How do all these fancy, at-home smart gyms stack up against traditional home gyms? You know: the rusty old dumbbells and bench in your garage, the treadmill that’s been unplugged for the last couple of years, and those P90X DVDs that are collecting dust in the cabinet? Do these devices actually deliver comparable results, and do they have the same staying power as a trusty ol’ set of iron?
Or maybe you’re someone who spends all their time at a gym or on Classpass. Keep this in mind when you decide whether or not investing in a home gym is worthwhile for you:
- The average gym membership in the US is $54 per month.
- Personal training classes cost around $40-70 per session.
- Fitness studios and group classes cost around $20 per class.
- Yoga classes cost around $15-25 per class.
Crazy, right? It adds up. If you’re interested in the newest wave of fitness tech, read on as we take a deep dive into three of the most innovative players in the space today: Tonal, Tempo, and the Mirror. None of them are cheap, which is exactly why we’re breaking each one down and pitting them against each other for you.
What's all the buzz around smart home gym equipment?
Smart home gym equipment offers consumers a few key benefits over the traditional way of doing things – whether it’s going to a public gym or buying gear for your garage.
- The ability to invest money today into equipment you’ll be using for a long time. And if you’d rather not drop all the cash up front, each company we’ll review offers the ability to finance your equipment into manageable payment plans. So with payments plans working out to costs similar to what you’d see at a traditional gym, they’re actually quite affordable, in the long-term.
- Thousands of live and on-demand classes with legit fitness instructors that will not only keep you motivated, but also teach you how to use proper form while you exercise.
- The convenience, flexibility, and privacy that comes with not having to leave home. How many times have you skipped the gym simply because you didn’t feel like getting ready? ( A lot, personally…)
- Performance tracking so you never stop improving and making those gains.
- Sleek designs that not only don’t look like ugly gym equipment, but in some cases look downright cool.
Smart Home Gym Equipment: How do they compare?
Not all gym equipment accomplishes the same goal, and the same holds true for smart home equipment. We all have different body types, tendencies, interests, and goals when it comes to working out. So if you’re looking for that coveted, all-in-one piece of equipment that fills every possible need out there, I’m sorry to say it doesn’t exist.
Tonal vs Tempo vs Mirror: Which one's right for you?
First off, take a look at what each product has in common and in contrast. Start to think about the criteria you care about most in choosing the piece of equipment that’s right for you.
Each of these products share similarities and differences, but they all still look great on paper. While it’s always important to define each option by the boxes they check off, that doesn’t always paint the full picture. Let’s take a deeper dive into Tonal, Tempo, and Mirror now.
The Tonal Home Gym
The Tonal is arguably the most complete piece of home gym equipment on the market today. Two adjustable arms with cable handles on either side allow for 170+ unique movements, whether you’re working upper or lower body. Just pick a class of your choice and follow along as your instructor walks you through the motions, motivates you, and delivers a pretty stellar workout. It’s got hundreds of high intensity, yoga, and guided strength training programs, with new ones added every week.
Tonal’s digital weight system uses electromagnetic energy to deliver up to 200 pounds of resistance (100lb on each arm). And not only does the huge 24″ touch screen in the middle of the Tonal connect you with personal trainers for on-demand classes, but it also tracks your workouts in real-time and uses Artificial Intelligence to watch and correct your form with its 17 different sensors. They don’t currently offer live classes, but this AI form correction negates the need for live classes, for the most part.
When you first set up your Tonal, it’ll have you go through an initial strength assessment where it learns more about your individual body and strength levels. From there, it will recommend what weights you should be lifting for each exercise, give you adjustments as you go, and deliver automatic workout tracking and reporting. And since the Tonal uses magnets and electricity instead of physical weights and dumbbells, it can even offer you some advanced features like Spotter Mode and Eccentric movements (changing levels of resistance throughout the range of motion for that exercise). Wild.
The Tonal, at heart, is your workout partner. Motivational classes and form checking aside, it lets you know how you performed yesterday vs today, and sets you up for continual success at your own pace. While other systems instruct you to do a specific movement for a designated period of time, the Tonal goes by reps — meaning it’s already set you up with a perfect weight and rep scheme, which you complete at your own pace (super important for avoiding injury!). It learns more about your body over time and sets you up for success. Strength training can be pretty daunting challenge for a lot of folks out there, and the Tonal takes all the guesswork out of it, so you can focus on getting stronger and healthier.
Advantages of the Tonal
- Provides the most resistance for muscle building. So if your primary goal is to build muscle, and all other factors come after that, the Tonal may be your best bet.
- The Tonal’s sleek design packs down considerably more than you’d expect from a cable machine.
