News - 2016042903 - Maybe the best smart lock

Who should buy a smart lock

The smart locks we tested, ready for installation.

Smart locks bring a level of convenience and flexibility to day-to-day life, by allowing you to no longer carry house keys and letting you keep tabs on who comes and goes at home while you're away. Among other cool benefits, some smart locks even allow you to use your smartphone to instantaneously send a virtual key to a houseguest.

All of this potential comes with a price, naturally, and though not stratospheric, the investment may give some homeowners pause. If spending nearly three hundred bucks on a door lock isn't personally justifiable, you may be just as satisfied dropping a couple bucks for extra keys and one of those hollow fake rocks to stash them in.

How we tested

In appraising these locks, we took a close look at the ease or difficulty of installation.

We installed each smart lock on an exterior door with an existing deadbolt, removing that deadbolt for models that included their own lock hardware. For devices that rely on a dedicated companion app, we installed apps on both iOS and Android smartphones (when apps for both platforms were available). For devices requiring use of a third-party hub and without their own dedicated apps for remote use, we used a Wink HUB with the companion Wink app.

After installation, we triggered the locks up close using our local Wi-Fi network and remotely from smartphones connected over 4G LTE. Where possible, we tested the various settings and preferences found in the lock's companion app and also shared lock access with others. We then did several mock entrances, attempting to use the lock as we might in everyday life.

These devices have varying capabilities, so apples-to-apples (or even apples-to-oranges) comparisons weren't always possible. Nonetheless, comparisons quickly boiled down to a question of if key features were available and if they were, did the "smart" features make the devices more convenient or functional than a standard lock.

Our pick

Aside from its lighted status indicator, Kwikset Kevo's exterior is indistinguishable from a standard lock.

If you want a smart lock that's easy to install, lets you unlock the door with a simple tap of your finger, and allows for remote monitoring and operation from anywhere in the world via an Internet gateway, the Kwikset Kevo with Kevo Plus is your pick. In our extensive tests of eight different smart locks, no other model offered the same effortlessly simple operation.

Kwikset, the Kevo's maker, is a respected lock company with 60 years of experience. The Kevo is sturdily built and can be controlled with its equally polished companion app. This lock also has a lot of great features. Its touch-based trigger makes locking and unlocking a door notably faster than using a key or keypad and more secure than models that depend ongeofencing to automatically unlock when you get near home. And as with any lock, the Kevo's most important feature is that it properly secures a door as well as a standard "dumb" deadbolt lock of the same grade would.

For garage doors or renters

The Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt is great if keyless access is your main interest.

The Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt, with its built-in keypad, is an excellent choice. It has even bulkier hardware than our pick and doesn't have a dedicated app for remote control. For some people, though, it may be a good solution if dedicated smartphone control isn't a priority, because you can still easily gain or share access to your home without ever needing to deal with a key (though it has a keyed tumbler as a dead-battery backup). The resistive touchscreen is reliably fast, which is the real hook. As an ANSI Grade 1 device, this lock is sturdily built to withstand break-in attempts—plus, it has a few alarm modes built in, so anyone trying to force your door open will be greeted by a piercing siren. Overall, though, the Kevo was more convenient to manage and a better aesthetic option on a front door.

Keep your existing deadbolt

The August Smart Lock is a smart addition to your existing deadbolt.

Available in Apple stores everywhere and thus arguably the most high-profile smart lock around, the stylish August Smart Lock can be a good solution if you want to use an existing deadbolt. Adding the August Connect Wi-Fi adapter to the lock lets you share access easily and keep tabs remotely on who comes and goes at your home. This lock makes a lot of sense for renters or vacation-home owners, though we had a few quibbles: The battery compartment can slide off, and the auto-unlock feature was too unstable to work in urban environments, as it triggered a few times even when we were home.

You can install another August add-on, the August Smart Keypad, outside your home, next to your door, and get easier, smartphone-free access sharing for guests. Once you figure in the keypad's expense, though, you might decide you're better off simply buying a keypad-equipped deadbolt, such as our second-place pick, the Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt.

Budget option

The Morning Industry QF-01SN Keypad and Remote Deadbolt is a lock that supplies basic convenience features at a lower price than any of its competitors.

For some people, the smartest lock may not be the smartest choice. TheMorning Industry QF-01SN Keypad and Remote Deadbolt has a physical keypad for typing in an access code, but also comes with a keychain-fob remote. It has terrible remote-access implementation via Z-Wave—you aren't even able to check if your door is locked or unlocked remotely—but that's forgivable at this lock's low price. The QF-01SN's real value is its ability to open the lock via keypad or keychain remote, letting you unlock your front door from up to 30 feet away, just as you would your car.

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