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Best Mirror Workout 2023: Tempo, Tonal, Mirror and More – CNET

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the fittest of them all?

I’m talking about a name that’s become synonymous with fitness technology — the Mirror. The sleek wall-mounted home gym was created in 2018 by former pro dancer Brynn Putnam, who invented a new category of home fitness equipment in the process. It’s no longer a lone-wolf workout mirror — plenty of other smart home gyms have launched in the years since Mirror debuted for people looking for a comprehensive at home workout.

There’s the Tonal, which completely revamped the experience of at-home weight training. There’s the Echelon Reflect, which is essentially a different version of the Mirror. Then there’s the Tempo, which offers a complete fitness ecosystem all wrapped up into one trendy A-frame. And even more competitors, including the newly released NordicTrack Vault and the Proform Vue, have joined the marketplace with their own on-demand classes.

All of these brands and workout mirror products have a similar mission: making it easier to train at home with only the assistance of an unobtrusive wall mirror and a virtual personal trainer or class instructor. While I appreciate the innovation and believe these fitness mirrors are useful for some people looking for a fitness studio atmosphere at home, I’ll point out that none of them are necessary for a good workout. In other words, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a mirror home gym to incorporate physical activity into your day, especially if you’re doing body-weight workouts with a workout mat and a resistance band or two.

That said, this type of home gym equipment is great for people who love the community aspect of fitness and desire high-energy instruction. People who need more structure and accountability — the kind that comes with a gym membership, personal trainer and fitness class — will thrive with a fitness mirror. However, people accustomed to working out on their own might not like a mirror workout. Those who don’t enjoy the vibe of a live class definitely will not.

Most of these brands offer basic starter packages, with both accessories and a membership for digital fitness content costing extra. The prices you see in the article are the starting prices for each piece of equipment.

I evaluated each smart gym mirror based on several criteria. Here are the factors I looked at while choosing the best workout mirror:

  • The setup: What was the delivery and installation process like? How long did it take and were there any hiccups? How does the equipment look and feel in my home? 
  • The experience: Coming from 10-ish years of lifting with standard workout equipment in traditional gyms, how do these smart gyms compare? Was the experience like a personal training session?
  • The app: Is the app easy to navigate and can I filter classes to quickly find something? 
  • The workouts: What type of workouts are there? Are there different categories for varying fitness levels? Can I work out on my own, or do I have to listen to an instructor every time? Do I feel appropriately trained and challenged by the physical activity? Are there periodized programs available? 
  • The music: Does the device have a native music program and if so, can I choose from different options? Can I connect my own music? Can I adjust the volume of the music and instructor separately? 
  • The content quality: Overall, how sophisticated does the workout content feel? How is the sound and image quality? 

Ready to start training with a home gym mirror? Grab your workout mat and foam roller and let’s start sweating!

Mirror

The setup: When you buy the Mirror, you can choose from wall installation or stand setup. I chose to use the stand because I was running out of wall space and didn’t really want more holes to repair after this review process was over. The installation team will encourage you to use the optional wall anchor if you choose the stand option, but I refused, because again I already had so many holes in my walls. I also wanted the ability to move the Mirror around.

The setup process itself went smoothly and only took about 20 minutes. The delivery people called me to set a delivery date and time, then called again about 30 minutes beforehand to confirm. 

Even on the stand, the Mirror takes up virtually no space as it leans against the wall. It’s heavy enough to feel sturdy and stable, even without the wall anchor. The Mirror is truly a beautiful piece of equipment. When it’s not in use, it serves as a decorative full-length mirror.

The experience: The Mirror’s workout library is so massive it’s almost overwhelming, but the filtering capabilities make it manageable. I found that the workout experience varied a great deal among different class types and instructors, which is a good thing, but it took some time to find classes and coaches I liked. 

Most of the classes available on the Mirror just don’t match my personal workout vibes — I’m not much into the studio class environment and I don’t really care for the constant motivational cues that seem to be a staple of Mirror fitness classes. However, I recognize that many people thrive in that sort of environment and thus would thoroughly enjoy the Mirror experience.

If you have an Apple TV or AirPlay-compatible TV, you can screen-mirror your Mirror content. Mirror-ception.

I really dislike the fact that the Mirror is not a touchscreen. For one, it just looks like it should be and for two, because it looks like that, I kept smudging it thinking I could control it directly. You have to use the app to use the Mirror, which seems like a shortcoming for the first smart fitness Mirror.

The app: Since the Mirror doesn’t have a touchscreen, the app is really important. You’ll use it every time you work out. Unsurprisingly, the app experience is seamless and enjoyable. It’s clear that a lot of thought and effort was put into the Mirror app. 

The filtering capabilities on this app are second to none. When you navigate to the workouts tab, you first select the broad category you want. You can choose from barre, boxing, cardio, chair, competitive, dance, family, kickboxing, meditation, pilates, pre- and postnatal, strength, stretching, tai chi, toning, yoga and personal training. 

Then, you can press Find a Workout and filter by class type, body part, difficulty, length, instructor and equipment. For example, within the yoga category, you can narrow down your workout options by selecting from restorative, flow, core, arm balances, backbend, full body and much more. 

The workouts: Despite the fact that I don’t really jibe with the Mirror’s workout vibes, the actual workouts are solid. I enjoyed every workout I completed, in an “I hate this, this hurts, when does it end?” sort of way. 

Since I gravitate toward strength training, I did have to break out the weights many times. This became tedious for me since I store my dumbbells and such in my backyard; eventually I just started leaving them inside. If you don’t have weights, you can still do the body-weight strength training workouts.

Although the individual workouts are good, I worry about beginners using the Mirror due to the lack of periodized programming. You can follow prebuilt programs within the app, but to me, they seem a bit random. For instance, the four-week low-impact program for beginners includes boxing, yoga, pilates, cardio bootcamp and sculpt classes, which is great for exposure to different types of exercise, but doesn’t seem to advance the user toward a specific fitness goal.

The classes within programs are also taught by different instructors, adding to that sense of randomness. I would like to see Mirror launch some progressive programs taught by the same instructor all the way through, targeted at particular goals.

The music: Natively, the Mirror offers a small selection of music channels, including pop, rock, country, dance, throwback, hip-hop, yoga and meditation. You can connect your Apple Music account to stream whatever music you prefer. I ended up connecting mine after a handful of classes because I got tired of the hip-hop channel and I don’t like exercising to the other native options.

The content quality: Part of what makes the Mirror feel so immersive is the content quality. When you start a class — live or recorded — you immediately feel like it’s just you and the instructor. I’m not sure what goes on behind the scenes, but on the Mirror’s screen, all you see is the instructor on a black background. The image quality is insanely clear, as is the audio. In the app, you can choose to include other things on screen, such as your classmates’ usernames, your calories burned and your heart rate if you connect a heart-rate monitor. I personally enjoyed the experience more with all of that turned off.