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October 15

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Tempo Vs. Tonal Vs. Mirror: Which smart home gym is right for you?

By Tami Smith

October 15, 2020


The home fitness industry is exploding right now. In a study published in the NY Post, out of 2,000 participants, 64% of them said they are more interested in at-home fitness options now than they were prior to quarantine. Additionally, the study found that Americans exercised 25% more than they did pre-quarantine, with the majority of these respondents stating they have no plans to go back to the gym even when they are open.

While COVID-19 has certainly rocked our worlds and changed it forever, there are some positive things that have emerged. More people working out and dedicating time to their fitness is one of them. 

For many of us, we were forced to slow down a little and focus on what really matters in life. We finally had the time to dedicate to getting into shape. The problem is that many of our home gym situations are seriously lacking.

Luckily, there are some amazing home gym options that have everything you need to get an amazing workout in from the comfort of your own home, and so many people are ditching their pricey gym membership for convenience and time and money-saving benefits that come with working out from home.

Today, I’m comparing three of the most innovative smart home gym systems on the market today: Tempo, Tonal, and Mirror. Which direct-to-consumer home gym equipment brand best suits your needs, style, and space accommodations? Are they worth the investment? I’m going to compare and review all three for you here so that you can decide for yourself!

Why All The Hype Around Smart Home Gyms?

Investing in smart home gym equipment offers a whole wealth of benefits when compared to the traditional way of doing things i.e. having a gym membership or buying home fitness equipment separately. Here are some of the top reasons why people are jumping in head-first on this trend:

  1. You get equipment that will last you a long time. Yes, the financial investment in each of the three systems I’m reviewing today is relatively large, but not when you consider how much you would spend over the years on a gym membership, fitness classes, and various pieces of workout equipment you would need to stock your home gym. Also, each one of these brands offers management payment plan options, which lessens the financial blow when purchasing one. So, you can invest in your own smart home gym and pay a monthly cost that’s comparable to a gym membership, but it’s gear that you’ll be able to keep forever.
  2. You get access to thousands of live and on-demand classes and world-class instructors. No offense to your local YMCA, but they probably aren’t employing the best of the best when it comes to fitness instructors and personal trainers. With these systems, you’ll be coached and encouraged by the best in the industry which will allow you to not only get a killer workout but to also work on your form and keep you safe and injury-free.
  3. You never have to leave your house! I don’t know about you, but there are times that I would certainly skip a workout due to not wanting to get up and leave my home in the morning, especially when it’s cold and dark in the winter. Working out from the privacy of your own home allows you to have the privacy, flexibility, and convenience you need to actually adhere to your fitness routine.
  4. Track your progress and compete with others (if that’s your thing!). Unless you’re bringing a pen and paper with you to the gym or you’re whipping out your phone between sets, you’re probably not doing the best job tracking your weights and progress, which is a vital part of any strength journey. With smart gym equipment, all your stats are tracked for you, all you need to do is show up.
  5. They don’t take up much space and are actually aesthetically pleasing. When you picture a home gym are you thinking of that dusty clunker of a treadmill taking up half of your guest room, those rusty dumbbells stashed in the corner, and that outdated squat rack in the garage? Today’s home gym equipment is better in so many ways, including the fact that they are sleek, minimal, and downright cool to look at. Any one of the three choices I’m reviewing today look amazing anywhere in your home, no need to hide them in the basement!

Tempo, Tonal, and Mirror have all of these benefits in common, however, they are not one in the same. There are very specific and unique features of each piece of equipment that are important to note and differentiate between. Next, I’ll start to delineate between the three so that you can get a clearer picture of their advantages, disadvantages, and who each one of them is best for.

Comparing Smart Home Gym Equipment

Just as having a treadmill at your disposal will give you a different workout than having a set of dumbbells, each piece of all-in-one home gym equipment will give you a different outcome and help you accomplish a different goal.

So, it’s important to know what kind of workout you’re looking for, what your goals are, and what your personal preferences are before making any kind of buying commitment. The table below shows a quick, visual comparison of Tempo, Tonal, and Mirror to help you get an idea of what each product has in common and where they differ.

Compare

Tempo

Tonal

Mirror

Starting Price

$1,995

$2,995

$1,845

Included weights

Live classes

Technique check

Partner workouts

Cardio

Yoga

Strength training

Personal tracking

20$

1 Piece

1 Piece

Personal training

$40 per class

Custom workouts

# of classes

Over 1,000

Hundreds

Over 1,000

Website

tempo.com

tonal.com

mirror.com

Next, I’ll dive into a review of each home gym system, defining their unique specifications, intricacies, and workout style so that you can get a clearer picture of each and start to home in one which one might be the best option for your needs and goals.

