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Water Rower vs Magnetic Rower: Which One Is Better for You?

 Written by 

Ilinka Trenova

 Last updated on 

There’s no better and more invigorating way to get the heart pumping and burn calories than using a rowing machine. You can have all the motivation you want, but unless the device is top-of-the-line and fitted to your needs, you may end up more frustrated than sweaty. 

With the latest technology and design advancements, there are two types of rowing machines vying for your attention: water rowers and magnetic rowers. Both models have their benefits and drawbacks that must be weighed in carefully in order to figure out which option best suits your fitness level.

water rower vs magnetic rower
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Let’s take a closer look at the water rower vs magnetic rower debate to help you find the best type of rower for your needs and preferences.

Magnetic Rowing Machines

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The quality of your rowing workout is essentially based on the type of rowing machine you use. Your overall experience can drastically differ from one machine to the next, depending on the design, power source, rowing power and performance capabilities. 

Air-magnetic rowers have gained popularity in recent years due to their affordability and ease of use. Both commercial and home gyms feature magnetic rowers as a staple in their setup, guided by the promise of an intense body workout with less maintenance.

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Sunny Water Rowing Machine

Based on our testing, this is the best rower for beginners. For less than 500$, this silent water rower will last you for years. It also comes with a 12-year warranty.

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What Is a Magnetic Rower?

This type of rowing machine provides weight resistance created by an electric motor and flywheel. The magnetic resistance is adjustable, so you can increase or decrease the intensity of your workouts according to your fitness goals. Generally, a magnetic rower includes a monitor that allows you to track key data such as distance, speed, and calories burned while rowing.

Advantages of Magnetic Rowing Machines

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The specific build of these models has a few perks that are worth considering. When compared to other types of rowing machines, magnetic rowers have the following advantages. 

Quiet and Reliable

These days, we’re surrounded by noisy and loud machines that can often be a distraction. The magnetic rower is the quietest type of rower, offering a smooth and silent training that won’t disrupt your workout or make your ears ring. This subtle mode of operation is mainly due to the magnets that provide resistance, as well as the flywheel that helps deliver an even rowing motion. The frictionless design also helps reduce strain on the components, making it more reliable than other rowers.

Inexpensive and Low Maintenance

Due to its minimal moving parts, there is less wear and tear when operating a magnetic rower. This, in turn, reduces the need for frequent maintenance – sometimes annual check-ups are all that’s needed to keep these types of machines running like new. Even mid-range models have a stable construction and a lower price tag when compared to more expensive water rowing machines. Their steel frames provide adequate support and a long-lasting experience, no matter the intensity of your training.

Consistent Resistance

These rowers use an adjustable magnetic brake system that lets you control the resistance type and level and create a workout tailored to your needs. The resistance is consistent throughout, meaning you can always expect a seamless rowing experience regardless of how hard you strain. 

The pace at which you perform your exercises doesn’t directly affect the air resistance you experience. Instead, it’s determined by the tension knob at the front of the machine, allowing you to create a unique and personalized resistance setting.

Disadvantages of Magnetic Rowing Machines

Although magnetic rowing has many admirable qualities, there are some downsides to consider. These are at the center of the water vs magnetic rower discussion, often swaying user preferences one way or another.

Lower Resistance Levels

Unlike water rowers, magnetic machines provide lower levels of resistance, which can make them unsuitable for advanced rowing athletes or anyone looking to build muscle, improve resistance strength and stamina. You might find the force to be too gentle for your needs and eventually outgrow this type of machine.

No Natural Feel

Although some magnetic rowers come close to mimicking the experience of rowing on water, it’s impossible to replicate the feeling of gliding through a real river or lake. You’re stuck with electric-powered machinery that doesn’t come close to the natural atmosphere. For some, this can be a deal-breaker, as it does not provide a real rowing experience. The motion may feel too stiff and mechanical, making it difficult to maintain motivation or enthusiasm for using magnetic resistance rowing machines.

Require Electric Power

The air-magnetic rowing machine has to be plugged in or powered by batteries. You’ll need to keep it close to an outlet and make sure you have backup batteries just in case of power outages. This can be a hassle as it limits where you can use the rowing machine and adds extra steps to your rowing workout. You might also find the machine taking up too much space and having to be stored away between uses.

