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The Best Smart Locks of 2018

A Smart Approach to Security

A smart lock is arguably the most important part of a truly smart, connected home. Not only will it allow you to come and go as you please, it will also monitor who is entering and leaving your home while you’re away. Some models simply let you use your phone to open and close doors.

Some let you assign special privileges to friends, family members, or maintenance staff. Others can be activated using voice commands or triggers from other smart home devices[1] and services. Here are a few things to consider when deciding on a smart lock, along with reviews of the top models we’ve tested.

What to Look For

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is how much it will cost to upgrade your traditional lock.

After all, a smart lock costs a heck of a lot more than the standard-issue lock you can pick up at the local hardware store. You can find a few smart locks out there in the £100 range (not many of which made the cut for this list), but if you want a lock that you can control from anywhere, with features such as voice commands, push and email notifications, and tamper alarms, expect to pay somewhere in the £200-£300 price range. Many smart locks offer a mobile app that allow you to lock and unlock doors with a simple icon tap.

Some offer a web app that lets you control things from your desktop or laptop PC. Most apps let you add permanent and temporary users and set access schedules for specific days and times.

If the lock is Bluetooth-enabled, you’ll have to be within range (around 40 feet) to communicate with it, while locks with built-in Wi-Fi circuitry or a Wi-Fi bridge can be controlled from almost anywhere as long as they are connected to your home router[2]. Make sure your smart lock offers activity logs so you can go back in time to see who has entered or exited your home and when the activity took place.

The latest smart locks offer things like voice activation, geofencing, and auto-locking features. With voice activation, locking and unlocking doors is as easy as it gets; simply tell your phone to “unlock the front door,” and the lock will disengage. With geofencing, you’ll never have to worry if you locked up before you left the house; just use the mobile app to set up a perimeter around your house, and use your phone’s location services to pinpoint your exact location.

When you leave the perimeter, you can have the lock automatically engage behind you. Similarly, an auto-lock feature will have the lock automatically engage after it has been unlocked for a specific period of time. Other features to look for include keyless touchpads for those times when you don’t have your phone or your keys, tamper and forced entry alarms that warn you of a possible break-in, and push, text, and email notifications that let you know who is coming and going in real-time.

Installation

None of the locks we’ve tested are especially difficult to install, but some are easier than others.

If your new lock comes with both an interior escutcheon (the housing you mount on the inside of your door) and an exterior component (usually a touchpad or a keyed cylinder), you’ll probably have to completely remove your old lock, including the deadbolt mechanism and strike plate, before you can install the new device. This is simply a matter of removing the two bolts that attach the interior escutcheon to the exterior component and removing both pieces. The deadbolt is also held in place by two screws.

The good news is that most smart locks use the standard pre-drilled holes so you don’t have to worry about drilling new ones. Additionally, there are smart locks available that attach to the inside of your door and are designed to use your existing keyed cylinder and deadbolt hardware, which means you only have to remove the interior escutcheon. Either way, you can count on spending anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes removing your old lock and installing your new smart one.

Smart Home Integration

Some locks integrate with other connected home devices, like the Nest Protect[3] smoke alarm, and services, like Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and If This Then That (IFTTT)[4].

For example, you can have your doors unlock when a smoke or CO alarm is triggered, or have certain smart lights[5] turn on when a door is unlocked. Depending on your home automation setup, you can even pair your lock with a video doorbell[6], like the Skybell HD[7], so you can see who is at the door before you unlock it, or have an interior camera begin recording when a door is unlocked. Just remember: The more features you get, the more you can typically expect to spend.

Other Kinds of Smart Locks

Keep in mind, there are also smart locks out there that aren’t necessarily door locks.

Master Lock’s 4400D Indoor[8] and 4401DLH Outdoor[9] are both Bluetooth-connected padlocks, for instance. They’re built to be as tough as any standard lock, but use Bluetooth to unlock with the tap of a button when you’re nearby. They also let you grant temporary or permanent guest access on your terms simply by using an app.

For more in smart home safety, see our picks for The Best Smart Home Security Sytems[10] and The Best Home Security Cameras[11].

