After buying the 6 most promising smart locks of 2020 and testing them side-by-by side for more than 120 hours, we've found the best models for people who constantly need to remotely let dog walkers or cleaners into their home, or that manage a number of different vacation rentals. Our tests cover everything from remote management and keyless entry to overall security and installation difficulty, so we can help you find the perfect lock, no matter your needs. We can also help you decide whether you even need a smart lock, or if you might be better off with a "dumb" keypad lock.
The Best Smart Locks of 2020
Best Overall Smart Lock
Schlage Sense with WiFi Adapter
Of all the smart locks we tested, the Schlage Sense with WiFi Adapter is the first one we would consider using in one of our own homes. The app lets you easily create time-limited keypad codes that can be texted to dog walkers, cleaners, or anyone else that might need access to your home on short notice. The installation certainly wasn't straightforward, but there are enough instructions and videos provided by Schlage that most should be able to figure it out. We also really liked that the keypad gave us the option to manually unlock if the Bluetooth connection between the lock and the phone was being a bit finicky.
Like all of the locks we tested, we had some trouble granting other phones access to the lock via the app. This meant that we had to let people in by giving them a keycode to punch in, rather than using their phones as a virtual key. We didn't really see this as a downside, as we'd rather hand out temporary keypad codes than make visitors download an app and make a Schlage account in order to open the door. We did have one isolated incident where a shared code did not work, requiring the smart hub to be reset before that code actually worked and granted access. So we can't say the Schlage Sense works 100% of the time, but it's pretty close. The lock is also certified at ANSI Grade 3 (the lowest security grading for deadbolts. This is likely plenty of security, but some may like the peace of mind that a higher grade lock brings. Overall the Schlage Sense is the best solution we've found for remotely providing other people access to your home.
Read review: Schlage Sense with WiFi Adapter
Best for Nest Users
Nest x Yale with Connect
Outside of the Schlage Sense, the only other smart lock we'd really put our stamp of approval on is the Nest x Yale with Connect, and that stamp only applies if you've already committed to Nest as your smart home proprietor. In that case, the Nest x Yale conveniently nests (we couldn't resist) into your existing app and offers a familiar user experience. We also found it relatively easy to install, and it offers a slightly beefier ANSI grade 2 security rating.
The biggest downside to the Nest x Yale is that, in our experience, sharing access via the Nest app (as in sharing access with someone else that has a Nest account and app, thus turning their phone into a Bluetooth key) can malfunction a not insignificant amount of the time. One thing that always worked for us was creating keycodes to share so that your visitors could simply punch in a code instead of using the Nest app. However, these codes cannot be time-constrained, so you have to closely manage them if you don't want people to have access to your home all of the time. Still, if you already spend time in and are familiar with the Nest app, we think this is more convenient than using a completely separate app just for your lock.
Read review: Nest x Yale with Connect
Why You Should Trust Us
Max Mutter and Steven Tata have become experts in smart home devices over the past 3 years. In that span they've used just about every smart speaker on the market, have lived with more than a dozen different Wi-Fi security cameras in their homes, used an army of robot vacuums to clean their floors, driven around with more dashboard cameras than you can shake a stick at, and now, used multiple different smart locks on their own front doors. Throughout that process, they've become familiar with the various smart hubs used by many of these devices, and picked up an innate feel for when these gadgets are adding value to their day-to-day routines, and when they're just serving up unnecessary complications.
In finding the best smart lock for your door we meticulously researched more than 40 models. Once we whittled that list down to the most likely to be worthy of accompanying your doorknob, we purchased those model at normal retail prices (here at TechGearLab we never accept any free gifts from manufacturers). We then installed them all in on the same door so that we could evaluate their installation, keyless entry, remote access sharing, and overall user-friendliness in a side-by-side manner. Once we had completed these controlled tests, we then brought them to our respective homes, living with each for multiple days to discover all of their hidden conveniences and annoyances.
