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Poly-Control Danalock review: Poly-Control's Danalock won't enhance your smart home

The unreliable Poly-Control Danalock won't add much value to your existing deadbolt setup.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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The $179 Poly-Control Danalock (available in the UK for £250 including VAT, not yet available in Australia) comes with both Bluetooth and Z-Wave capabilities. And although Z-Wave integration is limited to the Vera Gateway home-automation hub, Danalock's closest competitor, the $250 US-only August Smart Lock , doesn't currently offer remote access at all.

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5.3

Poly-Control Danalock

The Good

Poly-Control's Bluetooth or Z-Wave-only Danalocks start at just $159, £200 and you can get a Bluetooth and Z-Wave version for $179, £250.

The Bad

The installation was challenging, the app was difficult to navigate, the Bluetooth tech wasn't responsive, I never received an alert and the knock-to-unlock feature didn't work at all.

The Bottom Line

The Danalock's many inconsistencies make it less convenient than using an actual key, and therefore, very tough to recommend.

Even with this additional feature, the less expensive Danalock falls short at every step. It looks similar to August, but feels significantly less sturdy; it was more difficult to install; the app isn't especially intuitive; I never received a notification, and its knock-to-unlock feature, a setting that's supposed to let you "knock" on your smartphone to unlock your front door, never worked. These factors make the Danalock difficult to recommend, especially when stacked against the highly rated August.

Danalock wants to make your door lock smart (pictures)

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A note on installation

Danalock is designed to work with most existing deadbolts, so it should be as basic as removing the thumb turn from your current lock and attaching Poly-Control's version. That's part of what gives this lock -- and August -- so much appeal; you don't have to mess much with the hardware guts at all, you're really just adding additional stuff to your current setup. And that's exactly what we experienced with August, but it wasn't so easy with this lock.

The Danalock site boasts a four-step process that's supposed to take you from start to finish -- unmount the current lock, mount the adapter plate, mount Danalock and download the app. Although unmounting my old lock and downloading the app were straightforward, the adapter plate and Danalock mounting were much more involved.

I first tried to install this lock at our office on a door that we use specifically for this type of testing. After following the quick start guide and installing the lock, everything looked right, but the deadbolt wouldn't turn. It sounded like it was trying to turn, but wouldn't budge. I confirmed that the deadbolt itself wasn't faulty and read through the more detailed user manual to find that the tailpiece was the culprit.

The tailpiece is a skinny piece of metal that rotates when the key is turned -- or when the motor inside a smart lock turns it -- and is a major deadbolt component. As part of the existing lock, I wouldn't have expected to run into an issue with the tailpiece.

Peering inside the Danalock. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

However, the Danalock manual does specify that, "Many doors have tailpieces that extend 10-15mm from the doorplate, and are more than 5mm wide. These will fit the Danalock without adjustments." However, "other doors have tailpieces that are square-shaped or less than 5mm wide. For these types of tailpieces we strongly recommend you cut the length so the tailpiece aligns with the door surface," and it is implied that this type of tailpiece also extends 10-15mm from the doorplate, although that wasn't directly stated. The manual continues, "You then need to insert one of the tailpiece extenders you find in the Danalock package."

Aside from the somewhat confusing language, I measured the tailpiece to find that it did fall between 10 and 15mm, but was just shy of 5mm wide. That means that I would have needed to use a separate tool to cut down the length of the tailpiece. Although this could be an easy enough fix for some, most households don't have the right tools for this sort of adjustment just lying around. And since a lot of folks would probably enlist the help of a locksmith at this point (making it a bit more than a basic DIY installation), I decided to uninstall the Danalock and try my luck on a different door.

The second attempt went much more smoothly, as the tailpiece was wider and flush with the door. I was able to add one of the plastic extenders included in the kit and get it working without having to perform surgery on the tailpiece itself. Even so, the adapter plate's holes were somewhat wonky (as in, they didn't line up with the screw locations well in either install) and the location of the screw holes for mounting the Danalock to the baseplate were not especially easy to reach.