References

  1. ^ smart home devices (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ router (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Nest Protect (uk.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ If This Then That (IFTTT) (uk.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ smart lights (uk.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ video doorbell (uk.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ Skybell HD (uk.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ 4400D Indoor (preview.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ 4401DLH Outdoor (preview.pcmag.com)
  10. ^ The Best Smart Home Security Sytems (uk.pcmag.com)
  11. ^ The Best Home Security Cameras (uk.pcmag.com)

The Best Smart Home Security Systems of 2018

A Smarter Way to Keep Your Home and Your Family Safe

The Internet of Things has made it easier than ever to set up a smart home in which you can remotely control your door locks, lights[1], thermostats[2], vacuums[3], lawnmowers, and even pet feeders, using your smartphone and an app. It’s also made it simple (and relatively affordable) to monitor your home from pretty much anywhere. Smart security systems are highly customizable and available as do-it-yourself kits or as full-blown setups that include professional installation and monitoring.

Depending on your needs you can go with a system that you monitor yourself, or pay a subscription fee to have your home surveilled 24/7 by professionals who will contact your local fire and police departments when alarms are triggered. Of course, the more coverage you have, the more you can expect to pay. If you’re not ready for a dedicated security system there are plenty of individual devices available that let you monitor your home from anywhere using your phone or tablet, including indoor and outdoor security cameras, video doorbells, and smart locks.

Here’s what to look for when deciding how to secure and monitor your home while you’re away.

Security and Home Automation Streamlined

A smart home security system connects to your home Wi-Fi network so you can monitor and control your security devices using your smartphone and an app. Entry-level systems typically include some door and window sensors, a motion detector, and a hub that communicates with these devices using one or more wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, or a proprietary mesh network. You can add extra door, motion, and window sensors to provide coverage for your entire house and build a comprehensive system that includes door locks, garage door openers, indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, lights, sirens, smoke/CO detectors, water sensors, and more.

Any smart security system worth its salt offers components that work together in a seamless environment and can be manipulated using customized rules. For example, you can create rules to have the lights turn on when motion is detected, have your doors unlock when a smoke alarm goes off, and have a camera begin recording when a sensor is triggered. Some systems store recorded video locally on an SD card or a solid state drive, while others offer cloud storage.

Locally stored video is a good choice for do-it-yourselfers on a budget, but you have to be careful not to overwrite video that you may need later. Cloud storage makes it easy to store and access recorded video, but it can cost hundreds of dollars per year depending on your subscription. All of the systems we’ve tested feature a mobile app that lets you use your smartphone as your command center to arm and disarm the system, create rules, add and delete components, and receive push notifications when alarms are triggered.

Most apps also allow you to do things like view live and recorded video, lock and unlock doors, change thermostat settings, and silence alarms. Some apps will even use your phone’s location services to automatically arm and disarm the system according to your physical location. The more expensive systems usually come with a wall-mounted panel that acts as a communications hub, with a touch-screen display that allows you to do everything the app does, as well as communicate with a professional monitoring service when an alarm is triggered.

DIY or Professional Installation?

Do-it-yourself setups are ideal for homeowners on a budget because they can save you a bundle on installation charges and subscription fees.

Most DIY systems are easy to install and configure and are sold as kits that you can configure to suit your specific needs. As your needs grow you can order additional sensors and other components at your convenience and pair them to the system in a matter of minutes. Your basic entry-level DIY system may only support one or two wireless protocols and usually offer a limited selection of add-on components, while more expensive DIY systems will support multiple wireless protocols and are compatible with dozens of add-on components.

Some DIY systems are self-monitored, which means you’ll receive alerts when devices are triggered, but it’s up to you to contact the local authorities if there’s a break-in or a fire. However, more and more DIY vendors are offering professional monitoring services; some require a contract and some allow you to pay as you go so you’re only being monitored when you need it, such as when you’re away on vacation. While many systems use wireless components that are installed using double-back tape, some high-end systems use components that require professional installation.

These soup-to-nuts systems typically cost considerably more than DIY systems and offer 24/7 professional monitoring, but you may have to enter into a multi-year contract and pay a hefty termination fee if you break it. They usually contain RF, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave radios, allowing them to communicate with and control a multitude of components including door and window sensors, door locks, glass break detectors, indoor and outdoor cameras, light switches, motion and water detectors, smoke/CO alarms, thermostats, video doorbells, and a host of other home automation devices. With a professionally monitored system, when a smoke or intrusion alarm is triggered, an agent will first try to reach you via the two-way control panel before calling your listed phone number.

If you fail to respond the agent will call 911 to dispatch an emergency responder to your home. The nice thing about professionally installed systems is you don’t have to lift a finger; after you’ve placed your order a technician will come to your home, set everything up for you, and show you how the system works. It’s important to note that in some municipalities you may have to file for a permit to have a security system installed in your home.