Tonal Home Gym

The Tonal home smart gym system is arguably the most comprehensive piece of home gym equipment on the market today. This system has a sleek design that attaches directly to your wall. There are two adjustable arms with cable handles on either side that allow for more than 170 unique movements. You can get an all-over, whole-body workout from this seemingly simplistic piece of equipment.

But it’s not just a piece of equipment, it’s like having a built-in personal trainer who motivates you, walks you through the motions, and delivers a workout unlike anything else you’ve ever seen before. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from, with new ones being added every day. You can choose from guided strength routines, HIIT, yoga, and more.

Tonal uses the first of its kind digital weight system that utilizes electromagnetic energy to bring you up to 200 pounds of resistance, 100 on each side. This machine is designed for everyone from beginner lifters to the most experienced! The giant 24” touch screen allows you to see your trainer right in front of you and it tracks your workouts and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to watch and correct your form via its 17 different sensors. So, yes, your workout equipment is watching you! Creepy, but cool.

Since Tonal uses magnetic resistance and electricity, it replaces your need for physical weights like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells, which is amazing because who likes having those clunking around the house? When you first get started with Tonal, it will take you through a comprehensive strength assessment which will give you insight into your current strength levels so that it can recommend what weights you should use for each exercise. As you progress, it will provide you with adjustments and will automatically track your workouts so that you can progress properly. It can even change resistance levels throughout your range of motion (eccentric mode) to give you an even more effective workout.

As someone who is fairly new to the strength training game, I can totally relate to the feeling of being intimidated by it. If you asked me to go to a gym and pick up a barbell, I would panic. But systems like Tonal are taking the anxiety and guesswork out of working out effectively and properly. It gets to know your body, your movement patterns, adn your strength so that it can custom design reps and sets that will help your progress. And since it automatically tracks everything for you, you don’t have to worry about whether you’re making progress or not because the stats are right there for you. 

Benefits of Tonal Home Gym

  • Provides a ton of resistance for muscle building. If your goal is to increase strength and muscle, you’ll get that with this system.
  • The sleek design packs down easily and is super discreet, so you can use it anywhere in your home.
  • There’s a great range of motion with the pulley system, making it suitable for people of all heights.
  • You’ll get real-time feedback on your movement and how to correct it.
  • It will automatically adjust the resistance during your workout if it senses that it’s too easy or too hard.
  • You don’t need to purchase any other equipment.
  • There are hundreds of classes to choose from in all modalities.
  • Their instructors are professionals and will make it feel as though they’re right in your living room with you.
  • There are specialized partner classes where you can take a class with someone else (husband, wife, friend, etc.) and alternate sets.
  • The Spotter Mode adjusts weight resistance in a way that mimics someone spotting you in the gym. 
  • Eccentric Training allows you to achieve a dynamic lift throughout the whole range of motion, an advanced feature for sure.
  • The speaker system is amazing and gives you the ability to easily adjust both the instructor’s voice volume and the music separately.

Drawbacks of Tonal

  • It’s pricey. The starting price is $2995 plus $495 for the Smart Accessories pack, which makes it the most expensive system of all three. They do have a financing option to pay $149 per month.
  • There are no live class options yet. They may offer these in the future as the system does include a camera, however, they haven’t started live programming yet.
  • The sensors can be a little finicky, so if you’re too far away from them, they may not count your reps properly.
  • Heavy lifters may max out their capacity with the 100 pounds per arm resistance.
  • It needs to be installed properly into a studded wall, which can limit where you can set it up and also limits your ability to move it around.

Tonal Reviews: What are customers saying online about Tonal Home Gym?

Naturally, Tonal’s website features countless 5-star reviews of their product, but I dug around to find additional evidence. Here’s a review from Reddit from a user who’s had his Tonal gym for a month:

“Hi all, I wanted to give you guys a review from someone in the gym-goer but not advanced category. Honest tonal review with pros/cons. I’m a 36 year old guy who has been working out on average 2-3days a week for the past couple years.