Water Rowing Machines

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These types of rowers have been around for some time, gaining traction among athletes and home gym enthusiasts alike. Their aesthetically pleasing and natural design allows for a more realistic rowing experience that can be hard to match, an aspect that seems to take center stage in the magnetic vs water rower discussion.

What Is a Water Rower?

Water rowers offer a dynamic rowing simulation close to being on a real body of water. These popular rowing machines consist of an aluminum frame, flywheel, and tank with water. The entire apparatus is then connected by chains or belts that allow the paddles to turn within the chamber full of liquid.

The intricate mechanisms at play allow for a realistic rowing experience as the user is able to feel the resistance of the water, hear its sound, and even track their rowing speed via a monitor. Everything is focused on providing an immersive experience for the user, putting them at the center of the action.

Advantages of Water Rowing Machines

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Thanks to their cutting-edge design and authentic feel, water rowers can give users a distinctive full-body workout experience that’s hard to beat. The dynamic and ever-changing water resistance often proves more challenging than traditional machines, providing a more vigorous exercise.

Calming Sounds

The sound of water rushing through the chamber can be both serene and stimulating, making your water rowing experience much more enjoyable and comforting. Combined with the realistic motion of the machine, it almost feels like being out on a lake or river and enjoying the great outdoors.

Endless Variety

No two rowing sessions are the same on a water rower. The combination of natural resistance and user input means that the water’s flow can be manipulated in endless ways, allowing you to create a unique and personalized water rowing experience.

Anyone who’s focused on a comprehensive exercise routine may find this to be a great benefit, as they can vary their sessions to keep them fresh and interesting. No more monotonous exercises that may stunt progress or appear too repetitive.

Compact Storage 

Unlike magnetic rowers, water machines have convenient storage features as they can be easily folded and put away. This is mainly thanks to the lack of electronics that need to be tucked away or powered off. Their overall size is also smaller, making it easier to slide and fit into tight spaces.

Sturdy Design

Don’t be fooled by the water tank – the robust and solid build of these machines means that they can take a beating and still remain in one piece. Not only that, but their appealing frames are also corrosion-resistant, making the machine ideal for outdoor use – think beaches, docks or riverbanks.

You’re not limited to the confines of your living room or basement, you can take it with you and enjoy a revitalizing rowing experience whenever and wherever you want. Water rowing machines, a great choice for those looking to boost their cardio fitness levels on the go.

Best Rower for Beginner
Sunny Water Rowing Machine

Based on our testing, this is the best rower for beginners. For less than 500$, this silent water rower will last you for years. It also comes with a 12-year warranty.

  • Affordable
  • Quiet
  • Amazing warranty
See latest price See all Rowers below 500$

Disadvantages of Water Rowing Machines

Although a water rower can be considered a great tool for getting in shape, it still has some flaws. What might be considered a benefit for some people, others may see it as a drawback.


The price of these machines may put off potential buyers, as they usually cost more than magnetic rowers and other popular types of rowers. Add to that the additional maintenance costs of regularly changing out the water, and you get an even higher ticket.

This may be a deal-breaker for those on a tight budget, as investing in this type of machine can strain their finances. In this case, opting for something cheaper and with fewer frills may be the wiser choice.

Slightly Louder Operation

While the sheer sound of a water rower can be quite pleasant, it’s also louder than other machines. This is mainly due to the dynamics at play – more liquid means more noise being generated as it moves from one spot to another.

The volume may be slightly distracting for some users, especially if rowing in a small space where sound carries easily. Those living in close quarters or with sensitive ears may want to opt for a more silent option. Sure, it may not have the same therapeutic sounds, but it can still provide a great cardio workout, and it’s an excellent way to get in shape and burn some calories.

Limited Monitoring System

Although a water rower contains a basic LCD display, it doesn’t provide the same expansive set of features found on other models. This can be quite limiting for those seeking to track their progress.

In addition, many models don’t come with a heart rate chest strap or any kind of connectivity to smartphones or other devices. This means users may not be able to get the most out of their rowing experience, as they won’t be able to measure and compare results accurately.

Requires Regular Maintenance

Water rowers need to be checked and maintained regularly to ensure they are functioning correctly. This includes cleaning the water tank, checking for leaks and making sure the water is at a good level.

All of these tasks take time and effort, which some users may consider an inconvenience. It’s important to remember that this type of machine requires regular inspection. Failing to do so may cause malfunction or even lead to injury.

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