I have a confession to make: I’ve been cheating on the Tonal. I’ve been in a steady relationship with the so-called Peloton of strength training since the beginning of the coronavirus quarantine, but recently, a new smart home gym has come into my life—the $1,995 Tempo Studio. Suited for everyone from beginners to advanced lifters, the Tempo Studio uses 3D sensors and artificial intelligence technology to suggest the appropriate weight you should be lifting for each move, count your reps, and offer real-time feedback about your form to keep you honest and safe. Like Tonal, it offers on-demand workouts with knowledgeable, motivating instructors. And with a larger screen, form corrections, and live classes, Tempo exceeds Tonal in many ways, and undercuts its price significantly. Both are excellent fitness machines, no doubt, but the Tempo Studio is our new Editors’ Choice.
Price, Design, and Installation Process
The Tempo Studio costs $1,995, which is significant, but it’s $1,000 less than the Tonal, and you can finance it for as low as $55 per month for 36 months. The cost includes all of the accessories you need for classes, including two 7.5-pound dumbbells, a Coospo heart rate monitor to track your calorie burn, a workout mat, and a recovery roller. To load your dumbbells and barbells, you get four 1.25-pound (red) weight plates, four 2.5-pound (yellow) plates, four 5-pound (gray) plates, and four 10-pound (blue) plates. The machine itself comes in white or black (which is really a dark, grayish-blue color).
The cost doesn’t include delivery, tax, and membership fees. Delivery costs $250 and tax varies by state. A membership costs $39 per month and gives you unlimited access to on-demand and live classes, and the ability to set up as many profiles as you want on your machine. Everyone in your house will need their own profile, so the Tempo can recommend the correct weights for each person.
Monthly membership fees are common for smart workout machines. Tonal, for instance, charges $49 per month for classes. Peloton’s subscription service costs $39 per month. Echelon charges $39.99 for Reflect classes. NordicTrack offers a free one-year iFit subscription with its workout machines, and after that it’s $33 per month for families.
Though only a few months old, Tempo already offers hundreds of classes, and the company tells me it has been publishing about two new ones per day as of this writing, filmed at its studio in San Francisco. The live class schedule is limited right now due to COVID-19: The company currently offers three a week (on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays), but aims to gradually start adding more.
Most of the live classes seem to be held around 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. PT. Living in Florida, I’m three hours ahead, so those times weren’t the best for me, but I made it a point to try a live class and I’m so glad I did. As the Tempo community grows, live classes will get bigger, but when I attended I was one of just 14 people in the class. The instructor shouted out my name several times, which was exciting.
The company doesn’t currently offer partner workouts, but a spokesperson says it may in the future. That’s one area where Tonal has a leg up, with an excellent partner workout experience.
The Tempo Studio is mostly geared toward strength training, but its library also includes a wide range of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), mobility, cardio, and recovery classes. The mobility classes incorporate many yoga moves (though they may have different names than you’d hear in a yoga class).
When you’re away from your machine, you can stream bodyweight workouts via the Tempo Fit app (available for Android and iOS). In the app, you can also chat with a tech support member, view your profile, and add workouts to your calendar.
If you’re not happy with the Tempo, the company will give you a full refund, minus return shipping costs, within 30 days of delivery. That gives you enough time to try it out and see if you feel it’s worth the money.
All the accessories that come with the Tempo are high quality. The barbell and dumbbells have clips on either side, so you can easily and safely remove and add weight plates. The weights each have a different color rubber coating, so they look good and are less likely to damage your floor than bare metal weight plates.
The company sent me the black model for this review, and it’s a lot more stylish than I expected, with a much larger screen than the Tonal. The pictures on Tempo’s website don’t do it justice.
The Tempo Studio has an easel-like design. It measures 6 feet tall, just over 2 feet wide, about 1.5 feet deep, and weighs 100 pounds. Unlike the Tonal, which is mounted to your wall, the Tempo stands free, so you can move it around fairly easily if necessary.
It takes up 3 square feet on your floor, but you need 5 feet clear in front of it. It’s important that you have enough space, because you need to place your mat 5 feet away from the Tempo, horizontally, for its 3D time-of-flight motion sensor to track your movements (more on this in a bit).
