Updated 15 March 2022

Rowing machines: 6 models tested

Rowing machines: 7 models tested

How we did the test

Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.

We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. Our test team consists of both elite and recreational athletes, and together they have evaluated over 100 exercise machines. We retain the models that perform well for longer-term testing, in many cases several years, and continuously add updates to the reviews.

In our assessment we have focused on the following areas:

  • Ease of use: How easy-to-use is the exercise computer? How well adapted is it to the rowing machine? Does the rowing machine suit both short and tall users? Is it easy to move? Can it be folded away? How clear is the user manual?

  • Quality and design: How well designed is the rowing machine? How much stress and wear should the construction tolerate? What type of resistance does the rowing machine have? How reliable is the measurement of heart rate, calories burned etc.? What guarantee does it have?

  • Functionality: Does the rowing machine support a wireless pulse strap?

  • Performance: How strong is the maximum resistance? How high is the maximum user weight? How powerful is the flywheel (for machines with magnetic resistance)?

We have scored each rowing machine according to its value for money; in other words how good it is, in each area, in relation to its price tag. We thus have higher expectations of an expensive product than a cheaper one, and vice versa.

1. Concept2 Model D - BEST CHOICE ROWING MACHINE 2022

First-class build quality, rowing movement and resistance

Price class: Elite Number of training programmes: 12 Maximum user weight: 225 kg Resistance type: Air Display: Type: LCD | Colour: Monochrome | Size: 4.3 ins Slide length: 99 cm Noise level: approx. 71 dB Length: 240 cm Width: 61 cm Height: 51 cm Weight: 29 kg Heart rate monitor: Yes Accessories: Pulse belt (Wireless) Guarantee: 2 Years Folding: Yes Video clip: Product demo User manual: PDF

Concept 2 Concept 2 Modell D

The Concept2 Model D is the little brother of the undisputed king of rowing machines, the Concept2 Model E. Although the performance of the two rowing machines doesn’t differ very much, the Model D is several hundred pounds cheaper. This makes the Model D much better value, which is why we’ve named it as best in test as well as best elite choice. Like the Model E, the Model D is something of a technical masterpiece, with superb build quality that can withstand long and enthusiastic use. The aluminium frame gives the Model D a very low machine weight and its generous length leaves plenty of space for both short and very tall rowers. The frame height is lower than on the Model E, but this doesn’t affect performance. As the frame is easily disassembled into two parts, the Model D is also easy to move and store.

Well-thought-out construction and advanced training computer

The Model D has a compact construction and is suitable for long workouts as well as tough, short intervals. The training computer is quite advanced and has all the programmes and functions a professional rower might need. More spartan, however, is the display, although at least it’s now been upgraded from a PM4 monitor to a PM5. This means that, among other things, it has backlighting and a wireless heart rate receiver.

With the upgrade, the training computer can save up to 1000 training sessions in memory, and it’s become much easier to link several rowing machines together, for example for competitions. In terms of size, the display is at the small end of things, but it’s still large enough to remain clear throughout the entire rowing movement. We strongly recommend that you spend time on achieving the right rowing technique in order to be as effective, and as gentle on your body, as possible. For example, we recommend this video here from Concept 2.

The Concept 2 Model D is primarily aimed at elite practitioners and everyday athletes who demand the highest quality and are willing to pay for it. It’s compact and suitable for long workouts as well as tough, short intervals and provides effective training for the whole body.