Pros - I cannot believe how much this machine has altered my workout routine. I’ve been working out from home for a while. My setup was bow flex adjustable weights, treadmill and a pull-up tower. I used apps like Shred and streaming workouts like beach body. While both of those workout apps/programs provide great fitness routines I still found myself having to do some self-convincing to get to the garage and work out. Alternatively, I’m super excited about working out on the tonal. I thought the excitement would fade but I’m still very much obsessed. Tonals automatic weight increases take the guesswork out of picking weight as you progress. While I found some of the starting weights to be a bit light, it’s easy to adjust during the workout. The workouts are straight forward and not too time consuming. They are usually 30-1hr but there are super short workouts available as well (10 mins). The music is excellent and I love being able to adjust the sounds (timer pings), instructor commands and music all separately. The engineering is amazing. I simply can’t believe this is the first iteration of this machine. Everything works great and the touchscreen is super responsive. The Bluetooth enabled accessories pair effortlessly and make working out fun as hell. When you press the button and feel the pressure of the weight starting to pull you get a little rush.

Cons - I can tell that the content gets a little stale if you’re a part of the programs. If there’s a 5 week program, there’s one week that repeats five times. That makes some of the instructors little anecdotes a bit annoying after a while but like I said before, you can always turn him/her off. I’m not that strong in comparison with some other gym goers I’ve been around. What’s concerning is that my strength score is 775 and you max at 1000. They say average male will be 550? Seems low. I have pretty weak legs for my size and I’m almost maxing out my deadlift already- just something to keep in mind if you are looking to get a great leg workout or if you are pretty advanced.

I’ll keep updating but all in all I absolutely love this thing. It is expensive- but if you don’t like going to the gym and want to just workout without thinking about the minutia, this is awesome. I pay 211 per month with zero percent on affirm. My wife and I both use it so it’s like two premium gym memberships.”

Final Thoughts on Tonal

If you’re looking to invest in an all-in-one home gym system, Tonal should certainly be on your radar. It has everything you need to get a great workout in, without the hassle of going to the gym or having a ton of bulky equipment around your house. If you’re new to resistance cables, they may take some time getting used to. I know a lot of people are reluctant to let go of their traditional weights, but this does give you a unique type of resistance.

If you’re a highly advanced lifter, you may be disappointed by the cables which can only provide 100 pounds each of resistance, but honestly, no home gym system is going to totally please heavy lifters.  My least favorite aspect of this system is the fact that there are no live classes (I really enjoy the live community aspect!) and that their programming is repetitive. I don’t personally like repairing the same thing over and over (although I know that’s crucial for strength gains) A little mix-up would be nice.

The only other sticking point is the price. Is it worth it? Probably, yes. There are so many innovative, advanced features that it’s no surprise it’s on the pricier end. So, it comes down to budget and your willingness to spend that amount on one piece of equipment. Also, be sure you have a studded wall picked out where you’ll want this thing because once it’s installed, you aren’t going to want to move it.

Tempo Studio Home Gym

Remember how I said I disliked Tonal’s lack of live classes? Well, that’s where Tempo comes in and fills that gap. Tempo is a strength training-based all-in-one home gym system with next level interactivity and intelligence. The 42” screen (compared to Tonal’s 24” screen) is massive and contains 3D motion sensors that will monitor, critique, and correct your form. Who needs a personal trainer, right?

If you recall, Tonal’s system included a camera but it’s not really being used. Tempo, on the other hand, does use their technology to allow the live trainers to see all who are participating in the class. But don’t worry, they can’t see you inside your home! You show up as a skeleton-like figure on their end, allowing them to see your form and correct it for you, but not to see that you’re working out in your underwear.

Tempo’s system is different from Tonal in that it is not a wall attachment and it does not use cables. Instead, your Tempo comes equipped with a variety of workout equipment that you already know and use like dumbbells, a barbell, and an assortment of plates. Also included is a heart rate monitor, mat, and foam roller. The best part about this is that the system is designed to hold and store all your equipment right inside it in the built in storage cabinet. No more tripping over bulky dumbbells and barbells!

You can read my full review of Tempo studio here. I make no secret that I absolutely love this system and think it’s an amazing way to get a great workout from home without the traditional hassle and bulk. In fact, the system itself is very sleek and aesthetically pleasing, and with two color choices, you can easily blend it into any room in your home.