On the front, it features a 42-inch touch screen that is almost double the size of the Tonal’s 24-inch display. It’s a 4K screen, though Tempo currently streams in 1080p quality. The company tells me it plans to move to 4K streams in the future as the infrastructure to do so improves and more people get gigabit internet. Under the screen is a cabinet that neatly stores all the weights, so they’re out of sight when not in use. On the back, you can hang the included dumbbells and barbell.
Left to right: Tempo Studio, Tonal
I always get a little nervous to set up big, heavy workout equipment, but the Tempo delivery and installation process couldn’t have been easier. After I placed my order, it only took around a week and a half to arrive. Tempo’s logistics partner called me a few days beforehand to schedule a delivery window. On the day of the delivery, they called me again to confirm, and arrived right on time.
They carried the unit and all the accessories into my house, placed the Tempo in my workout room where I wanted it, plugged it in, and turned it on. My review unit was used and came unboxed, but Tempo tells me its delivery partners typically unbox the machine and accessories, and haul away and recycle the packaging for customers.
Once it was set up, all I had to do was enter my Wi-Fi password, create an account, and I was good to go.
How the Tempo Studio Works
The Tempo uses a 3D motion capture system and artificial intelligence technology to suggest the appropriate weight you should be lifting for each move, count your reps, record your pace and range of motion, and offer real-time feedback about your form. On the front of the Tempo is a 3D time-of-flight sensor that emits pulses of infrared light 30 times a second, then measures the amount of time it takes that light to travel back to generate a 3D model of your body made up of 80,000 individual points.
The time-of-flight motion sensor is different than a regular camera; it doesn’t record video of you, and it doesn’t capture the inside of your home. To the system, you just look like an unrecognizable computerized skeleton made up of dots. It then tracks 25 of your joints, comparing where they are in relation with each other to determine which exercise you’re doing and whether you’re doing it correctly. When doing a bicep curl, for instance, your wrist point will move as you lift the weight up toward your shoulders, but your elbow point should stay in place. If the system notices your elbow point has moved, it will offer feedback on the screen. During live workouts, the trainers can’t see you, but they can see your heart rate, rep counts, and any feedback the system is giving you, and instruct accordingly.
To get started on the Tempo, you just plug it into the wall, press the small Power button behind the screen, connect it to your Wi-Fi, and create an account. When making your account, you specify your gender and answer a few onboarding questions about your experience level, goals, and how many workouts you plan to do each week (it will recommend a number based on your experience level).
After creating your account, you watch a quick introductory video that explains how to set up your mat and load weights onto the bar. From there, your first class is a fitness assessment. For this first class, Tempo uses your onboarding answers to come up with its weight recommendations for each move. From then on, it will adjust its recommendations based on your performance. If you’re missing your rep targets, it might lower its weight recommendations. If you’re exceeding your rep targets, it might bump them up.
In addition to individual classes, Tempo offers programs you can join, including 3-Week Tempo Kickoff for those who are new to strength training, and 6-Week Build for intermediate users who want to build muscle. There’s also a beginner-friendly program called Reload & Recover offering mobility and bodyweight classes for your rest days.
Working Out With the Tempo Studio
On the bottom of the main interface, there are three sections: Home, Classes, and your Profile. In Home, it shows featured classes at the top, including any upcoming live workouts. Below that, it shows the next class in your program, if you joined one, followed by recent classes and full-body workouts. One small gripe is that it doesn’t currently offer a schedule of live classes, which would make it a lot easier to plan to take one. I suggest checking the Home screen on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings to see when a live class is scheduled to start.
In Classes, you can browse workouts and filter them by duration (10, 20, or 30+ minutes), type (HIIT, mobility, or strength training), difficulty level (beginner, intermediate, or expert), and trainer. If you’re short on time, Tempo offers a number of fun, quick challenges like 10-Minute Challenge: Arms Only or 8-Minute Challenge: 100 Rep Squat Pyramid.
You can select any class to view the workout plan, duration, music genre, difficulty level, and equipment needed. The workout plan lists all the moves you will be performing with pictures of each one, so you can quickly see what you’re in for.
In most of the strength classes, they play pop or hip-hop. You can’t change the music, like you can on the Tonal, but you can turn it up, down, or all the way off. You’ll see the name of the song playing at the bottom of the screen, and you can tap the volume icon to adjust it. There’s also a slider that lets you turn the music up and the trainer’s volume down, or vice versa.
