Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt review: Monthly fees lock out this smart lock's own best features

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The Good The Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt boasts stylish looks, and a a wide variety of high-tech home automation features, making it one of the most functional locks you can get.

The Bad Taking full advantage of those home automation features means spending an additional $60 on a Nexia Bridge, along with an off-putting $9.99 monthly fee.

The Bottom Line The Camelot is a high quality, feature-rich deadbolt, but you'd be smart to wait and compare it against the coming glut of smart locks due out in the coming months.

7.3 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 6
  • Design 7
  • Performance 8

When most homeowners think about upgrading their home appliances, they tend to think first about splurging on a high-end washer/dryer combo, or maybe a flashy new fridge. But there are plenty of subtle ways to upgrade your home that can make your everyday life easier, including smartening up your deadbolt.

Enter the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt. With the Camelot's touchscreen, you can leave the key in your pocket and gain entry by punching in a code. After heading inside, the door will automatically lock behind you in case you forget. If someone tries to break in or tamper with the lock, a built-in alarm will sound, alerting you to the issue and hopefully scaring the would-be intruder off. And, if you're willing to pay $59.99 for the Nexia Bridge control unit, along with $9.99 a month for Nexia Home Intelligence's home automation system, you can hook your deadbolt up to your computer, smartphone, or tablet to control it remotely, or even connect it with your lights to have them come on as automatically when you come in after a long day at work.

The idea of paying a monthly fee for your deadbolt might leave a bad taste in your mouth, and rightly so. If the Camelot is the only thing you'd be automating, then buying a Nexia Bridge and paying the subscription fee almost certainly isn't worth it. But Nexia is designed to control all sorts of devices - locks, lights, thermostats, motion detectors, you name it. If you'd be interested in building a home automation system, with lots of devices working together to make your life easier, then upgrading to Nexia might make sense, and that $9.99 a month might be a bit more palatable.

The Camelot retails for $199, although you can get it at some retailers like Home Depot for closer to $160. That's still a lot more than you'll pay for a basic deadbolt at a corner hardware store, but given the Camelot's quality and functionality, I think that it's actually a pretty fair price. It's worth noting, though, that several new smart locks are due for release by the end of the year, including some intriguing crowd-sourced models from independent developers. All of these options will cost more than $160, so homeowners looking for a security upgrade should still take a look at what the Camelot can offer, especially ones who might, at some point down the line, be interested in automating the rest of their castles, too.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

Design and features
The Camelot is a great-looking lock, and with four different finishes to choose from, it will match almost any front door decor. In addition, Schlage offers the Century Touchscreen Deadbolt, which offers the exact same features and functions of the Camelot at the same price, but with a more modern design.

The outer face of the lock features the touchscreen, where you'll punch in your code to get inside. Tapping the Schlage button will illuminate the numbers with soft blue light, making it easy to use at night. The lock will beep with every tap of the numbers, although you can turn these sounds off if you wish. There's also a convenient green checkmark icon that will flash with each button press, reassuring you that it registered your input. For security, the touchscreen is contoured with a bumpy matte finish - this makes it fingerprint-proof and prevents clever burglars from figuring out your code, but it also makes the screen slightly less responsive than we'd like.

On the inner side of the door, the lock is tall and just a tad bulky, but understandably so - it has to house the battery pack and the unit's motherboard, as well as the lock-turning mechanism. There's a traditional knob, meaning that the lock will be usable even if the battery runs dead, and also another Schlage button that's used for programming and deactivating the alarm.

You can set the motion-sensing alarm to one of three settings. You can set it to only go off when it detects that someone is trying to break the door down, or you can set it to go off if it detects that the inside of the lock is being tampered with, thwarting lockpick-savvy hooligans (we found that in this mode, the alarm will go off even if you just insert the key and wiggle it around a little bit). There's also an "Activity" mode, where the lock will beep twice whenever the door is opened or closed. You can adjust the sensitivity of the sensors for all three modes, or you can turn all of them off altogether.

You can adjust all other settings through the lock's touchpad. Your lock will come with two four-digit starter codes, as well as a six-digit programming code. Entering this programming code into the lock will trigger a mode where you can add or delete access codes and tweak other various settings. For instance, you can set the lock to "Vacation Mode," which disables all codes and relies exclusively on the key to allow entry - just make sure you remember to bring it with you to Belize.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

A deadbolt with a brain
Users looking for even more functionality from their Camelot deadbolt can also purchase a Nexia Bridge from Nexia Home Intelligence, Schlage's partner in home automation. For $59.99, the Nexia Bridge will plug into your router and act as the brain for all of your automatable devices, connecting them through the Z-Wave wireless network. In the Camelot's case, you'll be able to lock and unlock the door remotely from the Nexia Web site or using the Nexia app. You'll also be able to create relationships between the Camelot and the other devices in your system, say, your lights. For instance, you could set your lights to turn on automatically whenever you enter your code into the lock, or maybe tell your thermostat to start running the air. All of these Nexia-compatible devices are sold separately, though, so be prepared to shell out some cash in order to build your network, and keep in mind that you'll also need to pay Nexia $9.99 a month.