So you’ve narrowed your choice down to the two gold-standard rowers: the Concept2 and the WaterRower but you’re not sure what your final choice should be. You’ve come to the right place. In this post, we compare the WaterRower vs Concept2 Model D head to head. We’ll show you the pros, cons, and nuances that you probably never thought about.
However, if you’re in a rush, our top pick is the Concept2.
Not only is it the world’s best-selling rower, but it also focuses on key aspects such as accurately measuring workout data, allowing for full control of the intensity, and helping you stay motivated with its variety of workout programs. But in the interest of covering all the available features of both products, we’ll dive into details and look at the benefits that both rowing machines offer.
Let’s jump in…
The Concept2 began in 1976 when Pete and Dick Dreissigacker started making composite racing oars. In 1981, they created the first Concept2 Indoor Rower, quickly becoming the best-selling rowing machine. In fact, its our top pick for the best rowing machines of 2021.
Simply put, the Concept2 is the gold standard of rowing machines for every competitive rower, rowing club member, and athlete. In fact, it’s the rower that’s used at the major CrossFit competitions because of how durable and accurate it is.
The Concept2 has a sleek design and has been built for professional rowers who row for miles every day. In other words, it’s extremely reliable and durable. It also disassembles into two pieces with the click of a button so it’s easy to move out of the way when you’re done rowing.
The experience of using the rower is unparalleled. Out of the box, it’s easy to start using it right away and requires minimal assembly. It takes about 20 minutes to do it by yourself.
It’s available in black or light grey, and the aesthetics of this machine makes it very stylish for any home gym.
IT should be noted that the Concept2 is a fan rower which means it’s noisy so watching T.V. might not be an option while you’re rowing. That being said, if you’re buying a rowing machine, you’re probably familiar with the level of noise they can make.
When it comes to the display, you can track watts, speed, calories, and more.
In addition, you can view your heart rate on the screen, provided that you use an approved HR strap. You can even download your stats via USB or sync them to your cell phone if you’re nuts about optimizing your performance like we are.
In terms of comfortability, this indoor rowing machine takes your mobility needs seriously.
The Concept2 comes with adjustable footrests, an ergonomic handle, and caster wheels that can be easily repositioned. The seat is contoured and cushioned which is more than comfortable even if you’re doing longer sessions on your rowing machine. Furthermore, the seat is slightly tilted forwards, making it an ideal option for those with lower back issues.
- Best rower overall and considered the gold standard by professionals and serious athletes
- Made in the USA
- The sleek design can fit into any room
- Brilliant monitor which tracks everything you need
- Great for users with back issues
- Slightly noisy
Originally designed in 1988 by John Duke, the inventor of WaterRower’s unique Water Flywheel, the company didn’t get its big break until 1991 when WaterRower (UK) Ltd was launched on the market and distributed the WaterRower throughout Europe.
Then in 1995, the company consolidated its offices and workshop under one roof, in Ravenscourt Park in West London, which remains to be the European Headquarters to this day.
The WaterRower is a great piece of equipment for those who want the most realistic rowing feel. It’s filled with water so the resistance is very close to how it feels when rowing an actual boat.
When it comes to the looks, the WaterRower is a beautiful rower. It’s made of solid ash wood with a honey-oak stain finish and it’s one of the best looking indoor rowing machines aesthetically. It looks like a piece of high-end furniture so if you plan on putting it in the house, this certainly won’t be an eyesore.
It measures in at 84″ x 21”, which is long but it’s designed to stand perfectly upright so you can store it in a corner out of the way if needed.
As its name suggests, the WaterRower is powered by water and because it’s handcrafted from wood, it absorbs vibrations and noise — the only noise it makes is the gentle splashing of the water in its tank.
Because it’s much quieter than the Concept2, it’s a solid home gym option. Especially if you live in an apartment where a fan rower may be too noisy for neighbors.
The monitor on the WaterRower — while not as advanced as the one on the Concept2 — is very user friendly. The monitor tracks stroke rate, intensity, heart rate (with additional heart rate monitor & receiver), distance, duration, and time per 500/m.
For a home user who just wants to track their progress over time, the WaterRower has everything that you need.
When it comes to comfort, this rower doesn’t quite match the luxury that the Concept2 provides.
The seat is tilted backward, thus putting more pressure on the lower back, while the footrests are made from molded plastic that has sharp edges (this isn’t ideal for those who like to row in socks or barefoot).
On the bright side, the flat rail gives less knee compression, so it’s a bit gentler on the knees.