First-class rowing movementbuild quality and resistancesophisticated & intuitive training computerlow weight
Somewhat spartan display

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Pinnacle Fitness

Concept 2 Model D Rower with PM5 Console

£695.00

Pinnacle Fitness

Concept 2 Model D Rower with PM5 Console

£895.00
Argos Logotype

Concept2 RowErg with Standard Legs PM5 Black

£990.00

2. Titan Life Rower R65

Exciting rowing machine with air and magnetic resistance

Price class: Premium Number of exercise programmes: 21 Max. user weight: 130 kg Resistance type: Magnetic and air Display type: LCD Display size: 5.3” Slide length: 81 cm Noise level: 75 dB Dimensions (LxWxH): 211x49x87 cm Weight: 37.5 kg Folding: Yes Pulse meter: Yes (pulse belt purchased separately) Accessories: Bluetooth Guarantee: 1 year User manual: PDF

Titan Life R65

The Titan Life Rower R65 is a good value rowing machine that offers both air and magnetic resistance. This means you can do both quick pulse raising sessions with higher frequency and lower resistance and strength-based sessions with lots of resistance. We give it extra marks for being able to offer such varied workouts!

LCD display with backlighting

It has a backlit LCD display and a complete exercise computer that offers 21 different exercise programmes. Most of them offer a varied resistance which gives you the feeling of meeting real waves in the water. It’s also equipped with wireless pulse measurement, which makes it possible to do pulse-based training. Sadly the pulse belt isn’t included in the price. The rowing machine needs to be connected to a power outlet for the display and exercise computer to work, which limits where you can place the machine.

The high weight of the Rower R65 makes it sturdy and it is stable on the ground providing the surface underneath it isn’t slippery. If the rowing machine is on a parquet floor and you’re doing a high frequency workout, the machine may move. We recommend you either place weights in front of and behind the rowing machine or set the legs down on some form of nonslip material such as a rubber mat. The R65 is delivered in one package and several parts are already pre-assembled. All the tools you need are included in the package and within an hour the rowing machine is assembled and ready to use.

Good value rowing machine

We have to question the quality of this machine compared to Concept2’s products. Then again, that’s kind of Concept2’s thing. The R65 can cope with a significantly lower maximum weight, has more plastic parts and the user manual isn’t very good. For example, Titan Life’s website says the rowing machine can cope with users weighing 130 kg, while the user manual gives a weight of 100 kg. Concept2’s model E has a maximum weight of 227 kg!

The Titan Life Rower R65 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a comfortable and effective rowing machine for home use. It offers tough training sessions for both heart and muscles with a varied range of exercise programmes. We think the R65 is a very good value alternative to more expensive models on the market.

Several exercise programmescomfortable seatair and magnetic resistancevery good value for money
Pulse strap not includedquality questionablerequires an electrical outlet

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3. Casall Rower R300 II

Attractive and good value rowing machine with several exercise programmes

Price class: Intermediate Number of exercise programmes: 12 Max. user weight: 120 kg Resistance type: Magnetic Display type: LCD Display size: 5.5” Slide length: 78.5 cm Noise level: 59 dB Dimensions (LxWxH): 242x55x102 cm Weight: 39 kg Folding: Yes Pulse meter: No Guarantee: 1 year User manual: PDF

Casall R300

The Casall Rower R300 II is a compact rowing machine with a soft seat and a generous display. It has a relatively anonymous but attractive design in black that blends in well with the modern home gym. The rowing machine isn’t particularly heavy and the transport wheels make it easy to move.

Plenty of exercise programmes

Given its low price tag, the R 300 II has several details that make it stand out in a positive way. One of them is that you can choose between 12 preset training programmes, and you can also create your own programme based on the resistance levels you require. It has a large, clear display that’s unfortunately not backlit, and in a darkroom it’s almost impossible to see what’s being shown. But it is easy to navigate to your desired exercise programme because there are so few buttons and they’re so clearly labelled. When you’ve set all your settings, make sure you don’t unplug the power because that zeros the data.

Easy to move, for better or worse

The rowing machine folds and has a low machine weight, which makes it easy to move to the desired location. The low weight also means that the machine tends to move during the rowing session, particularly when the intensity increases. To prevent it from colliding with the rest of your furniture, we recommend you place something heavy behind and in front of the room machine.

