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Your smart lock options are quickly expanding, but you'll still want to take a look at the Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt. With plenty of customizable features and a modern-looking, "cellphone chic" design, Yale's two-year-old lock fits right in with the current crop of smart offerings.
So what's so unique about this deadbolt? Not very much, actually. Schlage caught up to Yale earlier this year, releasing their own Z-Wave powered touchscreen deadbolt. And Yale's lock doesn't offer next-gen features like one-touch entry, Bluetooth recognition, or NFC compatibility, the way that new smart locks like August, Goji, Lockitron, and the Kwikset Kevo will.
Still, Yale's lock is compatible with a wide variety of home automation systems, including several fee-free options, and that's certainly more than Schlage can say about its Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt. Also, Yale's deadbolt is the only lock we've seen thus far that actually talks to you, offering helpful feedback in one of three languages as you navigate its programming menu. While it isn't as flashy as some of the newer smart locks out there, it definitely holds its own, doing almost everything you'd want a basic smart lock to be able to do, and doing it well.
That said, the price point will likely come into play for most consumers giving Yale their consideration. At an MSRP of $275, the Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt is one of the most expensive locks on the market, more expensive than the Kevo, the Camelot, or any of the other smart locks due in the next few months. You can get it significantly cheaper online (as of this writing, the cost on Amazon was down to $244), and even cheaper still if you opt for the same deadbolt without the Z-Wave adapter or touch screen. Even at full price, Yale's lock might make sense over Schlage since, unlike the Camelot, you aren't required to use a fee-based automation system in order to unlock its full features.
In the end, the defining characteristic for Yale's smart lock might be the many home automation systems it's compatible with. If you've already invested in one of these systems and would like to integrate a smart lock into your setup, then the Yale makes a lot of sense, perhaps the most of any lock that we've looked at. If not, then you'll have to purchase one of these systems in order to take full advantage of the Yale's features (remote control, conditional automation, etc.). In the process, you'll tack the price of that system onto the already considerable price of the lock itself. In that situation, I'd rather go with an easier and less expensive option that offers full functionality right out of the box, like the Kevo.
The first thing that you'll notice about Yale's smart lock is the touch screen. It's sleek, glossy, and capacitive, unlike the resistive touch screen that you'll find on the Camelot's touchscreen. This gives it a brighter, slightly sharper display, and one that you won't need to press down on quite so hard. You might expect that, like the capacitive touchscreen that you'll find on most smartphones, you'll either need to be bare-handed or wearing special gloves in order to key in your code. With Yale's lock, however, I found that the screen responded to my touch even through thick, non-conductive fabric (I even tested it out wearing oven mitts, and the thing still worked). Yale told me that they're aware that their touch screen skews toward the sensitive side, but they wouldn't go so far as promising that it will work through all fabrics, so your gloved mileage may vary.
After installing your lock and turning it on, you'll be asked to enter a "programming code." This is the master code that will allow you to enter the lock's "Programming Mode" -- from here, you'll be able to add or delete access codes (the Yale can store up to 25 of them), connect your deadbolt to a local network, and tweak the lock's settings. You'll also be able to activate "Privacy Mode," which automatically disables all codes, temporarily turning your smart lock into a regular old lock.
As you're playing with the Yale's settings, you'll realize that this is a lock that speaks to you, offering clear, concise commands and notifications. It's one of my favorite features of the lock, especially within Programming Mode, where you select the setting you wish to tweak by choosing its corresponding number. In other, similar smart locks, you'd need to memorize which number went with which setting, or at least keep the instruction manual handy for quick reference. Even then, the only reassurance you'd have that you entered the right series of digits to achieve the desired change would be a not-terribly-helpful flash or beep. With the Yale lock, you could go in knowing nothing and still find your way to the correct, confirmed setting simply by letting the voice be your guide.
Since the Yale uses Z-Wave or Zigbee in place of a standard Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection, you won't be able to control it directly from your smartphone, and as such, there isn't a native Yale app for you to download. If you want to unlock the full functionality of your deadbolt, you'll need to add it to an existing home automation network, or purchase a compatible device capable of controlling it. Fortunately, you have a wide selection of options, including popular choices like Control4 and Mi Casa Verde. Here at our offices, we tested the Yale lock out using a Revolv hub, and had no trouble whatsoever getting the thing hooked up with our system. Revolv lets you remotely lock and unlock the deadbolt or set something like a motion sensor to trigger it to do so automatically. Other systems might offer additional options, like creating and managing user codes remotely.
It's definitely a positive that this lock will work with such a large number of automation setups -- Schlage's Camelot deadbolt, by comparison, is designed to work best with Nexia Home Intelligence, a home automation system that costs $8.99 per month to use. Still, it's worth noting that we liked both the Nexia app and Web site quite a bit, and especially enjoyed that Nexia allows you to create temporary codes for your lock that expire automatically (not all systems offer this level of functionality). At a price of just $59 the Nexia Bridge is also significantly less expensive than most other control hubs (the Revolv Hub, for instance, will set you back $299). The choice offered by Yale is certainly appealing and monthly fees certainly aren't, but still, don't be too quick to rule out Nexia.
Physically, this is a well-constructed, well-designed piece of machinery. I appreciated the thin rubber mats that sit between the door and both the inner and outer sections of the lock. These help you avoid scuffs as you tighten the lock into place, and they also give the lock an extra layer of protection against moisture. In my tests, the lock operated perfectly well even after I poured an entire cup of water directly over top of it.