With its smooth action, quality construction and quiet operation the JLL R200 is the best cheap rowing machine on the market. In this review will see how it compares to its competitors and I’ll also explain why I sold mine after just three months of ownership.
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We’d just come back from a fabulous holiday in the area of Scotland known as Argyll’s Secret Coast, where we had taken full advantage of the holiday complex’s fitness suite. The fitness suite featured a couple of Concept 2 rowers and my wife and I had grown to love them during our stay.
I’d also grown to love the full Scottish breakfast that was served every morning so I was keen to keep up with the rowing upon my return to target those extra pounds I’d acquired while on holiday!
That began my research into rowing machines. Given that I have limited space in my home, a Concept 2 was out of the question.
I needed a rowing machine that didn’t take up too much floor space when in operation, can be folded when not in use and, if possible, offer a similar user experience to the Concept 2.
After extensive research, I chose the JLL R200, buying it in November 2019.
What Makes the JLL R200 the Best Cheap Rowing Machine?
Before we get into why I consider this to be the best cheap rowing machine on the market, we need to put this review into context.
It’s Not A Concept 2 Competitor!
But life is unfair and you will find plenty of owner reviews from people who have come from the Concept 2 rowers at the gym and expect a similar experience with the R200. Their disappointment tarnishes the otherwise positive reviews from the vast majority of owners.
On Amazon they JLL R200 scores a 4.5 star rating from 1032 reviews, as at the time of writing.
When I first used my R200, I was delighted to find that it offered a full range of movement and a smooth, comfortable rowing experience. It was quiet too, using magnetic resistance rather than a fan. Perfect for my early morning workouts so that I wouldn’t wake my family.
From the first day of ownership I was able to benefit from tough rowing workouts with the convenience of not leaving my house.
When I say tough workouts, the magnetic resistance has 10 settings which are adjustable through a dial on the main unit. The dial is conveniently located for mid-workout adjustments.
The dial doesn’t feel great quality and the different resistance settings could have had a more positive click when turning the dial, but there was no ambiguity in terms of which level was selected.
Tough, Effective, Full-Body Workouts
I found the mid levels of resistance to be perfect for my fitness level. I can’t imagine that I would’ve ever progressed to level 10 for a full workout.
Initially I found the pull to be slightly lumpy – there seemed to be an inconsistency with the resistance during the pulling motion. After a couple of weeks however, this seemed to smooth out and I stopped noticing it.
So for £250 I was able to replicate the workouts I had been enjoying on the Concept 2 in my own home. When the machine wasn’t in use, I’d simply fold it and store it in the corner of my lounge.
The next morning, in less than two minutes unfolding the machine, I’d be ready to go again.
This is why the JLL R200 is the best cheap rowing machine.
So if I loved the machine so much, why did I end up selling it? You’ll have to read to the end to find out.
Key Features of the JLL R200
Dimensions and Portability
Once assembled and in unfolded, ready-to-use configuration it has a length of 180cm. This was ideal for us as it meant that I would be able to use it in our narrow lounge whereas a Concept 2 would’ve been way too long.
When folded it has a relatively small footprint – ideal for storing when not in use. Mine was stored in the corner of our lounge and didn’t look too conspicuous.
It’s easy to move the rower around the house. Just put it in it’s folded configuration, tilt the rower onto it castors and push it to its desired location.
For shorter workouts, the JLL R200 is a comfortable rower. The seat, whilst made of plastic is contoured and you feel very secure when using the rower.
However, for longer workouts – anything over 15 minutes – the seat begins to feel hard and both my wife and I noticed that the seat rubbed on our skin and was painful after the workout. That makes it sound like we were rowing naked – we weren’t – honestly!
We found that using a folded towel on top of the seat gave just enough padding to resolve this issue completely.
The JLL R200 uses magnetic resistance which provides smooth and easily adjustable levels of resistance. There are 10 levels of resistance to choose from.
The principal benefit of magnetic resistance over fan or water systems utilized by other, more expensive rowers, is that it is very quiet. Early morning workouts will not disturb your neighbours or even other members of your household.
The computer on the JLL R200 offers basic workout information:
- Stroke rate
- Calories burnt
Whilst this was sufficient for my basic needs, I would’ve appreciated some kind of memory function so that my progress could’ve been tracked automatically.
I even looked at buying a fitness tracker that could track rowing workouts to provide more detailed workout feedback and track my progress over time.
Ultimately however, the R200 enables anybody to begin improving their fitness by rowing without having to spend a fortune. The lack of features doesn’t mean that your workout on the R200 will be any less effective than it would on a more expensive machine.
There are a number of other rowers that appear similar to the R200 in terms of both price and features. The two most similar competitors are the Viavito Sumi and the XS Sports R310. Both of these models have similar footprints and practically the same specifications. See the table below for a summary.
JLL R200 vs Viavito Sumi
The Sumi appears to be a re-branded version of the R200 – or at least they share many components.
On the face of it, the reviews appear to be similar to the R200 in terms of the proportion of positive reviews received, however I did spot some disgruntled customers.
A common issue appears to be the cable connecting the computer to the rower and fears that it could snap when the machine is folded. This wasn’t an issue I noticed when I owned the R200.
Also there are some complaints that the brilliant red paint work of the Sumi flakes – not something which was an issue with the R200.
JLL R200 vs XS Sports R310
Again, the R310 looks to be practically identical to the R200, not just in terms of specifications but also in the component used. The seat and running track look identical, as does the computer screen. Just the housing of the flywheel seems to be different.
At the time of writing the R310 undercuts the R200 in terms of price and as such is worthy of consideration.
How They Compare
Here is a table comparing the R200 to its main competitors. Information is correct at June 2021.
|Dimensions (cm)||180 x 52 x 49||178 x 53 x48||181 x 50 x 48|
|Max User Weight (kg)||100||120||100|
|Increments of resistance||10||10||10|
|Advanced workout tracking||No||No||No|
|Number of Amazon reviews||1034||170||313|
|% of 4 star and above||88%||84%||89%|
So Why Did I Sell My JLL R200 Rower If It Is The Best Cheap Rowing Machine?
In December 2019 I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia and it became evident that the rowing movement, particularly the return phase, irritated the condition.
I found that when rowing I would have sever indigestion and regurgitation – even when rowing on an empty stomach. I persisted with it for 3 months, but concluded that unfortunately, rowing didn’t suit this condition.
Thankfully, I found other ways to exercise with a hiatal hernia.
If you’re not sure whether a rower is for you, why not try this brutal full body workout that will most definitely get your heart beating and work every muscle of your body!