Benefits of Tempo

  • Workout with proper form. One of the biggest mistakes people make when first starting to strength train is using improper form, which is both inefficient and can lead to injury. With Tempo, their AI technology will make sure that you’re working out smartly and safely.
  • You get privacy and community all at once. Love the idea of working out with a trainer and a group from home but don’t want them to actually see you, because that’s kind of creepy? I’m with you, which is why Tempo’s system of showing you as a skeleton, thanks to their vision technology, is amazing. They use infrared pulses and 80,000 individual points on your body to create a 3D skeletal model. Amazing.
  • You get high-quality, built-to-last equipment included with the smart home gym. I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that there are physical dumbbells and a barbell that I can pick up and get to work with, that’s just my preferred training style. And Tempo delivers amazing quality, all packed and stored neatly into the system.
  • There are so many class options! You can take classes live or choose from their library of hundreds to pick a workout of the day. They offer strength training, HIIT, cardio, mobility, recovery, and even some challenges, too.
  • There’s a virtual leaderboard which will fuel your competitive spirit and motivate you to be your best. If you love competition and you miss your college glory days or your workout classes at the gym, you’re going to come alive when you watch your name rise in the ranks on the leaderboard.
  • The coaches are awesome. Tempo has some of the best coaches in the business, each one with their own unique set of strengths and specialties. They’re motivating, challenging, and entertaining, too.

Drawbacks of Tempo

  • Tempo may not be the best choice for advanced lifters as the weights only go up to 115 pounds in total. That said, there’s nothing to say you can purchase additional weights to go heavier, should you need to. You’ll still benefit from the amazing classes, programming, and form checks.
  • There’s no option to listen to personalized music through Tempo. Personally, I use my Airpods and listen to a podcast, so this isn’t an issue for me, but it could be for some.

Temp Reviews: What are online customers saying about Tempo?

Tempo has gotten a lot of hype from major publications recently. Take for instance Insider, who’s headline is “The Tempo Studio turns your living room into a full-on fitness center — and it satisfies exactly what I've missed about going to my local gym.”

Aside from the glowing recommendations you’ll find in the news, there are hundreds of 5-star reviews on their website (no surprise there) and countless more around the web. Here’s one found on Reddit:

“I don’t know about you but I’m one of those people that need instructor-led classes or I’ll end up not going all out during my workout. Wanted to share a review I did on a new smart gym machine called Tempo Studio that uses AI to correct your posture while you lift weights. I’ve been OBSESSED with this machine during quarantine and highly recommend.”

Final Thoughts on Tempo

Tempo is a game-changing smart home gym that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s priced relatively low when compared to its competitors. At just $1995 with the option of financing it for just $55 per month, this feels like an absolute no-brainer for folks who want to give themselves the ultimate home gym experience.

Tempo tracks everything for you, from your form to your calories burned, and more, which is more than what can be said when you hire a personal trainer. The fact that they have both live and on-demand classes is amazing - you get to choose what you want to do and when you want to do it each day, which I love.

Lastly, the aesthetics of this system are impeccable. It’s sleek, convenient, and features a giant screen, which allows you to feel like you're in class with your instructor. For the price, I think this is absolutely one of the best deals when it comes to smart home gyms.

The Mirror Interactive Home Gym

Ok, I’ll be honest, I debated putting Mirror in here. Not because I don;t think it;s a great product, but because it’s vastly different from Tonal vs. Tempo. That said, I do know that many of you are torn between a more strength focused home workout system and one that’s more cardio and lighter impact. So, in an effort to bring you the full spectrum of smart home gyms, I included The Mirror on comparison list.

The first and major difference between Mirror and the other two is that Mirror does not come with any resistance training equipment. It’s simply a mirror, albeit a very sleek, interactive, technologically advanced mirror. There are no attachments, no weights included, just you, the mirror, and thousands of classes to choose from. Available classes range cardio and dance to boxing and pilates. I would say that the variety of both live and on-demand classes that you get with Mirror is hands-down the best benefit of choosing this particular system.

This is also the sleekest, most discreet option. Your guests may not even know that the beautiful mirror sitting in your living room is actually giving you access to personal training at home. You can either mount it on your wall or make it portable using the included stand, the choice is yours. If you have equipment at home already like dumbbells, kettlebells, etc., there are plenty of options to integrate those into your workout, which is nice. Otherwise, you can consider this option the most cardio-focused out of the three.

The Mirror does not have technology that tracks your movements, so there aren’t any form corrections, yet anyway. When you tune into one of the workouts, live or pre-recorded, you’re then face-to-face with an instructor who shows you exactly what to do. It’s pretty much like having your own personal trainer, but without leaving your house and actually having to chat with someone.

Benefits of Mirror

  • Thousands of classes. You can choose from a giant library of workouts, and there’s really something for everyone and every level (besides advanced lifters).
  • Over 70 new classes are added to the library each week which means you’ll never get bored.
  • It’s super sleek and can actually add a touch of elegance and style to your home. There’s nothing bulky or obtrusive about this system whatsoever and it fits in just about anywhere in your home.
  • You can sync up your Apple Watch so that you can track calories burned and other crucial workout stats.
  • They have a great selection of music available.

