Concept2 Model E ReviewThe Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine is an upgrade from the very popular “Model D” Rower.

Like its predecessor, it’s commercial grade and has amazing build quality!

The smooth, strong, realistic resistance makes it a popular model used by Olympic Rowers and fitness clubs around the world.

The Model E comes with a few upgrades compared to the Model D such as higher seat, nickel-plated chain, and longer monitor arm.

While there are many additional features, it also comes with a heftier price tag.

Concept2 set the industry standard in the world of air-resistance rowers and this model does not disappoint.

With a staggering amount of 5 star reviews, it is considered one of  the best commercial rowing machines. Check out the full Concept2 Model E review for a complete list of pros & cons.

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Table of Contents
(click a title to jump ahead!)

1. Resistance Type
2. Monitor/Control Panel
3. Build Quality
4. Comfort
5. Storage
6. Capacity
7. Dimensions
8. Assembly
9. Pros and Cons
10. Consumer Reviews
11. Warranty
12. Pric

Resistance Type

The Concept2 Model E is an air-resistance rowing machine.

Air resistance is one of the strongest resistance types and closely mimics rowing on water.

Resistance is created when a user pulls the handle and spins the flywheel. As the flywheel spins, it must displace the air in front of it, which causes the resistance.

The harder the handle is pulled, the more air the spinning flywheel has to displace. The more air that has to be displaced, the harder it is to row, and the more resistance is created.

This direct relationship between rowing intensity and resistance makes the resistance-type ‘variable’. Basically, there are an infinite amount of resistance levels that can be created!

Just row faster to feel more resistance or row slower to feel less resistance.

You can read more about how air resistance operates and other ‘variable’ resistance rowers in my Air vs. Water Rowing Resistance Comparison article.

Resistance Benefits

Air resistance provides some of the strongest, smoothest, and most realistic rowing strokes out of any resistance type.

Plus, the Concept2 Model E is considered one of the best air resistance rowers on the market. So you know the resistance is excellent!

Due to air resistance closely mimicking the resistance felt while rowing on water and the Concept2 Model E being such a great rowing machine, it is one of the top models chosen by Olympic Rowers and fitness gyms around the world!

Concept2 Model E Black

Due to the resistance being ‘variable’ as described above, it makes he Concept2 Model E great for HIIT workouts (high intensity interval training). Basically, it is very easy to switch from slow paced workouts to sprints, while still providing amazing resistance.

This is why Concept2 is also the chosen brand of rowers by Crossfit gyms and the Crossfit Games.

The Concept2 Model E Rower also has the ability to change the “feel” of the rowing stroke using a damper, which I describe below.

Damper Setting

In addition to adjusting resistance level based on rowing intensity, the Model E lets you adjust the “feel” of the rowing stroke.  It’s very similar to changing gears on a bicycle and doesn’t directly affect the level of resistance.

To adjust the “feel”, all you have to do is select the desired ‘damper level’ located on the flywheel.

There are 10 damper settings to choose between. The higher settings (6-10) give you the feel of a slower, heavier boat and the lower settings (1-5) give you the feel of a lighter, faster boat.

Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine Damper

Think of settings 6-10 as rowing with passengers and settings 1-5 as rowing alone. Concept2 recommends a setting between 3-5 for a great cardiovascular workout.

The right setting for you really depends on your preference.  I recommend starting at level 5 and adjusting the damper to different levels as you become more experienced.

There are a ton of great YouTube videos that go over damper settings, what they mean, and how to find the right setting.

Noise Level

Being an air rower means the Concept2 Model E produces a bit of noise. The flywheel creates a ‘wooshing’ noise every time a stroke is completed.

Most people don’t find the noise disturbing or just wear headphones while rowing. Other users found it hard to watch TV at a normal volume. I created an article about the Concept2 Noise Level While Rowing to give people an idea of the noise created.

This video will give you a good idea of how the rowing stroke feels and sounds while also explaining the variable resistance.

Resistance Overall

Overall, the resistance on the Model E is excellent and one of the best on the market. It is smooth, strong, and closely mimics the resistance found when rowing on water.

