Concept 2 Rowing Machine Review (Model D and Alternatives) 2019

updated January 1, 2019

When it comes to functional fitness, there isn’t much to compare to the rowing machine. It will max out weight loss, while also maxing out the shoulder, back, and high strength. The most popular ergometers on the market are undoubtedly the Concept 2 range. But how good really is the commercial gym equipment rower? Does it deserve its exalted reputation? Or is there a better, more cost-effective alternative? This article digs deep to bring you the answers.

Our Concept 2 Review

Concept 2 Model Indoor Rowing Machine

There are three models in the Concept 2 rower range; the Models D, E and the Dynamic. The Concept 2 model A, B, and C are no longer in production. The most popular is the Model D. In fact, it is the best selling rowing machine in the world. It uses an air resistance that has the flywheel attached to fan blades. This creates a smooth, even resistance without any lag time.

The Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is a variable resistance rower, yet it still provides you with ‘dampers’ which allow for adjustment to the feel of each stroke. You can adjust the damper setting from 1 to 10. This changes the amount of air going into the flywheel. That means that, at higher levels, you’ll get the feel of a heavy boat, while lower levels are like a sleek schooner.

​The Concept 2 pace calculator is the world’s most advanced onboard calculator. The PM3 monitor is very user-friendly while being packed with features. The Concept 2 display tracks your distance, time, speed, pace, calories and watts. It provides 5 pre-set workouts and allows you to customize your own workout. There are even animations demonstrating perfect technique and you can play games!

The Concept 2 Model D is very reasonably priced, sometimes you can find one for sale if you’re lucky enough, especially considering its status as the best on the market. It is in the mid-range for an air rower. This machine is extremely durable, meaning that you are purchasing a lifelong investment. Customer service is outstanding.​ Visit this page for a comparison of Concept 2 model D vs model E vs Dynamic. Choose model E with PM5 if you want a higher seat or you prefer the look of it.


  • Solidly built for commercial use
  • Fluid, natural rowing motion
  • Fantastic workout monitor
  • A most respected brand in the industry


  • Takes a lot of space (8 feet long)
  • Fan is noisy
  • Handle grips rough on new users

We give the Concept 2 Model D Rower an overrating of 9.5 out of 10.

There are quality alternatives to a Concept ii rower. In the section below, we’ll examine 3 alternatives and see how they stack up against the Model D from Concept. They are the WaterRower, the Stamina X Air, and the LifeCore R100.

You need a quality rowing machine but have a limited budget to work from. Jump over to our best 11 affordable rowing machines that won’t break the bank article – you’ll be glad you did.​

Concept 2 Alternatives

​While a Concept2 rowing machine provides a top quality rowing experience, they’re not for everybody. They’re relatively expensive, noisy and require a large footprint. In this section, we review the WaterRower, which provides a more realistic on the water rowing experience, the Stamina X Air, which offers many similar features to a Concept 2 indoor rower, but at a much lower price point. We also check out the Lifecore R100 which offers a magnetic resistance alternative.

The WaterRower

The Waterrower

The WaterRower is a handcrafted wooden rowing machine that features a flywheel which sits in a tank of water. This provides you with the most realistic water resistance feel of any rower. The result is a more ergonomic rowing experience that is easier on the knees. It is also less noisy than a Concept 2 ergometer and takes has smaller dimensions. However, the slight tilt of the seat puts undue pressure on the spine.

The wooden design of the WaterRower is a work of art in itself. The machine is designed to be stored standing up, so has a very small storage footprint. We recommend the WaterRower for people with chronic knee problems and those who are after a more stylish, attractive piece of equipment.


  • More realistic water feel
  • Easier on knees
  • Stylish wooden design
  • Less noisy


  • Seat tilts
  • Uncomfortable footrests

Not sure about what a water rowing machine is or how it can benefit you? Click over to our comprehensive Water Rowing Machines Review 2019 to get the facts to make the right decision.

Click here to read head to head comparison of Concept 2 Model with Xebex Rower machine.

The Stamina X-Air Rower

Stamina X-Air Rower

The Stamina-X Air rower is a budget version air rower that still provides plenty of grunt and performance. While the Concept 2 air flow rower has a metal pulling chain, the Stamina Air has a sturdy nylon strap. The solid steel frame construction will last through many years of tough training sessions. It is foldable with built-in wheels. A molded seat provides comfort and ergonomics to allow you to push harder, longer.

The multi-function monitor on the Stamina-X, while not as comprehensive as a Concept 2, provides real-time feedback on all vital training data. This machine provides a smooth, natural rowing experience, though it is noisier than a Concept 2. At about a third of the price, though, a little extra noise is certainly forgivable.​


  • Very well priced
  • Sturdy frame construction
  • Molded seat
  • Smooth, natural row


  • Noisy
  • Nylon, as opposed to metal, strap

Get full reviews on the top 10 rowing machines of every type with our huge Best Rowing Machines 2019 article – you’ll love it!

The Lifecore R100

The Lifecore R100

The LifeCore R100 is a magnetic resistance rowing machine as opposed to the air resistance of a Concept ii indoor rower. Magnetic resistance is quieter and provides a smoother glide. The LifeCore r100 offers 16 levels of variable resistance, giving you plenty of scopes to challenge yourself. However, it does not provide as realistic a rowing experience as either air or water.

The Lifecore R100 monitor is packed with 15 pre-programmed workouts. There are also four heart rate programs that kick in when you pair the monitor with a Polar heart rate monitor. A strong aluminum frame and ergonomically positioned seat, hand and footrest combine to make the r100 a viable alternative to the Concept 2.​


  • Quiet operation
  • Very smooth glide
  • 16 levels of resistance
  • 15 workout programs


  • Footrest angle may cause heel discomfort
  • Not as realistic an experience as air or water

One of the coolest features of the Concept 2 rowing machine is its advanced M5 monitor. Check out this clip which gives you a detailed tour of the best monitor on the market . . .

Click here to read head to head comparison of Concept 2 Model with Xebex Rower machine.


The Concept 2 range of rowing machines remain the top sellers in the market-place for good reason. Their Model D rower provides the ideal balance between user functionality, smooth, realistic motion, top of the line data feedback and realistic pricing. We recommend this machine, which has recently been released as a black Concept 2 Model D Rower, as the go-to home gym rower.

We were also impressed with three Concept 2 options, If you want a more realistic water experience, combined with classic wooden styling, go for the WaterRower. The best magnetic rower that is able to compete with the Concept 2 rower is the LifeCore r100. And, for a budget air rower that still gives you the functionality you need, check out the Stamina-X Air rower from stamina fitness.​

 Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

Our #1. Recommendation

Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

jim roose

My name is Jim Roose. I’m a former competitive powerlifter and gym owner. I’ve bought millions of dollars of fitness equipment over the last 20 years. This site is my way of giving back to the fitness community that’s done so much for me. Every article on here is carefully researched and written by me. Leave a comment if you have any questions.