using which it can pair with compatible heart rate monitors. Heart rate monitoring is one of the best ways to track and improve your performance. It allows you to become aware of your heart rate zone and train in the right zone. This helps you get more out of each workout.

On top of that, the PM5 monitor connects with various smartphone apps to help you visualize your performance. It is crazy how user-friendly and technologically advanced the PM5 is. You can integrate your performance data with smartphone apps and the website. If you are a beginner, there is a wealth of information you can find on their official website.

USB Connectivity

The rowers can also connect with a USB drive and store months of your progress. You can see “before and after” performance graphs to see how far you have come after a few months of consistent workout.

storage concept2 model e rower

Storage

Both models are long and need an adequate amount of space. However, they can be disassembled for compact storage. You can separate the flywheel from the monorail and have the monorail stand vertically with the flywheel part resting on it. This reduces the size to 25” x 33” x 54”.

Performance

The rowers are built like a tank and will surprise you with their standard of performance. Every rowing stroke is smooth and the seat glides quietly as you row. You can row harder to make it more challenging or tweak the damper settings. Air resistance simulates the experience of rowing on water, giving you a low-impact, full-body workout.

Its performance is remarkable and supported by the fact that Olympic athletes, Army veterans and fitness experts around the world use this rower. The damper settings let you instantly change the intensity of your workout. There are ten resistance levels, so no matter what your fitness level is, you can get an amazing workout that leaves you refreshed.

Comfort

Both models have sufficient padding on the seat and an anti-slip handle. The comfort level of seats is rather subjective.

So there is a good chance that you may need to buy a seat cushion. The Model E, however, is more comfortable for people with back issues or physical disabilities because of its higher seat. If you don’t have these issues, the Model D is equally comfortable.

The Handle

The handle is comfortable and easy to hold for extended periods. However, a few users mentioned how the handle felt a little too firm and their hands started aching after using it for some time. If you do encounter this issue, wearing workout gloves can solve the problem.

Foot Plates

The foot plates are excellent on both rowers. One can easily adjust them according to their shoe size and velcro straps keep feet secured in place. You can row even barefooted on this rower because of the quality foot plates.

Assembly

Both models are easy to set up. You need just eight screws to install the front legs into the unit. All tools for assembly provided in the package.

It is remarkable how such a technologically advanced and sophisticated rower can be assembled and disassembled in a few minutes.

Here is a detailed video showing the assembly of Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine:

Weight Capacity

Both models can support a staggering 500 pounds of weight. The rowers are made like a tank, so there is nothing they can’t tackle.

Warranty on Concept2 Model D vs E

Both models are covered by the same warranty. The company offers a five-year warranty on the frame and a two-year warranty on the parts.

A long-term warranty is a nice-to-have, although Concept2 rowing machines are known to last many years, sometimes even decades.

Apart from the warranty, you also get a 30-day money back guarantee in case the product doesn’t meet your preferences.

You can check the complete warranty information here.

Why Concept2 Rowing Machine?

The short answer is, because of their superior quality. The company built the first rowing machine on the planet, so no wonder they are the best.

Their rowing machines are seen in almost all gyms and fitness clubs around the world. Olympic athletes and army veterans such as Jocko Willink admire this engineering masterpiece.

Why Does the Concept2 Model E Cost More Than the Model E?

Here is why the Model E costs more.

The major difference is the seat height. Its seat is 6 inches higher off the ground.

It has welded steel construction throughout, while the Model D has both steel and aluminum construction.

It has a better finish, which means it is slightly more resistant to scratches and keeps its visual appeal better.

The fact that it has a more rugged construction and a better finish makes it well-suited for commercial settings.

Overall, the difference between the two models isn’t huge.

So if you want the minor upgrades or the more seat height, go for the Model E. Otherwise, Model D is equally efficient.

How to Get Rid of the Noise in Concept2 Model D and E

Neither of the rowers is loud, but sometimes your neighbors on the lower floor will be able to feel a a slight vibrating sensation which isn't really problematic.

However, if you want the rowers to be 'noise free', just follow this simple DIY method:

1. Purchased a 25 X 12 inch piece of extremely dense and solid one inch thick closed cell foam rubber.

2. Put it on the floor underneath the flywheel section.

3. Place a same size piece of heavy duty 3/8 inch thick gym equipment mat to support the weight of the machine.

4. Use the same padding measuring 22 x 11 inches under the rear of the monorail.

This DIY padding system will dampen and isolate any noise coming from the rower.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Concept2 Model D and E?

The core difference is in the seat height of Model E. The seat is 6 inches higher off the ground which helps users with back or joint issues or limited mobility. Apart from seat height, the Model E has a better finish - it has a double powder coat with a glossy finish. The Model E is larger in size and has a fixed monitor arm - two factors that make it harder to store.

Concept2 Model D vs E Noise - Which rower makes more noise?

The noise level on both rowers is comparable. None of them is annoying when it comes to noise. If you want to eliminate the noise, put thick and dense foam rubber under the flywheel and the monorail. Then add a gym mat on top under both areas. This arrangement ensures your neighbors don't hear anything at all while you're rowing.

Concept 2 Model D vs E Maintenance - Which rower is easy to maintain?

The maintenance in both Model D and E is the same. You need to wipe the monorail daily, lubricate the chain after every 50 hours of use and every 250 hours of use, you need to inspect the chain for stiff links, wear and tear and do other maintenance checks.

Concept2 Model D vs E - Verdict

The in-depth comparison shows that both rowers are more similar than different. The Model E has a couple things better than the Model D, but it is also heavy and hard to stow away.

One of the main reasons people buy the Model E is because of its taller seat.

But no matter which one you buy, it is going to last more than a decade. This is what Concept2 rowers are known for.

So now you know what separates the two!

Model D:  

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Model E:

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See also

nordictrack rw900 review
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Nordictrack RW900 has made its mark in the high-end fitness segment.

The company established its reputation in the 70s with a bestselling Ski Machine.

Since then they have been one of the top players in the industry.

The RW900 focuses on being your personal trainer with studio settings and expert-assisted workouts - a feature also seen on Peloton bikes.

This community experience along with personalized training is what makes the RW900 stand out.

Build Quality

The RW900 is built to last. Its construction is solid - a steel frame, commercial grade bearings and an unbeatable nylon strap.

The seat is molded for comfort and the handle is soft-touch.

Although this rowing machine is sturdy and durable, the company focuses on the personal training aspect in its marketing.

The pivoting foot pedals change their angle around the axis to take off the extra pressure off your ankles. The rowing machine is seven feet long, so it is going to need a big amount of space in your home. 

Nordictrack RW900 Rower Review

Resistance

When it comes to resistance, this rowing machine is a beast. It has not one, but two types of resistance - air resistance and magnetic resistance.

This includes 26 levels of magnetic resistance and 10 levels of air resistance. As you can see, the company has pushed the bar by making this one hell of a tough rower. 

Strength of Resistance

Air resistance is variable while magnetic resistance is fixed - this gives the RW900 rower an interesting combination.

Multiple customers reported that they couldn’t feel the resistance on their legs. So even though rowing is a full-body workout, they could only feel the burn on their upper body. 

This is likely a subjective issue as not many users complained about it. Overall reviews indicate the resistance is effective, if not extraordinary.

nordictrack rw900 rower review

Air vs Magnetic Resistance 

In air rowing machines, the flywheel spins and displaces the air in front of it. The faster you row, the faster the flywheel spins pushing more volume of air and hence producing more resistance.

In magnetic rowing machines, the resistance doesn’t depend on how fast or slow the rowing stroke is. Instead, the resistance is fixed and adjustable using a knob.

Magnetic rowers contain a magnet which controls the resistance. When the magnet is farther from the flywheel, the resistance is low. When it moves toward the flywheel, the resistance increases.

Resistance Adjustment

The 26 magnetic resistance levels are digitally controlled. You can adjust them by just touching the 22-inch display.

The 10 air resistance levels are manually controlled using a damper on the flywheel. This is really impressive since it gives you complete control over the intensity of your workouts.

With such a broad range of resistance, you can always get that burn by tweaking the resistance up a notch.nordictrack rw900 rower review

Comfort 

The rowing machine is smooth and the soft-touch handle is comfortable and doesn’t leave your hands sore or cause blisters.

Many users mentioned how the seat has little padding which makes workouts uncomfortable. This can be resolved by adding a seat cushion.

The foot straps are effective and keep your foot secured. So overall, it does well in terms of comfort if you just use a seat pad.

Noise

This rower has both air and magnetic resistance. Air rowers are generally somewhat loud and magnetic rowers are dead quiet.

Fortunately, it is very quiet so you can have a strenuous workout without waking anyone up in the house. This is where it one-ups the Concept2 Rower, one of its biggest competitors.

The Nordictrack RW900 Accommodates Taller People

nordictrack rw900

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The RW900 is longer than most rowers as per its claims of an oversized seat rail. While its actual inseam length isn’t mentioned on the official website, there have been no complaints from taller users about the seat rails being too short for them. 

There is a little hack you can use though.

On the end of the seat rail are two stoppers that prevent the seat from slipping, you could remove these stoppers to gain extra one to two inches on the seat rail. If you decide to use this hack, make sure you don’t glide the seat too far back and fall off.

Performance Monitor

The display monitor is anything but ordinary.

It has a 22-inch HD display that shows the workout metrics crystal clear. The display is not just high-definition, but also touchscreen, which is a step above the PM5 monitor in the global bestseller, Concept2 rowing machines

The display monitor can be rotated 90 degrees if you are practicing a different workout on the side of the rowing machine.

The most remarkable feature is that you don’t have to manually adjust the resistance, it is automatically controlled by expert trainers.

This live control allows you to achieve results faster from the comfort of your home.

This is because you can put your entire focus on your form and strength as opposed to having that nagging impulse of tweaking the resistance every once in a while. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you’re not the one in control. Whenever you need, you can alter the resistance manually to a preferred level.

Upon starting a class, the option on the right side of the display allows you to switch between two modes:

Performance Data

On the top of the console, it shows various fitness data such as average watts, strokes per minute, calories, distance and split time. After you finish your workout, it gives you a performance summary using all the data tracked.

Classes Aren’t Live

Note that the classes aren’t actually live. They are recorded in advance and published on the iFit app.

So it is different from having an interactive experience where you can have a back and forth dialogue with your trainer.

Still, the “live” workouts are high-energy and can get your blood pumping within a few minutes.

The instructors focus on the stroke per minute metric to measure and improve your performance.

The iFit programme contains many pre-recorded classes that give you the opportunity to workout in a high-energy community environment rather than going solo.

Variety of Exercises

You can explore different types of workouts such as crossfit, yoga and kickboxing.

In total, there are over 1600 classes you can explore either in studio or outdoor environments. This means that you will never get bored and always be able to stay fit.

There is also a beginner class series that teaches proper form and how to catch, drive and recover. 

During HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes, you have to alternate between rowing and floor exercises such as squats and planks.

HIIT training is meant to be hard and the instructors do a good job of keeping you engaged so that you don’t focus too much on the painful part of it. nordictrack rw900 rower review

Row Around The World

The company claims that the iFit feature lets you row on various rivers around the world.

On these international workouts, you are accompanied by Olympic trainers who guide you and share interesting things about the location. 

You would expect to be ushered into an exotic location with the sounds of waves and birds.

But in reality, the display shows you random images of the said location fetched from Google street view. This is a bit disappointing.

However, the outdoor rowing experience is still somewhat refreshing.

The iFit programme costs $400 a year, which is a significant investment every year.

So buy it only if you are interested in interactive training sessions, live resistance control from experts and the additional frills that the monitor provides.

The best part about this programme is it makes you feel like you are going to the gym and keeping a regimen without actually going out.

However, many customers reported having problems with setting up the performance console. 

Free Membership for One Year

To access the console, you need to use a promo code that gives you one-year of free access to the company’s iFit membership programme.

However, there is no promo code supplied in the package. Users mentioned how finding this code was quite difficult. You are supposed to call customer support and it doesn’t always work.

There are no instructions on redeeming the free one-year iFit membership.

A couple users even ended up purchasing the subscription before they could even use the rowing machine.

Downsides

The most unsettling thing is the lack of a main power switch. To switch off this machine, you have to unplug the machine from the wall, with the display and everything on. This is a serious design flaw. Also, there is no bluetooth connectivity to pair with wireless headphones.

Quality Control

Apart from the lack of features, the quality control on the RW900 isn’t the best. A couple users had issues with the machine, like scraping noise from the flywheel, and ended up returning it. Some couldn’t return it because they waited for replacement parts and the whole process was delayed. 

A user also mentioned how it freezes occasionally. Fixing it requires taking the main plug out and then putting it back in. The machine also takes some time to load after it is plugged in. One wouldn’t expect a slow CPU from such a high-end rowing machine.

Assembly

Assembling the RW900 isn’t hard. But it is heavy duty, so you may need a hand to set it up. The instructions provided are easy to follow with diagrams and written directions. However, some users reported how the monitor didn’t work for them after assembly. 

For assembly, you can opt for the company’s ‘white glove setup’ to have a professional visit your home and set it up for you. This costs a couple hundred extra but is completely unnecessary in our opinion. 

(COVID-19 Update: The white glove setup option is currently not available).

Storage

The good thing is that the RW900 folds up into a compact size to be stored in a remote corner or even a closet. Folding takes a decent amount of strength because of how heavy the frame is. The rail handles allow you to fold it in half. Lifting the main handle up frees up the seat rail to fold in toward the flywheel.

nordictrack rw900 rower review

The end of the seat rail is secured in the folding clamp. On the front is a pair of sturdy wheels that help you move it easily from one spot to the other. 

Weight Capacity

One disappointing thing is the RW900's weight capacity - it can only support a weight of 250 pounds despite being a high-end rowing machine. It is twice as costly as the Concept2 Model D, so you would expect it to be heavy duty. If you don’t want to spend this high an amount, you can go for the less expensive model: Nordictrack RW500.

Warranty

The RW900 has a reassuring warranty. The company provides a 10-year warranty on the frame, 2-year warranty on parts and a 1-year warranty on labor. In addition, you can opt for extended warranty at an additional cost.

Dimensions

When In-Use: 86.5" L x 22.0" W x 50.4" H

When Folded: 36.20″ L x 22.0″ W x 50.40″ H

Financing the NordicTrack Rw900

Since the rowing machine is quite expensive, the company offers a per-month installment plan of 12 to 39 months that makes it easy on your pocket. Of course, the iFit membership has to be purchased separately - if you choose to buy it, it will set you back about four hundred bucks.

Verdict

The Nordictrack RW900 rower is a solid product. The specialized iFit programme makes things interesting. The studio workout experience makes it different from other rowing machines. However, it has some drawbacks when it comes to design, getting started with the iFit programme and quality control. 

Nordictrack RW900 Rowing Machine

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What’s Good

What’s Bad

Concept2 Model D vs NordicTrack RW900 Rower Comparison

You may have noticed Concept2 being mentioned multiple times in this guide. 

Why do we talk so much about the Concept2?

Is it better than the RW900?

Well, here is the answer. 

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is the most reliable rowing machine on the planet. It operates on air resistance with 10 resistance levels.  It gives a smooth and challenging workout. 

It has a solid reputation too - it is recommended by Olympic athletes around the world. Its PM5 monitor is quite advanced when it comes to performance tracking, although it doesn’t have the frills that come in the RW900’s performance console. 

In short, if you don’t want the experience of studio workouts or rowing on remote rivers around the world along with the personal training component, the Concept2 will be your best bet. It has no quality control issues like the RW900 and it lasts more than a decade since it is built like a tank. 

Pricing

The RW900 is twice as expensive as the global bestseller, Concept2 Model D. Still, the good part is that it comes with a one-year free iFit membership. You also have to pay a significant additional sum per year for the family plan or less for the individual plan. 

But it is still in demand because of its unique user experience. It offers high-energy studio workouts and the opportunity to row enjoying scenic views of canals and rivers around the world - all while guided by Olympic trainers. One thing is clear - despite its flaws, customers love it.

NordicTrack RW900 Alternatives

If the RW900 is too expensive for you, you can also consider the RW500 and the RW200. If you can do without the large 22-inch monitor, the RW500 would be equally as effective. It comes at almost half the price of the RW900.

If you want to save another couple hundred bucks, the RW200 is a good option. It has a smaller display that shows watts, speed and time. To do the workouts from the iFit programme, you can connect a smartphone or a tablet and have everything as good as original on your screen.

FAQ - NordicTrack RW900 Rower Review

1. Are NodicTrack rowers good?

Yes! NordicTrack rowers have solid build quality. The company provides a unique user experience where you get to workout in a studio or outdoors setting which is not possible with other rowers. The Nordictrack RW900 is one of their best. However, they lack on quality control.

2. Is Peloton coming out with a rower?

Although there is no official announcement, a Bloomberg news story mentioned that the Peloton is working on a new treadmill as well as a rowing machine for release in 2020. Jessica Kleiman, the spokeswoman for Peloton didn’t comment on the matter and said, “Our R&D team is always working on ideas”.

3. Does iFit have rowing classes?

The iFit is a highly interactive workout programme. It consists of studio workouts led by expert coaches that keep your enthusiasm levels high and guide you with every step.  You can compete with other members in real time or even encourage fellow rowers. There are dozens of workout types you can choose from: crossfit, yoga, kickboxing and more. It also allows you to virtually row on exotic rivers around the world while guided and entertained by olympic-grade trainers.

Final Thoughts

The NordicTrack RW900 rower is one of a kind.

It has solid build quality and smooth performance that is usually seen in high-end rowing machines.

But where it excels is creating a shared workout experience where one feels a sense of community and camaraderie. 

On top of that, it feels like having a personal trainer who is motivating you and pushing you to get more out of each workout.

It certainly has some flaws. But it is one of the most compelling rowers in the market.

Looking for the best water rowing machine? Our top pick is the Merax water rower since it can support 330 lbs, accommodate tall rowers and has impressive resistance.

How do you pick the best water rower?

Everything you need to know before buying a water rower is in this guide. 

If you are in a hurry, just buy the #1 water rower on this list. You won't regret it.

1. Merax Water Rowing Machine

Merax Water Rowing Machine - Best water rowers
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Build Quality

It has a solid build quality because of which it can support 330 lbs. of weight. It is made with solid steel, including the frame and the seat rail, which makes it sturdy and durable. This rower can last many years.

The unique thing about it is its inclined water tank design. This is a remarkable hint of innovation and provides stronger resistance than other water rowers. It does not just feel great, it looks great too. With the inclined water tank colored in blue and the solid black frame, it looks sleek and modern.

Strong Resistance

The Merax has six levels of water resistance. By levels, it refers to the six marks on the water tank you can fill the water up to. Of course, as it is with all water rowers, the faster you row, the more resistance there is. As the users have reported, the resistance is impressive on this rower. Even at the 1, 2 and 3 levels, the resistance is quite noticeable. Many users mentioned how they could get a strenuous 30-minute workout even at levels 3 and 4. 

