In the age of the internet, consumers today have a greater variety in the products they buy than ever before. Companies are always coming up with new features to create a demand for their products, or finding ways to cut costs in order to make their product available to a wider audience.
What if you don’t want all the fancy gadgets or cut corners though? What if you just want a tried and tested product, that continues to sell well, because it’s great at what it does?
When it comes to rowing, that more than likely means you’re talking about either a Concept2 or WaterRower. Two of the standard-bearers in the industry, they’ve provided top-quality rowers to all manner of clients for decades.
However, while they may be in a class of their own, do we really know which one is the head of the class?
Well, that’s what we aim to find out today, it’s water vs. air rowing machine as we put the Concept2 and WaterRower head to head to determine who is the true king of the rowers.
Concept2 has long been producing high-quality rowing products, for use both indoor and outside.
First opening in 1976 as a traditional rowing supplies brand, they made a name for themselves due to how well their products perform. This is a reputation they still hold today, as over 75% of medallists in rowing events at the last Olympics used their products.
Releasing their first indoor rower, the imaginatively named Model A, in 1981, it may seem primitive by today’s standards but was a revelation at the time.
They made gradual improvements moving forward until the release of their Model C in 1993, which would take the rowing industry by storm, becoming one of the best selling pieces of fitness equipment ever.
Across subsequent models, they have continued to tweak and perfect their designs, including the addition of moving foot stretchers on their most recent model, the Dynamic Rower, to simulate the feeling of real-life rowing.
While their rowers don’t come cheap, which could certainly be off-putting to some, the confidence in being assured of a quality product is the reason they still sell so well. It’s also the reason why if you’ve ever used a rower in a gym, chances are you’ve already been on a Concept2, as their products are just as popular with personal trainers.
WaterRower hasn’t been around quite as long as Concept2 but has still been making rowers for over 30 years, starting business in 1988. With the indoor rower industry already starting to build competition by that time, they needed to find their own niche in the market.
They successfully managed that in multiple ways.
First was their decision to use water to provide resistance instead of air. This gave their rowers a natural feel, more comparable to real-life rowing, that drew the attention of people involved in the sport.
Then was their decision to manufacture their frames from sustainably sourced wood, as opposed to the plastic and metal that most were made from. This provided a draw for the environmentalists out there, allowing them to train with products as natural and environmentally friendly as possible.
Both of these decisions were wildly successful and have stood the test of time. While some of their newer rowers in the S1 and M1 lines do now feature more traditional metal frames, the bulk is still made from wood and all of their machines still utilize water to power your workouts.
Similar to Concept2, these are certainly expensive machines that could put people off, as may the wooden frame which in some peoples minds can make it look somewhat old fashioned.
That said, as far as water-powered rowers go, this is still the benchmark other brands look up to and the success in their sales numbers only further cements that.
The concept2 uses a traditional air resistance system. It utilizes a flywheel, which sucks air into the housing in which it is encased to work against. They have a damper on the side of the casing which allows you to adjust the air coming in. The more air you have, the more difficult it becomes.
This also allows the resistance to fluctuating during a workout, as the harder you row, the more air is sucked in and the harder it gets.
Instead of air, the WaterRower uses water to provide its resistance, as the name suggests. This allows for a much more realistic feel to the rowing.
When it comes to adjusting the difficulty, like how a traditional rower’s resistance is determined by the quantity of air inside, you can change the amount of water in a water rower to do achieve the same result.
Additionally, changing your depth of stroke will also alter the difficulty, just like it would during real-life rowing.
This round just goes to the WaterRower. While the challenge available from both machines is comparable, the more realistic feel it provides just gives it the edge.
Concept2 0 – WaterRower 1
Model Sizes, Weight, Dimension, And Capacity
Concept2 currently has 3 models in production, Models D & E which feature very similar frames, and the Dynamic, which is quite different.
The Dynamic is 76 inches in length, 24.3 inches in width, has a seat height of 21.5 inches, and weighs 92 lbs.
All three machines have a weight capacity of 500lbs.
While WaterRower currently has 13 models in production, all 9 of their classic wooden frames feature virtually the same measurements. They are 85 inches in length, 22 ¼ inches wide, and 20 inches high while weighing 66.5 lbs.
The metal versions are all 3 inches long and can be up to 8 inches higher and up to double the weight.
The weight capacity of all of their rowers is 1000 lbs.
This is quite a tough one as although there is some variation between the models, it is overall quite small.
I was tempted to give it to WaterRower for its substantially greater weight capacity, however, the 500 lb capacity of all Concept2’s should really be enough.
That’s why I’m just about going with the Concept2 on this one, as the much shorter length of the Dynamic rower gives people who are struggling with space an option.
Concept2 1 – WaterRower 1
Performance Monitors And Training Options
Concept2 has always been famed for its performance monitors and the current PM5 is no different.
It provides predetermined workouts, a memory for previous sessions, games, and connectivity to link wirelessly to other devices such as heart rate monitors, among other things.
It’s also incredibly simple to use and can be picked up in no time, even if you’ve never used it before.
The current performance monitor on WaterRowers is the S4.
It contains preloaded workouts and the ability to store your own workouts, as well as providing vital performance information.