Drawbacks of Mirror

  • Some critics have said it’s nothing more than a glorified TV screen. Which, when you think about it, it kind of is. You can easily stream workouts on your regular TV screen.
  • You have to pay a monthly membership on top of the cost of the Mirror in order to access the workouts. The cost is $39 per month on top of the $1495 it costs to purchase the equipment.
  • It doesn’t come with any weights or additional equipment, which is fine if you already have them, but not great for those who will need to buy it.
  • It’s not made for resistance training. I never thought I’d be in the camp strength over cardio, but here I am.
  • There’s no touchscreen ability. I get not wanting to smudge the Mirror, but it would be easier to be able to touch and select right on the screen. My kids would have it all smudged up anyway, just saying.

Mirror Reviews: What are online customers saying about Mirror?

Similar to the other two systems, MIrror’s website is full of glowing reviews. Reddit seems to be the place where everyone comes to dish on their workout equipment (and everything else for that matter), so here’s a lengthy review from Reddit:

“With the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of studios I really started slacking on my fitness. I’m a nurse and I really used OTF as a stress reliever. I work night shift, and I used to go to OTF the morning before my first night on and it really helped me sleep even at my weird hours.

I hate home workouts and never even bothered to try one of OTFs if I’m being honest. I can’t use my phone to look at workouts. I briefly considered getting a Peloton but I honestly hate cycle classes, and the price tag stopped me.

I discovered the Mirror on Instagram and after some research ended up buying one. It’s basically a mirror that you workout with. It’s very much a cross between OTF and Peloton. Think OTF workouts in Peloton form. The instructors are on the mirror during the workout but you can also see yourself for form. I’m still waiting for delivery, but I have access to the workouts on my phone (ironic, I know). I tried a few over the last couple days and WOW. I’m sure I’ve lost endurance and strength, but I feel like it was even more intense than some OTF classes.

It’s still expensive, and I realize it may not be something everyone is interested in but I thought I’d post here for people like me. I live in Chicago and our studios probably won’t open until July at the earliest, and I can’t stand the idea of working out with a mask on. I’ve accepted I likely won’t go back for a long time, but this is a great alternative for me. The cost is also cheaper than my OTF membership through financing, but Chicago is all premium studios”

Final Thoughts on Mirror

If you’re someone who loves mostly cardio-based working and more low-impact modalities like yoga and pilates, you will likely really enjoy the class selection on Mirror. You have the ability to mix things up and toggle between taking live classes when they fit your schedule and doing pre-recorded ones on the days they don’t.

I like that they give the option to install your Mirror on your wall or to keep it on the stand so that it’s easy to move around. I also love how sleek and modern it is, it’s definitely an innovative system. As someone who has a new found love of strength training, I don’t like the lack of strength classes and the inclusion of strength training equipment. However, i know there are plenty of people who feel the opposite!

Tempo Vs. Tonal Vs. Mirror: The Final Verdict

In creating this article, I did a lot of research and I’ll say that all three of these home gyms are great in their own way. But you want to invest in the one that will give you the most bang (and best bod) for your buck. Regardless of whether you’re brand new to fitness, you’re a seasoned pro looking for something reliable and effective at home, or you’re one of the millions of Americans who no longer have gym access, you can rest assured that any one of these choices will give you results as long as you dedicate the time and effort.

That said, we all know that a well-rounded fitness routine includes a mix of cardiovascular exercises and resistance training. The home gym that gives you the most comprehensive mix balance between the two is Tempo. I make no secret that this is my favorite out the three. I just love that you get all the equipment you need to strength train, but that you cans also mix in HIIT, cardio, stretching, and yoga to keep things fresh, fun, and effective.

I feel that Tempo Studio appeals to the widest audience and the sleek, contained look only adds to the appeal. It’s mobile, so no need to worry about finding its forever home, because life changes and we need our workouts to be flexible. The fact that it tracks your movements and allows you to participate in live classes with live instructor form correction and encouragement is flat-out amazing.

All that said, it comes down to choosing the piece of equipment that you will be excited to use everyday. One that motivates you to be your best self and make the progress and changes you seek. The last thing you want to do is invest in one of these amazing home gym systems and then allow it to gather dust in the corner. Do your research and find the one that truly matches your style, goals, abilities, etc. I hope that this article has provided you with some insight and has helped you solidify your decision!

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