I have never heard anyone complain about the resistance of the Concept2 Model E. How could you when it’s used by Olympic Rowers for training!?

Monitor/Control Panel

This model comes with the Concept2 Model E “PM5” Monitor. It is considered the best rowing machine monitor on the market.

The manufacturer touts this fitness monitor as a training partner but they forgot to mention it is also a:

  • Coach – because it can teach you how to row with proper form.
  • Statistician – because it tracks vital workout statistics.
  • Physician – because it has wireless heart rate monitoring.
  • Entertainer – because you can play 4 pre-loaded workout games.
  • Competitor – because you have the option to race a pace boat or yourself via a previous workout.

The PM5 monitor is a powerful mini-computer with a very user-friendly interface. Don’t let it’s simple look fool you!

Concept2 Model E Review Monitor

The PM5 tracks a ton of different workout data including:

  • Distance
  • Time
  • Strokes per Minute
  • Pace
  • Calories
  • Watts
  • Heart Rate

There are plenty of workout options.  You can just start rowing, choose 1 of 5 preset workouts, or you can customize your own workout routine.

Games:

You can choose between 4 different games:

  • Fish game– The object is to have your fish eat edible fish and to avoid the yucky fish.
    • You will learn how to modulate your intensity as varying intensity levels will move your fish to the right spots.
  • Darts– The object is to score as many points as possible by throwing “darts”.  Darts are thrown when you complete a certain number of rows.
    • You earn points by remaining consistent with power output and stroke rate from your most recent strokes.
  • Target Training – Similar to darts, but you can also predetermine the length of time you want to maintain your power output and stroke rate.
  • Biathlon – The newest game on the monitor combines two sports: Nordic Skiing and Target Shooting. The biathlon consists of racing laps with a shooting stage between each lap!

The fixed monitor arm allows the angle of the display to be adjusted. Overall, the monitor is easy to read while rowing and has a backlight for reading the monitor in low light settings.

Concept2 Model E PM5 Display:

When working out, the top-section of the display always shows:  total time, number of strokes per minute, distance achieved and 500m split time.

Concept2 Model E Monitor

You can select from 5 different display options for the bottom section:

  • All data (additional performance data shown on one screen)
  • Force Curve (graphically shows if your rowing motion is smooth or not and how much power you’re producing)
  • Pace Boat (keep pace with a pace boat or workout against yourself from a previous workout)
  • Bar chart (graphically shows your heart rate or workout output on each stroke)
  • Large print (shows what’s normally only shown on the top-portion of the display on the whole screen making the data bigger and much easier to see)
  • Here is a complete breakdown on the Concept2 website.
PM5 Monitor Features:

The monitor is equipped with ANT+ technology (think of Bluetooth for sports and fitness markets). This allows the PM5 to monitor your heart rate with a wireless compatible heart rate device.

The most popular HRM is the Polar H7 or the new Polar H10 Heart Rate Sensor. Just make sure devices are Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ compatible.

The Model E is USB Flash Drive compatible. This allows you to save all your workout data, favorite workout setups, and transfer the data to different Concept2 rowing machines or computers.

The workout data stored on the flash drive can be uploaded to Concept2’s online logbook from the PM5 to your PC or MAC.   You can also use third-party software programs while your PM5 is connected to your computer to further analyze workout data.

Additional Information

The monitor feels very durable. It is encased in hard plastic and the buttons feel like hard rubber that’s easy to press but won’t break.  Even the lettering looks like it won’t fade.

To turn on the unit just start rowing or press a button. The monitor automatically shuts off after 4 minutes of inactivity.

The Model E with a PM5 monitor uses two D cell batteries. The monitor is powered by the flywheel when the machine is in use, so batteries will last a long time.

Overall

I know I went on and on about the PM5, but it’s loaded with features, and I wanted to make sure to cover all of them. The PM5 is one of the main reasons a lot of people choose to buy a Concept2 Rowing Machine.

