Peloton Row vs Concept 2 vs Hydrow (and more!) rower comparison

Today we are going to be comparing just about every popular home rower available. From the brand new Peloton Row to the classic Concept 2, as well as the Hydrow, Hydrow Wave, Aviron Strong, Aviron Impact, Nordictrack RW900, and Ergatta Water Rower!

I’ve rowed over 1,000,000 combined meters this year on these rowers. Here are my thoughts on how they compare and my suggestions if you are looking to get a rower for your home.

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Overview of the competition

There are two ways we are going to go about this comparison. First, we are going to be comparing and ranking these rowers in 10 categories, like how noisy they are, how good the rowing feels, how much they cost, and so on. Each placement within each category will be worth a certain amount of points. At the end, we have a full overall rankings list. 

Additionally, I will give some more personalized suggestions because, while rankings are useful, it’s important to keep in mind that we all have different interests, needs, and goals. So the best rower for you may not be necessarily what is at the top of this list. 

Category 1: Appearance

Appearance is definitely going to be the most subjective of all 10 categories, but I included it because the appearance of home fitness equipment can be important. Especially for those who won’t be putting the rower in your garage, you may want it to actually look nice.

Tier 1: Ergatta

Personally, out of all these rowers, the one I think looks by far the best for a home, is the Ergatta. With the water and its cherry wood construction, this is the only one that I’m placing into Tier One.

Tier 2: Peloton, Hydrow, and NordicTrack

The Peloton Row, Hydrow, and NordicTrack RW900 all look sleek and nice. With great overall designs, these wouldn’t look out of place no matter where they were, within reason. So, like, maybe don’t put one in your kitchen.

Tier 3: Hydrow Wave, Aviron Impact, and Aviron Strong

Coming in at tier three are the Hydrow Wave, Aviron Impact, and Aviron Strong. These rowers still look good, just not as good.

Tier 4: Concept 2

Finally, coming in at tier four, is the classic Concept 2. While it’s not terrible looking or anything, it’s definitely better suited for your garage than your living room. 

Category 2: Space requirements

One of the best things about having a rower at home is that they take up very little space when stored upright.

When it comes to space requirements, most rowers have a similar width, so there are really only two factors I’m considering. One is the overall length while laid out, and the other is the space requirements when stored upright.  

Tier 1: Ergatta

Ergatta is clearly on top here. It has one of the shorter lengths at 86″ and the smallest footprint when stored upright. Upright, it takes up less than four square feet. 

Tier 2: Concept 2, Hydrow Wave, and Aviron Strong

Coming in at tier two is the Concept 2 Rower. While it’s fairly long at 96” in length, it has a small five-square-foot footprint when stored upright.

It should be noted that while the Ergatta can be safely stored upright, the Concept 2 is much more likely to fall over should someone bump into it. Concept 2 can be easily broken down into two pieces, should you want to store it more safely or have shorter ceilings.

Also coming in at tier two are the Hydrow Wave and Aviron Strong Series. The Aviron Strong Series is 84″ in length and is the only rower besides the Ergatta that can be safely stored upright by itself.

The Hydrow Wave, with the shortest length at 80″, can only be stored upright safely with the purchase of the additional $190 storage kit.

Tier 3: Peloton, Hydrow, and Aviron Impact

Aviron Impact Series is the longest of the rowers at 97″ long and doesn’t store upright. This rower folds at the middle.

The 96” Peloton Row can be stored upright with its included wall anchor. The 86” Hydrow can also be stored upright with a wall anchor, but you’ll need to purchase it separately.

Tier 4: NordicTrack 

Sitting by itself at tier four is the NordicTrack RW900. While not the longest rower, it is the only with no ability to fold or store upright. So when not in use, the RW900 requires far more floor space than any other rower on this list.

Category 3: Rowing quality

Rowing quality is sort of a broad term. Really what I mean is how the rower feels to use – how smooth it is, how much pullback it gives you to help maintain good mechanics, if the resistance increases appropriately with how hard you are pulling, and so on. 

Tier 1: Peloton and Hydrow

Luckily, most of these rowers feel very good to use. There are a lot of people who would argue that the Concept 2 should be placed in tier one, as many call it the “Gold Standard.”

But honestly, it doesn’t feel as good as the two big standouts among these rowers: the Peloton Row and Hydrow. Both use digital magnetic resistance and feel incredibly smooth to use.

Tier 2: Concept 2 and Wave

Coming in just below those, in tier two, is the Concept 2. Given its very simple chain, bungie, and fan design, it still feels very good. Also here is the Hydrow Wave. 

Tier 3: Ergatta, Impact, and Strong

Just below are the Ergatta and Aviron rowers. These feel very good to use, so much so that I think most people who don’t row as much as me may not even notice a difference between these and tiers one and two. 

