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Hydrow vs Concept 2 Comparison: Which Rower Is For You?

  • By Kate Moore
  • on 
  • This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my full disclosure.

The Concept 2 rowing machines (Model D, Model E, and RowErg) are used by people the worldwide for fitness, weight loss, rehabilitation and even training for world championships like the Olympics.

The Hydrow, is the new kid on the block and is shaping up to be the “Peloton of rowing machines”. Similar to the Peloton, this state of the art rowing machine offers a wide range of live and on-demand workouts using computer controlled resistance.

In this article we’re going to compare the Hydrow vs Concept 2 rowers to see what’s different and to help you choose which is best for your lifestyle.

Main differences between Hydrow vs Concept 2

Let’s start with a quick table summary so that you can see the main features of the two side by side:

Concept 2 (RowErg)Hydrow
ResistanceAir Electromagnetic drag
DisplayPM5 monitor22″ touch-screen
BluetoothYesYes
Workouts30+ external Apps4,000+ in-unit workouts
SubscriptionNoRequired*
Internet connectionNoRequired
Power2 D-cell batteriesPower outlet
Dimensions96″L x 24″W x 33″H86″L x 25″W x 47″H
Weight57 lbs145 lbs
Weight limit500 lbs375 lbs
ConstructionAluminum & steelAluminum & steel
ChainNickel-plated steelIndustrial-grade web strap
Price$990$2495
*Hydrow has limited functionality without an active membership

The Hydrow and the Concept 2 are two different types of rowing machines–designed for two different audiences.

Hydrow is a smart rower that offers live and on-demand outdoor reality workouts with world class instructors. If you’re looking for a rowing machine that will provide motivation, a strong sense of community, and a more engaging workout, then the Hydrow is a great choice.

On the other hand, the Concept 2 is the top selling air rower in the world. A favorite among athletes, commercial gym owners, and competitive rowers, this machine is the apparatus of choice for high-intensity training… all the way up to the world championships.

Design and build

man showing how to use a concept 2 rowing machine with proper form

Concept 2 

The Concept 2 is the rower of choice for commercial gyms because it is designed to withstand a lifetime of use.

Many parts are replaceable and repairable which means it’s built to last. The design is simplistic with as few moving parts as possible. Only 2 D-cell batteries are necessary to hit the ground running.

The machine is made with durable aluminum and steel. A nickel-plated steel chain, and ABS plastic PM5 monitor that can pivot for storage and height adjustment. A black powder coat finish makes it easy to wipe down and maintain.

hydrow wave indoor rowing machine in a small house or apartment

Hydrow

The Hydrow has a more sleek, sophisticated, and modern look. Like the Concept 2 it has a steel and aluminum frame (with an anthracite polymer body).

At 145lbs though, it’s twice as heavy, so it’s not something you’ll want to move around regularly! Fortunately this rower is one you won’t mind showing off in your home.

The Hydrow uses no chains, no fans, and no water tank. Instead, it uses an electromagnetic drag mechanism and industrial-grade webbed strap (rather than a chain) so operation is virtually silent. This means you can watch television, listen to music, or join some live workouts without causing a commotion.

A constant power source and steady internet connection is required to use the majority of features. That may seem like a turn-off to some, but it’s the whole reason you’re able to engage in the rowers stunning visuals and friendly workout community.

Rower type and resistance

Traditionally, rowing machines are designed using a few different types of resistance: air rowers, water rowers, magnetic rowing machines, and hydraulic.

Air Rower

The Concept 2 is a traditional air rower. These rowers produce resistance using air flowing over a flywheel situated in the flywheel housing (or fan cage).

There is a lever called a damper on the side of the flywheel housing which can be set at a resistance level of 1-10. A higher damper setting allows more air into the flywheel housing, making it harder to spin and thereby making it harder to row.