- “Spotter Mode” adjusts weight resistance in a way that mimics what you’d feel from someone spotting you in real life.
- “Eccentric training” and “Chain Training” modes accentuate different portions of the lift, giving you a dynamic resistance throughout the range of motion. Advanced fitness buffs know how awesome this is.
- Specialized “Partner Classes” mean you and a partner can take on a class together, alternating sets.
- The range of motion of the pulley system is excellent, even for tall (6’+) folks.
- Real-time feedback so it can automatically adjust the resistance during your workout if it senses the current weight is too easy or hard for you.
- Excellent speaker system, including the ability to easily change the volume of music vs the instructor individually.
- If you choose your pause/cancel your monthly membership to Tonal’s library of classes, you can still use the Tonal without a subscription. You won’t be able to watch an instructor show you the moves, but it still works as a home gym. And on that note: the Tonal negates the need for you to own any physical weights in the house.
- Tonal has raised a whopping $90M to date. Not only is it clear that their sights are set on bringing an incredibly innovative product to market, but they’ve got the Venture Capital support to do it.
Disadvantages of the Tonal
- The most expensive option, by a significant margin. The starting price is $2,995, but their Smart Accessories pack is pretty necessary and will run you another $495.
- It’s potentially less durable. Cable machines aren’t known for being the longest lasting pieces of equipment out there. While they offer unique levels of resistance that are great for building muscle, the cables and connectors can fray and will eventually require repair.
- The Tonal doesn’t offer any live classes. While it does have a camera, it doesn’t actually do much yet. People who have a physical injury that requires rehabilitation can use the camera to connect with a personal trainer, but this is a one-off instance and won’t benefit 99% of people day-to-day.
- Sometimes misses your reps if you’re not the right distance away from its sensors.
- The 100 lb weight resistance per arm is very limiting for advanced gym-goers, especially when you think about full-body leg exercises like the squat and deadlift. Although electromagnetic resistance actually feels quite a bit different than you’re used to, so this ends up feeling more like 130 pounds on each side.
- The 30 day free trial is the least forgiving among these three companies, considering you have to install the Tonal into studded walls.
- Multi-week classes can get repetitive, since each week’s class is just a repeat of the prior week’s.
Tonal Reviews: What are others on the internet saying?
Tonal’s website boasts hundreds of 5 star reviews, but it’s important to always take them with a grain of salt and look elsewhere, too. In Tonal’s case, though, you don’t have to travel far. There’s an entire Facebook group of Tonal users sharing tips, progress, and stories with each other. And on Reddit, there’s an entire subreddit dedicated to doing the same. On there, one Tonal owner writes,
Is Tonal Worth It?
For the vast majority of consumers out there, the Tonal really does feel like the complete package. Strength training, yoga, high intensity cardio, expert guidance and form checking all come together in a super sleek product.
But you get what you pay for, and with the Tonal, you certainly are paying. It’s by far the most expensive piece in this review by a margin of at least $1,000 — and another $500 if you decide to invest in their Smart Accessories pack. It includes some awesome attachments (Smart Bar, Rope, Bench, etc.) for those adjustable arms to help you get the most of our Tonal, so I highly recommend taking it into account.
Now for a company that markets itself as a replacement for going to the gym, Tonal won’t be a perfect replacement for highly advanced weight lifters. Quite frankly, no single piece of home gym equipment will be. Remember each adjustable arm can provide up to 100 pounds of resistance. So for folks who are used to squatting 3-400+ pounds in the gym, the Tonal’s digital weight system just can’t provide you the same levels of resistance.
But if you’re willing to sacrifice some of the dumbbells and equipment of a traditional gym in exchange for all the flexibility, convenience, and awesome tech in the Tonal, the decision gets a lot easier. And for people who would consider themselves beginner or advanced in the gym, it’s almost a no-brainer.
The Tempo Studio Home Gym
Do you love the idea of live, interactive classes, but aren’t not sold on the cable resistance that the Tonal offers? Let me introduce you to the Tempo. It goes back to basics in terms of weight lifting, but takes three steps forward in terms of interactivity and intelligence. The Tempo boasts a whopping 42″ screen (remember the Tonal has a 24″ one) with 3D motion sensors to, again, critique your form. But it’s cooler than that. Your class instructors see everyone as these “skeleton-like” figures, which means they’re able to hone in on individuals’ form and correct mistakes in real time, without prying in on your personal life.