Sound

Each rowing stroke is smooth with the pleasant sound of paddles moving through water. The  rower is quiet, but not dead quiet like other water rowers. However, you can workout at odd hours without waking your family. Non-slip PVC footpads keep it stable during workouts and also secure your floor.

Assembly

Assembling the Merax Water Rower is easy. The instructions are easy to follow and assembly takes a maximum thirty minutes. There are just four steps to assembly, so it is quite straight-forward.

Seat

A common complaint people have with rowers is uncomfortable seats. Fortunately, Merax has paid attention and built a contoured and comfortable seat. It is amazing how comfortable the seat is. The seat glides smoothly on the rail without making any noise. The seat is 12.2 inches x 10 inches in size. 

Display Monitor

The LCD display is basic and feels rather cheap. But it is efficient at tracking performance via different metrics and has many cool features. It shows duration (time), strokes, calories, distance and heart rate. There are quick start and stop buttons to help you get started immediately. 

Users have reported that the display isn’t very intuitive which makes it hard to read. There is no backlit either. On the positive side, it shows accurate workout data, which is crucial for measuring performance and achieving fitness goals.

The console has two modes: manual and race. In the manual mode, you can either just start rowing and let the display track your data, or you can set targets in terms of time, distance, stroke count etc. and it will start a countdown. The race mode allows you to race against the computer itself. 

Good for Tall People

People 6 feet and over often struggle to find a rower that can accommodate them easily. The Merax water rower has a 43.3 inch slide rail. This means even if you are 6’5” or above, you can fully extend your legs and enjoy a full range of motion.

Storage and Moving

The Merax water rower has a small footprint compared to similar rowers. It is 79” x 21” x 22.8” in size. The rower is easy to store as it can stand vertically, taking little space. It has built-in wheels that help you move it from one spot to the other.

Foot Plates

The foot plates are 12-inch long and have velcro straps to secure your feet in place. However, a couple users reported that the straps aren’t efficient at keeping feet secured. If you have a small shoe size, then it will be even harder to keep your feet in place. An easy way is to buy new velcro straps that can do the job.

Verdict

If you want something that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, look no further and go for the Merax Water Rower. It is an all-rounder with solid build quality and amazing performance.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

2. MaxKare Water Rowing Machine

MaxKare Water Rowing Machine - best water rowers

 

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Resistance

The resistance on the MaxKare water rower is smooth and pleasant. Since it has water resistance, the harder you row, the more resistance there is. The water tank indicates water levels with numbers, so the more water you put in, the more resistance there is. 

The highest level is number 6 and most users found that this level offers enough resistance. However, if you are stronger than most people or an athlete, this resistance may not be enough for you. 

Build and Design

The MaxKare is nothing like your average rower. It looks stylish, with black frame and a transparent water tank. Steel construction makes it strong and durable. It is strong enough to support 265 lbs of weight. 

The inseam length is more than most rowers in this segment. So while this is good news for taller rowers, it also makes the machine larger and less compact. The padded handle makes workouts comfortable and the mesh strap is strong enough to last for many years.

Seat

The seat has contouring to promote ergonomics and most users found the seat comfortable. It is quiet and glides smoothly along the rail. 

Storage and Moving

It cannot be folded or separated into parts for storage. However, it can stand vertically for compact storage. When standing, it takes just 76.2 cm x 44 cm on the floor. The rower comes with built-in transport wheels so that you can easily move it from one spot to the other. 

Display Monitor

It comes with an easy adjust display. The monitor lets you track crucial fitness data including time, strokes per minute, distance, strokes and calories burned. It also has a man-machine competition mode that lets you compete with a virtual rower.

Foot Pedals

The foot pedals on this are uniquely designed in a way that makes them adjustable in length. There are five pairs of holes that let you adjust the length of the foot pedals. Moreover, they don’t have a pivoting motion while rowing, which may or may not be good depending on your personal preference.

The velcro straps do a good job of securing your feet in place. Heel guards protect feet and make the rowing motion more stable.

Good for Taller People

One noteworthy feature of the MaxKare rower is that it suits taller people because of its long inseam. The 43.3” inseam is quite long and will be enough for most of the taller people. A user who is 6’5” mentioned that he had no problems using the rower.

Verdict

MaxKare water rowing machine is a compelling rower with a lot to offer. It has a long inseam, is smooth and quiet and even accommodates taller people. It comes with no frills, yet it is quite efficient and functional.

What's Good

What's bad

3. Waterrower Rowing Machine Ash (Natural)

Waterrower Rowing Machine Ash (Natural) - best water rowers
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Build and Design

Waterrower is unique because they don’t use steel construction in their rowers. Instead, they go for solid wood, that feels aesthetic and give you that serene feeling of rowing on water. 

Waterrower Ash is handcrafted from solid ash wood and stained with honey oak to give it a unique texture. The Waterrower Ash is a robust rower that will keep running efficiently for decades, not just years. 

The water tank isn’t made of any ordinary plastic. It is made from the toughest plastic there is - polycarbonate.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on its maintenance. All it takes is tightening of the bolts and putting a water purification tablet every six months. You can keep it in your living room and it will look like an art piece. 

The solid build quality is also reflected by the fact that this rower can support a staggering 1000 lbs. of weight.

Resistance

One reason why this is among the best water rowers is how natural the rowing stroke feels on it. The rowing motion is quiet and pleasant with the splashing sounds of water. You can watch your favorite TV shows or listen to music. 

Since it uses water resistance, the harder you row, the more resistance you will fight against. Each rowing stroke is smooth - you will be pleased how efficiently the machine is designed. 

The most powerful thing about Waterrower rowing machines is the serenity they create. You can have a strenuous workout and enjoy a pleasant vibe even then.

best water rowers: Waterrower Natural

S4 Performance Monitor

The S4 performance monitor can help you achieve your fitness goals with precision. It tracks many fitness metrics including time, distance, intensity in terms of calories burnt per hour, strokes per minute and heart rate monitor. 

The S4 monitor presents a range of data and is one of the top-notch monitors out there. The only monitor that does it better is the Concept2’s PM5 monitor which is more accurate.

If you want to learn more about the PM5 monitor, check out the Concept 2 Model D

Storage and Moving

The Waterrower Natural (Ash) isn’t compact. It needs space. But it isn’t hard to store. Provided that your ceiling is high enough, it can stand vertically to save space in your room. Although the rower is big, it isn’t difficult to make it stand, most of you can do it with one hand. 

On top of that, it comes with built in caster wheels for easy transportation from one spot to the other.

Seat

The seat is smooth and comfortable. The most common complaint with rowing machines is how hard the seats are, but not this one. It glides along the rail without making any noise. After all, the best thing about this rower is the instant zen it provides.

Foot Board

The foot board is fixed in place and the foot plates are a bit too close to each other. The foot straps also need improvement since they tend to get loose after a few minutes of workout. Some users also mentioned that the rower needs a wider and larger footboard. The foot plates are not cushioned around heels, so you cannot row barefoot. The foot plates can be adjusted to your foot size, but adjusting them is a bit hard, as some users reported.

Height

The Waterrower ash has a low seat height. So people with back or knee issues may find it hard to get off or on the rower. A make-shift solution for this issue is to keep a chair or stool beside the rower for support.

Verdict

The Waterrower Natural Ash is a solid rower with a gigantic weight capacity and offers a tranquil rowing experience. However, it needs space and could use better foot plates. If you want a peaceful rowing experience like no other, this rower is for you.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Cheaper Alternative: Waterrower A1

The Waterrower Natural is impressive, but also expensive. If you want a cheaper option, check out the Waterrower A1. It costs a couple hundred bucks less and gives you the same brand reliability. 

Check Waterrower A1 Price

4. Waterrower Club with S4 Monitor

Waterrower Club Rowing Machine - Best Water Rowers

The Waterrower Club is a premium offering from the renowned brand, Waterrower. It offers the same tranquil rowing experience Waterrower is known for. But it is slightly different in terms of design. The rails are black instead of brown. They give it a sporty look and make it aesthetically suitable for keeping it in a club or gym. The dual black rails also prevent scuffing and keep the rails visually appealing.

Resistance

The club rower has a WaterFlyWheel, a flywheel in all Waterrower rowers, that simulates the experience of rowing on a river. As the paddles move through water, you hear the swooshing sound of water splashing, which is soothing and gives a meditative feeling to your workouts.

The resistance increases in direct proportion to your rowing speed, as it is with all water rowers. 

S4 Fitness Monitor

The S4 fitness monitor shows a range of workout metrics including stroke rate, distance, duration and heart rate. These metrics help you tweak your intensity and set precise fitness goals. However, if precise performance tracking is a top priority, the S4 fitness monitor isn’t the one to go for. The best fitness monitor in any rower is the PM5 monitor used in Concept2 air rowers. 

You can also set targets for distance and time and set up a countdown. It is useful when you want to challenge yourself with a certain goal in mind. The AutoStore and AutoPreview options can record the last nine workout settings, which you can access by scrolling down on the display. 

Zone and ZoneBar functions help you row in a set intensity, stroke rate or heart rate zone that is the best match for your stamina and physical capability. The monitor alerts you when you are getting out of your zone.

There is an interval function that lets you set nine sets of rowing with intervals in between. The monitor buzzes an alarm after you finish each set. You can also store additional nine workouts with advanced settings.

Projected settings let you see the estimated duration/distance as you row. With advanced heart rate monitoring, you can check maximum heart rates and the time spent in and out of your zones.

As you can see, the S4 monitor is highly programmable and allows you to customize your workouts and make them interesting.

Seat

The seat is comfortable and glides smoothly over the rails without making any noise. The rowing motion is incredibly smooth and relaxing. There is a world of difference from the metallic noise of most rowers. 

Foot Plates

Some users complain that there is no gap between feet on this rower. Also, it is hard to row without shoes on the Club Rower. The straps aren’t good at keeping your feet secured. 

Storage

This is by no means a compact rower. It is long and needs a big space when in use. It cannot be folded, nor can it be taken apart into two pieces like the Concept2 rowers. However, it can stand vertically for easy and compact storage. The built-in wheels make it easy to move. It is aesthetically appealing and adds to the decor of a house or gym. It is good for beginners and fitness experts alike.

Verdict

If you want something that is heavy-duty, provides a tranquil rowing experience and can last for years, consider the Waterrower Club rower. It is smooth, powerful, smart and unique in terms of design. It will take some real estate in your home/gym, but it will be worth it.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

Check Waterrower A1 Price

5. Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Obsidian SF-RW5713

Best Water Rowing Machine Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713
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Resistance

Resistance is butter smooth on this one. The harder you row, the more resistance there is. Another way to increase resistance is to add more water to the tank. But adding more water in the middle of the workout isn’t practical, so it is better to add it in the beginning.

The resistance is good for up to intermediate level rowers. If you are an expert rower, have a strong build or are an athlete, the resistance will not be strong enough for you. 

Build and Design

The RW5713 has a sleek design with smooth black color all over. Inside the water tank are 16 hydro blades that do a good job of creating resistance in proportion to your speed of rowing. It has a solid build quality, much better than you’d expect on this budget. Its build quality is also reflected in the fact that it can support 300 pounds of weight.

The rowing motion is smooth without any noises. With each stroke, you hear the pleasing sound of water moving through the water tank. The RW5713 has a 38 inch inseam which will be long enough for people around 6’2” tall. If you are much taller, it’s better to go for the MaxKare water rower which has a 43.3” inseam.

Best water rowers: SF-RW5713 Obsidian

Foot Pedals

The foot plates are sturdy too, but the velcro straps can’t secure feet in place. This machine has pivoting foot plates which means they change angle as you row to provide support to your ankles.

High Seating

The seat is positioned higher than normal on this rower. This makes it convenient for people with back or knee problems to get off or on the rower. 

Display Monitor

The rower doesn’t just show a lot of data, it also makes workouts fun. 

There is a race option with which you can row against a digital boat. 

Storage and Moving

For compact storage, the rower can stand vertically taking minimal space. It also comes with built-in transportation wheels for changing its location within your home or transporting it to another place.

Verdict: If you want a solid rower at an affordable price that has a non-basic fitness monitor too, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5713 is an impressive option. Its resistance is not for athletes, but it is smooth and even measures your heart rate.

What's Good

What's bad

Best Water Rowing Machines: What to Look For

1. Resistance

Best Type of Resistance

The first and foremost thing to check in a water rower is whether it has a strong resistance. A rower can have all the bells and whistles but without strong enough resistance, they will all go to waste. 

If you want the strongest resistance on a budget, go for the Merax Water Rower. If you want a higher-end model, go for any of the Waterrower models.

2. Size and Capacity

Check Inseam

You need to pick a rower that has long enough inseam or seat rail for your height. Not all rowers are suited for people over 6 feet tall. 

Check Capacity

Similarly, check for its weight capacity. Rowers can support anywhere between 250 to 1000 pounds of weight.

Check Dimensions for Storage

Check the L x B x H dimensions of the rower. See if it can fit in your home. Don’t forget to consider the height because most rowers stand vertically for storage. Storing them vertically is the best way to save space in your home or a gym.

Most rowers are about 8 feet tall when standing up. Also, check if the machine can be folded or disassembled into parts for storage. See if it has built-in wheels for moving from one spot to the other.

3. Comfort

Once you know that the machine has enough resistance, check if it's comfortable. Check what customers say about its seat, footrests, noise levels and smoothness of motion while rowing. A hard seat is a common problem with many rowers. 

Moreover, footrests need to be comfortable and the velcro straps attached to them need to prevent your feet from slipping. Not all rowers do this efficiently. Also, if the seat position is too low, people with back or knee problems may find it difficult to get off and on the rower.

4. Display/Performance Monitor

best water rowers: fitness monitor

Performance tracking is an important part of the rowing experience.

High-end options like the Waterrower have high-tech performance monitors that not only track workout metrics but also let you program the console for customized workouts, select a heart rate zone best suited for you, set countdown timers and much more. 

Mid-range or budget options tend to have basic monitors. They can calculate metrics such as time, strokes, calories and distance. Some even let you compete with the computer. But you can’t program them beyond that.  However, even this level of performance tracking is enough for serious rowing.

Apart from these three parameters, check the build quality, warranty and availability of upgrades to find the best water rowers.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you want to know more about the best water rowers, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions:

Q.1 What is the best type of rowing machine to buy?

There are four rowing resistance types:

If you want the cheapest rower, buy a hydraulic. If you want the natural feeling of rowing on a river along with variable resistance, buy a water rowing machine. If you want fixed resistance that doesn’t vary as you row harder, buy magnetic rowers - magnetic rowers are also dead quiet. 

Air rowers have variable resistance but aren’t as quiet as magnetic rowers. Air rowers can record performance data more accurately than any other type of rowers. However, Concept2 air rowers are considered the most superior rowers in the world because of their performance as well as durability and used by Olympic athletes as well.

Q.2 Are water rowing machines the best?

They are the best for people who want the natural feeling of rowing on water. They also have a variable resistance which increases as you row harder and decreases as you row slower. Water rowers provide a tranquil rowing experience with the pleasant sound of flywheel paddles moving through water.

Q.3 Which is better - air or water rower?

Air and water rowers both have variable resistance. But water rowers are dead quiet and provide the natural feeling of rowing on a river. Air rowers often come with a damper setting which lets you control the amount of air the flywheel has to push through. The more air it allows, the more resistance there is. Air rowers are best at accurately measuring performance data.

Q.4 Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

Rowing gives you a full-body workout, working 86 percent muscles of your body. Abs are an integral part of the rowing workout, so yes rowing can help you lose fat. However, rowing should be used as one component of your belly-reducing program, rather than the only component.

Q.5 Can you get in shape by just rowing?

Rowing works on 86 percent of the muscles in your body. So yes you can get in shape by just rowing over a long period of time. The best part of rowing is its simplicity - you don’t have to learn a dozen techniques and different forms. It shows that less is more. As Dr. Timothy Hosea of the American College of Sports Medicine says, “it’s probably the best piece of workout equipment in the gym.”

Q.6 Is rowing better than running?

Running is a high-impact exercise - it is hard on your joints. Marathon runners often suffer from knee, back, foot or other types of pain. On the other hand, rowing is a low-impact workout. Rowing is done while being seated, so there isn’t high pressure on your legs like it is in running.

Running burns more calories than rowing, but the difference isn’t huge. For a person weighing 150 lbs, 30-minutes of rowing at a moderate speed burns 158 calories while running at 5 mph burns 181 calories in the same amount of time.

Final Word

Our top pick for the best water rowing machine is the Merax Water Rower.

Here is why

If you want a high-end water rower, go for any of the Waterrower models.

If you are interested in other types of resistance, check our list of best rowing machines under $500.

This guide covers Waterrower reviews in-depth.

And if you were looking for a Waterrower vs Concept2 comparison, it has got that covered too.

So what makes Waterrowers unique?

In an industry swamped with metallic rowers, Waterrower rowers are like a breath of fresh air with their handmade wooden construction.

Here is what you need to know about Waterrowers:

Waterrower vs Concept2 - What Makes Waterrower Different?

Zen


What makes Waterrower rowers stand out is the natural feeling of rowing they provide. The sweet sound of paddles moving through water takes away your stress. They are quieter than even the Concept 2 rower - the number one bestselling rowing machine on the planet. Their smoothness is unparalleled. 

Resistance

Waterrower rowers use water resistance to create tension unlike the air resistance in Concept2 rowers. Flywheel paddles run through water as you row. The harder you row, the more volume of water the paddles push and the more resistance there is. On the other hand, air rowers aren’t as quiet. Nor do they give the natural feeling of rowing on water.

Water is 784 times more dense than air. So a Waterrower will be better if you want to challenge yourself.

Easy Pull

The waterrower rowing machines are also more forgiving. They aren’t as hard on your back as Concept 2 or other comparable rowers. This is because when you row hard, the fan ‘slips’ through the water, creating a load of white water, helping you ease into the powerful motion.

Demanding Release

However, there is a tradeoff. Even though the pull is easier on waterrowers, the ‘release’ stroke demands more engagement than rowers like Concept 2. 

Unique Design

The waterrower looks different and stands out from all rowing machines. It compliments your room furniture and enhances your interior decor. It is made of solid wood as opposed to the steel frame you see on most rowers.

Comfort

The seat on the Waterrower is more comfortable than its counterpart, the Concept 2. It is wide and has indentations to make you feel more comfortable, even during those long rowing sessions.

Storage

All Waterrower rowing machines can stand vertically and the water tank stabilizes it while standing.

What are the Drawbacks of a Waterrower Rowing Machine?

Technology

Although Waterrower is aesthetic, it can’t compete with the Concept 2 Rowers in terms of performance and features. For example, the PM5 monitor in Concept 2 is sophisticated, accurate and interactive unlike that in the Waterrower. Concept2 also has a damper to control the airflow in the cage.

Although the Waterrower lacks technology, it is also its strength. The Waterrrower is meant to be tranquil - technology messes that up.

Durability

Waterrower rowing machines aren’t as durable as Concept2 rowers. You can buy a Concept 2 rower, leave it unused for a year and it will still run like a breeze. With Waterrower rowers, this doesn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong. Waterrower rowing machines still last many years. But the Concept2 rowers are just a step ahead of them.

