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Is The Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine With PM5 The Perfect Rower? [A Review]

the concept2 model E indoor rowing machine with PM5

The Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 is the lesser known big brother to the world famous Model D. The general consensus is that the Model D is the most popular rower in the world.

But if the Model E is the upgraded version of the Model D, shouldn’t it be considered the best rower in the world? What’s the difference between the 2 rowing machines anyway?

And do these differences make the Concept2 Model E the superior rowing machine?

I hope to answer these and more questions through a thorough analysis of the Model E and all it has to offer. Let’s start with a little introduction to the Concept2 company.

Who Is Concept2?

Concept2 is a manufacturer of rowing machines, bikes, skiergs, and oars. The company technically started back in 1976 when founders Dick and Pete Dreissigacker started producing high-quality rowing oars. The brothers actually created the first carbon fiber oar, which turned out to be lighter and more durable than the wooden variety.

The brothers started building rowing machines in the early ’80s and the rest is history. Concept2’s rowing machines became the rowers of choice for elite, Olympic-level athletes and home rowing enthusiasts alike.

Although Concept2 has diversified a little with their other fitness machines, their rowers remain the center of their business. The motto at Concept2 is to create high-quality products that can be used and appreciated by users of all fitness levels. The company is based out of Vermont and every machine is still produced in the USA.

The Concept2 Model E Rowing Machine

The last 40 years of perfecting their rowers has resulted in them bringing us the Model E. The Model E rower is a luxurious machine that looks and feels like it should be in a commercial gym somewhere.

And that’s because these rowers are designed to withstand the punishment Olympic rowers can throw at it. They are commonly found in boathouses and training centers for elite rowers to practice on when they aren’t out on the water.


  • Overall length: 96 in
  • Seat height: 20 in
  • Rail length: 54 in
  • Required space during use: 9 ft x 4 ft
  • Machine weight: 65 lb
  • Max user weight: 500 lb
  • Power requirements: 2 D batteries
  • Warranty: 5-year frame, 2-year parts


Right off the bat you will notice something different about this rowing machine. It’s tall. And by tall, I mean it sits higher off the ground than most rowers. This was done on purpose by the geniuses at Concept2.

Most standard rowing machines sit about 14 in off the ground. The Model E sits 20 in off the ground, a good 6 in higher than most. This solves a common compliant users have about rowing machines- that they are hard to get off of. The additional seat height makes it easy to get on and off of, especially if you have achy joints or back problems.


The Concept2 Model E is an air rower, so it utilizes a fan to provide the resistance you are pulling against. Air rowers are preferred by most elite and recreational rowers because it provides unlimited resistance. The harder you pull, the more resistance you feel. This system also more closely mimics the feel of rowing in a boat.

The flywheel on this rower has an air damper you can adjust to fine tune the feel of each pull. This damper also reduces the noise created by the fan cutting through the air. Noise is a common complaint from folks that don’t prefer air rowers. If you ask me, the noise isn’t that bad and it’s relaxing. That too also kind of mimics the sensation of rowing in a boat.


The Model E rowing machine frame is constructed out of welded steel. It also utilizes a nickel-plated steel chain to connect the ergonomic handles to the flywheel. This chain looks great, but it also lasts longer and requires less maintenance (oiling). The entire chain is enclosed too to keep it cleaner, which also results in less need for maintenance.

The legs on this rower are designed for increased strength and stability. This is a necessity considering the extra height.

The rowing handle is designed with a 10 deg bend toward you. This should make it a little more comfortable to use by putting your hands in a more natural position. Straight bars can make wrists a little achy over longer rides.

The Model E’s frame has a double powder coated finish. This will make your rower more resilient and less likely to scratch. Also makes the machine look sleek and stylish. I must admit, this is a good looking piece of fitness equipment.

Concept2 is known as a company for creating the most durable rowing machines around. That’s probably the reason they have become so popular, especially with the elite rowers. These machines are known to last forever.

Assembly and Storage

Assembling the Model E is straightforward. You basically have to connect the feet, attach the monitor arm, and connect the PM5. It only takes about 10 screws and the tool you need is included. Most people can assemble it by themselves in 30-45 minutes.

The Model E takes up a significant amount of floor space during use, but when you are finished you can fold the machine in half for storage. All you have to do is pull the pin and roll the machine out of the way after you are finished with your workout.

Here’s a great video showing a Concept2 employee assemble the Model E:

The PM5

The PM5 is specifically referred to as part of the name of this rower, so it must be worth mentioning. The PM stands for “performance monitor” and the “5” refers to the model. The PM5 is the latest and most sophisticated monitor Concept2 currently provides.

The PM5 tracks all of your workout data, including: pace, watts, cal0ries, speed, and rate (strokes per minute). The monitor will automatically store this data for you internally, or you can connect a USB drive for portable storage.

You can just start rowing on the Model E and the PM5 will start tracking your data instantly. Or, you can choose from one of the many programmed workouts offered. The PM5 even comes loaded with 4 different games designed to help you perfect your form and tempo.

The PM5 is both bluetooth and ANT+ compatible. This allows it to communicate with most wireless heart rate monitors and fitness apps. Concept2 has their own free fitness app, ErgData, that can be used to track progress along many different metrics.

