Magnetic Resistance vs Air Resistance Rowers – Which One is Better?

When you are trying to select the best indoor rowing machine for your needs, the first decision to make is the type of resistance you want. Each type of resistance has its pros and cons, so in the end the decision will always be up to your personal preference. In this article, I will lay out the pros and cons of each type of resistance, which I hope will help you in making your final decision.

If you are working out in a gym and come across a rowing machine, do you even consider what type of resistance it is? Chances are you wouldn’t even give it a second thought, so why should you for a home indoor rower? The home environment is much different from the gym, and certain factors for each type of machine will have an effect on which type of resistance is a better fit for you. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both the magnetic resistance and air resistance rowers.

Magnetic Resistance Rowers

Merax magnetic rowing machine review

Magnetic resistance rowing machines operate exactly as you would think: strong magnets cause resistance as they move closer to the flywheel. I find magnetic resistance rowing machines are usually sleeker and take up less space, as they do not require a turbine or water tank like other types of resistance rowers. Magnetic rowers also usually come with pre-programmed workouts, and are overall a more technologically driven rowing machine than other resistance types.

A lot of experienced rowers enjoy the feel of the resistance on an air or water rowing machine, over the smooth, mechanical feel of a magnetic rower. Again, it’s all personal preference, but the feel of the resistance from the water or air is just a more natural and realistic simulation of rowing an actual boat. If you are truly into the realism of indoor rowing, then a magnetic rowing machine may not satisfy that sensation for you.

The primary reason many people choose magnetic resistance over the others is noise. Magnetic flywheels are mostly silent, which makes them ideal for smaller living spaces. They are also great if you have next door neighbors or small children who may be asleep. Personally, I always say that I love the feel of the water resistance machine, but prefer the smoothness and silence from the magnetic rowing machines.


  • Generally sleeker and take up less space overall
  • Usually have more levels of resistance that are digitally controlled
  • Smooth and silent workout is ideal for at home usage
  • Low maintenance and upkeep for magnetic resistance systems


  • The feel may not simulate rowing like a water or air resistance machines
  • You must set and reset your resistance levels, as opposed to just rowing harder

Air Resistance Rowers

air rowers

Air rowing machines are one of the most popular types of rowers in the at-home fitness industry. They generally come with at least one large turbine from which the momentum and resistance is distributed. Like with water resistance rowers, the harder you row, the more resistance you will feel.

As mentioned in the magnetic resistance section, noise levels are one of the biggest driving factors in choosing a specific type of resistance. Unlike magnetic flywheels which are silent, air rowing machines are some of the loudest on the market. The turbine wheel spins in its metal cage, and if you can imagine a large fan blowing air, you are basically picturing the turbine that is attached to the rower.

Air rowers do need a bit more care and maintenance as well. Dusting the turbine regularly is important in ensuring high quality performance. The upkeep is minimal, but it is still more than what needs to be done on a magnetic rowing machine. Air resistance rowers are also usually larger than other rowers, as the turbine takes up substantial space which leads to a larger frame.


  • A realistic rowing experience and is preferred by professional rowers
  • The resistance gets more difficult the harder you row


  • The turbine can be extremely noisy, especially compared to a magnetic rower
  • Generally air rowers take up more space due to the large turbine attached

Magnetic Resistance vs Air Resistance: Final Thoughts

There is no wrong choice when trying to narrow down which indoor rowing machine is best for you. Magnetic and Air resistance rowers are extremely popular and offer users a different experience depending on what you need. Magnetic rowers are smooth and silent and offer a more mechanical rowing experience. Air rowers offer a more realistic simulation of rowing, but are loud and often larger than their counterparts.

Other factors you will want to take into account are price, shipping, warranty, and technology. In my opinion, the most difficult decision you have to make when shopping for an indoor rower is which resistance you want. There is no right or wrong answer, and now you know the benefits and drawbacks of each resistance type. I don’t really have a preference between the two, and this article is not intended for me to tell you which to choose. Using this information, I hope you are able to make an informed decision on whether or not you would prefer a magnetic or air resistance rowing machine!

Sayed Hamed Hosseiny
Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Hi, my name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny. I am a professional health and fitness trainer with nearly 20 years of experience using ellipticals, rowing machines, and spin bikes. I also have my own EU-based Rock Fitness Pro fitness brand where I design, import and sell exercise equipment such as rowing machines and spin bikes. I and writers on my team also often receive fitness equipment to review and evaluate their functionalities and performance from tens of different exercise machines manufacturers. Fitness equipment tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on this website are my opinion (and opinions of my fitness expert colleagues) based on tens of criteria. I never accept payment to write reviews of products or say positive things about fitness equipment products. If brands are interested to have me review their rowers, ellipticals, or spin bikes, they can get in touch with me via email provided on the contact page and send a sample of their product.