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Rowing machines: What are the different types and which is the quietest?

Ditch the oars and break a sweat at home with a top-notch rowing machine. If you need help choosing one, just pick a resistance mechanism -- water, air, or magnets -- and follow our guide. ZDNET researched the best rowing machines and detailed their differences.
lena-borrelli-author.jpg
Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Emery Wright

Rowing machines have become a popular exercise tool, and it's easy to see why. The best rowing machines can help you improve stamina and build strength in a workout that engages your entire body. Plus, regular exercise offers health benefits like boosting your mood and increasing your metabolism.

Not all rowing machines are built equal, so you should consider your priorities when shopping for the best rowing machine. Do you prefer water or air resistance? Is price or noise level important to you? ZDNET experts scoured today's market to find the best rowing machines so you can make the right choice.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Trusted brand
  • Great warranty
  • Simple storage
cons
  • Larger size
  • No touchscreen
More Details

Tech Specs:

  • Price: $990
  • Resistance mechanism: Air
  • Dimensions: 96" x 24" x 14"
  • Maximum weight recommendation: 500lbs 
  • Warranty: Limited two to five-year warranty

The Concept 2 RowErg Model D uses air resistance to train your major muscle groups in a well-rounded workout. The machine's PM5 Performance Monitor self-calibrates to bring you real-time data, including pace, watts, and stroke rate. Plus, you can connect wirelessly to other apps. 

The Concept 2 RowErg is made with an aluminum and stainless steel frame for greater durability. It can accommodate up to 500 pounds, but it's also the largest rowing machine on our list -- make sure you have space to store it. Your purchase comes with an extended 90-day return policy and a limited two to five-year warranty.  

Pros & Cons
pros
  • 30-day trial
  • Community benefits
  • Extended limited warranty
cons
  • Membership required
  • Pricey
More Details

Tech Specs:

  • Price: $2,499
  • Resistance mechanism: Water
  • Dimensions: 86" x 23" x 40"
  • Maximum weight recommendation: 500lbs
  • Warranty: Limited one to five-year warranty

The Ergatta Rower offers a variety of workouts, so you'll never get bored of rowing. Sessions are uniquely game-based, with an enormous library of workouts and new classes added each week. The Ergatta rower auto-calibrates while you enjoy a full-body, low-impact workout, all controlled from a 17.3" digital touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity. With cherry wood construction, it boasts an unobtrusive, sleek design with built-in wheels for easy storage. Plus, it can accommodate users weighing up to 500 pounds.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Excellent performance
  • Solid construction
  • Recommended by pro athletes
cons
  • Lower weight maximum
  • Expensive shipping
More Details

Tech Specs:

  • Price: $1,795
  • Resistance mechanism: Water
  • Dimensions: 86" x 24" x 27"
  • Maximum weight recommendation: 400lbs
  • Warranty: Limited one to five-year warranty

Former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski is a leader on the field, but he's a leader in the gym, too. His company, Gronk Fitness brings us the Waterrower M1 HiRise Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor. It employs the patented WaterFlywheel, which mimics the motion of a boat on water. By using a WaterFlywheel in place of a motor like most rowing machines, this rower offers users unmatched physical and physiological benefits.

Plus, the machine's excellent durability makes it well worth your dollar. Constructed of pressed steel with a powder coat finish, this commercial-quality rowing machine adjusts to your fitness level, making it a fantastic fit for both beginning and advanced users. 

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Extremely quiet
  • No water or air tank
  • Various streaming workouts
cons
  • Upright storage requires additional purchase
  • Limited connectivity
More Details

Tech Specs:

  • Price: $2,195
  • Resistance mechanism: Magnetic
  • Dimensions: 86" x 25" x 47″
  • Maximum weight recommendation: 375lbs

The Hydrow Rower simulates waterways all over the world for your daily rowing adventure. This rower utilizes patented electromagnetic drag technology to match the feeling of outdoor rowing, challenging you to healthy, rigorous exercise. With front-facing speakers, you can focus on your workouts, which are led by world-class athletes and set to fun music. The oversized 22" touchscreen display is adjustable, and the water rower is suitable for users any age. The Hydrow Rower is easy to store, but there's an additional purchase for upright storage accessibility.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Impressive warranty
  • Diverse workouts
  • Large touchscreen
cons
  • Limited weight accommodation
  • Not ideal for advanced users
More Details