Footrests

The footrests on the Waterrower aren’t user friendly. They have sharp edges at the bottom. So you cannot row barefooted, which some rowers like to do. Another drawback is the foot pedal placement. Both foot plates are placed close to each other and can’t be adjusted. This may cause discomfort to some people.

Small Display Monitor

The display monitor on Waterrower rowers is rather small. Hence the metrics can be hard to read for some people.

Leakage

Although this isn’t a problem in the short-term, if you use the machine regularly for years, there may be some leakage from the water tank. 

Top Waterrower Rowing Machines - Waterrower Reviews

1. Waterrower A1 Home Rowing Machine

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Waterrower rowing machines are expensive. The Waterrower A1 is the most affordable you can buy. This waterrower comes with a single rail to drive the seat back and forth, which cuts costs but also reduces its weight capacity to 275 lbs. Other than that, you get the same tranquil experience as on other Waterrower rowing machines.Check Price

Build Quality

The build quality of the Waterrower A1 is impeccable. It is made of solid ash wood, which is naturally resistant to cuts and abrasions. It uses Danish oil finishing to bring the glow and warmth in the wood. The quality is top-notch, enough to last many years. Its wooden construction and smooth finish also add aesthetic appeal to your house decor.

The water tank is made out of plastic.

But don’t judge it yet!

It is made of polycarbonate, which is an impact-resistant, shatterproof, and almost indestructible plastic. Because of its different design, it can support 275 pounds of weight. 

This is a huge step down from the other Waterrowers that can support a staggering 1000 lbs. of weight. However, if you keep the weight under the designated limit, this Waterrower can hold value for many years to come.

Resistance

People love Waterrowers for their smooth and tranquil rowing experience. The water flywheel moves its paddles through the tank making a pleasant swishing sound. In water rowers like the A1, the resistance can be increased in two ways. 

You can either row harder so that the paddles push a greater volume of water, increasing the resistance. Or you can add more water to the water tank. Adding more water, however, isn’t a handy way when you’re in the middle of a workout. 

The Waterrower A1 is quiet and tranquil. The pleasant sound of water splashing through the tanks makes workouts a meditative experience.

A1 Monitor

Another big difference is the performance monitor used on the rower. It has less number of buttons and features as compared to the more advanced S4 fitness monitor seen on other Waterrower machines. 

It can still track time, time for 500m split, strokes per minute, intensity (in watts) and distance. All metrics are visible, large and clear on the display. It is easy to read but there is no backlight, so you will need external light to be able to see it. The A1 monitor is enough for tracking performance, although it doesn’t have some features of the S4 monitor, such as manual program storage, heart rate features, etc. The complete comparison list is available on Waterrower’s website.

Comfort

The seat on the Waterrower A1 is comfortable with sufficient padding. Fortunately, there is no cost-cutting here - it is the same seat as that on Waterrower Natural or Club rowers. The handle doesn’t feel hard either. For beginners though, it may take time getting used to.

One area where the Waterrower A1 trumps the other models is foot pedals. Its foot pedals are placed with a larger distance between them (8 inches) than that (5.5 inches) on other Waterrower models. 

Overall, the A1 provides optimal comfort so you can get those long workout sessions without getting sore anywhere in the body.

Storage

The Waterrower A1 has a large footprint. But it can stand vertically to save space. It has a small footprint when standing, equivalent to that of a regular chair. It comes with built-in caster wheels that make it easy to move.

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2. Waterrower Natural Rowing Machine Ash

You cannot go wrong with this handcrafted rower, made from solid ash wood. Honey oak stain and danish oil finish enhance your room decor. The sweet sound of paddles moving through water combined with smooth rowing strokes make workouts fluid and pleasant.

Waterrower Natural Rowing Machine is the most selling Waterrower. This is for many reasons. Of course, the number one reason is that it is a unique rowing machine, which is typical of the Waterrower brand.

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Build Quality

It is made of solid ash wood, just like the Waterrower A1, but it is stained with honey oak to give a consistency of color. The finishing is done with danish oil to give it a deep luster. When you buy a Waterrower, you don’t have to worry about the build quality. 

Waterrowers are durable and can last more than a decade. The Waterrower Natural can support up to 1000 lbs. of weight - another marker of its build quality. The wood absorbs not only the sound but also the vibration, making workouts a tranquil experience.

Smooth and Pleasant

The Waterrower Natural is a refined piece of engineering. The pleasant sound of water splashing and smooth rowing motion, this rowing machine has everything you need.

The rowing experience is smooth, one of the best you can have on any rower. The gliding of the seat is smooth, thanks to eight seat roller wheels. The seat doesn't make any creaking noise during the rowing motion either.

Like any other Waterrower, it is aesthetic and improves your room decor. It has a dual rail glide system as opposed to the single rail in the Waterrower A1.

The handle is made of aluminum and super comfortable. Even the Concept2 handle is reported as hard by some people, but not this one.

S4 Fitness Monitor

Apart from the dual seat rail, the Waterrower stands out because of its S4 fitness monitor, which is programmable and more efficient than the fitness monitors seen in most rowing machines. 

This Waterrower rowing machine shows the following metrics/functions:

The display isn’t basic in any sense. Each metric is shown with multiple tangible parameters. For example, the intensity is shown in terms of rowing speed and calories burnt per hour. The rowing speed is shown in meters per second, miles per hour, minutes per 500 meters and minutes per 2 kilometers.

Programmable Functions

The workout programs (counter) can be set in terms of time, distance and distance intervals. So when you have a target in mind, you can start the countdown.

You can use a heart rate monitor with the Waterrower Natural to take performance tracking to the next level. Working in your optimal heart rate zone can give you better results.

The S4 monitor can connect with your computer to sync with performance monitoring software such as We-Row, NetAthlon, UltraCoach and Rowyo. The monitor has nine buttons in total, six shortcut buttons and three navigational.

Note that although the S4 monitor is quite advanced, the Concept2’s PM5 monitor is superior in terms of accuracy and overall utility. Still, it is more advanced than most monitors.

Comfort

The handle isn’t round in shape, it has flatter surfaces which gives a better grip and eliminates excess pressure from your wrist.

The footpad has no cushion around the heel, so you cannot row barefooted. Both footplates are positioned too close to each other, which may not suit some people. On top of that, some users also seem to have problems with the foot straps, as they don’t hold the feet in place in some cases.

Seat

The seat height is a bit low on the Waterrower Natural rowing machine. So people with back or knee issues may find it hard to get on and off the rower. If you face this problem, you can place a chair beside the rower to make it easy.

Storage

The Waterrower Natural rowing machine has a large footprint. But it can stand vertically to save space. It comes with built-in transportation wheels too, so you can move it from one spot to the other without needing a hand.

Overall

Overall, the Waterrower Natural Rowing Machine is a great option if you want the unique and tranquil rowing experience along with an efficient performance tracking monitor.

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3. Waterrower Club Rowing Machine

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This rower suits both a home gym and a fitness club. The dual black rails give it a sporty look while the ash, a top-notch hardwood, absorbs sound and vibration. The machine is pretty long and won’t fit small spaces. However, it stands vertically and can be kept in an unused corner of your home.

Design

The Waterrower Club Rowing Machine is similar to the Waterrower Natural, but it comes with a slightly different design. It has dual black rails, better suited for clubs and gyms. This change in design makes it look like “the sports car” of water rowers. The black rails are resistant to scuffs and preserve the fresh look of the rower.

Build Quality

The Waterrower Club is made with solid ash wood, like other Waterrower machines. It has black and rose stains that give it color consistency. The danish oil and urethane finish gives it that smooth and sleek look. All other parts, such as the water tank, are built with the same materials as used in Waterrower Natural.

Resistance

The resistance also works the same. The water resistance increases as you row harder and makes that pleasant swishing sound when flywheel paddles move through the water.

Display

The performance monitor used on the Waterrower Club Rowing Machine is the same S4 fitness monitor as that in the Waterrower Natural.

Comfort

The Waterrower Club Rower is comfortable in all aspects. Its seat is comfortable to sit on and glides smoothly over the seat rails. The handle is also the same as that on the Waterrower Natural. However, the footpad issues are also there on the more expensive Waterrower. 

The footplates are too close to each other and you can’t row barefooted because there are no heel guards. The velcro straps also aren’t that effective. 

Storage

For storage, the Waterrower Club can stand vertically, saving lots of space. It is by no means a compact rower, it has a large footprint (82.25” L x 22.25” W x 20” H) when in use. When stored, its size reduces remarkably to 20” L x 22.25” W x 82.25” H. 

Overall, the Waterrower Club is for those who want a sporty version of the Waterrower Natural. It provides the same tranquil rowing experience but has a slightly different design.

What’s Good

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4. Waterrower Classic Rowing Machine

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Build Quality

Waterrower Classic is made of solid black walnut wood, which gives it a darker complexion than other Waterrower machines. It supports up to 1000 lbs. of weight and can take any amount of abuse you throw at it.

The good thing about Waterrowers is that they are handmade, hence the attention to detail that goes into crafting them is extraordinary.

The Waterrower Classic Rowing Machine is as durable and smooth as the other waterrower machines. It is more expensive than the other Waterrower machines on this list.

Comfort and Performance

It has the same S4 fitness monitor used on Waterrower natural and Waterrower club rowing machines. The comfort features are all the same. The seat, the handle and the foot pedals are the same as in the Waterrower Club or Natural. With a low center of gravity, the rower stays stable when you row with full force. 

The Waterrower Classic is smooth and tough. Whether you are new to rowing or a seasoned rower, the Waterrower can provide a rigorous and challenging workout to move you closer toward your fitness goals.

Tranquil Rowing Experience

Waterrower’s rowing machines make rowing such a pleasant experience that you stop procrastinating on your new year’s resolutions and fitness goals. You no longer procrastinate because the process is simple and tranquil, you instead look forward to it.

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Which Waterrower to Buy?

Not all Waterrower reviews on the web are accurate. Here is our advice: if you don’t want to pay much but still want a Waterrower, go for the Waterrower A1 home.

If you want an upgraded monitor and higher weight capacity on the rower, go for Ash, Club or Classic rowers, shortlisting one based on design and looks.

For side by side comparison of two Waterrower machines, check the official Waterrower website.

Final Word

Waterrower rowing machines don't just sell because of their unique design, they create a whole new user experience.

A Waterrower makes rowing a pleasant experience instead of a way to "discipline yourself" with exercise. They preserve the natural feeling of rowing on water.

On the other hand, rowers like Concept2 rowing machines are meant for top-notch performance tracking.

Concept2 Model D Rower
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Build Quality 

The rower comes in two variants - matte or black finish. The long warranty that Concept2 provides also reflects its build quality. It comes with a five-year warranty on frame and a two-year warranty on parts.

Another thing that shows its build quality is the fact that Concept2 rowers have a high resale value.

Comfort

Concept2 Model D

The anti-slip handle grips to ensure the grip doesn’t break due to sweat. For some people, it may take some time getting used to the handle as it might be uncomfortable. In that case, it is better to wear gloves if you feel the grip is a bit rough for you. However, most users found the handle comfortable enough.

Foot Pedals

The foot pedals are made with care and come with heel rests to enhance comfort levels. Unlike most rowers, this rower allows you to row barefooted too. The foot pedals are comfortable and can be adjusted with the straps to accommodate different foot sizes.

Concept2 also has great customer service. So even though its build quality is impeccable, you don’t have to worry about quality control or technical problems when you buy this beast.

Resistance

Resistance Concept2 Rower

The Concept2 rower operates on air resistance, which means as you pull the handle, a fan flywheel rotates spins and pushes through the air around it. The harder you row, the more air it has to displace and hence, the more resistance it creates.

Even though the Concept2 rower operates on variable resistance, it has a damper that lets you adjust the ‘feel’ of the stroke. Damper levels 1 through 10 let you control the air flow. The higher the damper setting, the more intense your workout becomes.

With such a range of resistance, the Concept2 rower is suited for both beginners as well as seasoned rowers and professional athletes. This is one of the biggest advantages of getting the Concept2 since most rowers aren’t suited for athletes or stronger rowers.

Since it runs on air resistance, the Concept2 rower is more noisy than magnetic or water rowers. However, there are no annoying squeaking noises. The noise is like the noise of a fan. It won’t annoy any people around you, but it isn’t like the dead silent magnetic rowers either. 

The Concept2 PM5 Monitor

The PM5 is a high-tech display monitor that tracks all the workout data you will need. It tells you distance, strokes per minute, calories burnt, watts, 500m split and a lot more.

The monitor also lets you customize each workout in the following ways:

Connects to Heart Rate Monitors

The bottom section allows you to have different options for the display. You can choose from all data data, force curve, paceboat, bar chart and large print. Check the full details on official Concept2 website

What we really like is that the Concept2 Model D Rower can help you track your performance over a period of months. You can store your workout data on a USB drive which can be plugged into the Concept2. You can also maintain your data in the Concept2’s online logbook known as Concept2 Utility.

The icing on the cake is the third-party applications you can download for the PM5 monitor. They can help you visualize your data, create personalized workout programs, build structure and find motivation and just make things more interesting. Check the complete list of the third-party apps on Concept2’s official website.

The nickel-plated steel chain is different from generic chains in that they don’t need regular maintenance. They are smooth, sturdy, don’t make any noise and don’t freeze. The nickel-plated is also what they offer on the more expensive Concept2 Model E. 

Assembling the Concept2 Model D

Although the Concept2 Model D rower is anything but light, assembling it is quite easy and should not take more than twenty minutes. In fact, if you are experienced, you can put it together in as little as 5-10 minutes. 

All tools for assembly come with the package. To assemble the rower, one just needs to tighten the eight screws to install the front legs. Once done, the machine is ready to go. If you are a first time rower though, you must learn proper rowing technique using online videos.

Concept2 Model D assembly

Storage

Concept2 Model D

Once separated into two parts, the rower reduces to 25” x 33” x 54” (63.5 cm x 83.8 cm x 137.2 cm) for storage.

However, there is another way to store the Concept2 rower. You can make it stand vertically with the flywheel below and the end of the monorail on top. This is a faster way to store it and takes even less space but requires a higher ceiling. 

Good for Taller People

The standard Concept2 Model D rower has a 38” inseam which is good enough for most people. However, if you are extra tall, you can buy the extended rail from Concept2. 

What's Good

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Verdict: How Good Is Concept2 Model D Actually?

In short, if you want a killer no-nonsense rower that will last for decades, the Concept2 Rower is exactly what you need!

However, if you want to explore other options, here is our guide to the best rowing machines.

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Frequently Asked Questions - Concept2 Model D

Q.1 How hard is the installation? Is it worth paying $95 to have a pro install the rower?

Installation is quite easy. As mentioned above, all you need to do is tighten eight screws to install the front legs. It just takes 10-20 minutes to install the Concept2 rower. So spending any amount of money on professional installation is not recommended.

Q.2 Is this big enough for someone who is 6’5” or taller?

The inseam on the standard model is 38 inches which is often enough for taller people. However, if you need a longer inseam, Concept2 offers an extended rail model as well.

Q.3 Where are the Concept2 Model D rowing machines made?

Concept2 rowing machines are made in Vermont, USA. You can even request to attend a factory tour. 

Q.4. How is this machine for older people?

Rowing machine allows you to have a low-impact workout without putting high levels of stress on your joints and knees. This is not the same with other equipment like treadmills. It can strengthen your heart with cardio workout and improve overall immunity. However, it is necessary to practice proper form before you expect anything out of this rower.

Q.5 Do I need a mat to keep this rower from damaging my floor?

No, you don’t need a mat as it has rubber protectors under its legs. However, if you decide to buy one, you can buy two pieces to cover the two areas where the rower touches the floor, instead of buying a single large mat, which would be unnecessary and expensive.

Looking for the best magnetic rowing machine? The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is our top pick. It has 16 levels of magnetic resistance - and its resistance offers a tremendous challenge. It is quiet, long enough for tall people and has a crystal clear display to keep workouts engaging.

Do you want a rower that needs no maintenance?

A machine that delivers a smooth and challenging workout every time?

Then, here are our top picks for you:

1. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rowing Machine

best magnetic rowing machine
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Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is one of the best magnetic rowers you can buy. It snagged the number one spot on this list for many reasons.

Resistance

The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rower offers 14 levels of magnetic resistance. With such a broad range, you can always find the right level of challenge for each workout. Most people will get a good workout between levels 6 and 10. However, the resistance is not for expert rowers and athletes. As magnetic rowers are, this rower is quiet as a mouse. So you can have a refreshing workout every morning without waking your family up.

Build and Design

The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus rower is a serious machine. It has a solid build quality and all parts feel sturdy when you use it. From the soft padded handle in your hands, to sitting on the large contoured seat, it feels like a premium rower. The thick nylon cord can take years of abuse - another marker of quality.

Streak of Innovation

This rower stands out for its hint of innovation. At the front, the floor stabilizer pads make sure that your stroke is stable. They also allow you to do additional exercises such as curls, rows, shrugs and more. However, some users mentioned the front pads aren’t as practical because of how they’re positioned.

Seat is Silent

The seat is hard, a common issue in most rowers. Adding a cushion can solve this problem and make workouts more comfortable. But the seat remains quiet during its gliding motion as you row. This makes the rower ‘dead’ silent and allows you to enjoy music or TV without interruptions.

Taller People, Rejoice!

The inseam is long enough for people up to 6’6” tall. This is a huge plus since many rowers lack in this area.

Foot Pedals

Unlike many other rowers, the 1000 Plus keeps your feet in place as you row. The foot plates are comfortable and the velcro straps are effective. The foot pedals also pivot as you row, which means they pivot around an axis as you push your feet to row. Pivoting foot pedals are especially good for people with weak ankle mobility. 

Storage and Moving

The FR 1000 Plus magnetic rowing machine is compact and foldable. You can keep it in your home office or living room in a corner and get a quick workout when you need to recharge your batteries. The wheels, however, are small for such a big machine. But they still get the job done.

Display Monitor

Many rowers have poor displays on which you can’t even see the workout data clearly. Not this one. The FR 1000 Plus magnetic rower has a 3.5 inch display that shows the numbers large and clear. It shows time, distance, stroke count, total count and calories. The scan mode toggles through the five metrics so that you don’t have to search for them manually. There is also a bluetooth app that lets you set goals and keep a log of all workout data.

Statistics

The distance and calorie count on the display aren’t accurate. The rower calculates distance by counting the number of strokes and multiplying it with 10 meters. To calculate calories, there is a sensor that counts the number of times the seat glides through it. For each time, it increases 0.1 or 0.2 calories.

Inaccurate calorie count is a common problem on rowers unless you’re buying a Concept2. And most budget rowers don’t calculate distance. So we suggest that you don’t reject this rower because of this single issue.

Verdict

The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is the best magnetic rowing machine in the market. It has a solid build quality, smooth operation, compact footprint and keeps your feet comfortable. The front foot pads make it versatile and the 14 resistance levels keep your workouts fun and challenging.