Related: How We Tested Smart Locks
Analysis and Test Results
Smart locks are certainly an evolving technology, and we feel that overall these products haven't quite realized their full potential. However imperfect the current selection of products, there are still some models that can solve some of our modern conundrums. We found these models by rigorously testing the reliability and usefulness of their smart features, how easy they are to install, their security level, and their overall user-friendliness.
Related: Buying Advice for Smart Locks
In general, smart locks have not yet evolved to a point where there is a wide range of prices. Most retail in the neighborhood of a couple hundred dollars, and those that are south of that mark generally don't come with an included smart hub. That means you'll need to spend more on a hub in order to access their smart features. Therefore, the top performer is de facto also the best value, making the Schlage Sense with Wifi Adapter both our Editors' Choice winner, and the best overall value.
Amazon Key is a service that combines a keypad smart lock and an Amazon home security camera into a system that allows Amazon Prime deliveries to be placed inside your door, rather than left on your front stoop. If you've had multiple Amazon packages mysteriously disappear, this system may be a worthwhile investment. Currently Amazon only offers this service with specific Yale and Kwikset lock models that are more or less designed specifically for the Amazon Key system. Because these locks are mostly useful within the Amazon Key ecosystem we didn't test them for this review, which focuses on standalone smart locks. However, based on our experience with the Kwikset Kevo and the Nest x Yale, we would certainly lean towards getting one of the Yale locks if we were to use an Amazon Key system.
Smart locks carry a hefty price premium when compared to their 'dumb' counterparts, so they need to offer reliable and useful smart features in order to be a worthwhile purchase. We used every smart feature these locks offer, side-by-side, to assess both the relative usability and reliability of all these features. This included features like Bluetooth entry, keypad entry, compatibility with smart home platforms (Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, etc.), and activity logs. Much of our testing focused on granting third parties access to the lock remotely, as this is one of the most useful and common applications of smart lock technology. Generally, we found models that require using an app to share access somewhat clunky and unreliable, while those that utilize a keypad and temporary codes for access to be much more user-friendly.
Two models took our top score of 7 out of 10 in our smart features testing: the Schlage Sense with WiFi Adapter and the August Pro + Connect. The Editors' Choice winning Schlage Sense offers activity logs, both Bluetooth and keypad entry, and almost universal smart home compatibility (Zigbee being the notable exception). What really endeared this lock to us was its ability to easily create temporary, time-constrained codes that could be texted to anyone you like. We did have one instance where one of those codes didn't work but in general, they were convenient and effective. The activity log also accurately cataloged the use of those codes. Granting other people Bluetooth access (ie. open app, door unlocks) was somewhat problematic, but also not a feature we felt we'd really want to use anyway.
The August Pro + Connect also provided a fairly good smart home experience. It claims to play nice with most smart home platforms (Zigbee again being an exception), but we did run into some issues when using it with Amazon Alexa. We had success in sharing Bluetooth access with other people via the app (essentially turning phones into Bluetooth keys). Overall we think this is slightly less convenient than using a keypad and sharing a code, as it forces the recipient to create an August account and download the app. However, once that is done the August Pro provides a detailed activity log, and lets you grant time-constrained access to individuals.
Earning an average score of 5 out of 1 in this metric, the Nest x Yale is a bit more limiting than the top scorers. It is only compatible with the Nest Connect Hub, pigeonholing it to those that want to build their smart home around Nest's offerings. We also found access sharing to be somewhat constrained, as you are able to create different key codes to share with people, but you can't make those key codes time sensitive. In order to make those codes time sensitive (ie. only let the dog walker in between 11 am and 1 pm), you have to send them between Nest apps, necessitating that the recipient both has a Nest account and the Nest app downloaded on their phone. Even with all those requirements met, we still ran into many error messages when trying to send access codes, and even when those codes worked we often found odd inconsistencies in the activity log.