Nearly all of the latest DIY and high-end home security systems offer support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and in some cases Apple Siri, which allow you to unlock doors, change thermostat settings, open the garage, and arm or disarm your system with a spoken command to a connected device like an Amazon Echo[4] or a Google Home[5] speaker. Many also offer support for IFTTT (If This Then That)[6] applets, which use triggers from IFTTT-compatible web services and devices to create an action. For example, you can create an applet that says if my garage door is opened, turn on the floodlight.

Can You Just Use a Security Camera Instead?

If you live in a small apartment and want to keep tabs on things when you’re not home, a security camera[7] can get the job done for a lot less money than what you’ll pay for a dedicated security system.

Nearly all standalone security cameras connect to your home’s Wi-Fi so you can see what’s going on from your phone or tablet, and most have built-in sensors that detect motion and sound and will send push and email notifications when those sensors are triggered. You can usually tweak the camera’s motion sensitivity to prevent false alarms due to pet activity or passing cars if the camera is near a window, and you can create a schedule that turns the sensors on and off during certain hours of the day. Some of the more expensive cameras are equipped with humidity and temperature sensors and will interact with other connected home devices such as thermostats and smart lighting systems.

If you want to save some money, look for a camera with an SD card slot that allows you to record video when motion or sound is detected, but remember to save your recordings every so often before they are overwritten. Alternately, look for a camera that offers a cloud storage plan. An outdoor camera[8] is ideal for keeping an eye on what’s happening outside of your home.

These devices are weatherproof and typically require a nearby GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet to supply power, although there are a handful of battery-powered models out there. As with their indoor counterparts, outdoor cameras connect to your Wi-Fi network and allow you to view live video from your phone. They are fairly easy to install, but if you’re not familiar or comfortable with electrical wiring, you may want to have a professional electrician do the job.

Most outdoor cameras, like our current top pick, the Netgear Arlo Pro 2[9], offer motion detection with push and email notifications, night vision, and cloud storage for event-triggered video, and some pull double duty as floodlights or porch lights. Some models can even tell the difference between a passing car, an animal, and a person. Look for an outdoor camera that will integrate with other smart home devices[10] such as garage door openers, external sirens, and smart switches.

What About a Video Doorbell?

Video doorbells[11] offer an easy way to see who is at your door without having to open or even get close to the door.

These devices connect to your Wi-Fi network and will send an alert when someone approaches your doorway. They’ll record video when the doorbell is pressed or when motion is detected, and usually offer two-way audio communication that allow you to speak with the visitor from anywhere via your phone. Most video doorbells, like Editors’ Choice SkyBell HD[12], use your existing doorbell wiring (two low-voltage wires) and are fairly easy to install, but there are battery-powered models available (like the Ring Video Doorbell 2[13]) that install in minutes.

Some work with other smart devices such as door locks and sirens and support IFTTT and Alexa voice commands. Look for a model that offers a high resolution (1080p), a wide angle lens (140 to 180 degrees), a night vision range up to 25 feet, and affordable cloud storage for recorded video.

What’s the Best Smart Lock?

A smart lock[14] is typically part of a robust smart home security system, but you don’t have to invest in a full-blown system to use one. If you’re using a home automation hub to control things like lighting and thermostats[15], you can add a Z-Wave or Zigbee smart lock to the system without much effort.

Alternately, if you don’t have a home automation hub, look for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth lock that comes with its own mobile app. Smart locks use standard pre-drilled holes and are fairly easy to install. Some models use your existing keyed cylinder and deadbolt hardware and attach to the inside of your door, while others require that you remove your existing interior and exterior escutcheons and replace the deadbolt and strike hardware.

A Smart lock can be opened and closed using a mobile app and will send a notification when someone locks or unlocks a door, and most allow you to create permanent and temporary access schedules for family members and friends based on specific hours of the day and days of the week. Features to look for include geofencing, which uses your phone’s location services to lock and unlock the door, voice activation using Siri (HomeKit), Google Home, or Amazon Alexa voice commands, support for IFTTT, and integration with other smart home devices such as video doorbells, outdoor cameras, thermostats, smoke alarms, and connected lighting. There are plenty of smart lock models to choose from, including keyless no-touch locks, touch-screen locks, and combination keyed and touchpad locks.

Our current top pick is the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect[16]. For more on how to get started with smart home security, check out this handy primer[17] on our sister site, ExtremeTech.com.

Best Home Security Systems Featured in This Roundup:

  • [18]

    MSRP: £28.99

    Bottom Line: ADT Pulse offers just about everything you could want in a full-service home security system, including many component options, support for popular third-party smart home devices, and a soli…

    Read Review[19]

  • [20]

    MSRP: £549.00

    Bottom Line: The Vivint Smart Home system offers 24/7 security monitoring and remote control of your door locks, cameras, heating system, and features the best video doorbell solution we’ve tested.