Tech Specs:

  • Price: $1,699
  • Resistance mechanism: Magnetic
  • Dimensions: 82" x 22" x 54"
  • Maximum weight recommendation: 250lbs
  • Warranty: Limited one to ten-year warranty

Made of alloy steel and an aluminum frame, the NordicTrack RW900 is a fantastic rower that combines magnetic and air resistance. The rower offers 26 digital resistance levels and workout classes both on and off the machine. The extra-large 22" HD touchscreen allows you to easily download and stream workouts directly to your rower. The rower also includes a free 30-day membership to iFIT family so you can stream workouts and join studio classes. However, the rower's maximum weight capacity is 250 pounds, which may rule out a number of potential users.

What is the best rowing machine?

ZDNET's pick for best rowing machine is the Concept 2 RowErg Model D for its overwhelming affordability and accommodation of up to 500 pounds. Its air resistance mechanism makes it easy to store, plus Concept 2 offers a reasonable warranty to protect your purchase. 

You can compare the best rowing machines based on price, resistance mechanism, and dimensions below.

Rowing machine

Price

Resistance mechanism

Dimensions

Concept 2 RowErg Model D

$990

Air

96" x 24" x 14"

Ergatta Rower

$2,499

Water

86" x 23" x 40"

Gronk Fitness Waterrower M1 HiRise Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor

$1,795

Water

86" x 24" x 27"

Hydrow Rower

$2,195

Magnetic

86" x 25" x 47″

NordicTrack RW900

$1,699

Magnetic

82" x 22" x 54"

Which is the right rowing machine for you?

To help you find the best rowing machine for your needs, these are ZDNET's expert recommendations.

Choose this rowing machine...

If you want...

Concept 2 RowErg Model D

Affordability

Ergatta Rower

Versatile workouts

Gronk Fitness Waterrower M1 Hi Rise Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor

Pro athlete's pick

Hydrow Rower

A quiet rower 

NordicTrack RW900

The latest technology

How did we choose the best rowing machines?

When analyzing rowing machines, ZDNET experts considered various factors:

  • Resistance type: Rowing machines can employ different types of resistance mechanisms. The best rowing machines offer air, water, or magnetic resistance. 
  • Weight capacity: Some rowing machines can accommodate more weight than others. The best rowing machines offer a weight capacity between 250 and 500 pounds.
  • Noise level: If you live in an apartment or are sensitive to sound, noise level can be an important factor. Consider how loud each rowing machine may be in your home or office.
  • Monitor: Monitors range significantly in size and features. We prefer rowing machines that include large touchscreens for convenient use.

Along with price, we also compared warranty policies.

What is a rowing machine?

A rowing machine is an indoor exercise machine that mimics that motion of rowing on water. Also known as ergometers, rowing machines offer a full-body workout by engaging various muscle groups. You can build strength, improve endurance, and benefit your overall health with regular use.

What are the types of rowing machines?

There are three most popular types of rowing machines: water rowers like the Gronk Fitness Waterrower M1 Hi Rise Rowing Machine, air rowers like the Concept 2 RowErg Model D, and magnetic rowers like the Hydrow and NordicTrack RW900. Also available but not included in our list of best rowing machines are hydraulic rowers, which are known as a compact rowing solution.

Which rowing machine is the quietest?

The Hydrow Rower uses a computer-controlled magnetic resistance, and while it is not a silent rowing experience, many reviewers note it is very quiet in comparison to traditional rowers that use a fan or water tank. 

How much does the best rowing machine cost?

Prices vary depending on the type of rowing machine and features included. The best rowing machines cost less than $1,000 but can stretch to $2,500, depending on the model you choose. 

Are there alternative rowing machines worth considering?

There are many rowing machines on the market that ZDNET experts did not include in this list. We found some excellent alternatives that receive honorable mention for best rowing machine:

For other ideas on how to improve your health and fitness, check out ZDNET's picks for the best home gym equipment, best workout apps, and best fitness deals today!

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