Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower Review

A top-of-the-line rowing machine

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5

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine

Verywell Fit / Angelica Leicht

What We Like
  • Easy assembly

  • Quality welded steel construction 

  • Top-of-the-line monitor

  • Multiple workout options

What We Don't Like
  • Not the most affordable option

  • Not compact; has a large footprint

The versatile, well-made Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower put every type of user to the test during our trial. While the $1,100 price tag is steep, we think the commercial-quality rowing machine is well worth the money.

5

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine

Verywell Fit / Angelica Leicht

Not all rowing machines are created equal. My husband (who happens to be a certified personal trainer) and I have both rowed as part of our normal workout routines for the last few years, so we know from experience. We recently got a chance to try out the Concept2 Model E, which is often found in commercial gyms and which we’d been eyeballing since it emerged on the market.
An update to the brand’s also-beloved Model D, the Model E sits taller than its predecessor and is therefore great for those with limited mobility. It also boasts a smooth ride and Concept2’s advanced PM5 Performance Monitor, considered "the industry standard" for commercial machines. But do these features warrant a higher price tag than other options on the market? Read on to find out where we landed.

Assembly and Disassembly: One person and half an hour from start to finish

The Concept2 Model E Rower arrived in two large boxes, so we were worried it would be difficult to put it together, but it turns out we had nothing to worry about. It took one person and 10 screws to assemble the frame, front and rear legs, monitor arm, pickup cable, and the Performance Monitor. The monitor, which logs your workout information, just needed to be plugged in before it was ready to use. It only took 30 minutes from unboxing to workout thanks to the instructions, which were clearly written and easy to follow. 

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower
 Verywell FIt / Angelica Leicht

Design and Comfort: Designed to be comfortable, yet work the whole body

Again, the increased seat height (20 inches, or chair-height, compared to the earlier Model D’s 14 inches) sets this rower apart and makes it more accessible for people who have difficulty bending their knees or people who use wheelchairs. That extra height is supported by a wide, one-piece leg design that makes the unit feel really sturdy—no wobbly, loose parts here.

We found our rower to be comfortable, especially for a machine that’s meant for full-body cardio exercise. The molded ergonomic seat supported our backs and hindquarters, even on long rides—though, as with any rower, it’s still crucial to engage your core and avoid rounding through the back to prevent pain and injury. 

The molded ergonomic seat made the Concept2 comfortable for our back and hind quarters, even on long rides (although the muscles in our arms would beg to differ).

The rowing handle is ergonomic, too, with a 10-degree bend for the most natural hand positioning. It felt solid, but it’s a large handle, so the size may be a little overwhelming initially— kind of like the handle of an oar—for an athlete with smaller hands. It took us a little while to get used to the feel, but once we did, it was comfortable to grip with no adverse impact on our hands. 

While a rower’s never really going to blend into your home decor, this one is available in light gray or black, both with a double powder coat and glossy finish, so it’s certain to suit any color scheme.

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower
Verywell Fit / Angelica Leicht

Performance: In a word, smooth

If we had to describe the Concept2 in one word, it would be smooth. This machine works just as a top-of-the-line indoor rower should, and it’s made to accommodate all levels of users: novices, experienced athletes, and everyone in between. My personal-trainer husband (who is also an athletic director and Crossfit instructor), a few fitness-junkie friends, and I took turns testing it out, and we were pleased to find that we could each use it without too much of a learning curve. 

Concept2 Model E indoor Rowing Machine
 Verywell FIt / Angelica Leicht 

We all agreed that the system felt strong and smooth with every pull, from catch to drive to finish. That’s thanks in part to the flywheel, which also tempered the noise, making this machine much quieter than the other rowers we've used in the past. The resistance level was easy to adjust via the spiral damper, as were the seat, footrests, and monitor angle, so we were able to tailor to each user. 

We especially liked the PM5 monitor, which is the computer brain of the rower. Powered by the flywheel, and when not rowing by 2 D-cell batteries, it’s accessible thanks to a long aluminum arm and has a much higher-quality display than the ones on lower-end machines. 

In addition to the automatic “Just Row” mode, the monitor features five preset standard rowing workouts and five custom workouts to accommodate all levels of fitness. It also displays data--we were able to track our distance, speed (stroke rate per minute), pace, time, and calories--and offers connectivity options (more on that next). 

Concept2 tested this rower for those weighing up to 500 pounds, but the European Stationary Fitness Equipment Testing Standard EN 20957-7 puts the limit at 300 pounds. The monorail measures 54 inches, so note that you may need an extra-long monorail if your inseam measures 38 inches or more (contact Concept2 for more information).

