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Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt review: Yale locks the lock, talks the talk

This lock impressed us -- but can it keep up with the Kevo?

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Ry Crist
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Ry Crist

Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

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9 min read

Click here for more information on how we evaluate lock security.

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7.9

Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt

The Good

The <b>Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt</b> features a sophisticated design, speaks three languages, and boasts easy-to-use controls. For basic lock automation, it does the job nicely, and works with a wide number of systems.

The Bad

Like a lot of smart deadbolts, this Yale lock is pretty bulky, requiring a good deal of real estate on the inside of your door. Also, you won't be able to schedule temporary access codes unless you use the right type of home control device.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a higher level of convenience from your lock, but you don't want to pay monthly fees, then you'll want to give this deadbolt your consideration.

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.

Keying in on the Yale Real Living Touchscreen Deadbolt (pictures)

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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.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

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Yale's Touchscreen Deadbolt comes in three different finishes.

Yale

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.

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Even if it gets drenched, Yale's smart lock will still function normally.

Ry Crist/CNET

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.

The deadbolt can be set to automatically re-lock if left open for a user-defined time period (the default is thirty seconds). This is a nice feature for those who often forget to lock the door behind them when they leave the house, but I wish there was an option for the deadbolt to only re-lock when the door is closed. There's a small potential for minor damage if you leave the door open, then mistakenly try and close the door after the bolt has automatically been thrown.

One point of note -- the interior section of Yale's lock is larger than a normal deadbolt, as it needs to house the lock's network adapter, its motherboard, and the four AA batteries that keep it powered (they come included). We've seen similar designs from almost all of the smart locks we've seen, so it's hard to hold this against Yale. Still, consumers worried about purchasing a lock that leaves too much of a footprint on their foyer's interior design will want to take note. It's also worth mentioning that Kwikset's Smartcode Deadbolt features an interior housing that's up to 30% smaller in size than the housing on the Yale, the Camelot, or the Kevo. If size is a concern, this is a lock worth looking into.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

The classic pin and tumbler lock was patented by company founder Linus Yale, Jr. in 1861, and sure enough, that's the kind of lock you'll find in their touchscreen deadbolt. This means that the Yale doesn't offer any special protection against picking or bumping, the same as almost all standard, residential-grade pin and tumbler locks. If this is a particular concern of yours, more so than the threat of brute bypass methods, then you'll want to take a look at the Kwikset Kevo, which is rated by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) as essentially pick- and bump-proof. You might also want to consider the fact that Yale offers a key-free model, with no keyhole or cylinder at all. If you're truly worried about lock picks, this could be an interesting option -- just make sure to keep plenty of fresh batteries on hand.

Relative to other pin and tumbler locks, there's nothing about Yale's cylinder that stands out as an overt vulnerability, and I couldn't find any quick bypass methods floating around the internet to be concerned with. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certifies Yale's lock as a Grade 2 deadbolt, which means that it can withstand a large degree of force and pressure before failing. This is a satisfactory score for a residential-grade deadbolt -- though the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt does even better, earning the top rating of Grade 1.

As for hacking concerns, Yale's wireless Z-Wave adapter sends information out over a 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES 128). AES 128 is the standard level of encryption for all modern Z-Wave devices, and is also used for things like military communications and online banking transactions. It provides ample protection against hacking from all but the most sophisticated of thieves. In other words, unless you're concerned that James Bond is going to try and hack your deadbolt, you shouldn't lose any sleep over the Yale's cyber-security.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Another potential security concern involves the touchscreen. Just like your phone, it'll get faint smudges on it when you touch it, and theoretically, a clever thief could use these smudges to figure out which numbers you use for your code. From there, they would only need to guess the correct sequence in order to gain entry.

Fortunately, this isn't nearly as simple as I just made it sound. Four unique digits are capable of producing twenty-four unique four-digit codes. The Yale will shut down after a certain number of failed attempts -- set this number to three, for instance, and a thief who knew the digits you used would only have a 12.5% chance of guessing the correct sequence before the lock powered down. Additionally, this thief would only be able to discern these digits if you never pressed any other buttons on the lock, which seems unlikely. Even if you live alone and never plan on using the programming menu, all you'd have to do is issue yourself a second code with different digits, then alternate between the two. And, of course, you could always set a longer code -- up to eight digits with the Yale.

The lock runs on four AA batteries, which you will need to replace periodically. You'll receive advanced warning when they're running low, and if you ignore this, you'll be forced to (gasp) use the key to get in. As for the warranty, Yale's smart lock comes with a lifetime guarantee on the mechanical operation of the lock and on its finish. The electronic components, on the other hand, only come with a standard one-year warranty. Given the price of the lock, I'd feel a little better about recommending it if it came with a slightly longer warranty.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Conclusion

The Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt has just about everything you'd want in a basic smart lock. It won't offer anything quite as flashy as the tech you'll see from next-gen locks like Kevo, Goji, August, or Lockitron, but it's certainly smart enough to keep up.

The problem here is that not all of these new locks are out yet, meaning we don't yet have a full idea of where the best value lies. As a product that's already been on the market for almost three years, I suspect that Yale's $275 smart lock is going to have a tough time competing with newer, more buzzed about smart locks that, across the board, cost less. If you've already got a home automation system, and you think the Yale lock would be a good fit for your setup, I say buy it with confidence. But if you're just looking for a standalone smart lock with full, out-of-the-box functionality, I think you'll probably be happier waiting to see what else hits the market -- and how those new competitors affect Yale's price point.

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7.9

Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 8Design 8Performance 9