Tier 4: NordicTrack 

Again sitting by itself in tier four is the NordicTrack RW900, which does not feel good to use. The magnetic resistance feels smooth but unfortunately is not designed in a way that feels like a rower at all.

A rower should give you more resistance based on how hard you pull, and the RW900 doesn’t work that way. It instead applies the same resistance throughout the pull. This feels very strange, and not in a good way. 

Category 4: Comfort

When it comes to comfort, what I’m referring to is mostly how it feels to sit on, how easy it is to get into a comfortable rowing position, and how nice the handles are. 

Tier 1: Hydrow and Wave

Here both the Hydrow and Hydrow Wave take the top spot. With a very good overall design, a nice comfortable seat, and what is by far my favorite rowing handle to use with the rubber coating.

Tier 2: Peloton and Strong

Coming in just below the Hydrows is the Peloton Row, which feels just as nice in every way except for the handle. Peloton Row’s handle doesn’t feel nearly as good and has a small hole on the back of each side that I found to be a bit irritating.

Also very good is the Aviron Strong Series. This is the only rower to feature an adjustable footpad to get the perfect positioning for your body type. It has optional lumbar support and is designed with a nice downward slant to help make it easier to maintain good form. 

Tier 3: Concept 2 and Impact

In tier three we have the Concept 2 and Aviron Impact Series. While both feel good to use, they aren’t quite as comfortable as the others mentioned earlier.

Tier 4: Ergatta and NordicTrack 

Tier four has the Ergatta and NordicTrack RW900 rowers. I personally find the Ergatta comfortable to use, but because the seat is so low to the ground, if you don’t have pretty decent flexibility, you might have a hard time getting into a good position.

The RW900 would also be fine if it wasn’t for one thing: the feet pads are spread incredibly wide, so much so that It can be hard to keep good knee positioning. I personally find that very uncomfortable to use for a long time. 

Category 5: Adaptability

Adaptability is similar to comfort but addresses how well each rower is designed to adapt to a large range of body types (heavier, shorter, taller, or less flexible, for example). 

Tier 1: Strong

Coming in at tier one, by a long shot, is the Aviron Strong Series. The adaptability of this rower is outstanding, not only with the adjustable footpads and optional lumbar support, but it’s able to support up to a 500 lbs max user weight.

The Avian Strong seat is placed up high while the rail sits low, making it easier for those heavier or less flexible to sit on and step over. In fact, this is the only rower that my mother-in-law, who has MS, can use because of this adaptable design. 

Tier 2″ Impact and Concept 2

In tier two, we have the Concept 2 and Aviron Impact Series. While the Aviron Impact Series is similar to the Strong Series in most ways, like having a high seat, the rail sits higher and makes it difficult for some to step over.

The Concept 2 has an option to order a version that is placed up high like that, as well. Avian Impact and Concept 2 rowers are well design to fit almost all body types, but the high rails will be an obstacle for some.

Tier 3: Hydrow and Wave

Hydrow and Hydrow Wave are in tier three. They’re well designed but not built with the same level of adaptability. The Hydrows have more normal seat heights and a lower max weight support of 375 lbs. 

Tier 4: Peloton, Ergatta, and NordicTrack 

In tier four, we have the Peloton Row, Ergatta, and NordicTrack RW900.

There are two issues I have with the Peloton Row in this category. First, the footpad seems very poorly designed for women. The smallest setting on the footpads feels optimally designed for a women’s shoe sized 10, which is quite a bit bigger than the average. Second, it’s designed to support a max user weight of just 300 lbs. While that won’t be an issue for most users, it could be a dealbreaker for others.

Ergatta falls into this tier as well because, as I already mentioned, it sits very low to the ground. This can make it tough for those with less flexibility. The NordicTrack RW900 is here because of that very wide foot width, which is uncomfortable for me to use, and I would imagine even moreso for anyone who is smaller. 

Category 6: Noise

How much noise a rower makes can be an important factor to consider for some. Especially for those, who like me, are oftentimes only able to work out early in the morning or later at night, when others are asleep. 

Tier 1: Peloton

Here there is one clear winner, and that is the Peloton Row. I like to refer to the Peloton Row as being ‘”whisper quiet,” because it is the best description for it. There is almost no noise to be heard except for the faintest whisper. It’s really incredible, and no other rower comes close to being this quiet. 

Tier 2: Ergatta

Next we have the … Ergatta?! While the water makes some sound, it’s not a lot, and it sounds less jarring than other rowers. This is my go-to to jump on for a workout when I’m trying to be quiet. 

Tier 3: Hydrow, Wave, Impact, Strong, and NordicTrack

None of the rowers in this tier-three cluster are very loud, but all make enough noise that you would probably risk waking up someone in the next room if you were rowing on them.