Another really cool features of this monitor is that you can load your workouts and compete with other people all around the world. You can even join training teams and have competitions. Just another fun little feature that can make your workouts more entertaining.

This monitor requires 2 D batteries for operation. But the cool thing is, when you are rowing, the Model D creates energy that the PM5 can use for operation. This significantly increases the lifespan of your batteries, which means less changing for you.

Personally, I hate changing the batteries in things, could be laziness. I always end up waiting until the remote control completely dies before changing. Anyway, point is that the Concept2 has done everything they can to limit maintenance on this rower.


Speaking of which, maintenance on the Model E is minimal. You should wipe the machine down after each use to clean the sweat away. It’s also recommended that you lubricate the chain every 40-50 hrs of use with a purified mineral oil or 20W motor oil (no WD-40). With extended use, you should also check to make sure screws don’t need to be tightened and that the chain is free of any defects.


  • Offers low-impact, full-body workout
  • Higher seat makes it easier to get on/off
  • Durable construction
  • Air rower with damper for unlimited resistance
  • Nickel-plated steel chain for added durability
  • One-piece, steel feet for added stability
  • Double powder-coated finish to resist scratches
  • Easy assembly
  • Folds in half for easy storage
  • The PM5
  • Good warranty
  • Great weight capacity- can accommodate most users


  • Takes up a lot of floor space during use

The Concept2 Model E vs The Model D

Ding, ding, ding! “Ladies and gentleman, let’s get ready to rumble!”. No, just kidding. The Model D and Model E are both awesome products from the same family, so no fighting is necessary. But I would like to compare the 2 rowers to see if the Model E is actually the more elite machine.

The 2 rowing machines are very similar. Right off the bat, both rowers come equipped with the PM5, so that isn’t an issue.

One of the biggest differences is the seat height: the Model D has a more traditional height at 14 in where the Model E is designed higher at 20 in. If you have mobility limitations, the higher seat will come in handy. If you don’t have any problems getting on rowing machines, the 6 in difference probably won’t make any difference to you.

Construction wise, there are a couple of differences. The Model E has a fixed monitor arm which is longer and easy to access during use (the angle of the monitor can be adjusted). The Model D has a short monitor arm that isn’t fixed (adjustable). This is a small difference, not likely to be a deal breaker either way.

The front legs on the Model D are made out of aluminum and the rear legs are steel. On the Model E, both sets of legs are steel. This is for added stability and strength. Important considering the increased height of the machine.

The Model E’s finished coat is a little glossier than the Model D’s. This gives it a little more of a sleek, stylish look.

The Model E also weighs about 8 lb more than the Model D. This is likely due to the added material for the extra height. Both rowers are easy to assemble and easy to transport for storage. Both products have the same warranty and same weight capacity.

The changes found on the Model E will cost you about $200 extra. That said, the Model E is priced exceptionally well. This is arguably the nicest rowing machine on the market and it only comes in slightly above $1000. Other comparable rowing machines, like the BodyCraft VR500, will cost you about $500 more.

Model DModel E
Seat Height14 in20 in
Monitor ArmAdjustable Fixed
ChainNickel-plated steelNickel-plated steel
LegsAluminum and steelAll steel
Max weight capacity500 lb500 lb
Warranty5-year frame, 2-year parts5-year frame, 2-year parts
Machine weight57 lb65 lb

Final Thoughts

The Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 is a well-built rower with a sophisticated monitor. We have come to expect nothing but the best from Concept2, and the Model E doesn’t disappoint. It’s designed to withstand Olympic level workouts, yet priced as a home fitness rower.

But is it a perfect rower? Ha, well, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “perfect” fitness machine. But I would say the Model E comes about as close as is possible. I guess the real question should be do the differences between the Model E and Model D warrant the additional cost?

My answer to this question is a strong “maybe”. It depends. If you love rowing (or really want to get into rowing from home), but find it too difficult to get on the shorter rowers, than yes the additional cost is worth it. The extra 6 in of machine height will make a noticeable difference for you.

If you are having a hard time imagining the difference, click on the link below and take a look at the product photos. The 20 in height of the Model E is like sitting on a normal chair.

But if you have no mobility limitations or problems with getting off and on the lower seat height, you could save yourself $200 and go with the Model D. I don’t think the other small changes will make enough of a difference for you to notice. Both machines are equally durable with the same smooth operation. They also have the same weight capacity and warranty, and both include the PM5.

The Concept2 Model E is boasting an average user rating of 4.8/5 on Amazon. So, I guess technically speaking it isn’t “perfect”. The most common complaint is that the seat is uncomfortable. The seat included on the Model E is a standard rowing seat. So if you have a hard time sitting on this seat, odds are you will have a hard time tolerating any seat.

Overall, this is a great rowing machine. If you need the extra height, I highly recommend the Model E. If not, save a little money and choose the Model D.


If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them below and I’ll get right back to you.





Will's a licensed physical therapist (DPT) with over 15 years of experience treating patients from all backgrounds. He's been lifting weights and exercising in one form or another since middle school and has been working out in his own home gym for over a decade. When it comes to fitness equipment, there isn't much he hasn't tried. In his spare time, if he isn't writing or working out, he's likely playing basketball, watching movies, or hanging with his family.

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