The Good

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2. MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine

The MaxKare magnetic rowing machine is designed for a wholesome rowing experience. Even on a budget, the rower offers comfort, practicality and impressive performance.

Maxkare Magnetic

Resistance

There are 16 resistance levels that provide a range of tension to everyone. The wide range makes it a great rowing machine for your home gym since it caters to people with various levels of physical strength. Except athletes and seasoned rowers, the MaxKare rower has sufficient resistance for everyone. 

Build Quality

The steel frame makes the MaxKare rower durable. All parts feel high quality, which is what makes it stand out. The handle and seat are padded for comfort.

I loved the extra long 45” inseam on this rower. There are a handful of rowers that accommodate taller people. This is one of them. People as tall as 6’5” will easily fit on this rower with full extension. 

The rower has space to place an iPad or phone. So you can use videos, podcasts or music to make things interesting while working out. The magnetic resistance is engineered such that each rowing stroke is as smooth as possible.

Seat

The seat is padded, but could be more comfortable. However, hard seats are ubiquitous in rowing machines. But the seat is positioned so low that people with back or knee issues may find it difficult to get on and off the rower.

Storage and Moving

The rower can fold up and be stored taking little space. The rower has a handy knob, which can be unscrewed to fold the frame up. When folded, the rower takes half its space. 

Display Monitor

The display is basic and does its job. It shows time, count, calories, total count and has a scan mode that toggles through these metrics every few seconds. The scan mode helps you see metrics without looking for them manually. The display is easy to read and shows the numbers clearly. 

However, the calorie count isn’t accurate. To calculate calories, the rowers just relies on the number of times the seat moves back and forth. 

Foot Pedals

Foot pedals are solid and comfortable. The velcro straps work well and keep your feet in place.

Verdict

Do you want a reliable magnetic rower that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket? The MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine is made with quality in mind. It even caters to taller people and offers a wide range of resistance for a wholesome workout.

The Good

The Bad

3. Sunny Health & Fitness RW-5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

Sunny Health Fitness 5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine
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The Sunny Health & Fitness RW 5515 Rower is a bestselling magnetic rowing machine on Amazon. It is smooth, comfortable and compact. 

Resistance

The RW 5515 rower has eight levels of magnetic resistance. Even though there are 8 resistance levels, you can get a good workout even at level 4 or 5. This proves that it has enough resistance for everyone, excluding pro athletes. A handy knob is all you have to use when you want to adjust the resistance.

The rower is ‘whisper’ quiet, as most magnetic rowers are. So you can workout early in the morning without disturbing your family. 

Build Quality

The build quality is decent - steel frame makes it stable and sturdy. The nylon strap used to pull the handle is also durable. However, since hundreds of thousands of people have bought this machine, there are a few complaints of how the rower broke after a few months or a year of use. 

The rower can support up to 250 lbs. of weight. Some heavier users also reported using it successfully though. However, if you weigh more than 250 lbs, we recommend that you buy a rower with higher capacity, such as the Sunny SF-RW5639 or Sunny SF-RW5623. It has a long inseam and people as tall as 6’7” can row on this rower with full extension. 

Even though the rower looks great and feels great, some users have mentioned how it isn’t very reliable. More on this below. 

Seat & Handle

The seat is well padded and comfortable. The non-slip handlebars make sure your posture stays correct and stable. The seat also has a slight curve at the back which ensures that you don’t slide off while rowing hard. The seat doesn’t make any noise either and keeps the motion smooth. Taller rowers may find the handle to be positioned a little low. 

Foot Plate

The foot plates are wide and accommodate all foot sizes. However, the velcro straps aren’t good at keeping feet in place. So you may have to purchase extra velcro straps to make it work. Foot pedals aren’t built with quality, and this is where the average build quality shows through. 

One thing worth noting is that the handlebar stops right above the foot plates when returning from the pull part of the stroke. This results in a shorter range of motion. However, this design flaw is present on many budget rowers. 

Storage and Moving

The SF-RW5515 rower can be folded for easy storage. Folding it is as easy as 1-2-3. Just unscrew the bolt, take the pin out, fold the frame up and put the bolt and pin back in. It takes a tiny footprint when folded so you can keep it in an unused corner of your home. 

It comes with built-in wheels for easy transportation from one spot to the other. Assembling the SF-RW5515 is easy. The machine can be put together in just four steps and all parts are labelled to make it easy. Tools required for assembly come with the package.

Display

The display monitor of SF-RW5515 shows workout metrics including stroke count, time, calories burnt and total count. The scan mode shows one metric after the other with a time interval of six seconds or so.

However, the monitor can’t measure distance, which is not a drawback but commonly seen in budget rowers.

There are reports that the display doesn’t show accurate calorie count. Calories are loosely calculated from the number of strokes on budget rowers. So this isn’t a drawback, but a ubiquitous trait on budget rowers. The display doesn’t track distance either - something we see on almost all budget rowers.

Reliability

There is a one-year warranty on frame and just 90-day warranty on parts. Also, many customers reported how the rower broke after 3-12 months of use. This indicates how it is not very reliable but the short warranty only makes it worse.

Verdict

The Sunny Health & Fitness RW5515 machine offers performance, comfort and utility. It is perfect for those getting into rowing for the first time. However, some user reviews indicate that long-term reliability is a hit-or-miss with this one.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

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4. Merax Magnetic Exercise Rower Magnetic Rowing Machine

Merax Magnetic Exercise Rower 
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Merax Magnetic is a great option in the budget segment. It delivers a smooth rowing experience along with strong build quality. According to our survey, most users reported that the quality exceeded their expectations. This is a great advantage since it is hard to find a durable rower in the budget segment.

Resistance

Merax rower comes with 8 levels of magnetic resistance. There is a handy knob below the monitor that lets you adjust resistance. The resistance is not super high, but it won’t disappoint you if you have an average physique.

That said, if you are stronger than average people or have a lot of weightlifting or athletic experience, you should choose another rower like the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus reviewed above.

The rail has an inclination of 15 degrees which further adds to the resistance during the pull and makes it easier to return after a pull.

Build Quality

This rowing machine is as quiet as they come. Overall build quality is impressive but the foot pedals lack on quality. They do the job but feel flimsy. However, the rower supports up to 264 lbs. of weight which shows its build quality. The seat is hard, which is an issue with many rowers. This can be resolved by adding a cushion.

Foot pedals

The foot pedals are bigger than normal which is done to keep your foot comfortable. However, velcro straps do a poor job of keeping your feet strapped in place. One can buy an anti-slip tape or velcro straps to fix this problem. The pivoting motion of pedals help your feet adjust as they rotate around an axis. This pivoting motion helps people with ankle issues or low ankle flexibility. 

Storing and Moving

Storing the Merax rower is easy. It can be folded for compact storage. Folding is a breeze too. Just remove the locking bolt from the center of the seat rail, fold the rail up and put the bolt back in place. Moving the rower around is also easy. The caster wheels are built-in for easy transportation from one spot to the other.

How Tall Does it Fit?

If you are very tall, this rower may not be suitable as you won’t have full extension for a complete rowing stroke. However, when you remove the rear cap attached at the end of the seat rail, you can get an extra 3 inches on the inseam. But this isn’t advised to beginners since you can risk sliding off the rail and getting injured. For normal use, people up to 6 feet tall would be satisfied with its inseam.

Display Monitor

The display is basic but does the job of tracking workout data such as time, count, calories and total count. The display console also lets you set targets in terms of time, count or calorie and start a countdown until you finish the target. 

However, as it is on budget rowers, the calorie count isn’t accurate. If performance tracking is your top priority, this display monitor won’t satisfy you. Some users mentioned how the monitor didn’t work for them. Many called it useless. So take this into consideration before you buy this rower. You may have to use your phone timer to keep track of performance.

Photoshopped Pictures?

The Amazon product page has a picture which shows the rower is much longer than it actually is. This is the last picture on the product page in the image carousel in which a man is sitting on the rower looking at you (the camera).

This picture is misleading, so please realize that the machine doesn’t have a super long inseam.

Verdict

The Merax Magnetic exercise rower is a jack of all trades. It doesn’t have anything extraordinary, but it has a little bit of everything. It has an impressive build quality for its price and it is super productive. It doesn’t offer high levels of resistance, so it is best suited for people who aren’t athletes or stronger than most people.

The Good

The Bad

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5. NordicTrack RW900 Rower Magnetic Rowing Machine

NordicTrack RW900 Magnetic Rowing Machine
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If you are looking for a high-end magnetic rower, the NordicTrack RW900 Rower is a serious contender. NordicTrack established its reputation in the 70s with its Ski Machine and is a well-known name in the rowing community. 

Resistance

The core of any rowing machine is its resistance. The NordicTrack 900 rower uses a combination of air and magnetic resistance. There are 26 levels of magnetic resistance and 10 levels of air resistance. This is the highest amount of resistance you can get in a magnetic rower. 

Air resistance can be adjusted using a damper. This allows you to workout with precise fitness goals and never hit a plateau during a workout. The 26 levels of magnetic resistance are controlled using expert recommendations. What does this mean? As you row, a coach’s recommending resistance setting gets activated based on your rowing stats.

There are live sessions where you can experience rowing with other people in a virtual studio setting. 

Build Quality

The premium NordicTrack RW900 rower is premium for a reason. Its build quality is impeccable. Made of high-quality steel frame, bearings, nylon strap and handle, every part is sturdy and durable.

The company has marketed this rower as a personal trainer and not just a long-lasting rowing machine. More on this below.

NordicTrack RW900 Magnetic

Good for Taller People

The inseam is oversized so that everyone, no matter how tall, can enjoy full extension and a full range of motion. Oversized foot pedals help stabilize your feet no matter what your foot size is. The adjustable straps prevent your feet from slipping.

Seat is Hard

The seat on the RW900 is hard and you will need an additional seat pad to make yourself comfortable during workouts.

Assembling the RW900 rowing machine is easy. You don’t need to buy the $250 ‘white glove setup’ from NordicTrack’s website as it will be a waste of money. 

iFit - Personal Training, Community Experience

The rower has a 22-inch high definition display that not just tracks performance but lets you access the interactive sessions. The RW900 rower comes with 30 prerecorded workouts that help you get the most out of this rowing machine. The 30 workouts focus on cardio, endurance and strengthening your upper body. 

Apart from the 30 preset workouts, there is much more you get through their iFit membership. When you buy the RW900 rower, it comes with a free one-year iFit membership. The iFit membership takes interactive training to the next level:

RW900 Rower Magnetic

Cost

One year of iFit membership costs $400. This will suit those who like working with a coach, having a studio experience or rowing around the world with the greatest rowers. 

What I didn’t like was how the display can’t be used to do anything else other than iFit. It would be better off allowing customers to watch Netflix or Youtube for the premium price they pay. 

Drawbacks

The ‘row your boat around the world’ feature is supposed to let you row on exotic rivers and canals as you hear the sound of waves rolling and birds chirping. But in reality, it just shows images fetched from Google street view. For the price you pay, this is really disappointing.

The display UX isn’t very user friendly. Although the design is good, the user experience doesn’t flow smoothly and can be confusing. Menus are also thin and hard to make sense of.

The machine also doesn’t have a bluetooth option to connect your headphones. As some users reported, getting the code for the free one-year iFit membership was a struggle.

A laughable design flaw is the lack of a power button. To turn off the rower, you have to unplug the machine.

A customer complained how the machine stopped tracking distance after a couple days. Many customers had to contact customer service to use the machine without technical issues. This isn’t such a good sign for an expensive rower. 

The rower can support just 250 lbs. of weight. This is a let down at such a premium price.

If the above drawbacks are too disappointing for you, it is better to invest in a Concept2 rower. It is not magnetic, but it is a no-nonsense reliable machine.

Verdict

The NordicTrack RW900 is a solid rower with innovative features. It has enough resistance for beginners as well as athletes. The iFit programme makes workouts fun and allows you to have a community experience without actually going to the gym. But where this rower lacks is quality control. The display monitor can be tricky to use and you can face technical issues with little support from the company. If you don’t plan to pay for iFit every year, this rower won’t be worth its price.

The Good

The Bad

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Noteworthy Mentions

Apart from these 5 best magnetic rowing machines, the following magnetic rowers also deserve a mention on this list.

6. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rowing Machine 

SF-RW5801 Magnetic
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With 16 levels of magnetic resistance, this rower offers a smooth and challenging workout each time you row. The resistance is strong enough for everyone except experts and athletes. Extra long slide rail makes it suitable for taller people. It comes at an affordable price tag, has good build quality  along with a comfortable seat and easy to fold. The amount of value it provides for the money is impressive.

7. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower

Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower
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The Stamina Avari rower is high-quality, quiet and efficient. It can accommodate taller people up to 6’4” with full extension. The seat is comfortable and allows you to have a smooth workout. It comes with six preset programs to get you started. The company has responsive customer service, which is a huge plus. It also folds up for compact storage. You can personalize your workouts with four custom user programs too.

Frequently Asked Questions for Best Magnetic Rowing Machines

1. How does magnetic resistance work?

Magnetic rowing machines have a magnet that moves closer or farther from the metal flywheel to create resistance. The closer the magnet is to the flywheel, which you can adjust on magnetic rowers, the more resistance there is. 

The resistance on magnetic rower stays constant once you choose a resistance level. In water or air rowers, it isn’t the same.

2. Are water rowers better than magnetic?

It comes down to your preference - natural rowing experience or fixed resistance? 

Water rowers have variable resistance - the harder you row, the more resistance there is. People who want the natural feeling of rowing on a river prefer water rowers. They also create a tranquil sound which further makes rowing a smooth and calming experience. 

Just how a fan displaces air while moving, the paddles in the tank displace water while moving to create resistance. Water rowers put you in the driver seat and give a more natural and hands-on experience. 

Magnetic rowers operate with a constant resistance and have an upper limit to the amount of resistance they can offer. This means they aren’t always as challenging as water rowers. However, they are good at helping you improve performance since you know the resistance you are working with.

3. Which is better - air or magnetic rower?

In magnetic rowers, there are only so many resistance levels. On the other hand, in air rowers, the harder you row, the more resistance there is. So you can always have a challenging workout with an infinite pool of resistance available. 

Magnetic resistance requires zero maintenance and is dead silent. Air rowers make low to moderate levels of noise. 

Since air rowers have a variable resistance, they simulate the experience of rowing on a river. It is worth noting that Concept2 rowers, the ones preferred by Olympians and seasoned athletes, also operate on air resistance.

Final Word

Magnetic rowers come with a various set of features. Some are durable and practical, others are high-tech and fun. 

This guide will help you pick the best magnetic rowing machine that fits your needs. If you want to check air or water rowers too, check our top picks for the best home rowing machines.

Our top pick is the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Magnetic rower because of its super build quality and overall functionality. While many rowers struggle with ineffective straps or a hard seat, this rower knows how to stand out in the crowd. 

Want the best rowing machine under 500? Go for the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus - it has 16 levels of magnetic resistance, a large LCD display and superior build quality. Want more options?

Check our top picks below:

Best Rowing Machines Under 500$

1. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus - Best Under 500$

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There aren’t many good magnetic rowing machines in the budget range. Fitness Reality is one of the few that are actually good.

It is common knowledge that magnetic rowers make zero noise. This holds true for the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus as well. It won’t disturb your family when you’re rowing hard at 6 am trying to get fit.

Magnetic Resistance

The magnetic resistance is quite impressive on this rower. With 14 levels of resistance, you can always find the right level to feel that burn in your muscles. The more the resistance levels, the easier it is to push yourself and get more out of each workout. So, 14 resistance levels is a huge plus in this rower. Such resistance makes it easy to do HIIT workouts as well.

The resistance is great for every day buyers. But if you are an athlete or fitness enthusiast with years of workout experience, you should invest in a rower with higher resistance. The resistance is harder than you would expect though.

Display Monitor

The display monitor allows you to track workout data such as stroke count, time, distance, calories and strokes per minute. The LCD display is 3.5 inches and you can see the numbers large and clear, although there is no backlit. You can switch modes, and turn on the scan mode to have different stats displayed automatically to you. There is a smartphone holder too, which is great to listen to music or a podcast while rowing.

Statistics

The distance rowed reading is not accurate. It is calculated by multiplying the number of strokes with ten meters, irrespective of how hard the stroke is. So you cannot calculate your time to 2k on the rower. However, this method of calculation is often seen in mid-range rowers.

Similarly, calories are calculated with a 0.1 or 0.2 increment for each time the seat glides through the sensor. If you are serious about performance tracking, it is better to purchase a dedicated fitness tracker.

Bluetooth App

The company has built an app, MyCloudFitness, to stay on top of your game. You can set progressive goals based on time, distance or calories. You can keep logs of your daily workout too. Most users loved the app for its utility and reported that it made rowing fun for them.

But the downside is that the distance and calories measured aren’t accurate, as explained earlier. So the app can’t serve you as well as it is supposed to.

Build and Design

This is a sturdy machine and all parts feel high quality. The machine stays whisper quiet during each workout. The only downside is that, since the parts are high-quality, the machine is also a bit heavy.

The inseam is 39 inches long and people with height from 4’9” to 6’6” will have full extension and enjoy a complete range of motion. There are floor stabilizer pads that help you place your machine in a position in which it doesn’t wobble. This is really an innovative feat since many budget rowers are prone to wobbling and creaking during workout. This rower is as stable as they come.

Additional Exercises

The company also claims that you can use the front stabilizer foot pads to do additional exercises such as curls, front raises, tricep extensions, side raises and more. However, this feature isn’t as practical or ergonomic as it sounds. It is better to use free weights or dedicated equipment to do additional exercises.

Seat

The seat is a bit hard, as they are in most rowers, and you may want to buy a seat cushion to avoid getting sore after workouts. However, it glides smoothly along the seat rail and is quiet during workouts.

Foot Plates

This is one of the few rowing machines under $500 that can keep your feet from slipping during a workout. The footplates

pivot as you row, which gives you a more comfortable rowing movement and is less hard on the ankles. Anti-slip footplates along with velcro straps are effective at keeping your feet stable during an intense workout.

Fitness reality portable 1000 plus
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Storage and Moving

The frame can be folded vertically for compact storage. The built-in caster wheels allow you to move the 63.6 lbs. rower with ease.

Verdict

If you are looking for the best rowing machine under $500, the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is a great choice. It has superb build quality, whisper quiet operation and strong enough resistance. Innovative features like front stabilizer pads are an added bonus. However, the workout stats including distance and calories aren’t quite accurate - so keep that in mind.

The Good

The Bad

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2. Stamina ATS Rower 1403 Rowing Machine

Stamina 1403 Rowing Machine Under 500$
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The Stamina ATS Rower is different from most budget rowers since it works on air resistance. Air resistance is one of the best types of resistance and also preferred by professional athletes.

Resistance

Air resistance is also used on the world’s best selling rowing machine, i.e. Concept 2. However, since the Stamina ATS Rower costs a fraction of its price, there is no adjustable damper setting in it. This is not disappointing since we don’t expect it on a budget rowing machine.