If you’ve read my other reviews, the cheaper rowing machines have very simple workout monitors with very few features. That’s not the case with the Model E PM5!

There are really no negative about the Concept2 Model E PM5 Monitor, which is why it’s considered the best monitor on the market.

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Build Quality

Concept2 has a sterling reputation for making high quality rowing machines and the Model E and D both exemplify this.

It’s built tough enough to withstand heavy-use in gyms and boathouses, so don’t expect it to break on you anytime soon.

Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine Quality

Being commercial grade means nothing on the Model E feels cheap. The frame features an extruded aluminum I-beam monorail with stainless steel seat track and is powder-coated with a clear topcoat for extra durability.

Both legs are one piece of welded steel to provide great stability and strength for the user.

The flywheel is connected to the handle by a durable nickel-plated steel chain, which requires less maintenance than the steel chain on the Model D.

To further reduce unnecessary maintenance and increase durability, the chain is stored in a fully enclosed housing.

The handle, seat, bearings, footrest, and foot-straps are all made from high quality materials.

One user proudly claimed he’s used the Concept2 Model E for 3-4 times a week for over 5 years, averaging 1.3 million meters each year, and hasn’t run into a problem yet!

The Concept2 Model E is one of the highest quality rowing machines on the market, backed by the #1 rowing machine company in the world, and an amazing warranty.

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Comfort

The Concept2 Model E is an extremely comfortable rower with virtually no complaints.

The rowing motion is unmatched when you’re looking for a rowing machine that mimics on the water rowing. This is one of the main reasons it’s chosen by Olympic athletes.

The entire rowing motion is fluid from start to finish. When you first push-off with your legs the seat glides effortlessly on the seat rail, the chain goes in and out of the housing without snagging, and the flywheel spins smoothly.

Seat

Its seat height is 20.0” off the ground, which is 6.0” higher than the Model D. The seat height is equivalent to a standard chair and can be a major benefit for many people.

Taller seats are great for people with bad knees, people using a wheelchair, or people who prefer to row higher off the ground. A few users even liked the higher seat because they didn’t have to worry about pets running into them while working out.

Concept2 Model E Seat Height

The contoured seat is padded and comfortable for most users.  However, a few users found the seat to be uncomfortable but were able to fix the problem by sitting on a folded towel or by buying a rowing machine seat pad.

I personally think the seat is fine. It’s no la-z-boy chair but it’s much better than sitting in a plastic seat. If you’re concerned with seat comfort, just keep in mind there are very simple and cheap fixes.

Handle

The handle is ergonomic with a 10-degree bend to alleviate any stress from your wrist and forearms. The handle allows you to row with a natural arm and hand motion.

No users mentioned anything negative about the handle and it fits very comfortably in your hands.

However, some beginner rowers will start to develop blisters when they first start rowing. Usually after 1 or 2 weeks your hands will become accustom to gripping the handle and form callouses.

If you’re not used to daily exercise, you may want to wear gloves to help your hands adjust. Concept2 also recommends wearing gloves for the first few weeks. This is not necessary to use the rower, just a recommendation.

Check out my recommendation for rowing gloves here.

Footrests

The footrests are comfortable and it’s really easy to change sizes in a matter of seconds.  They accommodate a wide range of shoes sizes, so I will be extremely surprised if your feet don’t fit comfortably.

Children and users up to 7.0’ tall have used the Concept2 Model E without ever mentioning the footrests being too small or too big. Users have also mentioned the footrests are perfect for not wearing shoes, which is a huge plus for barefoot rowers!

Overall

The Concept2 Model E provides an extremely comfortable rowing stroke. It’s rowing motion is so smooth, it is even used in many rehabilitation facilities and recommended for senior citizens.

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Storage

The Concept2 Model E has a large footprint when in use but it can be folded up in seconds to save space.

The entire storage process can be done in as little as 30 seconds!

Just separate the flywheel from seat rail and stand them upright like the photo.

Concept2 Model E Storage

Many users couldn’t believe how fast it could be taken apart and put back together.

It’s perfect to store away in the corner of a room or a large closet.