- Made in the USA
- One of the best-looking rowing machines on the market
- Quieter than the average rowing machine
- Provides less knee compression providing support for those with knee problems
- The screen is slightly lackluster
- Much heavier and bigger than its competition
Features Face to Face
Country Of Origin
The Concept2 is made in their manufacturing facility in Morrisville, Vermont. The WaterRower is also made in the USA, where you can buy rowing machines in their office and showroom at Warren, Rhode Island. There’s no difference in this category as USA-made rowing machines are known for their high quality.
Size, Weight & Dimensions
As mentioned above, the Concept2 is a huge space-saver and can easily fit into any living area or home gym.
It also weighs less, coming in at about 60 lbs compared to the WaterRower which weighs 117 lbs. with water, making it much heavier and harder to transport. However, it can be stored upright to save you some space. In this category, the Concept2 is the winner, as it’s more suitable for smaller spaces and easier to move around.
WaterRower Dimensions: 84 x 21 x 22 inches (W x H x D)
Concept2 Dimensions: 96 x 24 x 14 inches
When you look at the dimensions, you’re probably thinking, “the Concept2 is a foot longer. How is that space saving?”.
The Concept2 won for two reasons. First, it has a button in the center that you push to separate the unit into two much smaller halves. Second, it’s lighter and easier to move around, especially in two pieces.
Air or Water Resistance & Manual Settings
The Concept2 air rowing machine can be used in almost any kind of environment and comes with a manual damper so you can freely adjust the resistance levels. It also works as hard as you do — the more intense you row, the higher the resistance level will be.
The WaterRower is a rowing machine that uses a “water flywheel” which simulates the realistic feeling of rowing in the water. While this feature is geared towards sports specific training, it’s a great workout even if you don’t do row club. Similar to the Concept2, the resistance is self regulated on the WaterRower. The more water you add, the more resistance you get.
This one comes down to preference but we prefer the Concept2.
Concept2 offers a 500 lb. weight capacity, while the WaterRower can handle up to 350kgs, or around 770 lbs. It has around 1.5 times higher capacity, making the WaterRower the winner in this category.
Material And Color
WaterRower is made from natural ash wood, which is perfect for those who love the classic look. The Concept2, on the other hand, is made from a sturdy metal frame combined with a nickel-plated chain and is grey or black-colored with a modern design.
This particular debate is open to individual preferences. However, if you care more about the looks of the rower, the WaterRower is beautiful. With the Concept2, it’s clear that this is a piece of workout equipment.
Concept2 offers three high-quality models, known as Concept2 Model D, Concept2 Model E, and Concept2 Dynamic Rower. However, WaterRower also has three models to choose from — WaterRower Natural Rowing, WaterRower GX Home Rowing, and WaterRower Club Rowing. Because of this, these two rival companies also share the number one spot here.
Working out and rowing becomes so much easier when a computer does the tracking for you. While both the WaterRower and Concept2 have performance monitors that cover a lot of data, only Concept2 has a backlit screen with heart rate tracking built in.
It comes with the PM5 monitor — a feature found only on Concept2. The monitor is compatible with Bluetooth and ANT+ for monitoring your heart rate and because of its wireless connectivity, you can easily export the results of your training session to your smartphone.
The WaterRower does have something to offer too. Its Series 4 (S4) monitor offers stored programs for you to follow, as well as USB and Wireless connection to other apps such as We-Row, NetAthlon, Row Yo, and more to connect to.
And you can track a few unique metrics like:
- Miles per second
- Stroke number
- Miles rowed
You can also see your distance rowed, the time elapsed, speed and intensity, stroke rate, and a timer counter all at the same time. Unfortunately, because it lacks a built in heart rate monitor (you have to buy the separate technology for this) and is not backlit, it loses to the Concept2 in this area. The Concept2 is simply far better in terms of the monitor and options it provides.
Because the WaterRower is a water resistance rowing machine, it produces less noise, so it’s definitely the winner in this parameter. However, it’s worth pointing out that Concept2 did a decent job in making their machine as quiet as possible.
Both of these products are high-quality but the WaterRower models generally cost more (at least at the time of writing). However, if the looks, material, natural water feel, and noise levels are what matter most then the WaterRower is the top of the line water rowing machine. In other words, the quality is very good.
But if you want something that will get the job done while you work out in your home gym, the Concept2 is the winner here. It’s still high-end and far from cheap but the value you’re getting is worth the investment.
Ergonomic Features and Comfort
The seat on the WaterRower glides smoothly and is slightly more comfortable than the Concept2’s seat. Its handle is also covered with rubber to protect your hands against blisters, and the foot pedals are large with easy to adjust straps.