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower
 Verywell Fit / Angelica Leicht

Compatibility: A smart rower with plenty of extra perks

The Concept2 is a pretty smart machine thanks to that PM5 monitor. Our workout partner—whose job centers around fitness—was impressed to find that he could connect via ANT+ and Bluetooth to supported fitness apps (including the free Concept2 ErgData app) as well as heart rate monitors. Though the latter requires the purchase of a heart rate strap (the Concept2 doesn’t come with one), he was able to keep a close eye on his heart rate without constantly staring at his Fitbit, so we feel it would be a good investment. 

We were also pleased to discover that the monitor was USB-ready, so we were able to store our workouts and save them on a flash drive by just plugging it in and downloading the information. This came in handy for charting our progress. It was useful to see where we’ve improved and where we need to improve to tailor our future workouts around it. 

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower
 Verywell Fit / Angelica Leicht

The Concept2 ErgData app connects to the PM5 monitor via Bluetooth; it was easy to use with an iPhone, and we had no issues with annoying pop-ups or ads. The app works in conjunction with the Concept2 Online Logbook, which stores information about your various workouts. We were surprised at how much insight we gleaned from the app. It logs things like drive length, drive time, average force, peak force, drag factor, and stroke count, none of which are tracked on the rower monitor. It also analyzed our workouts for us once we were done and let us rank ourselves against other rowers across the world. 

We have been eyeballing the Concept2 for years, and let us tell you, this unit did not disappoint. 

Storage and Mobility: Surprisingly simple to move and store

This rowing machine isn’t what we’d call compact, but then, what rower is? One of the major benefits of rowing machines is that they take up less space than other exercise equipment (think treadmills), and at 96 inches long and 24 inches wide, this model was no exception. The Concept2’s quick-release framelock allows it to separate into two pieces for easy storage. 

Caster wheels on the front make the machine maneuverable; we liked that it was light enough, even when fully assembled, to roll outside on nice days for a change of workout scenery. One downside to this machine is that it isn’t waterproof, so it shouldn’t be stored in areas with leaks. A little moisture from water bottles or sweaty bodies shouldn’t harm the unit if it’s cleaned properly.

Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower
Verywell Fit / Angelica Leicht

Maintenance: A quick wipe-down is all it takes

Cleaning the Concept2 is pretty straightforward. The seat was sweaty after we used it -- we were sitting on it and working out, after all -- but it just took a quick wipe-down with some antibacterial spray to get it resolved. We’ve been keeping it covered to ward off any dust particles, and we’ve been giving a daily wipe-down to the slide bar, fan unit, and seat. If we’re feeling extra ambitious, we have also been disinfecting the handle with a multi-purpose spray we use on our other workout equipment. Easy peasy. 

The enclosed chain housing and the nickel plating on the chain means you don’t need to oil-clean as often as other options on the market, but the manufacturer recommends doing so every three months or so (with Concept2 oil or a general 3-in-1 oil). Regular cleanings will extend the life of the rower and keep it working smoothly, and this rower is worth keeping in working order.                 

If we had to describe the Concept2 in one word, it would be smooth. 

Price: A steep but fair price

We think the $1,100 price tag for the Model E is a fair price for the quality, versatility, and comfort the unit offers. In our opinion, the Model E gives you a commercial-grade unit at home, which justifies the higher price tag. 

The brand offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, as well as a decent warranty: two years for all parts, five years for frame parts. For an additional investment, you can also get the Concept2 Slide, which simulates on-water training for one rower or a team of rowers (you can connect multiple Model Cs, Ds, and Es).

Competition: A few alternatives

Xebex Air Rower 2.0: The Xebex Air Rower 2.0, is one of a handful of comparable machines to the Concept2, but it can’t do what the Concept2 can do. At $800, it’s not much cheaper than the Concept2, but the computer monitor isn’t as nice, nor is the design as comfortable. 
WaterRower Club Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor:
This WaterRower Club Rowing Machine (view on Amazon) can hold its own against the Concept2, but it’s more expensive at $1,2950. Plus, there isn’t much that sets it apart from the Concept2 unless you’re looking for a water rower and not an air rower. Both offer quality construction, a smart display, and adjustable resistance.  

Final Verdict

Don’t wait—buy it!

The Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower is well worth the investment. The high-quality piece of equipment offers multiple workout options and an unparalleled monitor for effective home exercising.

Specs

  • Product Name Model E Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5
  • Product Brand Concept2
  • Price $1100
  • Weight 63.9 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 96 x 24 in.
  • Seat Height 20 in
  • Monorail Length 54 in
  • Material Nickel-plated steel chain, metal and plastic
  • Warranty 2 years for all parts, 5 years for frame parts
  • Money-Back Guarantee Yes, for 30 days
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