Concept2 PM4 vs. PM5: Worth Upgrading?

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.

PM5 Upgrade?

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…

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5 comments… add one
  • Erica Nov 30, 2016

    Thank you for this great comparison. I have been looking at getting my first rower and researching the Concept2 as it was the only one recommended by my trainer.
    I have been curious about getting one used or new – and the monitor is the big difference here.

    Your comparison is really well laid out, thank you for posting this.

    I am leaning towards PM5, because I am a tech junkie mostly. But I see that the PM4 is no big step down. Also, I hear there is a game to play while rowing – I have no idea if that will be something I use or not, lol, but it might get me started.

    • Michael Nov 30, 2016

      If you buy your erg new, you’ll get the PM5. Both the Model D and Model E come with it standard. As for the Model D vs. Model E, I have the latter, but would probably recommend the former.

      When I bought, the Model E came with the PM4 and the Model D was still using the PM3 so that factored into my decision. Aside from that, the only real difference is that the Model E is six inches taller (so the seat is higher) and the arm that the PM goes on is fixed (it moves on the Model D).

      From a rowing perspective, they are the same, but the Model D is $200 cheaper and is also a bit easier to store if you want to stand it up against the wall or whatever.

  • Marc Jul 5, 2017

    Thanks for posting this!

    I read someplace that the Model D / PM4 came with some sort of heartrate monitor attachment when sold new?

    Was this standard or perhaps a result of a unique promotion?

    I ask, as I am about to pull the trigger on a pre-owned 2017 Concept 2 Model D / PM5 and wanted to know what it normally comes with.

    The current owner said he can provide a receipt to document the age of his Model D / PM5, but that he no longer has any of the boxes, paperwork/manuals (are the manuals normally provided online only?)

    Much appreciated!

    • Michael Jul 5, 2017

      When I bought my Model E (2008, came with PM4) it came with a Suunto chest strap for heart rate monitoring. I think that used the ANT+ protocol for connecting, and it never worked very well. The PM5 is great, and it adds support for BlueTooth Smart connections.

      (Note: The PM4 and PM5 both support heart rate monitoring, you just need a compatible chest strap.)

      Here is what is included with Model D, per the Concept2 website:

      We include the following items with your Model D PM5 purchase:

      – Model D User manual
      – Performance Monitor Quick Start Guide
      – Tools and illustrated assembly instructions

      As for the manual, there’s a ton of info here:

      Hope this helps.

      P.S. Perhaps more important than age of the erg is the amount of use it’s received. You should be able to check the meters rowed on the PM5, though if the original owner really bought it in 2017, then it’s probably seen minimal use.

  • Saul Gerstenhaber Mar 23, 2018

    Great site. I also enjoy your rowing stats. I am 71 years old now and a few years ago did 1:53/500m (1,000m race 3:46). Should I be doing more training (than just rowing) to improve my times?
    All the best, Saul

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