In this head-to-head article, we compare the Nordictrack RW900 and the ever-popular Concept 2 RowErg (previously known as the Model D) rowing machines.
As an in-home personal trainer, I often give rowing machine recommendations to clients who are wanting to take their cardio workouts to the next level. For many years, the Concept 2 Model D, which I’ve been using since the machine was first released onto the market in the 1980s, has been my number one recommendation.
In recent years, however, there has been an influx of high-quality competitors on the market that threatens to challenge Concept 2’s position at the top. One of the most impressive is the Nordictrack RW900, released in 2020. I’ve recently been working out on this rower at one of the gyms I go to. This review is based on my personal experience with both machines, as well as careful analysis of the experiences of verified online users.
Table of Contents
At a Glance
The Concept 2 RowErg is a better overall rowing machine than the NordicTrack RW900. Though it lacks the large display screen and accessibility to an endless stream of workouts from all over the world that you get with the RW900, Concept 2 provides a more natural, on-the-water rowing experience that is smoother and more comfortable during long rows.
Buying Concept 2 will save you around a thousand dollars over NordicTarck’s RW900. It’s a little noisier, lacks a display screen (though you can easily attach your tablet to the frame), and only provides half the length of the frame warranty that you get with the RW900. But when it comes to the basics – getting a great workout on a durable machine- Concept 2 does it better than almost anyone out there.
Keep reading for a complete head-to-head comparison between Concept 2 RowErg and NordicTrack RW900.
The NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine is pretty solidly built but has a rather disappointing max user weight of 250 pounds. Its features include a 22-inch HD touchscreen display with access to live and on-demand workout courses, including cross-training and rowing workouts. Additionally, it provides wireless connectivity for connecting to fitness apps and tracking progress.
The RW900 has an ergonomic grip and an adjustable footrest to make rowing comfortable and secure for users of all sizes. It is made with a foldable frame and integrated wheels for simple transportation.
This is an electromagnetic resistance rowing machine that features an adjustable magnetic resistance with 26 levels of resistance.
- Interactive 22-inch HD touchscreen with live and on-demand exercise classes available
- 26 levels of adjustable levels of resistance
- Folding frame and integrated wheels
- Adjustable footrest
- Ergonomic handle
The Concept 2 RowErg could, with some justification, be called the original air rower. Developed in 1981 by brothers Dick and Peter Dreissigacker, it has emerged as the world’s most popular rower, being used by professional athletes as well as being the official rower of the CrossFit Games.
The Concept 2 rower is renowned for its robustness, realistic and smooth rowing motion, and capacity to give a full-body workout. Although it has undergone a number of updates and improvements over the years, its fundamental structure and functionality have largely not changed.
There is no screen on Concept 2. Instead, you get the PM-5 performance monitor, which provides limited workout programs. You can add your own monitor and plug into external fitness apps in order to enhance your workout capability.
The Concept 2 RowErg is available in either a 14-inch or 20-inch seat heat option. Both versions have a max user weight of 500 lbs.
- 500 lbs max user weight
- PM-5 performance monitor
- Ergonomic handles
- Realistic air resistance
- Choice of seat heights
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Appearance
The NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine and Concept 2 RowErg have different looks and design elements. The Concept 2 features a simple, classic design with a black powder-coated frame. On the machine’s movable arm is a small performance monitor that displays workout statistics. On the other hand, the NordicTrack RW900 has a more contemporary and slick appearance with a silver and black color scheme. The device has an ergonomic, comfortable handle with adjustable footrests and a 22-inch HD touchscreen display.
With a longer rail and a broader base, the Concept 2 Model D has a somewhat bigger footprint than the NordicTrack RW900. With its foldable frame and built-in wheels, the NordicTrack RW900 is made to be smaller and easier to store.
The NordicTrack RW900 uses a magnetic resistance system, whereas the Concept 2 Model D uses an air resistance system. The machines’ look is not considerably affected by the different resistance systems.
With its sleeker, more flowing, and ergonomic design, the Concept 2 edges out the NordicTrack RW900 when it comes to the look of the machine.
Winner: Concept 2
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Construction And Design
The Concept2 RoweErg is a significantly stronger more robust machine than the NordicTrack RW900. The most obvious evidence of this is the contrasting maximum user weights. While Concept2 can handle up to 500 lbs, the RW900 tops out at just half that weight.
The Concept 2 Model D has a powder-coated aluminum frame, nickel-plated steel chain, and durable flywheel. The NordicTrack RW900 has a steel frame with a sleek silver and black finish, and features an inertia-enhanced flywheel. The stability of the RW900 is largely due to the use of steel stabilizers and a long steel monorail. The feet of this machine are also adjustable to ensure that you’re working from a level base.
The Concept 2 RowErg is famous for its rugged, stable design. Every part of this rower is solid, thanks to the aluminum and steel construction. The fact that it’s got twice the user weight capacity of the RW900 tells you all you need to know about the comparative construction durability between the two rowers.