Both earning a 4 out of 10 in this metric, neither the August Smart nor the Kwikset Kevo offer any sort of keypad. Thus sharing access with someone requires that they download an app and create an account - we found this much less convenient than just being able to create a temporary key code and text it to someone. Once someone downloaded the requisite app, keyless entry was often annoyingly laggy for both models. The August offers compatibility with both Alexa and Google Home, while the Kwikset's compatibility is limited to only Alexa.
The worst scorer in our smart feature testing was the Schlage Z-Wave Connect Camelot, which earned only a 2 out of 10. It requires purchasing an additional hub in order to use smart features, and we found those features to be lackluster at best. It is only compatible with Alexa and Z-Wave smart home platforms. You can only share access with people via email, and you can't set any time constraints on that access. This makes the Camelot functionally equivalent to texting people the key code to a 'dumb' keypad lock. The only advantage is that you do get an activity log, and the ability to check on the lock remotely.
Introducing new technology into something you likely use multiple times per day can either make life easier, or harder. We evaluated how well each of our locks meshed into the daily routine of locking and unlocking doors in order to make sure you're not creating 2 new problems in order to solve one (trust us, in some instances that is the case). Thus keyless entry testing focused on how easily each lock granted access to its main user. We're talking when walking to the door with an armful of groceries, it is easier to use the smart lock, or will you wish you just had a key?
The Schlage Sense was the best performer in this category, earning an 8 out of 10. Were generally able to open the lock via the app when we within 30 feet of the door, or could pick up the house's WiFi network. This meant we could usually unlock the door from the car, before grabbing two big handfuls of groceries. Generally opening the lock with the app took less than 10 seconds. We only encountered a couple of glitchy moments where it took longer than that. It was also quite easy to type in an access code if we didn't want to deal with using a phone. Finally, you could still use an old fashioned key if all else fails.
Just behind the top scorer, the Nest x Yale earned a 7 out of 10 in our keyless entry metric. If offers pretty much all of the advantages of the top scoring Schlage Sense with simple Bluetooth unlocking and a keypad in case you'd rather unlock the door without fumbling in your pocket for your phone. The only downside to this model in comparison to the Schlage is that it doesn't offer a physical key option. This isn't completely necessary, but being able to leave a physical key in your glove compartment in case the smart lock malfunctions is a nice option to have.
Many models offer a geofencing feature that automatically unlocks the door when your cell phone gets within a set distance of your phone. While this is convenient, we've come across many user reviews mentioning this technology malfunctioning and unlocking the door while the occupants are home or even in bed. Therefore, if you choose to use this feature, we suggest you do so with caution.
The Schlage Z-Wave Connected Camelot functions the same as its sibling, the Schlage Sense, meaning you can easily get access via the app, a key code, or a physical key. However, when trying to open the lock via Bluetooth we did run into some false starts where we needed to restart the app before the door actually unlocked, so we gave it a slightly lower score of 6 out of 10.
The August Pro + Connect presented consistent enough annoyances in our keyless entry testing to earn the relatively mediocre score of 5 out of 10. When keyless entry worked it was flawless - just a couple of taps on your smartphone and the door was unlocked. However, about half the time we experienced delays in keyless entry of 20 or so seconds, meaning we opened the app and then it took 20 seconds before it would respond to any of our commands. The lock still has a key option, so you can go old school if the app is being particularly finicky.
The August Smart fell one step below its sibling with a score of 4 out of 10. It shares the same frustrations with a slow and unreliable Bluetooth unlocking process, but it tended to take a little longer to actually unlock than even the August Pro. Again, luckily, you can default to using an actual key if need be.
The Kwikset Kevo was our least favorite lock to use, earning it a score of 3 out of 10. The lack of a keypad forces you to use Bluetooth to unlock it, which involves opening the app while within Bluetooth range, and then tapping the lock with your finger. At least that's what it's supposed to involve. In our testing it actually involved opening the app, tapping the lock a few times, then putting the phone right next to the lock, tapping it a few more times, cursing into the ether, tapping a few more times, and then finally hearing the bolt unlock. If we weren't testing this product we would have switched to using the optional physical key after just a few uses.