Again, it is very simple and straightforward to use.
Probably the easiest victory so far, this one goes to the Concept2. It’s not that the WaterRowers S4 is a bad device, it’s just that the PM5 is fantastic. Even the older Concept2 models had devices that would stand up well against the S4 so this category is in no doubt whatsoever.
Concept2 2 – WaterRower 1
Rowers Performance, Comfort, And Noise Levels
As I stated in the opening, this is an incredibly high-performance machine. Their expertise in rowing lends itself well to the indoor variety.
That’s further amplified by the level of comfort provided by certain aspects, such as the ergonomically designed and cushioned seat, comfortable handle, and adjustable footplates. The natural movement on the dynamic variety further enhances this.
When it comes to noise, all air-powered rowers are quite loud by nature but this does a reasonably good job of keeping it to the bare minimum.
Again, we know this is a high-performance rower, otherwise it wouldn’t even be in the discussion.
Its cushioned seat and handle are designed to maximize comfort but it’s the rollers underneath the seat that make all the difference. They provide a smooth, gliding quality to your movement, making it much easier on your back.
As for sound, while not as quiet as a magnetic rower may be, the water power allows it to create minimal noise, even when rowing flat out.
The Concept2 just had its biggest victory so far and now the WaterRower gets its own.
While the performance is inseparable between the two, the gliding motion makes the WaterRower slightly more comfortable.
The big difference arises when we look at the noise factor as it’s night and day. The water resistance eliminates that constant boom you get with any air-powered rower and comfortably hands the WaterRower the victory.
Concept2 2 – WaterRower 2
Storing And Mobility
A lot of this will come down to the dimensions we looked at earlier. There are one or two nice features beyond that however those are nice bonuses in this department.
Firstly, it has wheels on the front. This makes it very simple to quickly move around wherever you have it. If you want to transport it further or store it though, it’s the second feature that will be of the most importance.
The Concept2 comes apart easily, by simply opening the locking mechanism on its underside. This makes it much simpler to pack away to store or pop in a car to take with you.
The WaterRower has wheels on the front to help you move it, however, they are quite small. It can also be quite heavy and cumbersome when filled with water.
While it definitely can be moved and stored, this is a piece of equipment that is better designed for setting up where you plan to use it and keeping it there.
Another quite definitive victory for Concept2. It comes apart, has better wheels, is smaller overall, and is just generally better designed for storing and mobility than the WaterRower.
Concept2 3-WaterRower 2
Style And Design
When it comes to the style of Concept2, it’s simply timeless. It’s sleek and elegant and although it has gone through changes over the years, they still remain close to the original blueprint from Model 1.
They say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and Concept2 clearly agrees. Considering it set the standard that most other rowers have tried to emulate over the years, why would they even think about changing?
13 different models and 13 different styles, WaterRower like to keep things fresh with their rowers.
You have a choice of metal or a number of different types of wood, each with its own colors and finishes.
Then there’s the clear water compartment, giving you that close to the water feel, that further helps you imagine rowing for real.
While the overall design remains the same throughout their catalog, there’s certainly plenty of variations on it to make as many people happy as possible.
While it’s hard to side against the machine that set the standard, the WaterRower is just more style-oriented than the Concept2.
While its unique style won’t please everyone, there are enough options available to cover most people and they are all beautifully executed.
Concept2 3 – WaterRower 3
When you’re buying a high spec machine such as this, from a world-renowned manufacturer, it’s never going to be cheap.
You need to be prepared to part with a great deal of money to purchase any of the three current models they produce. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily make it bad value as you are getting a quality product.
Another case of you get what you pay for, WaterRowers don’t come cheap either. While their cheapest model comes in slightly lower than the cheapest Concept2, they average out to almost the same price as one another.
Again, the quality is there to justify the price tag and by this point probably won’t come as a shock to people.
This one is too close to call. I’m tempted to give it to the WaterRower, due to it having the cheapest option of the two, but in the end, the difference was so marginal I didn’t feel it was enough to give it the win.
It may seem a bit of a cop-out but I’m leaving this one as a tie.
Concept2 4 – WaterRower 4
Final Thoughts – Should You Get A Concept2 Or WaterRower?
So here we are. We set out to determine which was the better rower out of Concept 2 and the WaterRower and after breaking them both down and analyzing them we have concluded that…..they’re both equally good.
While this may seem unhelpful if you’re trying to decide which to buy, that isn’t the case. We may not have determined which is the best overall rowing machine but that doesn’t mean we haven’t shown which is best for your own personal needs.
The Concept2 is the better option if you need a rower that:
- Is easier to store and transport
- Takes up less space while in use
- Has a more advanced performance monitor
On the other hand, the WaterRower would be the preferred option if you:
- Prioritize style
- Prefer a more realistic feel to your rowing
- Like to row in peace
Now, hopefully, that should make things a little clearer on which one you want to buy.
At present, there are waiting lists for a lot of the models from both companies due to their quality, as well as the increased demand for home fitness equipment caused by the current pandemic.
So if you don’t want to be stuck at home without any way to get your rowing fix, I’d highly recommend getting into gear and getting your machine of choice ordered today.