A lower setting allows in less air making it easier to spin the flywheel. This works similar to bicycle gearing and does NOT affect the resistance. The resistance is controlled by how hard you pull – the harder you row, the more resistance you feel (just like rowing on the water).

the air resistant fan on a concept 2 rowing machine which uses air for resistance

Electromagnetic drag

The Hydrow is actually a new type of rower that we haven’t seen before. Unlike the traditional air, magnetic or hydraulic rowers that we’re used to.

This uses a computer controlled, electromagnetic drag mechanism that automatically adjusts up to 240 times per second.

The computer emulates the feeling of real rowing on the water, helping you to achieve smooth, efficient strokes.

The resistance can easily be changed mid workout with a swipe of your finger. Unlike the Concept 2 (which as an air rower can be quite loud) the Hydrow is virtually silent, allowing you to enjoy the real life sound of rowing on the water provided by their outdoor reality technology.

woman exercising on a hydrow rowing machine from the comfort of her home

Monitor

When it comes to monitors, these two rowers couldn’t be more different. The Concept 2 uses a simple display, more focused on the serious athlete with easy-to-read workout statistics.

Meanwhile the Hydrow focuses on community, visually interesting workouts, and enjoyment.

22-inch LCD touchscreen display

The Hydrow’s  22-inch LCD touchscreen display comes with Wi-Fi, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The large screen helps to create an experience that makes you feel like you’re on the water and has amazing visuals from locations like the Charles river or Miami.

Live Outdoor Reality™ technology is designed to bring the river into your home!

Users can select from hundreds of on-demand outdoor rows, or join one of the regularly scheduled live rows with top athletes and instructors.

You can think of this machine as the Peloton (but for rowers). It requires a monthly membership that includes an app so you can participate in workouts on and off the river.

The monitor is sweat proof and also features hi fi speakers, a built in 2mp camera, and microphone. You get to experience stunning visuals and real life sounds as you bring the water to your home.

P5 performance monitor on a concept 2 indoor rowing machine

PM5 Performance Monitor

On the Concept 2, the Performance monitor (PM5) is what monitors and displays your stats and workout details.

There is a “Just Row” mode or you can set up a variety of different workouts. The monitor shows (and stores) a range of data, including stroke rate, calories, watts, pace and more.

The PM5 monitor comes with Bluetooth and ANT+ wireless connectivity, so it can be connected to heart rate monitors, other fitness devices and over 30 compatible apps.

The ErgData app is a great way to track workouts and can be synced with your Concept2 Online Logbook.

If you’re looking for something straightforward and not overly-distracting the PM5 is the premiere choice. It uses just 2 D-cell batteries so no power connection is required and you can place your rower anywhere.

User limitations

The Hydrow weighs 145 pounds and can hold a max weight of 375 pounds. It has a leg length limit of 36″ inseam.

With rowing machines it’s important to take leg length into consideration rather than actual height because leg length can vary. 

The Concept 2 weighs only 57 pounds, but has a much higher max weight of 500 lbs. It also has a standard configuration that handles up to a 36″ inseam. Anyone with longer measurements can contact the company for more information as it is possible to get an extra long monorail. 

crossfit rowing machine and fan bike in a functional fitness gym

Storage and Portability

The Concept 2 can be separated into 2 pieces and stored in a clean, dry storage space indoors. There are caster wheels on the front to make it easy to wheel around. Unboxed, this rowing machine should also fit in most standard vehicles making it easily transportable.

Storage space required for the RowErg is 25 in x 33 in x 54 in for the standard-height legs.

The Hydrow is less portable because it cannot be taken apart. Instead it can be stored upright, but can only be done so with the Hydrow Upright Storage Kit which requires an additional $69.99.

The idea behind this type of rowing machine is that the design is beautiful enough that you’ll want to showcase the machine in your home (and hopefully use it just as frequently).

Warranty

Both warranties are quite similar. The Concept 2 offers a 30-day money back guarantee. Frame parts have a 5 year limited warranty (limited to frame parts that fail due to a defect in materials or workmanship). The warranty doesn’t cover damage that you may cause yourself, even unintentional damage. They will also replace or repair ANY part (excluding monitor batteries) that fail due to defect or wear for a period of 2 years.   