We assessed the security of these locks in two ways. First, we looked at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rating for each lock. This is a rating from 1 to 3 (1 being the best) of how secure the physical deadbolt is. We also evaluated the efficacy of auto-locking features that will automatically lock the door, even if you forget to do so yourself.
The Schlage Z-Wave Connect Camelot led the field in our security testing with a score of 9 out of 10. It carries an ANSI grade 1 security rating, the highest possible. It also has an auto lock that engages after 30 seconds of inactivity, so you'll always 'remember' to lock the door.
Autolock features are great, but they also make it pretty easy to lock yourself out of the house if you go to check the mail sans phone (keypad models do give you another option if this happens). We also found that most models will engage the deadbolt, even if the door is open. So if you've left the door open for a while, you'll want to make sure the deadbolt isn't engaged lest you smash the door frame.
The Nest x Yale was next up in our security testing, earning a score of 7 out of 10. Its ANSI rating is grade 2, and you can set a custom auto-lock delay. This means you can set a longer delay if you tend to pop outside to grab the mail without your phone, and don't want to get yourself locked out.
Most of the models we tested fell into the average bucket, all earning scores of 5 out of 10 in our security testing. The Schlage Sense has an ANSI grade 3 rating (low, but likely secure enough) and does have an auto-locking feature. Both the August Pro + Connect and the August Smart do not have ANSI ratings as they install onto an existing deadbolt. They both also have auto lock features that work well.
The Kwikset Kevo was the lowest scorer in this metric, picking up a 4 out of 10. It is ANSI grade 2 and has no auto-locking features, which doesn't compliment its finicky touch controls very well.
We scored ease of installation based both on how difficult it is to physically install each lock into a door, and how arduous it is the get the lock talking to a smart hub, and in turn talking to your phone. While some of these locks are certainly more difficult to install than others, the differences aren't huge. Therefore we wouldn't let a lower installation score dissuade you unless the phrase 'DIY' makes you shudder.
We found the Nest x Yale to be the easiest lock to install, earning it the top score of 9 out of 10. It installs basically as easy as any deadbolt. It is clear that Nest has been in the smart home game for a while, as getting the lock connected to the app and all set up was a breeze compared to many of the other models.
Both August models we tested, the Pro + Connect and the Smart, scored 8 out of 10 in this metric. Both locks mount onto an existing deadbolt, so you won't have to fuss with the actual bolt at all. Just remove a couple screws to take the thumb latch off, screw on the August baseplate, and slide the lock on, simple as that. We also had very little trouble syncing the locks with smart hubs.
The Schlage Sense, our favorite overall lock, was only mediocre in our installation testing, earning a 6 out of 10. The Sense has slightly less wiggle room when it comes to installation. Most people will likely be able to pop it right in, but there is more of a chance you might need to move things around and maybe drill some new holes. App setup was relatively painless, and the included smart hub set up quite easily.
The Schlage Z-Wave Connect Camelot was one of the worst scorers in this metric, earning a 5 out of 10. Like some of the manufacturer's other offerings, we found the physical installation of this lock to be a bit more difficult than most. We also had some difficulties in getting the lock to talk to the smart hub during installation. We had to restart the app multiple times before we were able to actually complete the initial setup.
The Kwikset Kevo presents more installation problems than most in our testing. We didn't find the process particularly arduous, but it did take some finagling to get it to seat properly. The app likewise presented issues, as we had to perform multiple restarts before it started playing nice with our office WiFi network.
After using a multitude of smart locks for an extended period of time, we personally don't feel that they are a worthy addition to most homes. For the majority of homeowners, we feel a 'dumb' keypad lock would provide most of the convenience of a smart option for a mere fraction of the price. However, if you manage multiple vacation rental homes, or have a rotating cast of dog walkers, the ability to remotely grant access to your home(s) has the potential to make your life a bit easier (though the process is often less than intuitive). We hope that our testing results have led you through this minefield and helped you decide whether one of these gadgets would be worth the cost.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata