Air rowers are the most popular type of rower. Their popularity is because: 1. they’re durable, and 2. they use air resistance to simulate water resistance in real-life rowing. (the cheapo magnetic-based rowers don’t have this benefit)
Note on noise with air rowers: One thing you should know right away is air rowers are kind of loud. If you’re the type that wants to watch TV, you better read subtitles or get a headset. Your neighbors in an apartment building might hear it, and definitely your family in the next room. I was kind of surprised how loud it was the first time I used one (a Concept2), given its popularity, but that’s just the way it is.
If the noise is a problem for you, I’d highly recommend a water rower. Water rowers are considered excellent quality as well, just as good as air rowers. Their water resistance is obviously the closest you can get to real-life rowing. The thing is you’re going to be paying more. We will have a separate article soon for the top water rowers out there, including the WaterRower, Stamina, and Life Fitness rowers. Keep an eye out!
All air rowers have a damper setting on the fan. The higher the setting, the more wind resistance you create, basically blocking the airflow of the fan.
Here I’m going over the top few air rowers so you can make the best buying decision between them.
- Air Rowers Comparison Chart
- Detailed Evaluation
- Where to Buy
|Concept2 D||Concept2 E||Xebex||Stamina ATS 2405|
|User Weight Limit||500 lbs||500 lbs||500 lbs||250 lbs|
|User Inseam Limit (based on leg length)||36" / 41"||36" / 41"||36"||38"|
|Unit Weight||57 lbs||65 lbs||95 lbs||63 lbs|
|Overall Length||8 ft||8 ft||8 ft||7 ft|
|Monitor Tracking||Distance, Speed, Pace, Calories, Watts||Distance, Speed, Pace, Calories, Watts||Distance, Speed, Pace, Calories, Watts||Distance, Speed, Pace, Calories|
|Other Monitor Features||Backlight, USB, HRM, Games, Racing, Programs||Backlight, USB, HRM, Games, Racing, Programs||HRM,Programs||None|
|Warranty||2 Years Parts, 5 Years Frame||2 Years Parts, 5 Years Frame||2 Years Parts, 5 Years Frame||90 Days Parts, 3 Years Frame|
- Concept2 offers a 5″ longer monorail as a $50 upgrade, accommodating users with up to a 41″ inseam. I can’t find it on their site, but they do have it.
- Concept2 rowers have a 300 lb user weight limit according to the European Stationary Fitness Equipment Testing Standard. However, for comparison with other brands I’d go by the 500 lb number. Plenty of heavy people use it, and there is no need for a special rower for heavy people (if such a thing exists).
Concept2 Model D
So here it is, the flagship rowing machine!
The Concept2 model D rower has been the standard in Crossfit workouts for many years. It has become what all other rowers are measured up against. Therefore, most of what I go over in this article will be mostly comparing everything else to the model D.
The fact that it’s the standard is significant. Competitive rowers use it as a benchmark, and you just can’t reliably compare your performance numbers (speed or distance) on other rowers to this one. You will find it in tons of Crossfit affiliates, rowing clubs, and regular commercial gyms. They all know that serious rowers and athletes are used to the Concept2, so they kind of have to cater to the athletes by having this rower.
Concept2 does make a couple other models, but the model D is the most popular and lowest priced.
It’s crazy to think, but they’ve been making the model D since 2003. Granted, they upgraded it in 2006.
You’ll notice on Concept2’s site that they sell a bunch of oars too. They aren’t a cardio equipment company. The brothers who founded the company were competitive rowers training for the Olympics and were serious about making good rowing products. That’s all they make. No treadmills, no bikes. They have stuck with what they are experts in.
The Concept2 Model D is an easy choice if you’re a Crossfit affiliate, because athletes are so used to these rowers and are comparing their times against one another assuming that they are all using the same machine.
Size Considerations: 8ft long, folds up pretty easily to stick in a corner. It’s only 57 lbs, making it possible to pick up and stick in a closet between workouts if you’re really short on space, or separate it in seconds into the two main pieces.
Monitor: Every new rower includes their best monitor, the PM5. Programs, stats, wireless HRM compatible, everything you need. The USB port lets you download your workouts to a mobile app. It also has a race mode and connector so two machines next to each other can compete. Concept2 even keeps upgrading their software (it has an ethernet port so you can get updates). Of course, there is a “just row” option if you’re a newbie like me and don’t want to mess with any of that, you just want to warm up first, or you have a group timer going.
Warranty: 2 years parts, 5 years frame, including commercial environments. That’s average for commercial-grade cardio equipment. The warranty is only as good as the company who offers it. Concept2 has been around since 1976, and they’re still doing great, selling tons of rowers every year and staying laser-focused on rowing only. There’s no reason to think they will disappear in the next ten years.
Durability: This is one huge thing that Concept2 has going for them. They are known world-over to be rock-solid, lasting through for millions and millions (and millions) of pulls. When your warranty runs out you can still buy replacement parts and get tips from other users all over the internet. In most cases all you really have to do is lubricate the chain once in a while with the lube they include. That’s it. The fact that they only have a few models is good. You don’t have to worry about outdated models being unsupported.
Price: $900. They have a lot of brick and mortar distributors but are really selective about who sells their rowers on the internet. As far as the second-hard market, you can find some on Craigslist. The used prices aren’t that much lower than new, for the simple fact that they’re so durable that they don’t depreciate in value.
Model D vs E
Here’s the skinny on how the model E compares to the D:
|Model D||Model E|
|Chain Housing||Partially Enclosed||Fully Enclosed|
|Finish||Powder Coated||Double Powder Coated|
Both models are designed for heavy use. This is unlike other cardio machines that may have “home” and “commercial” models, where the home model is basically not meant to be used and will wear out if you stay serious with it, not to mention wobble and feel cheap and flimsy. Nope, in this case both are suitable for commercial use. They have beefed up the Model E a little bit. I think that’s mainly just because of the extra height of the Model E. So you could go with the E if you have serious mobility issues and have a hard time squatting down low enough to safely get on the Model D (or have clients who do).
Concept2’s own video they produced is the best I’ve found at showing the differences:
Xebex Air Rower
Get Rx’d is the maker of this one. They are one of many companies that took advantage of the big surge in Crossfit to base their whole brand around it, but they have actually been in business since 1985 under other names including Multisports.
Xebex designed this rower to directly compete with the Concept2 at a slightly lower price. Many of the specs are practically the same as the Concept2. They have learned what people like about the Concept2 and applied most of those features to this unit.
The foot straps stay secure and do not loosen like some other rowers can. The same goes for all the rowers in this article; all stay nice and snug.
Keeping your butt comfortable is a nice feature. The seat pad is shaped well and is just fine, just enough padding to keep it comfortable through long workouts.
Size Considerations: 8ft, just like the Concept2, and the seat is raised to the same height as the Concept2 Model E to accommodate users who can’t squat down easily. The big stand-out with the Xebex is its weight, 95 lbs. That’s 30 lbs heavier. Lots of steel in this thing.
Monitor: Fairly advanced. No USB download or racing option, but otherwise all the options and trackers that people want. HRM compatible.
Warranty: Exactly the same as the Concept2 rowers. 2 years parts, 5 years frame. That’s no coincidence.
Durability: It’s heavy and solid. All that steel helps. They were not looking to make a cheapo version of the Concept2. They were looking to make one even more heavy duty and at a lower price. Did they succeed? Well, we don’t know yet. It has not yet stood the test of time. What Get Rx’d says is they tested this rower with 1 million pulls with a mechanical arm, and everything held up fine. Now that’s not exactly the same as a human using it, wiggling around on the seat, etc, but at least it’s something.
Price: $849 and free shipping, making it $50 less than the Concept2 Model D. Take note that Get Rx’d includes two free items in the price, which you select in the dropdown menus on the product page. Not only that, if you want more equipment besides a rower, you get 10% off almost anything else you want to add to your cart. Weights, racks, conditioning equipment, accessories, etc. I’m not sure of that’s a long-term thing or just a current promo. We shall see.
Stamina ATS 1405
Stamina’s ATS 1405 air rower is the cheapest air rower of the bunch, no contest. I don’t like to recommend cheap equipment, but I’m including it here to give a fair shake because it gets such great reviews and is sold all over the place, and you’re going to come across it and be wondering about it if you do some shopping. It comes up as one of the first in the list on Amazon, among a couple other Stamina models. Overall the Stamina does get good reviews on Amazon. Amazon’s buyer base for fitness equipment is skewed towards people wanting to save money and less concerned on quality. More serious athletes and gym rats tend to buy equipment from specialty stores.
Model Choices: Stamina makes several models of air rowers. The ATS 1405 is Stamina’s heaviest duty model and is still a lot cheaper than the Concept2 and Xebex. You don’t want to mess with Stamina’s cheaper models. Just don’t. Even this one is borderline for some people, and not good enough for others.
Size Considerations: At 63 lbs it’s about the same as the Concept2. Overall the Stamina is about a foot shorter, although the range of motion on the monorail is a tad longer. Users with up to 38″ inseam can use it. The issue with it is it has a 250 lb weight limit. That means it’s definitely not for commercial use. The seat is really short off the floor, making it hard for people with mobility issues to use.
Monitor: The monitor display is super basic. I’ve heard people complain that the Concept2 monitor doesn’t have a huge variety of options, but the Stamina display takes you back a couple decades.
Warranty: They only give a 90 day warranty on parts. That’s a sign of a machine that isn’t made to last. Manufacturers set their warranty period by estimating how long the unit is expected to last before needing replacement parts in the vast majority of cases, and they set the warranty to end just before that. Or they do the reverse, engineering their parts weaker (cheaper) or stronger as necessary to get through the desired warranty period. If they have too many warranty claims their costs would skyrocket and they wouldn’t make a profit.
Durability: At half the price I have to doubt it will prove to hold up as well as the Concept2. You might get lucky and find that with the Stamina you get a good deal and save a few bucks. If you’ve used a Concept2, you will notice right away that it does not feel the same. You should know that the fan on the Stamina wobbles as you row. Stamina is well aware of this. If it’s going into a commercial environment, I wouldn’t recommend the Stamina. You need a proven model that isn’t going to give your place a bad rep if it starts giving you problems. This one just doesn’t have the kinds of long-term reviews and known durability (or warranty, as mentioned) that the Concept2 does. If there’s a problem down the line – and that is more than likely under heavy use – you will end up spending more overall, going through a hassle, and losing clients.
ATS 1405 vs X 1412
Stamina’s models ATS 1405 and X 1412 rowers are very similar looking. Indeed, according to Stamina they are exactly the same except for the color:
The difference in the Stamina X Air Rower (1412) and the ATS Air Rower (1405) is cosmetics. The rowers are the same size, and have the same mechanics. The Stamina X Air Rower (1412) is part of our Stamina X series where we have several products that are red and black.
The model X is currently priced $70 higher on Amazon, so you’d have to really love the color.
If you’re buying other equipment too: As discussed above, the Xebex is $50 lower than the Concept2. That in itself does not justify, in my mind, taking a shot with a relatively unknown rower, even with its excellent specs and a well-trusted fitness equipment company (Get Rx’d) behind it. However, if you need some other equipment or accessories that Get Rx’d sells, you’re going to get a sweet deal by adding two free items and getting 10% off anything else. All that adds up.
Commercial environments: Concept2, all the way. People know it, they know their numbers… Don’t throw a monkey wrench into the gears and try to be unique.
Where to Buy
What rower are you leaning towards? Share below!