Tier 4: Concept 2

And finally, we have the Concept 2. With its chain and full fan resistance, it can be very loud, certainly much louder than the rest. 

Category 7: Screen and sound quality

Tier 1: Peloton

When it comes to a high quality touchscreen and speakers, the Peloton Rower provides the best experience. It has a very nice, responsive, and well placed 24” HD touchscreen as well as front-facing 26 watt speakers and woofer. 

Tier 2: Hydrow, NordicTrack, Impact, and Strong

Ranking below Peloton, we have the Hydrow, Aviron Impact and Strong Series, and NordicTrack RW900. These all have great 22” HD touchscreens, but the speakers in these are not nearly as good as Peloton’s.

Tier 3: Wave and Ergatta

The Hydrow Wave and Ergatta have much smaller 16” and 17” HD touchscreens and speaker systems inferior to the others.

Tier 4: Concept 2 

Here we have the Concept 2, which doesn’t have a touchscreen, but rather a digital display. You’ll see your metrics alongside buttons you can use to access various modes and settings.

Category 8: Membership quality

Most of these rowers require a membership to access all of their features, including their content.

Tier 1: Hydrow, Wave, and Peloton

In tier one we have Hydrow (membership covers the Hydrow Wave, too) and the Peloton Row.

Hydrow has the largest, most extensive, and highest quality rowing content available. With thousands upon thousands of classes, including warm-up drills, endurance workouts, live instructor led sessions, and scenic rows. You’ll also find bodyweight strength work, yoga, and even bootcamp type classes. 

Peloton doesn’t have the same scenic quality, and since it’s new, much less rowing content is available. But Peloton makes up for it in other ways. You’ll find the best music integration, leaderboard interaction, real-time form tracking and analysis, as well as access to one of the best collections of strength and yoga workouts. 

Tier 2: Impact, Strong, and Ergatta

Tier two has Aviron and Ergatta. While neither offer much in the way of instructor led workouts, they have their own unique way to keep you engaged.

Aviron has a huge amount of games, including easy-to-jump-into multiplayer modes and one of my favorite additions, the ability to work out while watching shows and movies on streaming services.

Ergatta, on the other hand, has the best program designs for all levels. Users’ level placement adjusts automatically relative to ability. Plus some very well designed gamification keeps you engaged and wanting to come back for more.

Tier 3: Concept 2

Tier three belongs to the Concept 2. You might wonder why a rower with no membership would make it to tier three. Well, that’s because sometimes having no membership, thus no fee, is better than being forced to pay for a bad membership. 

Tier 4: NordicTrack

That brings us to lowly tier four, where we have the NordicTrack RW900. I’m a big fan of NordicTrack and the iFIT membership that the equipment runs on. The treadmills and treadmill content, for example, are the best hands down (much better, in my opinion, than even Peloton’s). But NordicTrack rower content is definitely not the same quality as content made for the other devices, and new content comes much more infrequently. 

Category 9: Non-membership usability

Non-membership usability is an often overlooked, but it is an important category to consider. There may be a time you don’t want to pay for the membership, or maybe you only row every so often during some months of the year. Unfortunately, none of these rowers, outside of the Concept 2, provide very much usability should you cancel your membership.

Tier 1: Concept 2

Tier one, by miles, is the Concept 2 rower. It doesn’t require a membership or even an electric outlet. What makes the Concept 2 so attractive is that not only does it not require a monthly membership payment, but it has many features included that none of the other rowers have within their memberships.

Concept 2 has the ability to make and customize your own workouts and to connect to third-party apps via your phone or tablet. This means you can take classes, and even participate in live races, on various rowing apps that are available. 

Tier 2: None

The gap between Concept 2 and the others is so vast in this category, I have put no one in tier two.

Tier 3: Impact and Strong

Aviron’s rowers only make tier three by a hair because without a membership, they will still allow you to track your progress, earn achievements, and add or follow friends. But similar to the other rowers, you would be able to access only the “just row” mode.

Tier 4: Peloton, Hydrow, Wave, Ergatta, and NordicTrack

Without a membership, all the other rowers pretty much strip you of every single feature outside of a “just row” mode. To me, I think this is pretty unacceptable considering the cost of these machines. Honestly, it’s likely the one big reason many people still consider the Concept 2 even though it falls behind in a lot of other categories.

If you are spending one, two … hell, even $3,000 … for a rower, you should at the least always be able to create some basic workouts and track them. The first connected fitness rower that actually supports this would easily become the top rower I would refer people to. I believe this, above all else, should be an industry standard.

Category 10: Price

Tier 1: Concept 2

When it comes to price, the Concept 2 Rower is the lowest cost option at just under $1,000.