The Tempo comes included with a generous variety of workout equipment you may already be familiar with: two dumbbells, a barbell, assorted plates, collars, a heart rate monitor, workout mat, and a premium foam roller. No need to reinvent the wheel, they figure. If you’ve been working out with similar equipment in the past, you won’t have much of a learning curve. Tune in to a live or on-demand class, burn some calories, and then stash all your weights away neatly into the weight storage system that’s so well built into the Tempo, your guests won’t even notice it at first.
Advantages of the Tempo
- Legit, real-time form checks. The fact that Tempo is an AI device at heart is not something to take for granted. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter, training with Tempo is an investment in your joint health and overall physical wellbeing.
- Privacy — one of the key reasons consumers choose to work out in the comfort of their own homes. Tempo’s form-checking motion tracking displays you as a skeleton to your instructor, which means they see only what they need to, and nothing more.
- Comes in two color ways: black or white. For a device as large as it is, it’s great to see that design is still top-of-mind for them.
- Premium equipment. Tempo hooks you up with stainless steel dumbbells and a barbell, which alongside their rubber-coated plates, should last you many years to come.
- Not only does the Tempo come with a generous selection of weights, but also handy storage for them. Weights in the front cupboard, dumbbells and barbell in the back, and all your guests see is a sleek 42” HD touchscreen.
- Has raised a total $77M in funding to date, which means they don’t plan to stop innovating and investing in their customers anytime soon.
Disadvantages of the Tempo
- 115 lb of weights, in total. Tempo provides you with a great selection of equipment (dumbbells, a barbell, plates, and more) but the sum total of weight itself will limit anyone who considers him/herself an advanced lifter.
- Tempo’s built-in weight storage is great from a visual perspective, but won’t stop your downstairs neighbors from knocking on your door when you inevitably drop a heavy weight or two.
- Like with the Tonal, rep counting can be finicky. This generally only occurs if you’ve deviated too far from the 6′ of clearance required in front of the Tempo.
- No bench included. This isn’t necessary for most workouts, but it should be taken into account any time you’re working with a barbell. And remember that even given that the Tempo is ultra compact and stores gym equipment away like a ninja, it doesn’t have dedicated storage for a bench. So if you’re looking for a lot of chest exercises, this is a definite blocker.
- You’re not able to customize the music that the Tempo plays. If you listening to your own music in your Airpods, this may not matter, though.
Tempo Reviews: What are others on the internet saying?
Is Tempo Worth It?
The Tempo is a hot product. Their sales have absolutely skyrocketed since their presale back in February, and with a device as clean as is it, and a fresh round of VC funding, Tempo is quickly establishing itself as a leader in the smart gym equipment industry. The tech behind their AI form checking is best-in-class, which is great for lifters at any level of experience or age.
When you first get started with the Tempo, it’ll help you determine which weights you should start using for each exercise, as well as super useful performance metrics like calories burned, reps done, weight lifted, etc. This is almost essential for beginner lifters, and very useful for intermediate lifters. But again, advanced weightlifters will find themselves wishing the Tempo offered a bit more weight once you progress past certain plateaus.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of live classes, form checks by best-in-class instructors, the huge 42″ interactive screen, and a versatile set of workout equipment, consider giving the Tempo a shot. Whether you’re looking for exercises for HIIT, mobility, cardio, recovery, yoga, or strength training, Tempo’s workout library is broad enough for you and the rest of the family to get (and stay) in great shape.
The Mirror Interactive Home Gym
While the Tonal and the Tempo offer resistance-based approaches to helping users gain strength, the Mirror is a far more cardio-based device. In fact, the Mirror doesn’t come with any physical weights or cable mechanism at all. Just power your Mirror on with the app and pick from tens of thousands of available classes: cardio, dance, stretching, sculpting, yoga, boxing, pilates, and more. Mirrors classes are led by some of the country’s top fitness instructors, like Orange Theory, and are designed for participants of all skill levels.
The entire Mirror is a touchless screen, so you’re getting the most lifelike experience of any of the three devices. When you’re tuning in to one of over 70 new classes a week, or thousands of on-demand one, the experience really is unmatched. If you already own some fitness equipment at home, like dumbbells or kettlebells, there are plenty of strength training workouts available. And if not, the Mirror comes with resistance bands so you can get a good mix of cardio-based and resistance-based workouts.
Advantages of the Mirror
- The Mirror is, by far, the sleekest of the three options. And since you don’t need to install the Mirror into a wall, it’s also the most portable solution. So if you think you might want to work out in different rooms around the house, or plan on moving soon, Mirror will save you some headaches down the road.
- The ability to sync to Apple Watch (or other bluetooth heart rate monitors) is pretty powerful. While the Apple Watch isn’t capable of counting reps or weight of exercises you’re doing, it does a pretty good job of counting calories you’re burning and time spent exercising.