With a significantly shorter rail length than its big brother, the R 600, we recommend users over 185 cm tall to try out the rowing machine before buying to make sure it isn’t too short. The R 300 II has a very soft and comfortable seat and we like the soft but easy to grip handles. It has sturdy foot plates with uncomplicated buckles, but your feet end up a bit further apart than with many other models in the test, and that can feel a bit uncomfortable.

Attractive and good value for money

The Casall Rower R300 II is a good choice if you’re looking for an effective rowing machine in the lower price class. The design is attractive and if your home is small it’s easy to store the machine out of the way. The R300 II has lots of different exercise programmes and offers an effective workout for the entire body. We therefore name this rowing machine as best intermediate class choice.

Attractive designcompactseveral exercise programmesgood value for money
Not backlit displayshort rail lengthrowing machine tends to move at high intensity

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4. HAMMER Rower Ocean One

Comfortable premium class rowing machine with water resistance

Price class: Premium Number of exercise programmes: 15 Max. user weight: 140 kg Resistance type: Water Display type: LCD Display size: 5.5” Slide length: 83 cm Noise level: 60 dB Dimensions (LxWxH): 200x54x117 cm Weight: 36 kg Folding: No Pulse meter: Yes (option) Accessories: Holder for mobile phone Guarantee: 3 years Video clip: Yes User manual: Yes

Hammer Ocean One

The HAMMER Rower Ocean One is a stylish rowing machine with a water resistance that gives long, comfortable rowing strokes. It has a very comfortable seat that allows you to too long rowing sessions without your backside going numb. The water resistance delivers a feeling of being out on real water and contributes to a pleasant workout experience.

Not folding but very convenient

The Ocean One is very easy to assemble and most people can manage it without help in under an hour. The rowing machine is relatively light, which makes it easier to move. Unfortunately you can’t fold it, but it’s no problem to store it out of sight because it’s easy to stand the rowing machine on end. The filling hole is above the water level even when it’s upright, so the water won’t leak out all over the place. It includes tools help you fill and empty the water tank conveniently.

Simple exercise computer with adjustable mobile holder

The exercise computer has a generous 15 exercise programmes, but the truth is that they’re all very simple. The stated speed per stroke is significantly slower compared to the higher performance reference models, which can be frustrating if you take on some of Concept2’s challenges online. But if you aren’t used to rowing on these rowing machines, it won’t matter much because you can always compare your results with yourself.

The display is large and shows the exercise data you need to keep track of your workout. Unfortunately the display isn’t backlit so you need to be in a light room to be able to read it. One good thing is the moving arm behind the display, which also has an adjustable mobile phone holder. The arm has a spring, which means that you can choose pretty much any height and angle for it to hold your phone. Because the rowing machine weighs relatively little, it tends to move as you’re using it. To ensure that it stays put, you need to place heavyweights in front and behind the feet of the machine.

A meditative exercise experience

The HAMMER Rower Ocean One is the rowing machine for you if you appreciate a particularly comfortable seat and the peaceful sound a water resistance creates. You can attach your phone to the adjustable arm and rotate it so you get a perfect angle. The Ocean One is light and easy to store away, which is a big advantage if you have a limited amount of space.

Comfortable seatnatural resistanceadjustable mobile phone holder
Simple exercise computernot backlit display

5. FINNLO Aquon Evolution

Comfortable rowing machine with lots of training programmes

Price class: Premium Number of training programmes: 17 Maximum user weight: 130 kg Resistance type: Air & magnet Display type: Backlit LCD Display size: 5.5 ins Slide length: 98 cm Noise level: 58 dB Length: 240 cm Width: 50 cm Height: 107 cm Weight: 45 kg Heart rate monitor: Yes (option) Accessories: No Guarantee: 3 years Folding: Yes Comment: Not quite the same quality as the Concept machines, and not as reliable in terms of training computer. Nicer seat than the TP340, so gets a higher score. User manual: PDF

Finnlo Aquon Evolution

The FINNLO Aquon Evolution is a premium class rowing machine designed to give the user an effective and pleasant workout. The design is modern and the resistance is provided by a combination of air and magnetism. This allows for a stronger resistance than air or magnet can provide separately, so the Aquon Evolution delivers a really tough workout. The training computer is relatively advanced for a rowing machine and supports four user profiles and a full 17 training programmes. In addition, the training computer supports pulse measurement, although the heart rate belt isn’t included and must be purchased separately. The colour display is pleasant, backlit, relatively large and easy to see during the entire rowing movement.

The Aquon Evolution has a solid build quality with a long aluminium frame, and the seat slides frictionlessly at every stroke. This allows for long, smooth strokes that feel very good. The model also stands out by being equipped with a really comfortable seat. On the other hand, the handles are slightly narrower than normal, which limits the choice of grip to some extent. The manual is fine, and has clear assembly and user instructions as well as plenty of illustrations. The rowing machine is easy to fold up, and thanks to transport wheels it’s also easy to move. The FINNLO Aquon Evolution is aimed at people who are looking for comfortable but tough training.

Colour displaycomfortable seatlots of training programmes
Narrow handles

6. FINNLO Aquon Waterflow

Exclusive elite model with water resistance and retro design

Price class: Elite Number of training programmes: 1 Maximum user weight: 150 kg Resistance type: Water Display type: LCD Display size: 4.2 ins Slide length: 85 cm Noise level: 62 dB Length: 205 cm Width: 50 cm Height: 60 cm Weight: 42 kg Heart rate monitor: Yes (option) Accessories: No Guarantee: 3 Years Folding: No Comment: See First degree...

Finnlo Aquon Waterflow

The FINNLO Aquon Waterflow is an elite-class rowing machine designed to give the user a comfortable, ergonomic workout. The design is retro and appealing. Unlike many other models, this one wouldn’t look out of place in a living room. It’s also easy to stand upright, which means it doesn’t take up much space. It has an usual water resistance that produces an almost meditative sound with every stroke of the oars. You attach your feet to two non-slip foot plates that are easily adjusted up and down, which is the only setting you need to make before starting your workout.

The Aquon Waterflow is well built, with a good choice of materials and high quality components throughout. All of which is clear from the price tag. The machine has a black lacquered steel frame with a really good slide length, and it offers a long rope which means it’s even suitable for people over two metres tall. In addition to the fact that the rowing stroke is excellent, the seat also stands out as the best one we’ve tested. The Aquon's computer provides you with the most common training information, but only includes one training programme. The measured speed is about half that of an air resistance machine for the same effort, but you have to get used to this if you’re making the switch from air resistance. There isn’t a backlit display, which makes it impossible to follow your training in a dimly lit room. The FINNLO Aquon Waterflow is aimed at people who are happy to pay extra for top-class quality, design and comfort.

Slide lengthexclusive designexcellent seatcomforting sound
Mediocre training computerexpensiveno backlit display

Everything you need to know about Rowing machines

Rowing machines are an increasingly popular item of exercise equipment that effectively activate all major muscle groups in the body. Rowing strengthens both your heart and lungs and is very energy-intensive, burning a lot of calories. So a rowing machine isn’t just an excellent training machine for those who want to build muscle, it’s also ideal if you want to lose weight. Rowing machines also offer fantastic cardio training, which means that many people now have one at home instead of a treadmill, because they generally have a lower price tag and take up less space. The rowing movement is also unique and enables a tough workout that’s simultaneously kind on joints and knees.

A rowing machine is often part of a home gym together with one or more other exercise machines and/or equipment such as dumbbells and barbells. However, it also works really well by itself and many people prefer a rowing machine to other exercise machines such as cross-trainers, exercise bikes and treadmills. Not least because a rowing machine works more muscle groups than those other machines and is also relatively inexpensive.

The best choice for you

We’ve tested the most popular and best rowing machines currently on the market. To decide which rowing machine is best for your needs, you need to first ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • How often will I use the rowing machine?
  • How much can I afford to spend on a rowing machine?
  • Will the rowing machine have several different users?
  • What do I expect from the rowing machine in terms of performance and functionality?

Once you've answered these questions, you’ll know approximately how much you can spend and what your requirements are. This is important, as the price varies greatly depending on the rowing machine's build quality, functionality, design, brand etc. We’ve divided rowing machines into four different price ranges as follows:

Budget: up to £400
Medium: £400-700
Premium: £700-1,000
Elite: over £1,000

The "budget" class is characterised by simpler, lighter and less robust rowing machines. Sometimes these offer a hydraulic or rubber band resistance. The "medium" class is characterised by more solid constructions, usually offering magnetic resistance. The "premium" class is characterised by more lavish and well-built rowing machines, often using air resistance or a combination of air and magnetic resistance. The "elite" class is the very top, where the rowing machine performance should be sufficient for the likes of Olympic athletes. We’ve scored each model according to value for money, so the score reflects how much machine we think you get for your money. A high price therefore also means higher expectations in terms of performance, functionality etc.

Important features on a rowing machine

User weight

This characteristic is particularly important for people who weigh over 120 kg, as a rowing machine is usually fine up to this weight. If you’re severely overweight, we think you should consider buying a crosstrainer as that’s probably the best exercise machine for people who are overweight. If you’re very heavy because you have a lot of muscle mass, however, you should consider buying a rowing machine that can handle your weight. In general, one rule applies to all exercise machines: the more expensive the machine, the higher the user weight it will be able to handle.

Build quality

Build quality is a very important feature for all training machines, including rowing machines. A robust rowing machine can generally handle a heavier load than a less robust model, and it should also have a longer service life. Build quality becomes particularly important if the machine is used often, or if it is used by strong people with a heavy resistance. Of course, the higher the build quality, the greater the price and the heavier the machine. But if you can afford it, that’s the best way to go.

Design

The design of a rowing machine shouldn’t normally affect the functionality, but it does have an aesthetic role to play. If a rowing machine has a stylish design that blends into its surroundings, that can be pretty important, especially if the machine is large and can’t be hidden away between workouts.

Display

A good rowing machine should have a clear, user-friendly display, preferably with visualisation of parameters such as time, speed, distance, calorie consumption and number of strokes.

Guarantee

Most people who buy a rowing machine spend at least a few hundred pounds on it, which is not an insignificant amount for you as a buyer. So you want to be able to use your exercise machine a fair amount without it breaking. This means a good guarantee is important. Even cheap rowing machines often have fairly generous guarantee periods, but as a consumer you need to remember that in the event of a complaint, you normally pay the transport cost for any return. This cost can be high in relation to what the rowing machine itself cost if you bought a very cheap model.

Noise level

It is inevitable that a rowing machine will make some noise during use, not least because the flywheel gets a push on each stroke. However, some rowing machines are noisier than others. Many people train in front of the TV, so it’s important that the sound from the TV isn’t drowned out by your rowing machine.

Machine weight

Although rowing machines are amongst the lightest exercise machines, the weight still varies a lot between different models. Usually, the more expensive, more robust models weigh more than cheaper rowing machines. In other words, the machine weight is often in proportion to the robustness of the machine but also to the maximum user weight. This is because a solid and well-built exercise machine can withstand a greater load than a lighter model. Although it’s obviously more difficult to move a model that weighs twice as much as another, it’s usually relatively easy to move rowing machines as they typically weigh less than 40 kg.

Mobility

Rowing machines are relatively light training machines and most budget and medium class models today can be folded and have transport wheels. How easy a machine is to fold and transport varies between models. However, it’s far from true that all machines are movable. Premium models often lack transport wheels and can’t be folded either. These aren't really intended to be moved around. On the contrary, premium rowing machines are often bolted to the floor to ensure stability. As a rowing machine in the premium class is normally more permanently located in a gym (or home gym), the need to move it around is probably small.