To increase the resistance, you just have to row harder. This works similar to rowing on water, where you can’t adjust the resistance manually, but have to row harder to feel more resistance.

Build Quality

It comes with a steel frame that makes it feel high quality. The seat has enough padding for comfort and the large foot plates make it quite ergonomic. Caster wheels make it easy to move it around. It also has rubber floor protectors that keep your floor undamaged and keep the machine stable. Handlebars are also soft to touch and don’t leave your hands sore after a workout.

The build quality is good, but the design is also as impressive. And the best part is, you get a sporty looking rower at an affordable price. The seating position is rather low to the ground, so people with back or knee issues may have problems getting on and off the machine. The overall quality is solid, but it has some plastic parts, like the flywheel cage, that feel flimsy.

Quiet

You should note that the machine isn’t quiet as a mouse. It makes the same amount of noise as an old box fan. Also the warranty is 3 years on the frame and 90 days on parts. 90-days doesn’t signal much reliability, so one should consider this before buying this rower.

Folding Design Stamina 1403

Storage

What we like is that the machine can be folded for compact storage. Not all budget rowing machines can be folded to save space, so this is a great advantage.

Display Monitor

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned rower, tracking performance is the only way to get better. The LCD monitor on the Stamina ATS rowing machine allows you to track time, speed, distance and calories burned. The LCD monitor doesn’t come with frills, though.

It also has the scan function that toggles through different metrics and shows them to you without the need to manually press any buttons.

Foot plates

The foot plates are comfortable and large velcro straps are able to keep your feet in place. The rowing motion is smooth as the handle also feels comfortable with its soft padding.

Seat

Seat is padded and comfortable for longer workouts. But the issue with it is that people with bigger butts will find it small in size. Although with time, one can get used to it.

Not for taller people

The rower’s inseam isn’t long enough for people 6 feet and above. If you are any taller, you won’t be able to extend fully on the seat rails.

Verdict

If you want a no-nonsense budget rowing machine that gives you a solid workout each time, the Stamina ATS Rower is a great option. If you aren’t very tall and want a natural rowing experience, the Stamina ATS rower can be a great purchase.

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The Good

The Bad

3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine

If you are looking for a budget rowing machine, you can’t ignore the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515. It doesn’t come with frills, but it is a smooth performer and ‘whisper’ quiet, so your family can sleep in peace while you’re working out in the morning.

Magnetic Resistance

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 comes with eight levels of magnetic resistance. Magnetic resistance is great because it doesn’t vary based on how fast or slow you are rowing. The resistance also offers enough tension for high-intensity workouts. Even a 10-minute cardio on the rower will give your body the much needed recharge for the day.

SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine Under 500$

Build Quality

The build quality of the SF-RW5515 is solid. Not only is the frame made of robust steel, but all the parts such as foot plates and seat are high-quality. However, since it is a budget machine, it isn’t high-tech. The performance monitor is basic, which we will talk about in detail later. Assembling the rower is easy as all parts are labeled and assembly can be done in four simple steps.

The RW5515 can support up to 250 lbs. of weight. The inseam is long enough even for the tallest people. A customer, who is 6’6”, reported that he could stretch fully on the rower with room to spare.

Storage

Storing this RW5515 rowing machine is easy. The seat rail can be folded up and when folded, the rower barely takes up any space. The caster wheels allow you to move it without any hassle.

Sunny Health Fitness LCD Monitor

Basic Display Monitor

The monitor is basic, but tells workout metrics such as time, count, calories and total count. It also has a scan feature which displays the metrics and shuffles them periodically so you don’t have to manually check them while working out. If tracking performance is a priority, then this may not be the one since it can’t track distance, split times and the calorie count isn’t accurate, as reported by many users.

Reliability

If you are new to rowing and can spend a few hundred bucks for six to twelve months of use, this rower is among your best options. However, it isn’t reliable for the long-term. Many customers have reported that its parts, such as spring or pulley, broke after just a few months of use. So if you want brand reliability, look for other options below.

Verdict

If you are new to rowing and want a smooth rowing experience, the Sunny RW5515 is a great option. The magnetic resistance has enough tension to give you a solid workout. However, if you want a machine that will last 3-5 years, you’re better off investing in another option.

What’s Good

What’s Bad

4. MaxKare Water Rowing Machine Under 500$

MaxKare Water Rowing Machine Under 500$
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MaxKare water rowing machine is for those who want a water rower on a budget. Yes, you don’t have to spend a grand or more on an expensive Waterrower rowing machine. 

With paddles moving through the water in the tank, you can forget your daily struggles and feel the excitement of rowing on real water. 

Water Resistance 

There is a multi-blade impeller inside the water tank. With each rowing stroke, the blades move through water, pushing a certain volume to complete the motion. The faster you row, the more water there is to push through and hence the more is the resistance.

The sound of water is pleasant and therapeutic. Paddling through water gives a soothing feeling.

The water tank capacity is not mentioned by the manufacturer. But it is probably around 13-15 litres, as it is in similar rowers. However, you should fill it only to two-thirds of total capacity. 

Build and Design

The first thing you will notice is how sleek it looks. An all-black look, long rails and a transparent water tank with a performance monitor positioned above it - the sight is as good as it gets. The MaxKare water rower is built with a solid steel frame.

The water rower can support people weighing up to 265 lbs. This is a step up from other rowers in the segment that can only support up to 250 lbs. The rower is longer than most budget rowers too. But this makes it less compact, so it may not be the best for small spaces. 

There is a bottle holder too, for hydrating during workouts. Floor stabilizers in the back make sure the machine is always leveled.

Rower Weight

Another thing to note is its weight. It weighs about 82 lbs, which is more than double of the weight of hydraulic rowers in this budget range. That said, there are wheels fixed on the front bar for easy transportation.

Seat

The seat is a sliding type for better rowing experience. It glides quietly which is another indication of quality engineering and design. The seat is well-contoured, so you will not get tired after a long rowing session.

MaxKare Water Rowing Machine Stands Vertically

Storage

This water rower can’t be folded, but it can be placed vertically and stored in a corner. When standing vertically, it takes about 76.2 x44 cm of space. 

Monitor

Even at its affordable price, the rowing machine has an adjustable LCD monitor that displays workout data. The monitor is easy to read and does the basic job of showing key workout stats such as time, strokes per minute (SPM), distance, strokes and calories. There is also a man-machine workout mode in which you can compete against a virtual rower to improve your performance.

Foot Plates

We like that the company has shown a streak of innovation. The foot plates can be adjusted in length with five pairs of hole sites. The foot straps ensure your feet stay in place. Moreover, heel guards on the foot plates protect your feet and provide stability. 

Handle and Strap

The handle feels quite soft as there is enough foam and padding on it. This helps with longer workouts as your hands don’t get sore when there is enough padding. The mesh strap is abrasion resistant and can handle the stress that comes from prolonged use.

Needs Better User Manual

One thing that needs improvement is the documentation. There is no information about how to maintain this water rower. Some people may find it difficult to understand nuances such as when to change the water or how to drain the tank.

Good for Tall People

Perhaps the most impressive feature is that this rower is a good fit for tall people. This makes it one of the best rowing machines under 500 bucks. Even if you are as tall as 6’5”, you will be able to extend your legs fully, enjoying a full-range rowing workout. The inseam is 43.3” or 110 cm, so you can accordingly calculate whether or not this rower will be long enough. 

Verdict

The MaxKare Water Rowing Machine is one of the best inexpensive rowing machines out there. It feels like rowing on water with therapeutic sounds supporting each stroke. It is an innovative and practical machine and a good budget rower even for tall people. It doesn’t get the common complaints that other machines get, including loose foot straps, creaking noise, boring display and short inseam.

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Pros

Cons

5. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine Under 500$

SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine
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The SF-RW5801 is a great rowing machine. It is compact, it offers ‘whisper’ quiet magnetic resistance and it is smooth. The quiet part is what you will really like since it allows you to watch a movie or listen to music uninterrupted while rowing.

Magnetic Resistance

The SF-RW5801 has magnetic resistance. Magnetic resistance works with a magnet that goes closer or farther from the metal flywheel. There is a dial that lets you adjust the resistance. Rowers like magnetic resistance because it makes the least amount of noise. Quiet rowers are great when you want to workout early in the morning and don’t disturb your family members with the noise.

There are eight resistance levels to choose from. And once you set a resistance level, it stays fixed at that level and doesn’t change with the speed of rowing, as it does in air or water rowers.

Keep in mind that its resistance will not be enough if you are a professional athlete or have comparable stamina. Also, professional athletes prefer air rowers since they mimic the natural rowing motion, in which resistance increases as you row harder.

Build and Design

The build quality is good with a solid steel frame and a capacity of 285 lbs. The seat rail can be folded up for easy storage. The front base has sturdy transport wheels that make it easy to move it around. The total unit weight is 42 lbs. which is not that heavy. So one can single-handedly assemble and set up this machine.

The machine has rubber pads on the parts where it touches the floor. It keeps the machine stable and also protects the floor.

Portable Rower

The foot plates pivot as you row. This means they slightly change angle as you move back and forth on the rowing machine. This especially helps people with weak ankle flexibility or ankle issues by reducing the angle between the shin and the foot.

Heel Guards Protect Your Feet

The foot plate surface is non-slip and the plates have heel guards too. Heel guards prevent your heels from hurting by rubbing against the rough plate surface. Adjustable straps let you stabilize your feet in the most suitable position and prevent them from slipping.

However, the velcro straps are loose and not high-quality, and they can’t keep your feet in place.

Low to the Ground

One thing you should know is that the machine is positioned a bit low to the ground. So people with back or knee problems may have a hard time getting off and on the machine.

One thing you should know is that the machine is positioned a bit low to the ground. So people with back or knee problems may have a hard time getting off and on the machine.

The display monitor is nothing like the basic ones that come on cheap rowing machines. It has many attractive features such as goal setting or count down. The goal setting feature lets you pick a target in terms of time, calories or stroke count. Once set, the monitor counts down from your number to zero. This helps in outdoing your previous workouts and building stamina.

Basic displays don’t even show an accurate stroke count. But this display monitor is far from basic. It shows not only stroke count, time, total count and calories, but it also tracks distance and RPM, which basic monitors often don’t track.

Scan Mode

The scan mode toggles through a new performance metric every six seconds. This helps in knowing the workout data without having to manually press buttons. However, you can turn the scan mode on or off too, which will display a single metric all the time. The monitor starts automatically when you start rowing and stops four minute after there is no activity.

Assembling the rowing machine is easy and takes about twenty minutes. The manual is helpful and all tools needed are there in the package.

Verdict

The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 is a great machine for those who want to strengthen and tone their body, lose weight and build stamina. However, it isn’t the right fit for professional athletes as it doesn’t have high resistance. However, it is whisper-quiet, can support 285 lbs. and has plenty of cool features on its performance monitor.

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Pros

  1. Solid build, can support 285 lbs.
  2. Compact, folds and stands vertically
  3. Quiet
  4. Adjustable Resistance
  5. Heel guard in foot plates
  6. Comfortable Seat
  7. Monitor can count down from your target metric

Cons

6. Sunny SF-RW5713 Water Rowing Machine Under 500$

Sunny SF-RW5713 Water Rowing Machine Under 500$
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If you are looking for an excellent budget rowing machine, the SF-RW5713 is a rower you shouldn’t overlook. It comes with a set of useful features and provides a smooth and pleasant rowing experience.

We really liked the all-black look with a sleek water tank at the front.

Water Resistance

Water resistance is good since you get the feeling of rowing on real water with the pleasant sound of water supporting you with each stroke. Water resistance is also smooth on this Obsidian RW5713 Rower, so you will enjoy each workout.

As it is with water rowers, you can change the resistance in two ways. First, you can row harder to increase the resistance. As you row harder, there is more water to push through with the suspended paddles, and hence the more resistance there is.

Second, you can add more water to the water tank. But this stop is manual and isn’t practical when you’re in the middle of a workout.

Build and Design

As mentioned earlier, the all-black look of the RW5713 is impressive. But it is not just about the looks. The sturdy steel frame and sixteen stainless steel hydro blades will convince the most discerning buyers. The polycarbonate plastic water tank looks strong enough to last a long time. Overall, there is nothing flimsy about this rower.

The inseam is long at 38 inches. So if you are about 6 feet, you will be comfortable. However, if you are very tall, say 6’5” or more, this rower will be short for you.

Display Monitor

The display monitor shows a variety of workout data and is anything but basic. You can check strokes per minute, total strokes, distance, calories burnt, room temperature, time and 500 mm split time. With a heart rate monitor attached, the monitor can even show heart rate. Using your heart rate, the monitor is able to calculate how fast you can recover after a workout.

The monitor also allows you to set workout targets in terms of time or distance. The ‘race’ option lets you row a digital boat to the finish line. Our only gripe is that the monitor is not backlit. However, it may not matter to some people.

Seat and Foot Plates

The padded seat is comfortable and where it excels is the height. Because the height is more than average, people with back or knee issues will find it especially comfortable. It comes with pivoting foot plates, which is good for people with less ankle flexibility or ankle issues. 

SF-RW5713 Portable

Storage

Storing and moving it is easy. The wheels at the bottom help you move it from one spot to the other. And when you want to store it, it can stand vertically keeping its weight on the front. Its weight capacity is 300 lbs., which is decent for most people.

Verdict

If you want a water rower on a budget, that is not just smooth but also smart enough to track performance, the Sunny Health & Fitness RW 5713 is a great choice!

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The Good

The Bad

7.  Merax Magnetic Rowing Machine Under 500$

The Merax Magnetic Exercise Rower is an impressive machine you can have at an affordable price. If you’re looking for the best rowing machine under $500, it definitely deserves your attention.

Merax Magnetic Rowing Machine Under 500$
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Resistance

It has eight levels of magnetic resistance, which you can adjust using a simple knob located at the end of the seat rail in the front. This is handy and allows you to change intensity without getting off the rower.

Also, the resistance doesn’t change depending on how fast or slow you row. Once you adjust the knob, it stays at the same level. Out of the eight resistance levels, the company suggests the following utility for each resistance range:

Note that the resistance isn’t enough if you are strongly built or an experienced rower. The machine offers mid-level resistance.

Assembly is a breeze with this one. Once set up, it is amazing to see how quietly it works. Its smooth operation combined with its decent build quality make it a great buy for a quarter of the price of top rowers. 

Build Quality

The machine can support up to 264 lbs. The only gripe though is that the seat could be a little more comfortable. Also many parts are made out of plastic, so durability in the long run is a concern.

The hard seat is an issue with many rowers. A good solution is to buy a seat cushion to prevent any pain after a workout.

Folding and Storage

Folding the Merax rowing machine is easy. Just take the locking knob from the center of the rail out, fold the seat rail up and put the locking knob back in place. In addition, there are built-in wheels to help you move this without any hassle.

Foot Plates - It is a Slippery Slope

The foot plates are larger than usual, which should support your feet while rowing. The foot plates are multi-angle, so they change angle while moving. Pivoting foot plates are good for people with low ankle flexibility or ankle issues.

Note that the foot plates aren’t good at keeping your feet in place. So you may have to purchase an anti-slip tape or velcro straps to fix the issue.

Merax Rower Storage

Is it Good for Taller People?

If you are taller than 6’1”, then the seat rails will most likely be too short for you. That is, you won’t be able to extend your legs fully and enjoy the full range of rowing motion. The good thing is that you can remove the rear leg end cap to have a longer inseam.

There is also a rubber stopper underneath the seat rail, which can be removed to have more space on the seat rail. However, removing it is dangerous since its very function is to stop the seat from falling off the rowing machine.

Display is Basic

If you want an efficient display that lets you set progressive goals or is rich with features, this isn’t the right rowing machine for you. Some users reported that the display isn’t good at all. It may not function properly, so you might be disappointed if a monitor was on the top of your list. However, the display tracks time, count, calories and total count.

Product Pictures

On the product page, there is a picture of a muscular model sitting on the rower, which seems to be quite long. The picture doesn’t look squashed, so it is most likely photoshopped. So be aware of such misleading elements while buying a product online.

Verdict

If you want a smooth rower with adjustable resistance that doesn’t depend on how fast or slow you row, the Merax Rowing Machine is a nice option. The build quality of some parts could be improved, but the quiet and smooth rowing experience keeps you going the entire day.

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The Good

The Bad

An honorable mention: Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Buying Guide - Best Rowing Machines Under 500$

Build Quality

You need a machine that is built to last. If you are a beginner, it is okay to spend a few hundred bucks on a rower that will last one to two years. But if you want to row long-term, it’s better to invest in a more durable rowing machine.

Resistance

Different resistance types have different advantages, so know the benefit you’d like to have. Magnetic resistance allows you to row at a fixed resistance despite rowing speed. Air and water resistance increase in magnitude as you row faster. Hydraulic resistance rowers are quiet and affordable, but hydraulic pistons tend to get hot quickly and don’t offer high levels of resistance.

Foot plates

Your feet should stay firmly in place while rowing or it could cause unnecessary stress. If your ankles aren’t quite flexible, rowers with pivoting foot pedals will be the best. The velcro straps should hold your feet in place.

Performance Monitor

Most budget rowing machines have basic display monitors. They show metrics such as time, count, total count and calories. Many budget rowers don’t measure distance and many of them can’t calculate a couple metrics accurately. If you are looking for an affordable rowing machine, finding a superb display monitor will be hard.

Design Difference

Rowing machines under $500 get a lot of praise. But they usually have slightly different design. If you pay attention to the position of the handle, you will notice that it is positioned right above the footplates in such rowing machines.

Design of Rowing Machines Under 500

On the other hand, if you look at any branded rowing machine, such as the Concept2 or Waterrower, the handle is located far beyond the footplates to extend the range of motion.

concept2 design difference
Now this isn’t something to lose your mind over, since many rowing machines that cost less than $500 have this flaw. For example, the Fitness Reality 1000 plus or the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 also have the same flaw.

Frequently Asked Questions - Best Rowing Machines Under 500$

1. What are the benefits of a rowing machine?

A rowing machine gives you a full body workout, working 86 percent of the muscles in your body unlike treadmills or ellipticals. It is a low-impact workout that doesn’t put high levels of stress on your joints. It also strengthens your cardiovascular system, improving all bodily functions.

2. Does rowing burn fat?

Rowing is an excellent exercise to burn fat. According to Harvard Health Letter, rowing can burn over 300 calories in just 30 minutes.

3. Is rowing machine good for cardio?

Rowing provides a low-impact workout. As compared to other forms of exercise, it works on a larger range of muscles. It allows you to set precise fitness goals as you row more strokes per minute or increase your count for each workout. Not only you get cardio, you also strengthen and tone your back, shoulders and arms.

4. Does rowing build muscle?

Yes. Since 86 percent muscles of the body are involved, muscle size, strength and power increases with rowing. However, the primary benefit is cardiovascular strength and stamina.

5. Does rowing work abs?

Yes. Since you have to use your core for a proper rowing stroke, your abs lose fat and get toned with rowing. Concept2 has acknowledged that abs are an integral part of the rowing stroke.