Being lightweight makes the rower easy to carry around. It also has caster wheels to roll the unit.

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Capacity

The maximum weight capacity per the manufacturer is 500 pounds, so pretty much anyone can use this rowing machine.

Users over 300 pounds commented they were able to use the rower with no issues for years. So unless you exceed the specified weight limit I wouldn’t worry.

Concept2 Model E Rower

When trying to figure out if a Concept2 Model E will be suitable for your height, keep in mind inseam length is the most important measurement.

According to Concept2, the monorail length is 54.0″ (137cm) and can fit an inseam length up to 38.0″.

Elementary-level children and users as tall as 6’9” are able to row on the Model E without any issues.

If worse comes to worse and you’re concerned that you might be too tall, Concept2 offers an add-on that extends the monorail an additional 5.0″.

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Dimensions

  • Fully Assembled:
    • 96.0″ x 24.0″ (L x W)
  • Seat Height:
    • 20.0″
  • Machine Weight:
    • 65 pounds
  • Space Recommended for Use:
    • 9.0′ x 4.0′ (L x W)
  • Stored Dimensions:
    • 27.0″ x 33.0″ x 54.0″ (L x W x H)

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Assembly

Several users varying in age commented that the Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine is extremely easy to assemble.

You’re only going to find 8 screws, 8 washers, and 2 bolts in the box along with the other major components. It also includes the necessary allen wrenches needed for assembly.

Expect to spend about 30 minutes to completely assemble the unit.

When assembling my Concept2 Rower I couldn’t believe how fast and easy the assembly was to complete. I even went back and double checked I didn’t miss anything!

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Pros and Cons

Pros:  

  • Backed by the #1 rowing machine company: Concept2
  • Commercial grade build quality
  • High resale value
  • Solid warranty
  • 500 pound weight capacity
  • No height limitations
  • Relatively quiet for an air rower
  • Adjustable damper settings
  • Easy to assemble
  • Caster wheels make it easy to move
  • Footprint is almost cut in half for storage
  • Advanced PM5 Monitor
  • Amazing online community of Concept2 owners. (More info in my Concept2 Model D review)

Cons:  

  • Requires a large space to operate
  • Seat can be uncomfortable for some users
  • Handle can cause blisters in beginning
  • Air rowers make more noise than other resistance types

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Consumer Reviews

Users praised the solid construction and fluid rowing motion of the Concept2 Model E.  A majority of users rated this rower with 5 stars and for good reason!

A few users weren’t too fond of the seat, but found very simple and cheap ways to find more comfort.

Read more consumer reviews here: Concept2 Model E Reviews

Average Rating: 4.8

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Warranty

  • Frame: 5-year limited warranty
  • All Parts: 2-year limited warranty
    • Warranty is transferable if you choose to sell or gift
    • Effective start date is date of purchase
  • 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
    • Unsatisfied customers can simply pay to ship it back and their money will be refunded.
    • Double check with the retailer that this option is available.

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Concept2 Model E Price

The Concept2 Model E is in the higher-price range of rowing machines, but when buying rowing machines you get what you pay for.

I believe the higher cost of the Concept2 Model E is warranted by the extremely high build quality, excellent resistance, and commercial grade features.

The  Concept2 Model E is sold through a few online retailers with most offering the exact same price. I believe Amazon has great prices on rowing machines, an easy checkout process, good customer service, and an added layer of consumer protection.

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Final Thoughts

Overall, I feel the Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine is one of the best models on the market. It has great resistance, excellent build quality, and the best performance monitor.

If you want the additional features such as taller seat height, fixed monitor arm, nickel plated chain, etc. then I would buy the Model E.

If you feel you don’t need these additional features, but want the same great resistance, build quality, and PM5 monitor, then I suggest buying the Model D. You can read my complete Concept2 Model D breakdown here.

If you are confused about the difference between the Model D and Model E – check out my comparison.

I hope you enjoyed my Concept2 Model E review! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below.

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Summary
Review Date
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Concept2 Model E
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