When you find a workout you want to do, press the red Start button at the top right corner of the screen. If you’re taking a strength-training class, the Tempo will then tell you how much weight to load onto the barbell or dumbbells, if any.
You then strap the heart rate monitor onto your forearm, press the button on top to turn it on, and it should connect to the Tempo automatically. When it’s connected, you’ll see your heart rate on the lower right corner of the screen. A Tempo spokesperson tells me the machine will also soon support the Apple Watch for heart rate readings.
A message on the screen then instructs you to place your workout mat six feet away from the screen and stand in the center. When it detects you’re there, it will count down from five seconds, then start streaming the workout. Just make sure no one else is standing or sitting right next to you when you’re starting a workout, or the Tempo might get confused. A couple of times, I was standing in the middle of the mat but the workout wouldn’t start because my boyfriend was sitting on the couch right behind me, and the Tempo recognized him too. Once he got out of the way, the workout started right up. Fortunately, once the workout started, he could sit back down on the couch behind me and the Tempo didn’t have any issues counting my reps.
Tempo workouts usually start with a quick warm-up. At the top right corner of the screen, it shows the amount of time remaining in the workout. As you work out, the trainer does all the moves with you. During rest periods, they demonstrate and explain exactly how to do the next move correctly. When it’s time to work, the timer will change color and count down to the end of that set.
At the bottom of the screen, it shows your reps, pace, range of motion, and heart rate on the screen in real time. Under heart rate, it shows which zone you’re in. Under range of motion, it shows your average and max. Under pace, it shows your target, such as 30 reps per minute.
On the right side of the screen, there’s a leaderboard, and you can toggle between rankings for total volume lifted (based on weight) and number of reps. During on-demand classes, Tempo displays the leaderboards as if you were taking a live class. You see your scores and rankings alongside everyone else’s, rep for rep, at that point in the workout. If you like the class, you could always retake it later to see if you can beat your score or climb higher on the leaderboard.
Depending on the move, you either face forward toward the Tempo, or to the side. If you’re facing the wrong way, the machine may not count your reps, so be careful to orient yourself on the mat the way the instructor is. If you’re facing the wrong way, the Tempo will let you know with a message on the screen.
It’s also important to stay on your mat as you’re lifting, and keep the space between you and the Tempo clear. One time, I had the barbell on the ground in front of me, and when I got down to do floor-based exercises like sit-ups, the Tempo wouldn’t count my reps. Once I moved the barbell, it started counting my reps again.
The Tempo doesn’t come with a bench, but a spokesperson says it might in the future. For some exercises, like the dumbbell chest press, it would be easier with a bench, so you don’t have to get down all the way on the ground. I used the bench that comes with the Tonal, but when you use your own, it doesn’t always count your reps.
When it’s time to rest during a workout, the timer at the top right corner will turn white and count down to your next set. At the top of the screen, it says the next move you will be performing and your rep target. If you need to change weights for the next move, it will say how much to put on or take off. Since the weights are color coded, you can quickly grab the ones you need during a workout. You can tap the screen at any time to pause if you need a break or more time to load weights onto your bar or dumbbells.
After every workout, Tempo asks you to rate it on a scale of 1 (very easy) to 10 (very hard), and select whether the weight recommendations were too light, just right, or too heavy. It then brings up a workout summary showing your calories burned, volume lifted, and leaderboard rank.
When you finish looking over your workout summary, it will suggest another class you might like to cool down or keep the burn going. If you just did a strength training class, for instance, it might suggest a short stretching or mobility session.
In your profile, Tempo keeps track of how far along you are in your program, your personal records (for biceps, back, shoulders, legs, chest, and cardio moves), and workout activity. There’s a calendar that shows which days you have worked out, and a list of all the classes you’ve taken. For each workout session, you can see stats like calories burned, volume lifted, reps for each set, your leaderboard rank, range of motion, feedback Tempo gave you, and a graph of your heart rate. It also shows if you reached any new personal records.
My Experience With the Tempo
During the onboarding questionnaire, I selected Get Lean and Gain Strength as my goals, and specified I had Some Experience. Based on my goal and experience level, Tempo recommended I do five workouts per week.