However, the footplates are centered and up higher which results in your knees coming up much higher and into your chest. If you’re someone with longer legs, you’ll have a harder time with this.
I’ve seen people with really long legs almost having their knees at their chin which results in a curved back that’s not nearly as ergonomic. That being said, if you have shorter legs or legs that are proportional to your torso, this won’t be as big of an issue for you.
Concept2, on the other hand, has an ergonomic handle with a 10-degree bend, which helps to prevent back pain.
The seat also glides smoothly and is padded but not quite as comfortable as the WaterRower. In addition, the footplates are large and the foot straps are also easy to adjust.
And because it’s a single rail rower, the footplates are off to the sides of the rail and lower making for a more ergonomic rowing experience for people with both long and short legs.
Overall, the winner for ergonomics goes to the Concept2 in this round.
Storage & Mobility
Since the WaterRower comes with rolling wheels, you won’t have any problems moving it around and storing it where you please. It can also be pushed into an upright position where it only takes up about 2 feet of floor space.
On the flip side, the Concept2 can be easily divided into two sections and doesn’t need any specialized tools to do so, which makes storing it very easy. It also has wheels at the front for quick mobility.
When you factor in the weight of the two rowers (WaterRower is much heavier) and the fact that the Concept2 breaks down into two pieces, the Concept2 wins.
Fitness Level & Training Options
With both rowers you can adjust your session duration, intensity, and a variety of other factors.
With the WaterRower, you can set alarms if you don’t want to watch the monitor every second. You can also adjust the water level to change intensity so it is a great option for all stages of fitness.
The Concept2 also has the ability to adapt to every level as well, from beginners to expert rowers, and it also has a lot more programs to choose from.
It’s generally a better choice for CrossFit and gym training sessions due to its design and performance but it works equally well in your house or garage.
They’re equally matched as far as the fact that they can work for all levels of fitness (beginner to advanced).
However, the Concept2 is the most accurate rower by far so elite athletes and serious CrossFit athletes should get the Concept2 for this reason.
When it comes to maintenance, all equipment needs a little. With the Concept2, the only maintenance you have to do is oiling the chain after 40 hours of rowing. This takes approximately 5 seconds so it’s virtually maintenance free.
The WaterRower, on the other hand, does require that you change the water from time to time and keep their special water purification tablets in the tank to prevent algae (they give you the tablets).
Neither machine requires much maintenance but the Concept2 is the winner here because it’s so much easier to oil a chain than it is to drain and change water.
Stand Out Features
Performance Monitor (PM5)
The PM5 is a top of the line monitor and everyone who uses it loves it. As already mentioned, it records every statistic you could want, it’s highly accurate, and allows you to choose your favorite workouts. In addition, it has games installed which let you spice up your workouts and keep things fun. You can even race against your friends and upload your stats to compare them to other rowers around the world.
Slides are pretty unique. They allow the rower to move underneath you while you row to simulate the experience of rowing an actual boat. Furthermore, you can enable an on-water rowing simulation with the Concept2.
The water flywheel on the WaterRower is unique in how much it feels like you’re rowing an actual boat on the water. This is one of the primary reasons most people choose the water based rower over air or magnetic. It’s also more quiet than an air rower. The only sound you hear is the gentle whoosh of the water in the tank.
The beautifully designed WaterRower is one you want to display. It’s crafted from sustainable hardwood sourced from the Appalachian Mountains and looks like it’s straight from West Elm. It’s also available in different designs, including metal if you prefer.
Summary & Final Pick
The Concept2 Model D is our top pick, not just when comparing it to the WaterRower, but overall. It’s durable, comfortable, ergonomic, low maintenance, and has the highly accurate PM5 monitor.
That being said, the decision is completely up to you when choosing between WaterRower vs Concept2.
Use the Concept2 if:
- Tracking your performance is very important to you
- You want the ability to connect wirelessly to your gadgets
- Noise isn’t a deal breaker for you
Not only is the Concept2 designed for competitive rowers, but it also has the best features for both novices and professionals alike.
Use the WaterRower if:
- You want a super aesthetically pleasing rowing machine
- You want a rower that closely mimics the feeling of rowing a real boat on the water
- Noise is a deal breaker and you want a quieter rower
The WaterRower provides a truly unique rowing experience, from its elegant design to its water flywheel. And while it comes in second place when compared to the Concept2, these are two of the best rowers on the market so the WaterRower is a very nice, top of the line rower and earns 5-stars in our opinion.
After looking at the features head-to-head in this WaterRower Vs Concept2 comparison, let us know which one you choose and why you chose it.