Assembly & manual

Assembling a rowing machine is usually a relatively uncomplicated operation. If the assembly is more complicated, however, then the user manual needs to be up to the job. The manual must be sufficiently detailed and clear, not only about the assembly but also about how to use the training computer and how to service and maintain the rowing machine. Unfortunately, many manuals fall short on these points, even those that come with the more expensive models. Something we feel should be standard today is for manuals to also come in digital format, for example as a PDF. This is because it’s so much easier to save a small data file on your computer than it is to store and keep track of an often bulky paper manual.

Resistance

There are three different types of energy dampers to provide resistance on rowing machines, but two of these are often combined for maximum functionality.

Magnetic resistance

A magnetic resistance uses electromagnetism to mechanically brake the flywheel. Magnetic resistance is the quietest type of resistance as no physical contact occurs during braking. The strength of the resistance is adjustable and energy consumption can be measured fairly accurately. The weak point of magnetic resistance, however, is that the resistance is constant. In real rowing, the resistance varies depending on how hard you row, i.e. if you pull hard, the water also gives hard resistance – and vice versa. For this reason, magnetic resistance is often combined with air resistance, to provide a more realistic, varying resistance.

Air resistance

Air resistance is generated by fan-like rotor blades on a flywheel. The faster the flywheel spins, the stronger the air resistance. An air hole is sometimes used to adjust the air flow to the rotor blades and thus to vary the resistance. Air resistance also enables fairly accurate measurement of energy consumption.

Water resistance

Water resistance works in much the same way as air resistance but obviously it uses water instead of air to generate the resistance. Water resistance is considered by its proponents to be the type of resistance that best mimics real rowing. At the same time, this type of resistance is more expensive than air resistance, and is therefore much less common.

Price

Of course, price is an important factor when you’re choosing training equipment and although the price range isn’t quite as wide as for treadmills or cross trainers, the more expensive and cheaper models do still differ considerably in price. The cheapest rowing machines cost about £300, while the most expensive ones for home use can cost in the region of £1,000.

If you've read this test and want to know more about cheap rowing machines, we recommend Pricerunner's guide to cheap rowing machines.

Frame

The frame is the metal structure on which the rowing machine is built and upon which the seat sits. On rowing machines with a mobile seat, the seated user slides back and forth during training. The frame is normally made of steel or aluminium and durability is therefore usually very good. Instead, it’s the length of the frame and the friction against the seat that can be decisive when it comes to making a choice. The longer the frame, the further the seat can normally slide forward. The seat has to be able to slide far enough to enable a sufficiently long rowing movement. The taller the user, the longer the rowing movement required, which means the frame must be long enough too. So the length of frame is the most important thing for tall users. The friction between frame and seat determines how easily the seat slides over the frame. Minimal friction not only leads to lower noise and lower resistance, it also means minimal wear on the frame and seat. So you really want minimal friction between frame and seat.

Size

If yours is a crowded home, with limited room for exercise equipment, you probably won’t want it to take up too much space. Unlike, for example, a crosstrainer or a treadmill, the various models of rowing machines don’t differ very much in size. What can differ significantly, however, is how easy the rowing machine is to fold and move, i.e. the mobility of the exercise machine (assuming it’s actually possible to move it at all). Mobility can therefore be an important feature to take into account if you want to maximise your space by folding and moving the rowing machine when not in use. If, on the other hand, you have plenty of space, the size of the rowing machine is often of less interest.

Flywheel

Rowing machines with a magnetic brake (which today means most rowing machines) have a flywheel as part of that braking mechanism. The flywheel is surrounded by magnets that slow it down, creating the resistance that makes rowing strenuous. To get good resistance, the flywheel needs to be heavy enough. So you can follow the rule of thumb: "the heavier the flywheel, the better".

Training computer

A good rowing machine should also have a good training computer with enough different training programmes to provide varied and enjoyable training. In addition to pre-programmed training, the training computer should also be able to measure certain parameters such as time, speed, distance, calorie consumption and number of strokes.

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