Last Updated: January 30th, 2021

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Are you guessing the answer? You don’t need to look further. All your queries will be answered shortly…

BTW, do you know which is one of the most popular rowing machine? It is Concept2 Model D

What kind of a rowing machine is it? 

Is there any real difference between Magnetic vs Air Rower?

Magnetic Vs Air Rower

Both are a type of rowing machine and both are great in their own right. They work on the same muscles and require the same technique.

However, there are a lot of differences that you cannot overlook. Like noise level, how they calculate data, resistance, weight of the machines, and lot more.

These small small differences can help you find your perfect match. Here, I’ll provide you with complete information on Magnetic Vs Air Rower and will help you to decide on your Type.

Air Rower

Air rowing machines are equally popular for the gym and for home use. They are not always the most expensive ones, but due to their suitability for advanced rowing, they are extremely popular among the competitive athletes.

As a matter of fact, rowers like Concept2 Model E are often the go-to rower for Olympian rowers as they mimic the resistance of water. Thus, enabling a more authentic training.


How does the resistance of Air Rower Work?

As the name suggest, air rower uses air to create resistance. It has a fan like system called the ‘flywheels’.

When a person pulls the rowing handle towards themselves, the force causes the flywheel to rotate and move the air through its sides.

This air around the flywheel creates the resistance for the rower. The faster you try to spin the flywheel, the more resistance/drag you will feel from the air.

So, to get a more efficient workout, try to make the wheel move faster. 

What is Damper Setting?

Some of the air rowers have damper setting while others don’t. It is like the gear system of a bicycle.

The fly wheels of a air rower is like fan blades which is connected to a gear system. This gear system is wrapped around by a chain and in-turn is attached to handle.

As you pull the handle, it sets the entire system in motion.

How much air will be allowed inside the fly wheel is controlled by this damper setting. A low setting of 1 will allow less air to flow in and the heaviness of your stroke will be less.

Whereas if you set it on high like 10, then you will feel that the rowing stroke is very heavy.

In this way it is similar to a geared bicycle and should not be confused with resistance

What is Drag Factor?

Imagine this…

You are lying on your bed, with your table fan rotating. You have cleaned it last week and seems like its speed and air flow has increased

Fast forward couple of months…

You can see dust particles covering the net of the fan and the airflow has considerably decreased.

Your air rower is also similar. It has a net around the fan. With time it pulls dust particles from the environment and the net gets jammed.

So, invariably, the fan-like flywheel starts to move slower, even if you do a proper setting of the damper.

Drag factor, measures the speed by which the fly-wheel has slown down. It quantifies the rate as a number, generally estimating between 0 to 200.

Hence, it will exactly tell you how much the machine has slowed down and you will not have to guess.

If you are still confused, check these videos which will explain damper setting and drag factor very clearly.

Part 1


Part 2

Or refer Damper Setting 101

What about monitors?

Ultimately, it boils down to, the price of the rowing machine. If you go for something expensive, then you can have a very advanced monitor.

The accuracy is evident in almost everything, like the distance, drag factor, force applied to the wheel, deccelaration

This is the reason that, these machines are preferred by so may Olympic athlete.

Here is a summary of features that you can get from an advanced monitor:

  • Accurate Data
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • USB Flash drive compatibility
  • Power generation
  • Games
  • Racing

Check out for the full details here


+ Comparatively Lightweight

+ Great for HIIT work outs

+ Comes in a wide range of prices

+ Suitable for users of every level


– The fan makes a loud whooshing sound

Magnetic Rower

Like Air Rowers, Magnetic machines also come in a wide range of quality and prices.

They are the less noisy types and this sets them apart from the air rower.

In-fact, Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine is one of the best and most affordable magnetic rowing machines out there

How does a Magnetic resistance work?

Unlike Air Rowers, you will have to adjust the level of resistance in a magnetic rower. 

Magnetic resistance works on the principle of “eddy currents” where the magnet radiates it and exerts a force on the metal fly-wheel. This causes the fly-wheel to slow down or speed up.

The nearer the magnet is to the fly-wheel, the more resistance you will feel.

This is the basic principle. However, if you are interested in more details about working of eddy current and eddy current brakes, then checkout this article about Eddy Current from Wikipedia.

Another aspect which is different from air rowers is that, the level of resistance that you feel with these rowers.

They will be absolutely same and does not vary with your rowing speed. This is different from Air Rowers where the faster you row, more resistance you will feel.

When it comes to changing the resistance level, you will only have one of the two choices:

  • A dial
  • A button (mostly placed on the monitor)

Check out these videos to understand the working principle of Magnetic Rowing Machine


As with air rowers, monitors of magnetic rowing machines also comes in a wide variety.

They can be pretty basic to very advanced. They can give you data like, reps/min, distance, total count, etc.

Also, they can have pre-programmed workouts which can be very convenient to try at home


+ Easy to operate

+ Silent

+ Comes in a wide range of prices

+ Suitable for home use


– Not for advanced users

Magnetic Vs Air Rower : A comparison

By now, you must have noticed that there is a lot of similarities and differences between these two types of rowing machines.

Let, me summarize this for you:


  • Both types of machines provide varied level of resistance.
  • The rowing technique that you will be using is the same
  • Works on the same muscle groups
  • Can be fold-able or fixed
  • Monitors can be basic or advanced
  • Have a wide variety to choose from
  • Both are fly-wheel based operation


  • Magnetic rowers are very silent
  • For air rowers, the resistance level depends on how fast you are rowing.
  • Air rower fans are mostly plastic, whereas, magnetic rowers are always metal
  • The monitors of air rowers are more accurate than magnetic rowers
  • Air rowers are preferred by athletes, whereas magnetic rowers are more suitable for home usage.


If you are looking for a professional level workout then you should go for the battle-tested air rowers like Concept2 Model D.

They are accurate and will help you prepare more. Plus, their level of resistance is not dependent on the machine. It is dependent on you.

Whereas, if you are looking for something to keep you fit, then you should go for magnetic rowers like  Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine.  They are great, even for apartments as, they are very silent and will not make people around you feel miserable due to noise.

Plus you can enjoy your favorite TV shows while rowing. It is like killing two birds with one stone.

If you would like to know more about any particular machine or if I’ve missed anything, please drop a comment below.

Madhusree Basu

Madhusree Basu

Author, Admin

Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.

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