During the initial introductory video and my first workout, the machine would frequently stop to buffer, which was frustrating. As someone who tests smart home and wearable devices for a living, I have a lot of things connected to my Wi-Fi network, so I figured that was probably the issue. Fortunately, I have 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks at home. I initially had the Tempo connected to the 2.4GHz network, so I switched it to the 5GHz network and that solved the buffering problem.
A Tempo spokesperson confirmed that my crowded Wi-Fi network was probably the issue. Tempo requires a high-speed internet connection, but not ultra high-speed (somewhere between 10 and 20Mbps should be sufficient).
As someone who enjoys working out, using the Tempo is addicting. In the first 24 hours after setting it up, I did four classes. That was a mistake; the next day I was so sore I could barely walk.
In less than two weeks, I have already logged 16 classes, during which I burned 2,115 calories and lifted a total of 32,985 pounds.
I joined the 6-Week Build program, and am loving it. You do a 30- to 35-minute full-body strength-training workout, followed by either an upper or lower body session the next day. On the third day, you do a shorter mobility class, which can include recovery moves with the foam roller, yoga-like stretches, and core exercises. Then the cycle repeats.
Tempo’s trainers are knowledgeable and motivating. During one workout, trainer Melissa Boyd’s words of encouragement made me tear up. Even though you’re working out alone at home, it feels like you’re part of a community because the trainer is sweating alongside you, and you can see the leaderboard rankings on the side of the screen.
Weight recommendations are spot-on. The 25-pound barbell is heavy on its own, so I was somewhat surprised and a little nervous when the machine told me to put 7.5 pounds (one 5-pound gray and one 2.5-pound yellow plate) on both sides for a barbell back squat. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure how I’d get the 40-pound barbell on my shoulders. Trainer Cole Carlton gave step-by step instructions for safety, lifting the bar to your shoulders and performing the move. That ended up being one of the hardest and best workouts I’ve done in my life.
Tempo’s form feedback is incredibly helpful. I do squats all the time, so I know that your knees aren’t supposed to go past your toes when performing them. But I still find myself making that mistake on occasion, especially when I start getting fatigued during a challenging workout, and Tempo calls me out for it. If you’re doing something wrong, it will flash a message on the screen next to your rep count telling you how to correct your form. Then if you correct the mistake, it will let you know.
After classes, it’s helpful to look over the full workout summary in your profile. Here, you can see all the feedback Tempo gave you, and whether you corrected your form or not. When performing the dumbbell neutral grip curl to press, for instance, Tempo said I was leaning back. “You’re leaning or swaying with your back to help complete a rep,” it said. “Keep your back stable and isolate the targeted muscle.”
More important than just keeping you honest, Tempo’s AI and human form feedback can help prevent injury.
During the live class I attended, the Tempo offered the same feedback. Again, I was leaning back to lift the weights over my head. Just as the feedback popped up on the screen, the instructor said that if you’re getting that correction, try squeezing your glutes. That advice proved to be quite helpful.
I usually stick with machines at the gym, as I’m somewhat intimidated by free weights. The Tempo and its excellent trainers are teaching me how to lift them safely while pushing me to achieve more than I even thought I was capable of. I leave every strength training workout feeling strong and proud of myself.
Comparisons and Conclusions
When I try to boil down what I love about the Tempo Studio, the famous phrase from Steve Jobs comes to mind: “It just works.” Its weight recommendations are challenging but doable, it accurately counts your reps, and its form feedback is helpful even for experienced lifters. Whether you’re in the market for a smart home gym because you’re social distancing, or you just prefer the convenience and privacy of working out in your own abode, the Tempo Studio is worth your serious consideration.
In the smart home gym market, the only that comes close to Tempo is Tonal. Though both are excellent options to help you safely build strength and reach your fitness goals, I prefer Tempo’s free weight-based system over Tonal’s electromagnetic-resistance machine. The latter offers partner workouts (its main advantage), but Tempo boasts a much larger screen, will correct you if you’re doing something wrong, and offers live classes. Both machines require about the same amount of space, but I like that you can easily move the Tempo around if necessary, and I find it more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also around $1,000 less than Tonal. That makes the Tempo Studio well worth its price, as well as our Editors’ Choice for smart strength training machines.