Final Word

There are many high-quality rowing machines under 500. The right one depends on your choice of resistance and other preferences.

Our number one pick is the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine. It has a crystal clear LCD, pivoting foot plates, front foot stabilizers and an impeccable build quality.

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus

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Looking for the best inexpensive rowing machines? The best one is the MaxKare Magnetic Rower. It has 16 levels of magnetic resistance, 45 inch inseam and a solid build quality.

Rowing works 86% of the muscles in your body.

But there are too many options to choose from. 

This guide will help you pick the right one.

Maxkare Magnetic Rowing Machine

  • Build Quality

  • 16 Resistance levels

  • Foldable

Stamina ATS Air Rower

  • Value for money

  • Smooth resistance

  • Foldable

Sunny SF-RW 5515 Rower

  • Affordable

  • 8 Resistance levels

  • Foldable

Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine

  • Lightweight

  • Compact

  • Foldable

Sunny SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine

  • 12 resistance levels

  • Solid Build

  • Foldable

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

  • Durable

  • 12 resistance levels

  • Quiet

1. MaxKare Magnetic Rower

Maxkare budget rowing machine

MaxKare Magnetic is our #1 pick. Here is what you should know about it:

Magnetic Resistance

It has 16 levels of magnetic resistance. So whether you are a beginner or an intermediate, it will give you a decent challenge. This rower gives a consistent resistance that doesn’t change when you row faster or slower. This may be good for beginners, but professionals like the natural dynamic response they get from rowing hard.

Note that although there are 16 resistance levels, it doesn’t provide enough resistance to challenge professional athletes.

best inexpensive rowing machine - maxkare magnetic

Build and Design

The build quality is good and you will be satisfied for the value you get at the price. It is built from steel and has a long inseam measuring 45 inches. As such, it is suitable for taller people too, those with height up to 6’5”. This is great since many budget rowers can’t accommodate tall people since they have a short inseam. The overall build quality keeps it stable while rowing.

Seat

The seat is padded and contoured for optimal comfort. However, there is one drawback. The seating position is so low on this machine that people with knee issues or back issues will struggle to get off and on. People with conditions such as arthritis may find it hard to squat down and mount the seat.

Easy storage

Storage

The seat rail can fold up for easy storage. There is a locking knob, which you can unscrew to fold the rail up. When folded, the length of the machine reduces to sixty percent.

Display Monitor

The display monitor tracks basic workout data such as stroke count per minute, total strokes, time, and calories. However, like better equipped consoles, it cannot indicate distance or read your pulse. 

The display shows the numbers large and clear. There are two sections to the display. At the top, it always shows the count. At the bottom, you can see time, total strokes and calories. 

It also has a scan mode which lets you check all metrics automatically. In the scan mode, all metrics are displayed after a few seconds of interval, so you don’t have to check them manually.

However, some users have problems with the display not functioning properly. While the display ran out of battery within a couple days for some users, it never started working for others.

Foot plates

The foot plates are sturdy and the velcro straps keep your feet in place. The surface of the foot plates is textured for stability. 

To get a closer look at the MaxKare Magnetic rower, watch this video:

Verdict

The MaxKare Magnetic is for those who want something reliable on a budget. It even accommodates taller people and provides an invigorating full-body workout in as little as 15 minutes. Whether you want to quit being lazy, or get shredded, it will turn your physique around.

The Good

The Bad

2. Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399 with LCD Monitor

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Stamina ATS is a sleek-looking beast at an affordable price.  It has a balanced set of features along with a modern design. It has a padded handle and is built meticulously to provide a smooth rowing experience.

Air Resistance 

Air resistance is what professional athletes go for when buying their Concept2 rowers. So it has to be good. To increase the resistance, you have to row harder. Air resistance is great because it gives you the natural feeling of rowing on a river. In natural rowing, there is no knob available to adjust resistance, you just row harder or softer to adjust resistance.

I really liked the resistance mechanism on Stamina ATS. It is as smooth as butter while giving enough tension. Another aspect here is that the seat rail is inclined toward the front, so as you push your legs on the pedals, there is greater resistance.

It provides a wide range of resistance for everyone except professional athletes or seasoned rowers. For beginner to intermediate levels, it has enough challenges to make things interesting.

Build and Design

The Stamina ATS Air has a good build quality. The steel frame makes it stable and sturdy. The nylon strap attached to the handle seems robust as well and will last a long time. However, it isn’t completely quiet. The harder you row, the louder its flywheel gets. But it isn’t overly loud either. It just sounds like a box fan or a treadmill. 

Although, build quality is impressive, there are certain plastic parts that feel a bit flimsy - such as the plastic housing on the flywheel, rollers and pins that hold the bar in place. This is a big let down for an otherwise solid product.

LCD Monitor

The display monitor tracks several workout parameters such as speed (miles/hour), time, distance (miles) and calories. There is a scan mode too where all metrics are displayed in rotation for a duration of six seconds each. There is no backlit, so it would be hard to read in dim lights. 

However, don’t expect any frills from this monitor. The speed is updated rather slowly and the calories burnt metric isn’t accurate since you can’t enter your weight, height or gender - crucial factors to its calculation.

Foot Plates

Foot plates are comfortable and the velcro straps do a good job of keeping your feet planted. This is good since similar products lack in this area.

Seat

The seat is comfortable if you are not on the bigger or heavier side. People reported that it is a bit small for bigger buttocks. A comfortable seat is important since you don’t want to be sore in the back or your buttocks after each workout. 

Note that the machine isn’t as quiet as magnetic rowers such as the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515. But it isn’t loud either. It makes as much noise as an old box fan. 

If you are 6 feet tall or above, the inseam won’t be long enough for you and you won’t be able to extend your legs fully. So it is not meant for taller people.

Also, the warranty isn’t assuring. Although the frame is covered under a 3-year warranty, there is only a 90-day warranty on parts. This is a concern since it has some plastic parts that may not last long.

best inexpensive rowing machine

Storage

The seat rail can be folded up to save space. When folded, it reduces to almost half its size. Folding is easy and quick. You just have to take a bolt out, fold the seat rail up and then re-insert the bolt.

Verdict

The Stamina ATS has a balanced set of features. The air resistance gives you the feeling of rowing on actual water and its resistance gives enough challenge for each workout. If you are looking for a smooth rowing experience, the Stamina ATS is a compelling contender.

The Good

The Bad

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3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Inexpensive Rower

best rowing machine under 300 - sunny 5515
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The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is a great budget rower that also happens to be an Amazon bestseller. If you need a full-body workout, it can be a great addition to your home gym.

The SF-RW5515 has 8 levels of magnetic resistance. You can adjust the resistance with a handy knob without having to get off the machine in the middle of a workout. Most customers reported that they were able to get a solid workout even at resistance levels 4 or 5. It is amazing how it has enough tension even at lower resistance levels.

Magnetic rowers maintain a constant level of tension, unlike air or water rowers, in which the harder you row, the more resistance there is. The rower is also quiet as a mouse, so you can listen to music or workout at odd hours without disturbing anyone else. 

Build and Design

It has a decent build quality at an impressive price. The steel frame is solid and the parts feel sturdy. The nylon strap used to pull the handle is also durable. Even though this rower can accommodate bigger people, it is still compact enough to fit in a small space. However, the machine has some reliability issues, which I have mentioned below.

best inexpensive rowing machine

Seat and Handle

There are many features that promote comfort. The seat is well-padded and has an angular ridge at the back so that you don’t slip off while rowing. Seat movement is smooth and quiet. Although the handle is smooth, taller people may find it positioned low. This may result in a not-so-good form while rowing.

best rowing machine under 300

Foot Plates

The foot plates are wide but the straps can’t hold your feet in place. Foot pedals aren’t of high quality and may hurt bare feet. A noteworthy design flaw is that the handle stops right above the foot plates when you’re rowing. So you don’t enjoy a full range of motion as in Concept2 or other machines.

best inexpensive rowing machine - Sunny 5515

Storage and Moving

Storage is easy as this rower has a minimal footprint. With the seat folded up, it takes little space. Folding takes just one minute but you do have to unscrew a bolt. It has built-in caster wheels for moving it around.

best rowing machine under 300

Display Monitor

The monitor shows stroke count, time, calories burnt and total count. It also has the scan mode that toggles and shows different metrics with an interval of six seconds. This means you don’t have to check metrics manually while rowing. 

The monitor is basic. It doesn’t record distance which may matter to some rowers. It isn’t backlit either. Another issue with basic monitors is that they don’t report accurate calorie count, since they don’t factor-in important data such as weight or height. However, you can still measure relative performance by comparing metrics from two workouts.

Inseam and Capacity

What makes this rower stand out is its long inseam. It can accommodate people as tall as 6’7” and still leave room to spare, which is a miracle in the budget segment. The rower can accommodate up to 250 lbs of weight, which is the standard in the budget segment. If you weigh more, look for other rowers such as the SF-RW5623 rower with 300 lbs capacity or SF-RW5639 with 350 lbs capacity. 

To see what an experienced rower thinks of the SF-Rw5515, watch this video:

Reliability Issues

While buying an affordable rower, pay extra attention to its durability. Some customers mentioned how it broke after a few months of use. This is a huge let down for such a high-performing rower, since reliability can be a deal breaker. It comes with just 90-days warranty on parts and 1-year warranty on the frame.

If you decide to buy this, research well about the warranty first. A user has mentioned that the warranty is not applicable in Canada.

Verdict

The SF-RW5515 is an excellent product under $300. It accommodates taller people unlike its counterparts and offers enough magnetic resistance for a solid workout. It is as smooth as it is quiet. Where it lacks though, is in ensuring long-term reliability.

The Good

The Bad

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4. Harvil Hydraulic RM-1 Inexpensive Rowing Machine

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The Harvil Hydraulic is a compelling and affordable option. The RM-1 is built with user experience in mind. This is perfect for a small apartment or home gym. 

Adjustable Resistance 

You can adjust the hydraulic resistance with a control knob located under the seat. So you don’t have to get up in between rowing sessions to increase or decrease the intensity. It is worth noting that adjustable resistance is great to have in this budget.

best rowing machine under 300

There is only one piston. Rowers with two pistons offer higher resistance. However, the resistance stays consistent once you set it at a particular level. It is not like air rowing machines where you have to row harder to increase the resistance.

Build and Design

Built with a steel frame, the RM-1 rower is quite sturdy for a budget product. It can accommodate 250 lbs of weight, which is good for a hydraulic rower. It weighs just 34 lbs, so moving it around the house is easy. 

Assembly is a breeze and can be done in under 30 minutes. The steel frame is long enough to accommodate people up to 6 feet of height. Any taller, and you will have problems with full extension.

The rower is very quiet, so you can workout without disturbing anyone in the house or watch movies and listen to the audio clearly.

Full Range of Motion

Instead of a singular horizontal bar for the handle, the Harvil RM-1 has two large side arm bars with which you get to row in a large circular pattern and use the full range of motion. This makes it feel like rowing on real water. 

Flexible Workouts

However, you don’t necessarily need to use the large circular range of motion. You can hold the arm bars with your hands positioned closer. The arm bars are positioned at such angles that you can do upper-body workout only, or full-body by choosing different angles.

Folding and Storage

When the machine is idle, the arms fold toward the frame, making it compact enough to be stored in a small space in your home. When not in use, you can store it under a bed or place it vertically in an unused corner.

Seat and Footplates

Unlike many other counterparts, the Harvil RM-1 has a sliding seat. A sliding seat makes workouts smooth and comfortable. As you glide along the steel frame, the 11-inch foot plates pivot to give your ankle more flexibility. 

Ankle Flexibility

Those with ankle issues and limited ankle flexibility should always go for pivoting foot plates in their rowers. The velcro straps can be adjusted in two locations to provide stability. 

LCD Performance Monitor

The Harvil RM-1 Hydraulic comes with a basic LCD monitor to track workout data. The monitor uses 1 AA battery, which is not included. You can track the following metrics with this LCD monitor:

Scan Monitor Function

The scan function toggles through these metrics every six seconds. The display monitor needs to be “reset” or cleared out before you can turn it off. As expected, it doesn’t have a backlit. Overall, the monitor does the job with no frills.

What’s funny is that the company sends the LCD monitor in a white box that mixes up with the foam packing. As a result, many customers have a hard time finding the monitor.

Drawbacks

Our tests showed that the footplates can’t hold the feet in place. Some customers reported that they threaded the straps diagonally to solve the issue. You will most likely have to buy an extra set of velcro straps, especially if your shoe size is small.

Also, the warranty is six months long. It is okay but not comparable to the 3-year warranties on medium or high priced rowers.

As with all hydraulic rowers, the piston can get hot after a workout of 15-20 minutes and may need replacement after it takes some wear and tear.

Verdict

If you want a budget rowing machine that is reliable and not flimsy, go for the Harvil Hydraulic RM-1. It is great for a low-impact workout, lets you track performance data and can be tucked under your bed.

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5. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Inexpensive Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness makes great machines that give you a smooth workout experience. The SF-RW1205 is one of their best.

1205 rower
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12-Levels of Resistance 

It has 12 levels of hydraulic resistance. There is a piston underneath the seat which comes in handy when you want to up or lower the resistance during workouts. There is only one piston, which is not as good as having two. Two pistons give more resistance and stimulate the feeling of rowing with two oars.

There is a drawback to hydraulic pistons, though. They heat up within 15-20 minutes of use, which makes resistance adjustment difficult and you end up stopping your workout.

The resistance is good enough to give you a complete workout. You will feel the burn in all muscle groups within 15-20 minutes of workout. 

Build and Design

Some budget rowing machines aren’t well built. Their seats wobble and they make a creaking noise when used. But the RW1205 is different. 

It is built with a solid steel frame and will last a long time. You’ll most likely be impressed with how the build quality exceeds customer expectations. On the bottom, there are rubber caps on either side that protect your floor from scratches. The rower can hold up to 220 lbs. of weight, as advertised. However, many users 250 lbs. and up also reported having no issues with it.

Assembly

Assembling the rower is easy. Most buyers were able to assemble it in 10-15 minutes. All you have to do is put three bolts in place. It doesn’t even require reading an instruction manual.

Hydraulic Piston 

The only thing that may become a problem after months or years of use is the piston. All hydraulic pistons wear out and often start to leak. Some customers reported this issue and said the company readily replaces the piston if this happens.

Seat and Foot Plates

The seat is padded and comfortable, but if you don’t center yourself, it may start to wiggle. The handle has a soft grip with enough cushioning to make prolonged workouts smooth and sore-free.

The foot plates are large in size and pivot as you row. As mentioned earlier, pivoting helps people with low ankle flexibility or ankle issues. The Velcro straps help keep your feet in place.

best inexpensive rowing machine

LCD Monitor

The rower comes with a display monitor that helps you track workout stats. The stats include:

The scan function toggles through different stats every few seconds so that you stay on top of things. A couple users reported concerns regarding the accuracy of the stroke count. But overall, the monitor can help you track your performance relative to previous workouts quite effectively.

Storing and Moving

Storing and moving it around is easy. You can tuck it under the bed by folding it flat. But that will take some work. You will have to undo the handle bolts and take the rear support knob apart.

The easy way is to place it vertically and it will be just 4.5’ high standing up.

Concern for Taller People

Hydraulic rowers are cheap but also compact, so there is always a concern for taller people. If you are 6’2” or above, the SF-RW1205 will not be good enough for you. Taller people won’t get the full range of motion and without full extension, it won’t be fun.

Verdict

The SF-RW1205 is a great option that doesn't compromise on quality. It offers 12 levels of resistance and gives you a solid, low-impact workout. If you aren’t very strongly built or taller than 6’2”, this machine will be a good full-body workout machine for your home gym.

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Alternative

If you want an alernative other than the RW1205 rower, Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Full Motion is another option on a budget. It can carry up to 350 lbs. of weight, so heavier users will find it especially useful.

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6. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Inexpensive Rowing Machine

stamina
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The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is a great buy under $300. It uses hydraulic resistance and is more compact than any other machine you will see on this list.

Resistance

As with all hydraulic rowers, there is a knob to let you adjust resistance easily. The knob is located right under the seat, so you don’t even have to get up to change resistance while working out. It has 12 different levels of hydraulic resistance, so you can row at a range of difficulty and achieve precise fitness goals. This hydraulic resistance is also amazingly quiet, so you can workout without disturbing your family members.

Although hydraulic resistance has many resistance levels, you can’t have a strenuous workout on a hydraulic rower. It simply doesn’t have enough tension. So professional athletes and seasoned rowers would find the resistance too weak. However, beginner and intermediate rowers can have a solid workout if they practice the right form.

best inexpensive rowing machine

Display Monitor

The Glider 1050 has a basic display monitor that tracks workout time, stroke count, calories burned and total strokes. It has the scan mode also, that toggles between these parameters every few seconds, so you don’t have to find them manually. However, it is not backlit and the calorie count isn’t quite accurate since it doesn’t input your weight or height. Also, the monitor plastic isn’t high quality, which requires one to be careful while moving it around.

Build and Design

The Stamina Glider 1050 is made from a robust steel frame and aluminium center beam. No wonder, it has a great build quality even at a budget price. Even with its solid build, the machine weighs just 40 lbs. Some customers reported getting a squeaky noise from the roller seat, but suggested that the WD40 lubricant fixed this issue easily.

The rower has a small footprint, as all hydraulic rowers do. Even though it looks like a ‘small’ beginner’s rower, it is strong enough to last many years. It can support a weight of 250 lbs. Also, the pivoting mechanisms aren’t as solidly built as in other more expensive rowers.

Here's the Stamina 1050 in action:

LCD Monitor

The LCD monitor lets you track time, count, total count and calories. However, as it is with most budget rowers, the calorie count isn’t accurate. It has the ‘scan’ mode that toggles through the different workout metrics so that you can see each metric with an interval of six seconds. The monitor is basic and doesn’t have backlit. It is also made from average plastic. 

Seat and Foot Pedals

Seat isn’t as comfortable as you would expect. One would most likely need extra padding for it to be comfortable in the long run. Foot pedals are comfortable to put feet on, but the straps can’t keep the feet in place. So you’d need to buy new velcro straps to solve this issue.

best inexpensive rowing machine

Storage and Moving

This is perfect for small spaces. With just two screws, the arms can be folded back up and the rower can stand vertically taking little space. It won’t fit under your bed, but can be kept in a closet. There are no caster wheels to help you move the rower. So it is best to keep near your workout space in your home.

Verdict

The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is one of the best. It is compact, offers 12 levels of adjustable resistance and comes with a unique design that gives you full range of motion. If you are a beginner who needs a full body workout, this will be especially good for you. 

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Buying Guide: How to Pick the Best Inexpensive Rowing Machine

A. Type of Resistance

There are multiple resistance types in indoor rowing. Each type has their own benefits and drawbacks. Here is what you should know:

1. Hydraulic Resistance

Rowers with hydraulic resistance operate with a piston that tends to get hot and leaks. But hydraulic resistance is easy to adjust and stays consistent. In other words, in air and water rowers, resistance is dependent on your speed, but in hydraulic rowers, resistance level stays consistent.