The Hydrow also offers a 30-day money back guarantee and a 6 year limited warranty on the structural frame and upright storage kit (defects in materials and workmanship). There is a 2-year limited warranty on the screen and other electronics. 

Price

The Concept 2 is the most expensive air rower on the market, but is also by far the most popular and widely used. The best place to find one is on the Concept 2 website, or through Rogue Fitness. Prices can vary, but you should expect to pay around $1,000..

The Hydrow is priced at $2495 on the official website (it’s exactly the same price everywhere else, so it’s best to buy on Hydrow.com to make sure you get your full warranty). There is also an option to pay in instalments using Klarna.

Although it’s far more expensive than the Concept (and also requires a $38 per month membership) it’s a pretty standard cost for a smart rower. It’s similarly priced to the $2245 Peloton which provides a comparable service – live streaming workouts, live leaderboards, on-demand content etc.

woman doing an indoor rowing machine exercise workout on the hydrow rower

Verdict: Hydrow vs Concept2 – Which should you buy?

We’ve compared the Concept 2 vs Hydrow in detail and established that both are excellent rowing machines in their own right. After reading this article, you’ll probably have a clearer idea of which you’re most interested in based on your current needs.

Rowing is a sport for all, no matter what your age or fitness level. It provides an effective full body workout that effectively exercises every major muscle group.

That makes a rowing machine a better choice than even a treadmill or spin bike! So whether you’re looking for a rower to keep fit for a primary sport (or just get fit), to lose weight, for rehabilitation after injury, or to manage a health condition like diabetes, we recommend you choose your favorite out of these two exercise machines and just get started!

Either machine would make an excellent choice for general fitness and weight loss. There are a few reasons though why you might choose one over the other, and we outline them below:

Why choose the Hydrow?

There’s one MAIN reason that you’d choose the Hydrow instead of the Concept, and that’s because you want to experience its currently unmatched Live Outdoor Reality™ technology.

This rower isn’t cheap, but it’s got something that no other rower can offer – the Peloton experience, but for a rowing machine. This is a smart rower that brings you a live immersive experience with stunning visuals and real life sounds that make you actually feel like you’re out on the water.

There are hundreds of live and on-demand rows that you can choose to suit your mood or needs. Row in a team, or row on your own – this exercise machine blows Peloton out of the water!

Most importantly, the Hydrow will make you excited about rowing–which is something a standard piece of gym equipment can’t always offer.

athletes completing a hard workout at a crossfit gym that includes an indoor rowing machine exercise

Why choose the Concept2?

Any of the following are reasons you might choose the Concept 2 over the Hydrow:

  • You’re interested in joining the world of competitive indoor rowing or are already a competition rower or athlete. This rower is recognized as the standard for indoor training.
  • You’re an outdoor rower who wants to supplement your training with some indoor rowing on days you can’t get out on the water. 
  • You’re a Crossfitter (it’s the Crossfit rower of choice) 
  • You need a heavy duty rower that holds a max user weight of 375 lbs – 500 lbs (the Hydrow maxes out at 375 lbs)
  • You’re tall with an inseam of over 36″. If you’re over 38″ inseam it states on their website that you should contact customer service to discuss your needs. So it’s likely they can help you out with a rowing machine suited to your leg length.
  • Your budget is closer to $1000 than $2000 (Hydrow unfortunately is over twice the price)

FAQs

Can you use the Hydrow rowing machine without a subscription?

Yes, but features are extremely limited. The whole point of purchasing a smart rower is so you can take advantage of the membership offerings. If you don’t wan’t a subscription plan, consider purchasing the Concept 2.

Does the Concept 2 rower require a subscription?

No! This rowing machine is designed as a stand-alone product which will last for years after the initial purchase.

Hydrow vs Concept 2 – which is better?

These are two different types of rowing machines. The Concept 2 is best for serious athletes and commercial gyms. The Hydrow is best for home-use and individuals looking for a fun, engaging workout.