Essentially, the water rower uses water as it's resistance and the air rower (click here to read our air rowing machine reviews) uses air resistance. Additionally, the resistance of the water gives a very similar feeling to actually rowing in the water. The rowing machines listed above all have fantastic rowing mechanisms that mimic the exact feeling of a rowing a boat.
The Concept2 Model D is the ultra-popular air rower that you’ll see at most gyms. It is one of the best home indoor rowers you can buy period. Expertly constructed and ergonomically unequaled, this rowing machine looks great and rows smoothly without so much as a jarring catch. As an air rower, the Concept2 employs air baffles to create the resistance. A nickel-plated chain pulls the flywheel and you get your workout by pulling against the increasingly higher air pressure that the fan is creating.
Now back to the aesthetics, this version of WaterRower’s natural wood line of rowers comes in beautiful Black Walnut, which the company chose for its superior sound and vibration absorption. It’s hand-made in the USA and comes with excellent warranties and customer service. Overall, WaterRower is known for the quality of their rowing machines and the Classic is no exception.  And if you do want to get this rower just as an attractive conversation piece, it easily stores upright against a wall.  That said, we strongly recommend using The WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine for fitness, not just eye-candy.

There is some minor maintenance. Because it's made out of wood, which can expand and contract, the bolts need tightening every few months or so. It's easy and takes only a couple of minutes. That, and putting in a fresh water purification tablet every six to twelve months, are about it for regular maintenance. The only problem I've had with the rower (the reason for 4 stars instead of 5) was a squeak that developed after about 6 weeks. It took me some time to determine the source of the squeak, which was a metal bracket connecting the footrest board to the horizontal boards above the drum. I had to partially disassemble the top section and tighten four bolts, but that fixed the problem and it's been quiet ever since.

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If you’re interested in using a rowing machine for focused training — whether for outdoor rowing, an indoor competition, or as part of a larger fitness program — you’ll want air resistance. If you’re drawn to rowers for the enjoyability (alongside the full-body, cardio-plus-strength training efficacy) of a rowing workout, consider a machine with water resistance.
Of the four types of rowing machines or ergometers, water rowers are best at reproducing the sensation of on-water rowing. Their stroke cycles hold true to the dynamics of real paddling, and each stroke is punctuated with a splash! Water rowers have sliding seats to allow full-body cardiovascular workouts. (With cheaper rowing machines, in contrast, the seats don’t move.) These fitness machines tend to feature high quality parts and can last a lifetime.
The water flywheel is comprised of two paddles encased in an enclosed tank of water. As you pull the cable, the paddles move through the water creating resistance. The beauty of this machine is it uses the mass/density of water. The paddles create the drag, so the harder you pull, the more resistance increases. Think about moving your hands through water. The faster you go, the more dense water feels. The slower you go, the less you feel the resistance. And this type of resistance is excellent for your joints. Click here to read the full review.
Now back to the aesthetics, this version of WaterRower’s natural wood line of rowers comes in beautiful Black Walnut, which the company chose for its superior sound and vibration absorption. It’s hand-made in the USA and comes with excellent warranties and customer service. Overall, WaterRower is known for the quality of their rowing machines and the Classic is no exception.  And if you do want to get this rower just as an attractive conversation piece, it easily stores upright against a wall.  That said, we strongly recommend using The WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine for fitness, not just eye-candy.
Don't know why, perhaps due to rising demand and production bandwidth, but be forewarned quality control is an issue. Assembly is easy enough, though have gap where back separator does not fit snugly after tightening nuts as firm as they will go (see pic). No water level sticker on tank received, so had to measure water manually according to calculations (4 gallons). Siphon was not air tight (even though release valve closed firmly), so had to manually pump instead of siphon. S4 monitor only flashes, not working as of yet and now have to take a apart top of unit to figure out why, currently not resolved after verifying connections and looking at simple solutions on website.

Rowing has long been recognized as the perfect aerobic pursuit, with naturally smooth and flowing movements that don't tax the joints but do boost the heart rate. Now you can take your rowing experience to the next level with the WaterRower Natural rowing machine. Using the same principles that govern the dynamics of a boat in water, the WaterRower Natural is outfitted with a "water flywheel" that consists of two paddles in an enclosed tank of water that provide smooth, quiet resistance, just like the paddles in an actual body of water. As a result, the machine has no moving parts that can wear out over time (even the recoil belt and pulleys don't require lubricating or maintaining). More significantly, the water tank and flywheel create a self-regulating resistance system that eliminates the need for a motor. As with real rowing, when you paddle faster, the increased drag provides more resistance. When you paddle slower, the resistance is less intense. The only limit to how fast you can row is your strength and your ability to overcome drag. And unlike conventional rowing machines, which tend to be jerky and jarring, the WaterRower Natural is remarkably smooth and fluid.
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