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Best smart locks of 2021: August, Yale, Schlage and more

Sick of fumbling for your house keys? Smart locks will keep you safe and secure while also ensuring you can ditch your keys. Here's what we recommend.

Smart locks look like they've been plucked from a science fiction movie, but they're real and surprisingly convenient. They can pair with a mobile app on your phone to allow keyless entry and remote access to lock, unlock and monitor your front door through the app or even just a voice command.

The features that define the best smart lock will differ according to the door in question and the people who walk through it. Having a door lock that can be retrofitted to the traditional lock instead of replacing the existing deadbolt is a must-have for some people. Others consider the most important feature to be user code limits, auto lock or a lock that connects with your existing security system. After testing the best smart locks on the market, these are my favorites, which I'll update as I review new products.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock includes a retrofit August lock and a DoorSense open-close sensor to upgrade your existing lock. Wi-Fi is built into this smart door lock model, so you won't need to pay extra to buy a Connect module to enable remote access. 

The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is 45% smaller than previous August models, too. This smart device works with Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa for voice control and smart home integration. You'll get unlimited user access and  keyless entry codes, as well as a log of every action that happens at your front door. 

Wi-Fi enables remote access to lock and unlock your door from your Android or iOS devices when you're not home. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is a capable, easy-to-install smart lock and the winner of our CNET Editors' Choice award.

Read our August Wi-Fi Smart Lock review.

 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

August's third-gen Smart Lock and Connect bundle comes with a DoorSense open-close sensor and Connect Wi-Fi module. The low-profile, retrofit design means you won't need to replace your deadbolt lock and installation is easy, offering convenience for renters. 

The August Smart Lock with the Connect setup features smart technology that is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control and offers remote access through the August mobile app. You won't get Apple HomeKit compatibility or Z-Wave smarts to connect to a smart hub. Still, this August Smart Lock is a moderately priced, capable smart door lock for keyless entry. It's the best smart lock if you live in an apartment and don't want to remove your existing lock.

Editor's note: In August 2020, PCMag and Bitdefender released a report alleging that August and Yale Android apps when working with Connect modules were vulnerable to a hack during setup mode that could give away Wi-Fi credentials. In August's latest response to CNET, it states, "If the Connect's firmware is up-to-date and the user's August Android app is up-to-date, their device will not be vulnerable to the original attack even if the unit enters into setup mode."

Read our August Wi-Fi Smart Lock review.

 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Yale's SL Touchscreen Deadbolt has a small, sleek design with a touchscreen keypad that looks good on nearly every door -- and it comes in three finishes. The newest smart deadbolt bundle includes August smarts with a Connected by August Kit (Wi-Fi module and DoorSense sensors) to connect with the August app to unlock your door or for locking it. This keyless lock with backlit keypad works with Amazon Alexa voice control, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. 

For an additional cost, there's also a Yale smart lock version with interchangeable modules for Zigbee or Z-Wave if you need to connect your door lock to other devices in your smart home system.

Editor's note: In August 2020, PCMag and Bitdefender released a report alleging that August and Yale Android apps when working with Connect modules were vulnerable to a hack during setup mode that could give away Wi-Fi credentials. In August's latest response to CNET, it states, "If the Connect's firmware is up-to-date and the user's August Android app is up-to-date, their device will not be vulnerable to the original attack even if the unit enters into setup mode."

Read our Yale Assure Lock SL Key Free Touchscreen Deadbolt review.

 

Tyler Lizenby

The Schlage Encode doesn't do it all. You won't get Apple HomeKit compatibility and you're limited to 100 user codes. Still, I'm a big fan of the Schlage smart lock because you won't need Z-Wave devices or a Zigbee hub or Wi-Fi module to connect this door lock to your smart home. 

Its smart features include built-in Wi-Fi and it works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant with simple account linking through their apps. It's also compatible with Amazon Key providing convenience for in-home delivery services. The sleek keypad design is available in both modern and traditional styles and multiple finishes.

Read our Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt review.

 

Other models we've tested

In our search for the best smart lock, these are some of the other products we've tried out:

Nest Yale Lock: Nest and Yale partnered up for a Google-centric smart lock with a touch keypad. This Nest app smart door lock has the good looks of Yale's earlier models, but it isn't quite as capable as other keyless locks when it comes to smart home integration. 

Array by Hampton Connected Door Lock: This lock has solar-powered battery backup and built-in Wi-Fi, but it's expensive and doesn't have the option to work with HomeKit or Google Assistant yet. 

Kwikset Kevo Bluetooth Deadbolt: Kwikset's second-gen Kevo is a good Bluetooth smart lock and a simple answer to smartening your door if you don't need remote control access. If you do, you'll need to purchase the Kevo Plus connect module. You can use the mobile app or the key fob for keyless door entry. 

Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt: Schlage's Sense smart lock is affordable, but clunky and not as simple to set up as its Encode sibling. You'll also need a Schlage lock Wi-Fi adapter to connect with Google Assistant or Alexa.

Smart lock FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about smart locks. If you have any others, feel free to reach out on Twitter or you can email me from my author page (just click the little orange envelope).

How secure are smart locks?

Smart locks from major developers, like Yale and Schlage, are reliable security devices -- but only if you use them correctly. In the same way a lock three feet from a key hidden under a doormat isn't very secure, a smart lock with the PIN 1-2-3-4 won't be very secure. Smart locks can even be more secure than conventional locks, since keys are easier to lose than, say, your fingers, if you're using a fingerprint lock.

Why are smart locks so expensive?

Like most smart home tech, smart locks are getting more affordable all the time -- but that doesn't mean they're cheap. Between the conventional hardware (which often includes a deadbolt and other parts of the lock mechanism), the "smart" hardware (which includes computer chips and various kinds of radios) and the software (which includes digital security measures like encryption), a lot goes into a smart lock. So finding one for under a hundred bucks, which isn't unusual these days, is actually a solid deal.

Can smart locks be hacked?

Smart locks, like any Wi-Fi-connected device, can be hacked. But as long as you're finding smart locks from reliable developers, the communications that would allow a hacker to trigger the lock should be thoroughly encrypted -- making hacking pretty difficult. It's important to keep in mind, too, that robberies are often crimes of convenience. So unless you live on a totally secure compound, protecting one-of-a-kind jewels, an unlocked window or an open garage door is a more likely point of entry than your theoretically hackable smart lock.

Are smart locks a bad idea?

While smart lock hacking isn't that big of a risk to your individual home's security, that doesn't mean smart locks pose no risks. Battery-powered smart locks can lead to problems in the long run if you're not diligent about keeping them powered. Smart lock hacking can also pose a larger societal problem when unsecured smart home gadgets are hacked en masse to carry out distributed denial-of-service attacks against internet-dependent institutions, such as banks. Whether you think these potential problems make purchasing a smart lock a "bad idea" will be up to you.

No matter which smart lock you choose, adding one to your smart home offers a lot of advantages. With these tips and the best smart lock on your door, managing access for family members, roommates, service providers and guests is a breeze. 

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