In short, August's sturdy build, intuitively designed baseplate and various adapters made for a much simpler setup.

August and Danalock side-by-side. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Unlocking the Danalock

After getting Danalock up and running, I ran into a variety of other issues. While there's a log in the app that notes when you lock and unlock the door from the app, it doesn't list manual adjustments. The log is the only way to see your lock's current status -- if it's either locked or unlocked -- but it leaves out those times when you use a physical key from outside or manually lock or unlock the door from inside.

That means that there's no way to confirm the current status of your lock from the app, so you're left wondering if you did in fact lock the door the last time you left home.

If you forget your phone, you can always use a regular key to lock or unlock your door from the outside. And from the inside, there's a sensor-button in the center of the Danalock. Press it for an instant to lock the door and for a bit longer -- roughly 1 to 3 seconds -- to unlock the door. This worked pretty well, but it did feel as though the lock was struggling to turn against the deadbolt, accompanied by a sound that suggested it was straining slightly.

The Danalock user manual also adds that you should be able to manually rotate the lock from inside your house to mimic a thumb turn; this worked well with August, but I had no luck with the Danalock. It would rotate up to a point and stop without ever actually locking or unlocking the deadbolt.

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Pressing the red (lock) and green (unlock) buttons. Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The three settings within the app are "None," "Autounlock" and "Knock to Unlock." None is the most basic default and it's one you can always use even if you've also enabled Autounlock or Knock to Unlock. It lets you press the red lock button and the green unlock button within the app to lock and unlock your doors -- given the significant Bluetooth lag time, this didn't seem all that different from spending a moment to search for your keys, but this feature was still the most reliable.

Autounlock is supposed to automatically unlock your door when you get within the Bluetooth range, which I found to be roughly 30 feet. This worked on some occasions, but not others. The manual notes that a pocket or other signal barriers could cause disruptions. Even holding the phone in my hand, I'd often get to the door to find it still locked.

There's also a potential safety concern with this feature. If you're using auto-unlock and are walking around your house with your phone, you're probably traveling in and out of the set Bluetooth range. That means that your door could unlock when you don't want it to. This did happen to me on one occasion, but Poly-Control says you can disable the feature when you return home and enable it again later. This isn't ideal, though, because the hands-free nature of Autounlock is negated by having to disable it the moment you get inside your house.

The Knock to Unlock feature is supposed to let you "knock" on your connected phone to unlock your door. This never worked for me. I enlisted help from the user manual, double-checked my settings, but never did get it to unlock my door.

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Can you spot the missing text? Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

While it's easy enough to select from the various unlock options within the app, the notification and settings options displayed below each one cut off text. Pressing the "i," or information button, to the left of the descriptions will provide the full text, but that's an annoying extra step.

Also, I enabled all notification options within the app, but never once received one. If I had wanted to receive an alert when someone opened my door, I would have been totally out of luck. Even if it did work, the app's log doesn't pick up on those times when the deadbolt is manually locked or unlocked, so it would presumably only send a notification if someone used the app to get inside.

And although the lock settings let you customize its direction (clockwise or counter-clockwise) and degrees of rotation (10 to 1,000), I still ran into several instances where the lock didn't rotate fully. This often required a second attempt to fully lock or unlock the door.

The only performance similarity between Danalock and August were the Bluetooth lag times; it wasn't enough to make the otherwise impressive August unusable, but for Danalock it was just another source of frustration.

The takeaway

Poly-Control's $179, £250 Danalock was a hassle from start to finish. Its installation is more involved that you'd expect, the lock doesn't always complete a full rotation, the Bluetooth had a fairly significant lag time, the Knock to Unlock feature didn't work at all, I never received an alert and the lock itself made a straining sound that suggested it was working really hard to turn my deadbolt. All of this combined to make for a pretty tedious smart-lock experience, one that made returning to my actual key a real relief.

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5.3

Poly-Control Danalock

Score Breakdown

Features 6Usability 5Design 5Performance 5
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