Smart Locks Review
Why Use a Smart Lock?
The top performers in our review are Schlage Sense, the Gold Award winner; Danalock, the Silver Award winner; and Schlage Connect, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of nine smart locks.
Smart locks are part of a larger smart home trend that allows you to control certain electronics in your house with a smartphone. These locks have several advantages that make your home more convenient and secure. Some smart locks let you send guest keys to your family and friends to eliminate the key under the mat. Other smart home locks automatically unlock your door as you walk up, which is helpful if your hands are full. This new technology still has a long way to go before you see a smart lock on every house, but its potential is exciting.
What Is A Smart Lock?
A smart lock has three basic components: a locking mechanism, a small motor and a wireless transceiver. The locking mechanism is essentially a deadbolt lock. The motor, which typically runs off AA batteries, turns the locking mechanism. Finally, the wireless transceiver sends and receives information from a connected mobile app or smart home system. As long as a lock has all three of these parts, it qualifies as a bona fide smart lock.
There are two main types of smart locks available on the market today: deadbolts and doorknobs. The majority of smart locks are deadbolts, so we focused on that type while searching for review candidates. To narrow the field further, we chose smart locks that still use a physical key.
With a physical key, you can override the lock in situations where you might otherwise be locked out such as if you lose your smartphone, the app doesn’t work, the lock has a dead battery or your phone is stolen. Smart locks simply haven't been around long enough that you won't encounter at least one of these problems at some point.
Because smart locks work with your smartphone, each lock in our review has at least one of the following wireless technologies: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and home automation system compatibility. Bluetooth connects the lock directly to your mobile phone if you're near your house. Wi-Fi locks connect to your home network to access the internet so you can control the lock from anywhere. Finally, a smart lock that connects to a home automation system can work in tandem with other products, such as IP cameras or programmable thermostats, to streamline your routine and bolster your home's
Smart Locks: What We Tested, What We Found
We tested each smart lock in our review to see how it performs in four categories: security, convenience, design and technical support. In each category, we created tests to gauge performance of tasks and reliability. This gave us a hands-on look at each lock's strengths and weaknesses.
Any review of smart locks should also consider what makes an excellent lock. The American National Standards Institute and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association, organizations that establish a common standard for all locks, have three standard grades that define a good lock on the basis of security and durability. ANSI/BHMA Grade 1, which is common on commercial locksets, is the highest grade a lock can receive. This means that the lock offers the most resistance to forced entry and traditional lock picking methods.
Locks with the ANSI/BHMA Grade 2 offer exceptional protection against residential intruders. The lowest grade locks, ANSI/BHMA Grade 3, simply meet the minimum requirements for a lock to be acceptable for securing a door. Not all smart locks have an ANSI/BHMA grade because some do not replace your existing deadbolt. However, the locks in our review with ANSI/BHMA grades received higher scores compared to similar locks without a grade.
We also looked at each lock's other security features such as the ability to send mobile alerts when the lock is in use or someone tampers with it. Our tests showed that the best smart locks detect every time someone uses a key, code, app or manually locks the door from the inside after they enter. Locks that can detect all of these activities let you know when someone sneaks in with a key. Similarly, locks with loud sirens help prevent break-ins, and signal you to notify the police when there's suspicious activity.
When we evaluated digital door locks that use either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, we tested how well their mobile apps automatically unlocked and locked, taking into account factors such as responsiveness and how easily it lets you control the lock. We also tested each lock's ability to assign guest keys and took note of whether it offers remote access over the internet. For guest access in particular, we looked at whether the lock can grant authorized users temporary keys based on time and date.
Our testing revealed that most smart locks are easy to use. The mobile apps and home automation controls distinguished the best locks from those that are just good. One of the defining convenience factors is whether or not a lock has a built-in keypad. With a keypad, you can share guest access codes without the need for your guests to download a mobile app. The most convenient keypad locks let you add codes using an automation system or a mobile app, though they can be programmed by hand as well.
To test the effectiveness of a smart lock's design, we looked at how easy it is to install. When you combine this with a quick installation time, you get a good picture of whether you should do the installation on your own or hire a locksmith to do the work for you. There are two installation types in our review. The first installation type is a brand new lock, which replaces your current deadbolt entirely. The second installation type is a retrofit, which attaches to your current deadbolt's hardware.
Our installation tests revealed that all of these locks can be installed in less than 30 minutes, with some of the retrofit locks, such as the August Smart Lock, taking less than 10 minutes to install. Keypad locks that don't use a mobile app take some time to program, but the manuals that come with the locks help make programming easier. Keep a list of the codes you program so you don't erase one you already entered or give out the wrong code.