2. Water Resistance

Rowers with water resistance simulates the natural feeling of rowing on water. Their sound is pleasant and they offer a smooth workout experience. If you want a water rower, check out the #2 MaxKare Water Rower in this guide.

3. Air Resistance

Air resistance is considered the best type of resistance and used by professional athletes in their rowers. Air rowers are considered smooth, but they make more noise than water rowers. 

Air rowers function by spinning the flywheel, creating wind across the flywheel to build resistance. To increase resistance, you just have to row harder. And as a result, there are infinite resistance levels to your disposal.

4. Magnetic Resistance

Magnetic resistance is ‘whisper’ quiet since there is no wind created or no water moved to build resistance. When a magnet moves closer or farther from the metal flywheel, magnetic resistance is created. The closer the magnet is to the flywheel, the more resistance there is. 

Resistance stays consistent on magnetic rowers. If you adjust it to level 5, the resistance will stay at level 5 for the entire workout unless you change it.

B. Size

Not everyone has the space to store a large rower in their home. So when buying one, note whether it can be folded and placed vertically. Note down the dimensions and check against the dimensions of the space which you will use for storage.

C. Weight Capacity

You want a rower that can support your weight without any risk of breaking down. Most budget rowers are made to carry around 250 lbs of weight. But if you want a more robust one, check out the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 rower as it can support 350 lbs. of weight.

D. Inseam Length

Whether or not you will be able to extend your legs fully on the rower depends on the inseam length. Most hydraulic budget rowers don’t have long enough inseam to accommodate taller people (6’ and above). However, if you are tall, the MaxCare Water Rower, reviewed above, will suit you the best.

E. Console Features

Top athletes know that performance measured is performance improved. Check whether the rower lets you track data such as stroke count, time, distance and calories burned. This data can help you set goals and push yourself with each workout. 

Note that some rowers come with the scan function in their monitor. The scan function toggles through the various workout stats one by one, so that you don’t have to manually press buttons to check your performance in real time.

Frequently Asked Questions for Rowing Machines Under $300

Q. Which is the best inexpensive rowing machine?

It depends on what you prefer in terms of resistance type, comfort and other features. It also matters how tall you are.

Q. What muscles does a rowing machine work?

Rowing works the muscles in both your upper body and lower body. It gives a cardiovascular workout, strengthening your heart and lungs. And when you push your legs and move yourself back and forth, it works your lower body. 

Q. Which is the best budget water rowing machine?

Many people say that you can’t buy a water rower on a budget. But this could not be further from the truth. The MaxCare Water Rower, our #2 pick, has everything you need from a rower.

Q. Which is the best budget rowing machine?

This guide answers all your questions. However, if you are short on time, close your eyes and buy the Maxkare Magnetic Rower.

 

Maxkare budget rowing machine
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Final Word

Rowing can transform your body within a few months.

When selecting the best inexpensive rowing machine, know what you want in a rower, whether it is high weight capacity, a certain type of resistance or long inseam. 

Read the reviews above and go through the pros and cons to find the right one for you.

This guide will show our top picks for the best home rowing machines.

Rowing gives you a full-body workout, impacting 86% of the muscles in your body.

Amazing, right?!

If you're going to buy an equipment for your home gym, a rower is the best bang for your buck.

With that in mind, here are the best rowing machines for your home:

1. Concept2 Model D with PM5

Ask any seasoned Rower and they will tell you how Concept2 is the best rower ever made. It will last for decades, not years. No wonder it is the world’s #1 bestseller.

Easy Set Up

Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine
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Setting up the Concept2 Model D is easy - just install the front legs using eight screws. It can be done in less than 30 minutes. Once set up, there is nothing else to worry about. Hop on, start rowing and feel the energy shifting through your body.

Impeccable Build Quality

The build quality of the Concept2 is impeccable and this is why it is the best rated rowing machine on our list. Here is what the machine is built of - front legs made with aluminum, rear legs with steel, chain with nickel plated steel, and 14 inch seat with firm rubber. 

Sleek Design

The only gripe we foresee customers having is that it might be too long for some. However, if you have extra space in your house, that won’t matter. We like that it comes with wheels so you can move it easily. Adjustable footrests allow you to take a comfortable position. A backlit LCD display helps you track data and chase fitness goals.

Performance

The PM5 is a high-tech machine with ridiculously good performance. Its performance meter is called PM5 which gives it an edge over others. It allows you to customize and store your workouts. You can also use the preset workouts or the automatic “row mode” with PM5.  The pulse meter shows you your strokes per minute, heart rate, calories burned and distance covered. 

What really caught our attention is how intuitive its performance monitor is. Everything seems under your control. The machine also has a dart game for you to develop a rowing rhythm. The PM5 not only tracks data but helps you become a better rower. The performance data is easily visible so you can amp up your performance at the right time. And to go one step further, you can set a pace boat to get the most out of your workout.

Resistance

The Concept2 Model D works on air resistance. Resistance can be adjusted in two ways. First, you can row hard to increase resistance and slow to decrease it. Second, you can set the damper to a desired level to increase or decrease resistance. All professional athletes prefer air resistance in their rowers because it offers a smooth rowing experience.

Connectivity

To help you accomplish your fitness goals, the Concept2 PM5 not just saves your rowing data, but also offers wireless connectivity to seamlessly access it from all compatible devices. The company has an app, ErgData, to keep data well-organized. You can also sync it with Concept2’s online logbook.

Concept2 Model D Rower

Power

Even though the Concept2 PM5 monitor is built to get the ‘beast’ out of you, it needs no powerhouse. You just need two D cell batteries to run its tracker. To make things efficient, the monitor draws power from the kinetic energy of the spinning flywheel.

Maintenance

Maintaining the PM5 is easy. The steel chain needs lubrication after every 40 hours of use. There is nothing else to take care of.

The Concept2 Model D PM5 is more expensive than its competitors. But they don't offer the kind of performance and reliability that comes with owning this well-engineered product.

Want something cheaper? Check out the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus review below.

Verdict

Ever wondered which home rowing machine Olympic athletes consider the best? 

The answer is Concept2. With a feature-rich performance tracking monitor, you can customize your workouts, compete against a virtual boat or real users online and break fitness records - there is nothing more you’d want in a home rower. For those willing to spend the money, Concept2 is the best rower ever made.

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2. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower 

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Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is another high-quality, reliable and feature-packed machine that comes at a mid-range price. It has adjustable magnetic resistance so that you can practice your strokes with precision. This rowing machine is the quietest you will come across. It makes absolutely zero noise.

Easy Assembly

We love how easy one can assemble this machine. The company provides all tools in the package. Even if you take your time to read the instructions, this rower can be set up within half an hour. 

Adjustable Resistance

As mentioned earlier, the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus has adjustable resistance. But it does it better than the most. It offers 14 adjustment levels - 4 to 6 more than most rowing machines. This feature allows you to set the EXACT resistance level that you need to push yourself.

The resistance is great - even for experienced rowers - which allows you to do various forms of HIIT workouts and set precise fitness goals for each workout. This makes it a good alternative to the Concept2 Model D rowing machine which is more expensive. 

Performance Monitor

The performance monitor shows a range of data including strokes per minute at the top, calories burned, stroke count, distance and time. There is a button on the display which allows you to switch between modes. For example, you can toggle between various data points in the scan mode. The performance monitor turns on with a button or when you initiate a rowing stroke. Powered by 4AA batteries, it turns off within a few minutes after you stop rowing. It also comes with a smartphone holder. 

Design and Build

The cable is made of a thick nylon cord rather than the thinner cables you see on rowers at most gyms. Thicker cable means your strokes are more grounded and there is no ‘bounce’ on the return phase. 

We like that the company was innovative enough to bring some unique features. The first is the contoured seat cushion that is compatible with people of all heights from 4’9” to 6’6”. Add to that a 250 lb weight capacity, you get high value for money.

And it is as reliable as it is innovative. The foot pedals are anti-slip and come with adjustable strap rings. It helps you improve your strokes, taking on bigger rowing goals while staying in place.

Additional Exercises

The 1000 Plus also has stabilizer foot pads in the front that not only give you a more stable rowing experience, but also allow you to do additional exercises including curls, upright rows, bent over rows, front raises, shrugs, triceps extension, standing shoulder presses and more. These foot pads are also adjustable. This is a foldable rowing machine which makes moving it around or storing easy. It also comes with sturdy wheels.

Bluetooth App Helps You Track Results

Whether you are a hobbyist or determined to achieve your 2k target, becoming better at rowing is a joy in itself. And it can’t be done without tracking your progress. Fitness Reality offers a bluetooth app, called MyCloudFitness. The app lets you create specific goals tied to either time, distance or calories burned. You can also log your weight every week.

Our only gripe is that the front foot pads don’t deliver as the company says. They sure offer good stability. But doing additional exercises as advertised isn’t very practical as the ergonomics are just not right, especially for experienced people. Even if you try doing curls, it will feel jerky and unnatural.

Verdict

Magnetic rowers aren’t always affordable. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus came in a few years ago and broke this rule. With its innovative features like contoured seat and stabilizer foot pads, this rower has a lot to offer. It is ‘whisper’ quiet and the 14 adjustment levels offer a good challenge for all experience levels.

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3. Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 

Concept2 Model E is the only rower on Amazon with near perfect customer ratings. It is expensive, but for the right reasons. No matter your age or experience, this rowing machine will allow you to feel the thrill of a full body workout.

concept2 model d vs e
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Quick Release Disassembly

The Model E is portable too - it can be disassembled into two parts and has caster wheels for easy transportation. There is a quick release framelock mechanism that helps you disassemble it quickly into two parts.

Build Quality

As for build quality, there is no one better than Concept2 - they have been doing it since 1976 and sell the highest number of rowers in the world. The rower is built of welded steel with nickel-plated chain and adjustable footrests. The weight capacity is a staggering 500 pounds, which speaks volumes about its build quality. 

Performance Monitor

As seen in the Model D, the Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine also has a performance monitor, PM5, that allows you to access preset workouts, games that improve your rhythm, and the option to customize your workout. Assembling the rower is pretty easy and with visual directions on the manual, it can be set up within 15-30 minutes.

The PM5 has wireless sensors to inform the Garmin chest strap heart rate monitor. This allows you to exercise in your ideal heart rate zone. The game allows you to race against an opponent. Or you can use PM5 to beat your past performance. It comes with a memory card to store on our fitness data and transfer it to other devices.

Tall 

The unique feature of the Concept2 Model D is its 20-inch height. The tall seating position makes it easy not just for those with problematic knees, but also provides a more comfortable position for everyone. The legs are constructed with a one-piece design that makes it more stable than others.

Adjustable Resistance

It is also noteworthy that the Concept2 rowing machine uses air resistance. And air resistance is the best type of resistance you can have in a rowing machine. It is almost as effective as rowing on the river. 

There is a spiral damper which lets you adjust the airflow to the flywheel, in turn changing the resistance. With your preferred level of resistance, you can set progressive goals and execute precision strokes.

Verdict

If you want the best of the best and won’t compromise with second-rate products, the Concept 2 Model E is what you should buy. This beast can carry even a 500 lb load and still go strong. Its air resistance allows you to workout with extreme precision and feel the burn with each workout.

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4. Waterrower Club Rowing Machine

Waterrower makes some of the better rowers in the market. This one is different in terms of construction and yet one of the best investments you can make for your health and fitness.

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Build and Design

The Waterrower Club rowing machine is made of solid Ash wood with black and rose stains to add to its texture. But why wood? Not only is Ash wood a top quality wood that gives it ultimate stability but it also absorbs any vibrations or sounds to provide a silent rowing workout.

Water Resistance

This water rower uses water resistance which simulates the feeling of rowing on a river. Inside the water tank, the flywheel paddles through the water. As done on the river, resistance is controlled with rowing speed. 

Sleek

The construction is solid as the rower can accommodate a mammoth 1000 lbs of weight. The S4 performance monitor lets you track your performance and get better with each workout. The Club rowing machine is different from other water rowers as it has dual black rails that give it a sleek appearance. This makes this Waterrower Rowing Machine not only good for home use, but also a nice addition to fitness clubs.

Assembly and storage

Assembling this Waterrower is a breeze. Want to store it? Just flip the front frame upright and stow it in an unused corner of your house.  Want to move it? Take it to its new spot rolling it on its sturdy wheels.

Most Powerful

The Waterrower Club Rowing Machine can take anything you throw at it. With a low center of gravity, you can push yourself to the limits with raw power and this beast won’t bat an eye.

Performance Monitor

It comes with a series 4 performance monitor that allows you to track stroke rate, workout intensity level, heart rate and other vital performance stats. The only issue people seem to have with it is that there is no backlight on the display. 

Ergonomic

The seat is as comfortable as they come. The light handle is designed with a 10 degree bend which further adds to the natural feel of rowing. The rowing motion is absolutely smooth with no signs of jerks at any point.

Reliable Brand

What makes Waterrower stand out is their excellent service record. Combine that with unique aesthetics and a comfortable seat, it gives a tough competition to the Concept2. This Waterrower machine is quieter than Concept2 and also aesthetically unique.

What a couple users seem to not like is that the foot pads are placed too close. They could do better with a few inches of extra distance between them. However, to keep your form correct, you can use the DVD that comes with it. 

Overall, the Waterrower Club Rowing machine offers a low impact workout without any complexities. What stands out is how smooth it is and how easy it is to use.

Verdict

For those who want something different, that feels more genuine, the Waterrower Ash is a great choice. It is perhaps the most sturdy rower, so it will last a lifetime. However, there is no backlit on the display at a steep price which may concern some. However, the sweet noise of the flywheel moving through water may put all concerns to rest.

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5. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

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Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is perfect for home workout. It looks smaller than other rowing machines, but it does the job well and is easy to store. It uses gas shock resistance and has a manual control knob which allows you to set the resistance level easily. 

It also allows you to track workout progress with a performance monitor. It is good for those who want a real rowing experience, much similar to rowing on a river. It’s an all rounder.

Build

It is made from high quality steel frame and aluminum central beam. It is sturdy and has a small footprint. With our research, it was clear that this machine will work well even after a decade or more. That said, if you are experienced and like working out with high resistance, this may not be the best rowing machine for you. The pivoting mechanisms aren’t as solid as you’d see in a Concept2 or Waterrower rowing machine. It can carry a weight of upto 250 lbs.

Design and Performance

What stands out is how this rowing machine offers full-range rowing experience. The LCD workout monitor helps you track workout time, stroke count, calories burned and total strokes accumulated. It uses hydraulic resistance and you can set the workout intensity with simply adjusting the dial under the seat. There are 12 resistance levels, so it suits both beginners as well as experienced rowers.

Seat is a bit Hard

The seat does the job but could use more padding. Without extra padding, you could feel discomfort after a long workout. Some users face issues with the foot straps and recommend that you buy extra velcro straps to fix this.

Easy assembly

Assembly is easy and you will be working out on this machine within 45 minutes of when it arrives. 

Quiet and Smooth

What we really like is how quiet this rower is. You can listen to the music or watch TV without any sound disturbance. But the most important thing is it provides a full-fledged workout. You will feel energized after rowing on the Stamina Body Glider. It works on all muscle groups and becomes a good replacement for an expensive gym membership.

Once you buy this Stamina rower, make sure you pay attention to the form when working out. Otherwise you will not harness its power to the fullest. For a nominal price, if you keep working out on this rowing machine for a couple months, you are bound to lose extra weight, get toned and become more energetic in general.

Verdict

You don’t have to spend a thousand dollars to get the best rowing machine for home. The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 proves this fact. It is a good alternative to an expensive gym membership and allows you to work multiple muscle groups and feel a surge of energy with each workout. 

This rower will last a long time and its performance tracker will always keep you going. If you aren’t very strong and don’t require a lot of challenge to feel that burn, this is one the best rowing machines you can buy.

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6. Stamina ATS Air Rower | Rowing Machine | LCD Monitor

The Stamina ATS air rower is for those who want performance, advanced technological features and comfort. 

Stamina ATS air rower

Best-in-class Resistance!

This Stamina rowing machine uses air resistance to give you a smooth yet effective workout. Air resistance is one of the better resistance types you can have in your rowing machine. There is no damper to control the resistance. To increase the resistance, you just have to row harder.

Air resistance in this Stamina rower can be better than the magnetic resistance you see on the high-end Concept2 machines. Here is why:

In Concept2 machines, when you pull hard, the magnetic resistance on the machine takes time to catch up to the rhythm. If you don’t wait, you will lose resistance. This isn’t an issue with air rowers like the Stamina ATS air rower.

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Build and Design

The build quality of Stamina ATS air rower is impressive. A steel frame, an upholstered and padded seat and large footpads with adjustable straps make it sturdy and comfortable. The seat can be slided to adjust to the best position possible. It has built-in wheels for easy transportation as well.  The rubber floor protectors protect your flooring and also prevent the machine from moving. 

The handlebar grip is padded well so that your hands don’t get sore after a workout. This is a foldable rowing machine - the steel frame folds up for moving and storage. Assembly is easy and can be done within 30 to 45 minutes. 

It is admirable that even at an affordable price, the company has put out an attractive, modern-looking rower that not only looks good but also doesn’t compromise on performance.

LCD Monitor

The best products are those with the best technology. Even at an affordable price, Stamina provides a useful LCD monitor that lets you track speed, time, distance and calories burned. However, the LCD monitor is as simplistic as they come. It updates the speed very slowly and tracks the distance in miles.. But considering the price, you can’t complain.

Fits all experience levels

Whether you are a beginner who wants the best rowing machine for home or an experienced rower, the Stamina ATS Rower will not disappoint you. It is a balanced combination of performance, power and comfort. The gliding motion in this Stamina rower is swift and natural

Drawbacks

Now that you know everything that is good, you should know the things that may not be as impressive. First, this rowing machine isn’t as quiet as the Concept2 or the Waterrower. The machine isn’t noisy, it is as noisy as a treadmill in the gym or an old box fan.

Second, the stamina air rower comes with a 90-day parts warranty and three-year frame warranty. The 90-day parts warranty doesn’t signal reliability to us. 

In addition, there are some plastic parts that feel flimsy. However, the overall quality feels great. You should also note that the machine sits rather low to the ground, which may take getting used to.

Verdict

The overall ratings suggest that the Stamina ATS air rower is a great machine for an effective low-impact workout. It can help you build your upper and lower body and crush your fitness goals. There are some plastic parts and no adjustable resistance, but at a surprisingly low price, the machine even outperforms high-end machines in many aspects. 

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7. NordicTrack RW900 Rower Rowing Machine 

If you are looking for a great rowing machine that may cost over $1,500, the Nordic Track RW900 is an attractive option. Nordic Track is a reputed company that produces a range of fitness equipment. They gained footing in the 70s for building the amazing Nordictrack Ski Machine. 

nordictrack rw900
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Build and Design

This rowing machine is not just high-quality, it packs a lot of punch with high-tech monitors and other rare features that make rowing an enjoyable experience. The build quality is unbeatable. All parts feel sturdy and made of premium quality materials - steel frame, industrial grade bearings, tough nylon straps and durable handle.

