I bought a Concept2 Model E rower back in 2008. It’s served us well, and is currently the main piece of conditioning equipment in our home gym. I’ve rowed well over a million meters on it (I lost track after I got my t-shirt) and have recently decided to train for a seven minute 2k on it.
When we bought it, the brains of the system was the Performance Monitor 4 (PM4). A couple of years later, they introduced the PM5. I didn’t pay much attention at the time because our PM4 worked just fine. Nonetheless, I have to admit to wondering about the advantages of the PM5 over the PM4.
PM4 vs. PM5
While I haven’t been able to find a concise comparison chart, the primary differences between the PM4 and PM5 appear to be the following:
- the PM4 has a rechargeable battery (but can run on D-cell batteries), while the PM5 is only compatible with D-cells;
- the PM5 has a backlight, whereas the PM4 does not;
- the PM5 supports USB flash drives, while the PM4 relies on a log card;
- the PM5 supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart connectivity, while the PM4 supports ANT+ only (this is mostly relevant to heart monitors); and
- the PM5’s Bluetooth functionality means that you can also connect your smartphone wirelessly and use the ErgData app to track and upload your workouts to your Concept2 log book.
Based on past experience, the rechargeable battery is a non-issue. In fact, our battery pack has long since died, and we have replaced it with regular D-cell batteries. This is certainly not a difference maker.
The backlight, on the other hand, is a potentially big deal. I often row in the evenings with minimal ambient light and sometimes have trouble reading the screen. A bit of additional light would be quite welcome in my book.
I’m also intrigued by the ability to wirelessly sync workouts to my log book using the Bluetooth connection on the PM5. Yes, you can use ErgData with the PM4, or even the PM3, but that requires a USB connection kit.
As for the other issues, these are pretty minor (to me)…
I could see the USB vs. log card being an issue if you row in multiple locations. In that case, you might want the same storage options — and thus the same PM model — at your main locations.
With respect to ANT+ vs. Bluetooth Smart, I don’t use a heart monitor. Thus, aside from the issue of smartphone connectivity mentioned above, I don’t really care about the addition of Bluetooth on the PM5. Nonetheless, the PM5 is a bit more flexible, so that might influence your decision.
Note that both the Model D and Model E are shipping with the PM5, and have been for awhile. But what it you bought your rower before the PM5 was available? Is it worth the cost to upgrade?
Well, for starters, the cost of the PM5 retrofit kit depends on which rower model you’re upgrading. Here are the part numbers that you’ll need, along with the cost:
- Model A: PN 1831 ($180)
- Model B: PN 1832 ($180)
- Model C: PN 1833 ($180)
- Model D: PN 1834 ($180)
- Model E: PN 1818 ($160)
The reason the PN 1818 kit costs less is that you don’t need any extra mounting hardware to attach the PM5 to the Model E. Note that you can also make PN 1818 work with the Model D’s monitor arm, though the recommended upgrade path (PN 1834) includes new mounting hardware.
Is it worth it to upgrade to the PM5? If you’re coming from a PM4 like me, it may not be worth it. Yes, the backlight would be nice, and I’d really like to have wireless connectivity. But is that worth $160? I’m not so sure…