The Concept 2 is a larger rowing machine with a bigger footprint. It has a footprint of 96 inches long x 24 inches wide. You have the option of two seat heights; 14 inches and 20 inches. The inseam length on both versions is 38 inches.
The footprint of the NordicTrack RW900 is 82 inches long x 22 inches wide.
The higher seat height of the Concept 2 RowErg makes this model better suited for seniors and those with limited mobility.
Winner: Concept 2 RowErg
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Comfort And Feel
Both the NordicTrack RW900 and the Concept 2 Model D are designed with user comfort in mind. Here’s a breakdown of the most significant comfort features:
The NordicTrack RW900 has a large, padded seat that is designed to offer comfort and support throughout prolonged exercises. It is contoured to lessen strain on the tailbone and encourage good posture. The distance from the top of the seat to the floor is 19 inches. That’s close to the 20-inch height of the higher Concept 2 options but a lot more than the 14-inch height of the other option.
The Concept 2 RowErg seat has a molded shape that is designed to match the user’s body for improved comfort and support. For added slip-prevention during rowing exercises, the seat is built with a textured finish. Of the two, I found that the Concept 2 provides more tailbone comfort when you’re rowing for more than 30 minutes.
The footplates on the NordicTrack are adjustable to accommodate your foot size. The fastening system uses velcro, making for a very easy locking mechanism. I found that my feet were well secured on this machine, while also allowing for a sufficient amount of ankle flexion.
The footplate on the Concept 2 RowErg is quite similar to the RW900. It also features an adjustable molded pedal that sits on top of a secure footboard. An adjustable strap allows you to lock your foot in place. The area of the platform under the toes and balls of your feet are ridged to prevent the foot from slipping while you’re rowing.
Both machines feature functional, quality footplates but the extra ridging on the Concept 2 RowErg nudges out the RW900.
The handle on the RW900 is slightly angled and has an oval, contoured shape. It features medium-density rubber padding. The handle is not overly long, so if you prefer rowing with a wide grip, this is not the rower for you. The longest I’ve rowed on this machine is 45 minutes and I didn’t experience any hand or wrist strain.
The Concept 2 handle is angled slightly at 10 degrees. It features over-molded soft rubber grips that provide more comfort than you’ll get on the NordicTrack rower. There are five cut-outs in the middle of the handle. This allows you to row with one hand if you so desire. You do not have that option with the RW900.
The NordicTrack RW900 features a steel frame with an aluminum monorail. It delivers a sturdy and stable base for your rowing movement that is smooth and quiet. The Concept 2 has a welded aluminum frame with a stainless steel track that is designed to be both lightweight and durable.
Resistance on the NordicTrack RW900 is provided via a magnetic system with 26 levels of resistance. A motorized flywheel that regulates the resistance produces a smooth and constant resistance throughout the rowing motion. The machine’s touchscreen display or the resistance controls on the handlebars both allow users to change the resistance level.
Resistance of the Concept 2 Model D is based on the user’s effort and rowing pace and is produced by an air resistance mechanism. A flywheel and a damper that may be changed in order to alter the resistance are features of the machine’s design. The resistance is influenced by how much air is allowed to enter the flywheel housing through the damper.
The air resistance on Concept 2 provides a more natural resistance where your effort determines the resistance level. However, the magnetic resistance of the RW900 allows you to control your tension level more. Magnetic resistance is also quieter than air resistance.
The rowing performance on both of these machines is very good. They both allow for a full range of movement without constriction and with no wobbling or lateral motion. However, the air resistance on Concept 2 delivers a smoother, more on-the-water row than you can get ever get from magnet resistance.
I have used both machines extensively and got a more fluid, stutter-free experience on Concept 2. I also prefer the freedom of being in control of the resistance level through the effort that I put in rather than being dictated to by an artificial resistance level.
Winner: Concept 2 RowErg
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Noise Levels
The Concept 2 RowErg rowing machine is noisier than the NordicTrack RW900. Compared to the air resistance technology used by the Concept 2 Model D, the NordicTrack RW900’s magnetic resistance system is quieter.
A motorized flywheel is used in the NordicTrack RW900’s magnetic resistance system to provide resistance, which results in a quiet, even, and consistent resistance. In contrast, the Concept 2 RowErg, which employs a flywheel with fan blades to provide wind resistance. The fan blades spin faster and make more noise as the user rows more forcefully and quickly.
The NordicTrack RW900 is generally quieter than the Concept 2 RowErg while the noise level might change depending on the user’s effort. However, because both machines are intended to be used in a home gym environment, the noise level should not be too loud to significantly disturb others. To further reduce noise, you can use a rowing machine pad or lay the machine on carpeted flooring.
Winner: Concept 2 RowErg
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Screen/Monitor
The NordicTrack RW900 has a sizable 22-inch HD touchscreen display that offers connectivity to fitness apps, access to live and on-demand training sessions, and workout data tracking. The display has an adjustable arm that users can position for best viewing. This allows you to perform workouts off the rower while following along with an on-screen instructor.