The unique selling point the company has pushed forward is that it is an interactive personal training machine. To know how compelling this feature is, read till the end.

The seat rails are oversized so that people of all heights can enjoy a complete range of rowing strokes. The foot pedals are oversized as well with quick release adjustable foot straps. So no matter what your shoe size is, your feet will fit perfectly and stay in place.

Both Magnetic and Air Resistance

When it comes to resistance, the Nordic Track RW900 Rower uses both air and magnetic types of resistance. The resistance is effective with a range of adjustment levels - 26 levels of magnetic and 10 levels of air resistance. This means the RW900 will allow you to push yourself to your limits, whether you are a beginner or a pro.

Manual Control for Air Resistance

The RW900 comes with a damper for controlling air resistance - a feature you see only on advanced rowing machines. It helps you workout with precise fitness goals for each session and achieve better results.

There are 26 levels of magnetic resistance. The unique feature of this magnetic resistance control is that expert trainers automatically adjust the resistance when you are following their live programs.

The whole operation is silent. You can workout early in the morning and it won’t disturb your neighbors or family members.

The 22 inch HD display is one of the best parts about Nordictrack RW900 rower.

nordictrack rw900

Interactive Component

The NordicTrack rowing machine comes with 30 preset workouts that you can use without paying anything. These workouts strengthen your cardio, endurance and upper body strength. 

The large screen gives you an immersive feeling while watching the workout videos. The immersive experience is unlike what you get on other rowers, it feels like rowing on a river.

The large HD screen allows you to track fitness data such as distance, time, stroke per minute, watts, 500m split, heart rate, calories burned etc. It also gives you access to the company’s iFit programme. 

So what is the iFit programme?

iFit consists of pre-recorded classes that are studio workouts led by professional trainers. They push you to perform better and you feel the impact of working out in a high-energy group setting. Your resistance level is set by experts as you break your limits.

Row with the World!

Such interactive training is not available with any other rowing machine. You get to do studio workouts from the comfort of your home. This is what makes NordicTrack rowers stand out from its competitors. NordicTrack offers one year of iFit membership, which costs about $396, for free. 

Not only can you row hard, the training programs also allow you to do other types of workouts - cross training, stretching and yoga off the rower. Hence, it is a tool for a full body workout. 

What we didn’t like was how the monitor is only there for the iFit programme. For a machine this expensive, it would be better if they let customers watch anything they liked such as Netflix or YouTube.

nordictrack rw900 rower review

Compact

You would be surprised to know that, despite all the frills it offers, the NordicTrack RW900 Rower is compact with a low footprint. This is a foldable rowing machine and can be stored in an unused corner of your home. And the front wheels make it easily movable.

Verdict

Overall, NordicTrack RW900 Rower offers great value at its expensive price. You get to have a rowing machine that will stand the test of time, that is amazingly quiet and that makes sure no workout is ever boring.

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8. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower

Not everyone wants to pay $2000 for a rowing machine. And to be honest, you don’t need to. Even at a couple hundred dollars, you can get yourself a high-quality rower like the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic. It has everything you need in a rowing machine for a home gym.

Sf-RW5515 rower
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Adjustable Magnetic Resistance

The SF-RW5515 deploys eight levels of magnetic resistance, which you can adjust using a handy knob. This is indeed a rare product since magnetic rowing machines have always been expensive. Most users report that they use resistance levels 4 or 5, which is great for a home workout. 

What you should know about magnetic rowers is that they maintain a constant tension unlike air rowers, in which the harder you row, the more the resistance is. The resistance is also smooth and surprisingly quiet. The rowing bit doesn’t make any noise. The only noise that comes is from the seat as it moves back and forth. What really impressed us is that even at level 2, you can get a serious workout in just ten minutes. Imagine that! 10 minutes a day to keep your body toned and feel refreshed. Isn’t it amazing?

Build and Design

The SF-RW5515 rower is a well-built machine that can give you a solid workout. Its footprint is just 7 feet long which makes sure that people of all heights have a full-range workout while making it easy to store. The machine is built with a steel frame and all of its parts feel sturdy and durable. That said, the digital performance monitor is quite basic - which is a given at its price. The rowing handle is connected to the resistance with a reinforced nylon strap - another marker for quality. 

Sunny Health and Fitness has added a lot of features that make it comfortable. Padded seat, anti-slip handlebar grips, large pedals, adjustable foot straps -- everything is added to promote the right posture. The rowing is smooth, you will definitely be impressed by how good it is. However, some customers recommend adding some stability with an exercise mat under the rower. 

Sunny 5515

Assembly

We like how easy it is to assemble the RW5515. There are just four steps of assembly and for each step, there are parts provided in a labelled bag. Even for the most novice buyer, the assembly shouldn’t take any more than 30 minutes.

Foldable Rowing Machine

Storing and moving around the RW5515 is easy. It can be folded within 30 seconds and put in a remote corner or closet in your home when not in use. Moving it is easy with the sturdy built-in wheels. It can carry a weight of up to 250 lbs, although some heavier users have had no problems using it. The seat rail is long enough for even the tallest users to row with ease and stretch out their legs.

Performance Monitor

The monitor displays crucial workout data such as time, stroke count, calories and total count. The display does the job but doesn’t have the ‘nice to haves’ like backlit or large screen. But what irked some users was how the monitor can’t even record the distance rowed. Another thing to note is that the calorie count isn’t accurate on these basic monitors. So how is it useful? Well, you can compare the calories burned from two workouts to compare how better you did relative to your previous workouts.

folded sunny sf rw 5515

Drawback: Not that Reliable

If you are a beginner to rowing and want to explore it as a hobby, the SF-RW5515 isn’t a bad investment. Where it falls short, though, is that there is no guarantee that it will be in working condition even after two years. Users have complained how it broke after a few months to a year of use. Some customers received a replacement while others regretted their purchase. 

Verdict

The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515 is a solid contender. It is built with performance in mind and gives you a quiet and smooth rowing experience. The magnetic resistance allows you to push yourself and the ergonomics make it all very comfortable. 

However, reliability is where this rowing machine lacks with many complaints of the handle coming apart and so on. So we will recommend it to those who want to spend a couple hundred bucks to buy the best smooth and foldable rowing machine for home.

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8. Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower w/LCD Monitor - Obsidian SF-RW5713

Sunny Obsidian Surge
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Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower is one of the best rowers that work on water resistance. For those who want a natural feeling of rowing on a river, this is a suitable option. 

Here is how water resistance works: There is a large water tank at the far end of the machine. Inside the water tank are suspended paddles, which create resistance on spinning. As you pull the handle to perform a stroke, the paddles spin and push through the water, fighting resistance.

The more your rowing speed, the more water there is to move against and hence the more is the resistance. The resistance on the SF-RW5713 is strong enough to tire your muscles and give you a good low-impact workout. The rower is quiet enough to not disturb anyone around you and there is only that sweet noise of water moving.

How to Switch Resistance Level

The resistance level can be changed in two ways. The first way is to row fast. The faster you row, the more resistance there is and the more intensely you feel the burn.

To quantify how much resistance will increase, one has to understand the rule of cubes:

As the Waterrower suggests, 

“The resistance in rowing is due to the drag of the water moving over the hull of the boat. By the laws of hydrodynamics, this resistance/drag varies to the cube of the velocity/speed. The rule of cubes therefore dictates that a doubling of the speed of the boat will require an eight-fold increase in resistance.” –WaterRower

The second way to change resistance levels is to add or remove water from the water tank. The company provides a siphon and funnel that you can use to add or remove water. This method may seem too manual, but it is the same method used on high-end Waterrower machines. 

Build and Design

The first thing you will note about the RW5713 is its sleek, all-black design. But it is not just the looks that impressed us, this rowing machine is built with high quality materials. The frame is made of robust steel and the hydro blades are made of stainless steel. 

There are 16 hydro blades that give you the feel of rowing on actual water. Hence, you don’t have to worry about corrosion or any wear or tear. It comes with floor stabilizers too so that you can workout in the best form without any extra movement.

The water tank is solid as well, made from polycarbonate plastic, which lasts a long time. Other parts are also high-quality - including foot pedals, strap, seat and handle. The few users who had a problem had their machine conveniently replaced.

Performance Monitor

This rowing machine comes with a R2 fitness monitor that shows a range of workout data. With details on time, 500m split time, strokes per minute, total strokes, distance, calories, heart rate and room temperature, you can achieve your fitness goals with precision. The monitor doesn’t need to be plugged in, as it runs on just 2AA batteries.

The monitor also displays heart rate if you have a compatible heart rate monitor on. Using the heart rate monitor, you can then calculate your fitness level with the ‘recovery’ option on the monitor. Your heart rate will allow the monitor to calculate speed of recovery.

There are other interesting features as well. By selecting a set time or distance in advance as a fitness goal, one can progressively get better workouts. There is a ‘race’ option that allows you to set the speed of a virtual boat on screen and row it to the end.

However, there is no back light on the monitor, which may be unsettling for some people.

Comfort

The seat is comfortable as there is sufficient padding. The seat height is also more than usual, which helps in easily getting on and off the rower - something especially useful for people with back or knee issues. Under the seat are three roller sets and bearings that make rowing as smooth as possible.

There is something to note about the foot pedals. They are not fixed in place like they are in many models. They pivot as you row - some people like this, others don’t.

Sunny Obsidian 5713 rowing machine

Storage

Moving the RW5713 monitor is easy with its sturdy wheels. Just lift its rear and move it to its designated spot. If you want to store it, let it stand vertically with its weight perfectly resting on a front end cap.

It can carry users weighing up to 300 lbs. The slide rails are fairly long with 42 inches of length and inseam being 38 inches. In others words, if you are about 6 feet or 6’5” you should be comfortable on this machine. 

Assembly

Assembly is easy but will take about forty-five minutes since you will need to add water to the tank. The instruction manual is quite helpful and we liked that the parts are labeled.

Warranty

There is a three-year warranty on the frame and three-month warranty on parts. As we mentioned earlier, the 90-days warranty for parts isn’t the best. So you will have to decide whether you want to rely on the company for parts replacement or buy another one like the Stamina rowers reviewed above.

Verdict

The SF-RW5713 is best for those who want not just smooth rowing strokes but also efficient performance monitoring. It looks sleek, offers a lot of comfort and feels pleasant because of the water resistance it runs on.

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10. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Full Motion Rowing Machine Rower

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 is for those who want value for money. Although it costs less, it can still carry up to 350 lbs of weight - an impressive feature at the price. As the users mention, the rower is ‘whisper’ quiet, so you can watch tv while rowing or row without disturbing your neighbors. 

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Hydraulic Resistance

The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5639 rower contains 12 levels of adjustable resistance. The resistance is hydraulic. It means there is a piston under the seat that controls the resistance. As you row, fluid moves through the piston, creating resistance.

The resistance can be adjusted with a dial that is located under the seat. So changing resistance is easy in the middle of your workout. 

However, there are some precautions you must take while using hydraulic resistance rower. The first thing is you should use a mat to secure your floor since hydraulic piston can sometimes overheat and leak oil. 

Not for Strong People

It is worth noting that if you are an experienced rower, hydraulic resistance will probably not be strong enough for you. Experienced rowers or those with a strong build won’t get a solid workout from this machine. It is common knowledge that hydraulic resistance isn’t as strong as other types of resistance. 

Piston Gets Hot

One thing to look out for is that the piston may get really hot after a workout. This also makes it prone to wear and tear and it needs replacement after months of use.

Build Quality

Even though this rower costs not that much, it offers impressive build quality. It will definitely exceed your expectations. Its solid build quality is why it can accommodate up to 350 lbs. of weight unlike even many expensive rowers.

Everything including the seat, foot pedals and rowing handle feels solid quality. In fact, build quality is the number one reason this SF-RW5639 rower is a bestseller.

Performance Monitor

Rowing becomes more fun when you know you’re going to reach your goal. Whether it is breaking your 2k record, or just increasing your strokes per minute rate, a performance monitor is essential to keep your spirits high.

Scan and Countdown

Fortunately, this rowing machine comes with a digital monitor that shows time, stroke count, total count and calories burned. There is a scan mode that tracks all the parameters every six seconds and shows them in the following order: Time - Count - Total Count - Calories.

You can also set the value of each parameter manually and have the performance monitor countdown for a fresh workout challenge every time. This can be done using the SET and the MODE buttons.

The RW5639 rower lets you row in a free range of motion. This lets you row at the angles that work the best for you and you can also change your rowing style when you feel bored.

Comfort

Seat

The seat is comfortable with padding, although some users reported that it could do better with extra padding. Another issue some users reported is how it made their tailbone numb and sore after rowing for a while. The reason is that the seat is too cupped in the back, as opposed to being flat - like how most rower seats are.

But you will be thrilled with how smooth the rowing machine is though. 

Pivoting Footrests

The foot rests pivot as you row with your feet movement. This is good but many people would like a fixed position for a better form. Also, a few users mentioned that the strap couldn’t keep their feet in place and they kept slipping. Also note that you can’t row without shoes on since the “heel” of the pedal would cut into your heel making you uncomfortable.

Storage

There aren’t any special features in the rower - it isn’t a foldable rowing machine. But it has a low profile and weighs less than a toddler. So you can keep it in a large closet or an unused corner of your house without any hassle.

Verdict

If you are not physically very strong or experienced in rowing, the SF-RW5639 rower is the best machine you can buy for cheap. It is best for those who want to ‘break-in’ in the world of rowing and taste how it feels with a rower that is built with quality in mind. However, for those looking for a tough challenge, its hydraulic resistance will not be strong enough.

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How to Choose the Best Home Rowing Machine

When buying an indoor rowing machine here is what you should be looking out for:

Types of Resistance in Rowing Machines

1. Air resistance

Air resistance lets you increase the resistance as you row in a gradual way. The harder you row, the more the resistance is. Although many air rowers do come with adjustment knobs or dampers, having not to stop when you’re in the zone to adjust resistance is a plus with air rowers.

This is how air resistance works: When you pull the handle, the flywheel spins and creates airflow. The harder you row, more volume of air is circulated. 

An air rower is what top athletes choose when practicing for the Olympics and other competitions.

Note that air rowers are relatively loud because of the flywheel motion. Concept2 and Stamina are popular brands that use air resistance.

2. Magnetic resistance

Rowers with magnetic resistance are smooth and quiet. As you pull the cable, the magnet gets closer to the flywheel, increasing resistance. Magnetic rowers are the quietest since there is no friction involved. However, they are sometimes not as smooth as air rowers. They are also not as strong in terms of resistance as air rowers. 

Brands such as Stamina, Velocity, Lifespan and LifeCore are known for their magnetic rowing machines.

That said, some rowing machines like the NordicTrack Rower RW900 use both air and magnetic resistance. So if you want the best of both worlds, you could go with rowing machines that have both air and magnetic resistance.

3. Water resistance

 In water rowers, the flywheel paddles are suspended in the water tank. As the paddles move through water, they push through resistance. The harder you row, the faster the paddles spin, the more water there is to push through, and more is the resistance. 

There is a second way to adjust the resistance. You can add more water in the tank to increase the resistance. This manual way, though, takes more time and effort.

Water rowing machines make noise but not too much. The noise is also soothing since it is the sound of water moving.

‘Waterrower’ is a reputed brand that makes the best water rowers. 

4. Hydraulic resistance

If you don’t have a lot of space in your home and want something economical, then a hydraulic rowing machine will suit you the best. Hydraulic resistance is built when the piston or cylinder pushes the fluid inside. 

Hydraulic rowers are compact and lightweight. While this makes them easy to move and store, it also makes them difficult for tall and heavy people.

Another benefit of hydraulic rowers is that they are very quiet. So if you like to watch TV while working out or listen to music uninterrupted, you can do so with hydraulic rowers.

The downside to hydraulic rowing machines is that they don’t offer much resistance. They are not meant for experienced rowers or people with a strong physique.

Another drawback is that the piston tends to get too hot after 15-20 minutes of workout. They can overheat and also leak oil. So one should buy a hydraulic rower only after ensuring its reliability.

Storage

Not all rowing machines are compact. Some can be stowed away in a closet while others need more space. While picking the best home rower, it is better to buy a foldable one. 

Always check for the following storage features:

Remember that not all compact machines are efficient. For example, hydraulic rowers are compact but not good for strong people, as they don’t offer high levels of resistance.

Pull System/ Handle Style

The range of motion that a rower provides is crucial. Some rowers, like the Stamina Body Glider Trac 1050 offer a free range of motion that mimics the feeling of rowing on a river. 

However, most rowers have a handle in the form of a straight bar that gives a different kind of rowing motion. Even high-end rowers like Concept 2, that are popular among professional athletes, have a straight-bar-type handle.

Seat Rail Height

For those with back or knee problems, rowing on a low-height rower can be difficult. Rowing machines such as Concept2 Model D and Sunny Health & Fitness RW5713 have higher seating position which helps with this issue.  

Read the rowing machine reviews in this guide carefully to choose a rowing machine with an appropriate seat height.

Rail Length

If you are taller than most people, you will need a rower with long rails. Otherwise your strokes will not be full range and you won’t enjoy the workouts.

Foot Plates - Pivoting vs Fixed

The foot plates must keep your feet in place. Otherwise your feet will keep slipping and the workout will become annoying rather than satisfying.

Rowers come with a velcro strap that puts your feet in place. Also, some rowers have pivoting food medals that adjust their position during the rowing motion. This is good for people who have less ankle flexibility or issues with their ankles.

Some people prefer fixed footrests instead. Fixed foot plates require more flexibility in your ankles for performing the rowing stroke. Note that even though the foot plates are fixed, your ankle will still move slightly, changing the angle between your shin and your feet as you row. 

So know what type would suit you the best before buying a rower.

Budget

Budget is crucial when finding a rowing machine. If you want a rower that can last 5 years or 10 years, you will be better off with a medium to high-range rower. But if you are a beginner and don’t want to spend a lot, there are many suitable options out there.

For example, the Stamina Body Glider Trac 1050 offers great value on a budget.

Performance Monitor

Most rowers come with a monitor that displays workout data such as stroke count, time, distance, and calories burned. However, some rowers don’t show some data points such as distance covered. So pay attention to this feature when selecting a rower.

Rowing Machine Benefits

A rowing machine is an amazing way to get fit, lose weight and have an active lifestyle.

It has minimal impact since you do the workout while sitting. There is no excessive pressure on your feet or joints.

For this reason, we have diligently picked the top rowing machines that will be good for a home workout. 

Final Word

A home rowing machine gives you a full-body workout. It helps you not only lose weight, but also build muscle strength and improve your stamina with cardio. That is why it is called the best home workout machine.

The Concept2 Model D rowing machine is our top pick because it has everything you need in a rowing machine for home - reliability, performance and comfort.

The best part of rowing is its simplicity. Once you learn the form, there is just one motion you need to practice. 

And it works for your entire body.