The other design element we looked at was battery life. The statistic comes from manufacturers and gives you a good idea of how often you need to replace batteries in your smart door lock. As with all battery-powered devices, the less you use your lock, the longer your battery will last.
We looked at the manufacturer's website for each smart lock to see whether it offers helpful resources. Locks made by companies that provide detailed tutorials, FAQs and videos generally scored higher in our review. We also looked at the availability of email, phone and live chat support to see which companies have the most support hours to help you get through problems with your lock.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experience of a typical consumer. Our test locks were obtained through purchase or provided by the manufacturers. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Smart Lock Buying Tips
In addition to our hands-on testing, we evaluated each smart lock in our review in five categories: security, convenience, design, control and technical support. This process was less hands-on but gave us a picture of what really matters in a smart lock. For more tips on buying smart locks, please visit our learning center.
If you choose a smart lock that uses key fobs, you can give them to your kids to activate the lock if they don’t have smartphones. The best Wi-Fi deadbolts keep track of who uses the door. Locks that also track when someone uses a physical key or keypad to unlock the door are particularly helpful since they give you a complete record of when visitors enter your home. Some smart locks only track users that access your home using the mobile app.
Look for a lock that lets you customize settings such as how long to wait until the door automatically locks itself. Likewise, locks that let you choose to send guest keys to an unlimited number of people have an advantage over those that give you a set number. Building on this, locks with keypads typically have a limit on how many guest codes you can create, but unless you intend to give codes to more than 20 people, it's not an issue. Smart locks with keypads give you an additional way to override the lock. Don't focus too much on auto-unlock; it might leave holes in your home's security.
As you choose a smart lock, think about whether you want a self-contained smart lock or a home automation smart lock. Self-contained smart locks don't require any extra equipment beyond a compatible smartphone. In contrast, other smart locks require home automation systems in order to control them with a smartphone.
Don't forget to look at the finishes, or colors, each lock is available in. The finish is another opportunity for customization; when a lock comes in many finishes, it is easier to match it to your home's decor and the doorknob already on your door. If you want Wi-Fi connectivity, you often have to purchase an extra accessory, either in the form of a bridge that connects your smart lock to your home network or home automation system with its own built-in Wi-Fi.
If you don't feel comfortable installing the lock on your own, locksmiths can do the work for you, but they're not necessary since the locks only require basic skills to install and program. In most cases, a locksmith is only necessary if you plan to rekey the lock to keys you already have. The exceptions to this are the Kwikset locks in our review, such as the SmartCode, which have a SmartKey feature that lets you rekey the locks with compatible keys.
If you plan to integrate a wireless door lock into a smart home, compatibility is the first thing you should look at. Most of the products in our review are compatible with a home automation system or home security system. If you already have a home automation system, Z-Wave- or ZigBee-compatible locks are likely your best option.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi door locks don't require a home automation system but often still have some sort of compatibility. Additionally, you can increase security by adding other smart home devices. For example, smart doorbells such as Ring help you monitor visitors you let in when you're away from home.
Warranty & Support
Look for a warranty that covers your smart lock for at least one year, which should give you enough to time to determine if the lock works properly and replace it if necessary. The best smart locks come with simple installation manuals that tell you where to go for help. Good manuals usually have images or diagrams and a directory of phone numbers and email addresses so you know who to contact if there's a problem.
Smart Locks: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Each of our top three smart locks embodies one of the following qualities: security, automation and compatibility. Schlage Sense, our Gold Award winner, is the most secure and has the best mobile app of all the locks we reviewed. It's also the only smart lock that scored high enough to earn our Excellence Award. It does have one main drawback: It's only compatible with iOS devices right now, though an Android app is in development.
Danalock, our Silver Award winner, is the best option for retrofit installations. This lock scored well in our ease of use tests and is the only lock in our review that has Bluetooth and Z-Wave compatibility. The V2 version of this lock is a big improvement over the original release. Schlage Connect, our Bronze Award winner, is the best option if you already have a home security or automation system in your home.
While the other seven locks in our review each have advantages, two are worth mentioning. Kwikset Kevo offers solid technical support and a large selection of tutorials online. August connects to many well-known automation brands such as Nest, HomeKit and Logitech Harmony.
As with many smart home products, smart locks are still relatively new. There simply is no perfect example out there. However, when you take a moment to look at your options, you can find the one that best fits your needs.