Tier 2: Wave, NordicTrack, and Impact

The next cheapest rower on this list is the Hydrow Wave at $1,695, BUT if you want to be able to store it upright, it’ll cost a total of $1,885 with the addition of the Vertical Anchor.

The Aviron Impact Series and NordicTrack RW900 are both around $2,000. 

Tier 3: Strong, Hydrow, and Ergatta

In tier three, we have rowers that cost around $2,500, and that includes the original Hydrow Rower, Ergatta, and the Aviron Strong Series. 

Tier 4: Peloton

Finally, at well above the price of any other rower and over three times the cost of the Concept 2, is the Peloton Row which costs $3,195.

Final rankings

Now that we have ranked each of these eight rowers in 10 separate categories, let’s see how they do in overall rankings.

I gave one point to a rower in tier one, two points in tier two, three points in tier three, and four points in tier four. When added up, the rowers with the lowest amount of total points will have a higher overall ranking.

The Peloton Row and Hydrow came out tied at the top. At the very bottom we find the NordicTrack RW900. The other rowers all scored closely in the middle.

More important than the overall rankings is this next section. If you are looking to buy a rower, you really need to consider the strengths and weakness of each category to figure out which would be best for you.

Suggestions

Peloton Row

For the Peloton Row, there are a few things that need to be said. As ridiculously high as the price is, it stings a lot less if you are already a Peloton member with a bike or tread, simply because you will not have to pay for an additional membership.

Considering that, the $700 price difference between the Peloton Row and, for example, the Hydrow, is more than covered within two years. However, if you are not a Peloton member already, while the Peloton Row is really nice, I don’t think it’s worth it to you at that cost.

Additionally, Peloton has changed the pricing of their equipment over five times in the past year alone, so I would probably suggest waiting on this to see if there’s a price change. If there is, the odds are high it will bring the price down.

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Hydrow and Hydrow Wave Rowers

The Hydrow and Hydrow Wave rowers are probably the best choice if you like outdoor scenic content and coached instruction. Hydrow has the largest collection of classes and easily the best group of rowing coaches on any platform.

I’ve been rowing for over 14 years and every single time I take a class on Hydrow, I feel like I’m getting better or learning something new. 

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Aviron Impact and Strong Series Rowers

Instructor-led classes aren’t going to be motivating to everyone, and if you would prefer a gamified approach to training, then you are going to want to consider one of the Aviron Rowers or the Ergatta.

I really like both brands, for different reasons. Aviron has the most adaptable rower built for all sorts of body types, whereas Ergatta is one of the toughest to use, especially for those with limited mobility.

Aviron also has more diversity in terms of games and entertainment, and for me, since I structure my training to include a lot of lower, zone-two heart rate training, I find rowing to a show or movie on Netflix during that type of workout to be far more fun than taking an instructor-led class or scenic ride. 

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Ergatta Rower

However, Aviron offers very little in terms of having organized, structured, program designs that can help you improve both short and long term. This is where Ergatta is first class.

Not only does Ergatta have the best program designs of any rower, but I would argue they have the best designs of any connected fitness cardio equipment, period. The designs are really good, plus they also adapt them to your personal fitness level.

While Ergatta may not have the breadth of game mode types that Aviron does, it does much more within each that it does have. Plus, there’s a reason why I keep this rower in my living room, and that’s because it just looks so nice and takes up so little room. 

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Concept 2 Rower

Possibly what you should be considering the most is the Concept 2. Many people consider this the gold standard of rowers. I think that was true for a very long time, but there’s been more innovation for indoor rowers over the last couple years than there has been in the past two decades. So, I’m not sure that “gold standard” comparison still holds up.

Even though I don’t think the Concept 2 looks very good and is extremely loud, so better suited for a garage, it still offers the best overall value. It is significantly cheaper than the other rowers.

It is the only rower on this list that connects to third-party apps, and there are some really good ones out there, such as EXR,  Asensei, and even Apple Fitness+. Concept 2 offers all the standard features you should expect out of a good piece of cardio equipment, like being able to create your own workouts, as well as track and export your workout data – all without a membership.

For any serious athlete, the Concept 2 is not only a good choice, it may be the only choice since many of its features are fundamentals that all rowers should have, and they’re not tied to a membership. 

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NordicTrack RW900

Then we have the poor NordicTrack RW900. Honestly, I don’t know what happened here. The older version of this, before the redesign in 2022, was actually decent. It wasn’t great, but it felt how a rower should feel.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I could suggest this new version even to die-hard fans of iFIT. So, if you are an iFIT user and want an iFIT enabled rower, my suggestion would be to try and find an older model NordicTrack, or check out the Proform Rowers. Proforms also work with iFIT but have a similar design to the older NordicTrack Rower.

Or, you could simply buy a Concept 2, and since you are paying for iFIT, you can pull up the rowing classes on your phone, tablet, or TV and take them on there.

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