The Concept 2 RowErg has a simple performance monitor that shows workout information like time, distance, and calories burnt. For tracking progress, the monitor can be connected to tracking devices like fitness apps and other trackers.
The Concept 2 cannot compete with the NordicTrack RW900’s larger and more sophisticated display. The NordicTrack RW900’s touchscreen display gives users access to a variety of live and on-demand training sessions, as well as workout data tracking and connectivity to fitness apps.
Although the performance monitor on the Concept 2 RowErg is simpler, it still provides crucial workout information and has a connection port for other tracking gadgets. The NordicTrack RW900 may be preferred by users that prioritize a big, interactive display for their workouts, as opposed to Concept 2 RowErg users who prefer a simpler, more plain display.
Winner: NordicTrack RW900
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Membership And Content / Workout Options
The RW900 comes with a 1-month complimentary membership to the iFit platform. This provides purchasers with access to thousands of workouts, including rowing on the water and in the studio. There is also a wide range of off-the-rower workouts you can do alongside your rower. You can also engage with trainers in live interactive workout sessions.
In contrast, the PM5 monitor on the Concept 2 RowErg is pretty limited. The home screen provides you with the following options:
- Just Row
- Select Workout
- More Options
When it comes to rowing programs, you can row for distance or time. There are also some pretty basic games, including the Fish Game, Darts, and Target Training. You can attach your own tablet below the PM5 monitor and access free or subscription workout apps.
Winner: NordickTrack RW900
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Usability Without Membership
The RW900 also includes a number of pre-set programs that don’t require an iFit membership. These include interval training, target distance, target time, and calorie burn exercises, which can present a variety of challenges and help in tracking your progress over time.
The RW900 also offers Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to sync your workout data to third-party fitness applications like MyFitnessPal, Google Fit, and Apple Health. This will enable you to monitor your development over time and evaluate your performance in comparison to previous routines.
The fact that you can follow one with these workouts on the large 22-inch HD screen and the limited program functionality of Concept 2, put NordicTrack ahead on this one.
Winner: NordicTrack Rw900
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Price
The NordicTrack RW900 retails for $1999 on the official NordicTrack website. This can be paid in 39 interest-free monthly payments of $52.
The Concept 2 RowErg retails for $999. Your purchase comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. That a difference of a thousand dollars, making the Concept 2 the far better value purchase.
Winner: Concept 2 RowErg
Nordictrack RW900 Rower vs Concept 2: Warranty
The warranty that comes with the NordicTrack RW900 is pretty impressive. You get 10 years on the frame, 2 years on parts, and a year of labor. In contrast, you get just 5 years warranty coverage on the frame, with 2 years and 12 months for labor. Getting twice the length of warranty coverage on the RW900 frame seems a little strange, considering that the Concept 2 frame has twice the max user capacity and is clearly stronger and more durable.
Winner: NordicTrack RW900
|Maximum User Weight
|Programs and workouts
|22″ HD touchscreen
|Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
|USB, ANT+ and Bluetooth
|Dimensions (L x W x H)
|86.5″ x 22″ x 50″
|96″ x 24″ x 14″
NordicTrack RW900 vs Concept 2 RowErg: The Winner
Now that we’ve pulled apart the various features of these two rowers, which one comes out on top?
The Concept 2 RowErg delivers a more intense, on-the-water simulating rowing experience than the NordicTrack RW900. That is primarily due to the difference between air and electromagnetic resistance. When I row on Concept 2, I love the feeling of being in control of the intensity of the workout. I also get a smoother, more consistent feel throughout the workout on Concept 2.
While the lack of a display screen is an obvious disadvantage for Concept2 compared to the RW900, it’s not a game-changer for me – especially when you take into account the thousand-dollar price difference between the two machines. By setting up your tablet on the secure holder located just below the PM5 monitor on Concept 2, you’re able to get similar functionality to the RW900. You can access iFit or any other fitness subscription service you choose to buy into. The only difference will be that the screen size will be smaller, but, the way I see it, that’s a pretty good trade-off to keep that extra grand in your bank account.
The greater frame strength, higher maximum user weight and durability are other factors that make Concept 2 a better long-term investment than the NordicTrack RW900.
Based on a point-by-point comparison of features, combined with my personal experience with both machines, Concept 2 RowErg is a clear winner over NordicTrack’s RW900. However, if you’re after the fully immersive experience of a large HD screen that provides access to thousands of workouts (provided you maintain your iFit subscription), then the RW900 may be the better option for you.
The RW900 may also be the better choice if you have very limited workout space as its smaller footprint and foldability make it smaller space friendly. Folks who are working out early in the morning when others are sleeping may also prefer the quieter NordicTrack rower.
There’s a reason why the Concept 2 RowErg is the most popular rower among serious athletes and professional rowers. That reason is that it prioritizes functionality and reliability over advanced features. If you’re looking for a straightforward, dependable workout at a sharp price point and aren’t too interested in the bells and whistles, then the Concept 2 RowErg is the rower for you.
Go here to get the best price on Concept 2 RowErg. Or if your preference is the NordicTrack RW900, here’s where you’ll find the best deal.