- Mirror has the best variety of workouts for every type of equipment you may already own – kettlebells, dumbbells, bands, or none at all. So if you’re someone who already owns gym equipment at home, you could be looking at some nice cost savings. Keep in mind, though, that the Mirror is very cardio-heavy.
- They seem to have the largest collection (10,000+) of both on-demand and new live classes, meaning you’ll likely never get caught repeating old classes (unless you want to).
- Huge selection of yoga, boxing, and cardio classes. Like, thousands-of-classes-huge. Tonal and Tempo offer some, too, but clearly focus on resistance-based strength training.
- Because the screen is so large and weights often aren’t required for classes, Mirror is the best bet for those wanting to get a fun workout in with their kids.
- The Mirror App allows you to access and play workout and yoga videos from all your devices.
- Mirror was purchased by Lululemon for $500M recently, which may put your mind at ease about the future of the company.
- Mirror’s extensive music selection gives it an edge against both Tonal and Tempo.
Disadvantages of the Mirror
- You can not use the Mirror without a subscription (except as a literal mirror). So when you’re deciding if the Mirror is right for you, don’t just take the upfront $1,845 cost into account – think about whether or not you’re able to pay a recurring $39/mo fee for the membership itself.
- Doesn’t include any physical weights, like the other two do (besides resistance bands). But if you’re someone who already owns some, this is actually a plus.
- No touch screen. Supposedly this was strategically done to prevent fingerprint smudges on the mirror (which makes sense), but I still find that a bit disappointing, personally.
- With a one-year warranty, Mirror is the least forgiving. Just don’t throw a dumbbell through it and it shouldn’t matter, though.
Mirror Reviews: What are others on the internet saying?
Is Mirror Worth It?
The Mirror comes in at the lowest price among the three, but at the expense of no weights or equipment (other than resistance bands and a heart rate monitor). You’re paying purely for the 20,000+ class workout library, massive screen, and working tracking. For that reason, some critics of the Mirror call it a “glorified TV.” Harsh words, for sure, but the sentiment is fair.
But if you have the income to support the purchase and recurring membership cost, and the Mirror is a successful catalyst for getting you and your family spending time and getting in shape together, does it really matter?
It’s very easy, when rigorously researching purchases of this scale, to get caught up in the minute details about features, price, pros, and cons. Sometimes it helps to step back for a minute and think hard about what outcome you’re trying to achieve. If you’re searching for an innovative piece of workout equipment for your home that doesn’t look like a big hunk of metal, and you just need that extra push to leading a more healthy, active lifestyle, the Mirror is a stellar product. And I don’t think even critics of the Mirror can argue that.
The Verdict: Which smart home gym is right for you? Tonal vs Tempo vs Mirror
Just as there’s no single perfect piece of home gym equipment for everyone, there’s no one right answer to this question. Everyone has his or her own preferences when it comes to working out, and each of these products fits a different need.
The Tonal is best suited for intermediate to advanced lifters who have experience with and a passion for strength training. For people who are at least fairly comfortable in the gym, want to continue building strength long-term, and are able to pay the premium for the Tonal, it’s the best choice. That $3-3,500 price tag is nothing to bat an eye at, but if you’re willing to invest a bit more heavily into your health and wellness, the decision becomes much easier. Granted, the commitment of installing it sort of hurts the value of the free trial.
The Tempo is a happy medium between the Tonal and the Mirror. In my opinion, this is the best pick for most people out there today. While it may not be quite as versatile as the Tonal or visually stunning as the Mirror, the Tonal combines aspects of both into a great workout setup. Its 42″ screen really does make it feel like you’re a part of fitness classes, which is a huge perk when you’re training at home. You’ll have access to a ton of different workouts regardless of your fitness goals, which is particularly awesome for beginner lifters. And for intermediate and semi-advanced lifters, the traditional barbell and dumbbells have a level of familiarity that makes the investment in this home gym far less daunting.
And the Mirror is great for people who want an at-home gym solution without it looking like they live in a gym. It has, by far, the sleekest design of the three products reviewed here. Since it doesn’t come with any actual fitness equipment, Mirror is also the best choice for people who are looking for fun cardio and yoga programs, as opposed to rigorous strength training regimens. Or for those who do like strength training but already have equipment at home, going with the Mirror saves you from having to buy more equipment than you need.
At the end of the day, Tempo, Tonal, and the Mirror all offer nice 30 day warranties, so don’t be afraid to take a break from the research, pull the trigger on a product, and try it out. Whichever one you choose, you probably won’t be disappointed.
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