    Read Review[21]

  • [22]

    MSRP: £229.96

    Bottom Line: If you want to secure and monitor your home from afar without spending a bundle or signing a long-term contract, there’s a lot to like about the newly redesigned, versatile, and easy-to-use …

    Read Review[23]

  • [24]

    MSRP: £41.99

    Bottom Line: Protect America is a do-it-yourself home security and automation system that provides professional 24/7 monitoring. Most of the hardware is free, but the monthly subscription fee doesn’t com…

    Read Review[25]

  • [26]

    MSRP: £199.00

    Bottom Line: The Wink Lookout starter kit gives you everything you need to start monitoring your home using your smartphone.

    Read Review[27]

  • [28]

    MSRP: £374.00

    Bottom Line: Frontpoint is a DIY home security system that’s easy to install and offers a wide array of compatible accessories.

    It works well, but is priced higher than the competition and a monitoring c…

    Read Review[29]

  • [30]

    MSRP: £599.00

    Bottom Line: The LiveWatch Plug & Protect IQ 2.0 is a do-it-yourself home security system with professional monitoring and home automation capabilities, but camera installation can be tricky and a paid s…

    Read Review[31]

  • [32]

    MSRP: £249.00

    Bottom Line: The GetSafe Home Security Starter Kit is easy to install, doesn’t require a contract, and works with a good selection of smart home devices, but it lacks ZigBee support and you have to subsc…

    Read Review[33]

  • [34]

    MSRP: £499.00

    Bottom Line: The Nest Secure Alarm Starter Pack is a stylish DIY smart home security solution that’s easy to install and configure, but is very expensive, and lacks integration you get with some other sy…

    Read Review[35]

  • [36]

    MSRP: £299.00

    Bottom Line: The Abode Home Security Starter Kit is a fantastic do-it-yourself security system that offers no-contract professional monitoring.

    It starts with the basics, but is highly expandable with su…

    Read Review[37]

References

  1. ^ lights (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ thermostats (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ vacuums (uk.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ Amazon Echo (uk.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ Google Home (uk.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ IFTTT (If This Then That) (uk.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ security camera (uk.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ outdoor camera (www.extremetech.com)
  9. ^ Netgear Arlo Pro 2 (uk.pcmag.com)
  10. ^ smart home devices (uk.pcmag.com)
  11. ^ Video doorbells (uk.pcmag.com)
  12. ^ SkyBell HD (uk.pcmag.com)
  13. ^ Ring Video Doorbell 2 (uk.pcmag.com)
  14. ^ smart lock (uk.pcmag.com)
  15. ^ thermostats (uk.pcmag.com)
  16. ^ August Smart Lock Pro + Connect (uk.pcmag.com)
  17. ^ handy primer (www.extremetech.com)
  18. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  19. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  20. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  21. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  22. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  23. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  24. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  25. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  26. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  27. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  28. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  29. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  30. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  31. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  32. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  33. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  34. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  35. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  36. ^ (uk.pcmag.com)
  37. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)

The Best Smart Locks of 2017

A Smart Approach to Security

A smart lock is arguably the most important part of a truly smart, connected home. Not only will it allow you to come and go as you please, it will also monitor who is entering and leaving your home while you’re away. Some models simply let you use your phone to open and close doors.

Some let you assign special privileges to friends, family members, or maintenance staff. Others can be activated using voice commands or triggers from other smart home devices[1] and services. Here are a few things to consider when deciding on a smart lock, along with reviews of the top models we’ve tested.

What to Look For

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is how much it will cost to upgrade your traditional lock.

After all, a smart lock costs a heck of a lot more than the standard-issue lock you can pick up at the local hardware store. You can find a few smart locks out there in the £100 range (not many of which made the cut for this list), but if you want a lock that you can control from anywhere, with features such as voice commands, push and email notifications, and tamper alarms, expect to pay somewhere in the £200-£300 price range. Many smart locks offer a mobile app that allow you to lock and unlock doors with a simple icon tap.

Some offer a web app that lets you control things from your desktop or laptop PC. Most apps let you add permanent and temporary users and set access schedules for specific days and times.

If the lock is Bluetooth-enabled, you’ll have to be within range (around 40 feet) to communicate with it, while locks with built-in Wi-Fi circuitry or a Wi-Fi bridge can be controlled from almost anywhere as long as they are connected to your home router[2]. Make sure your smart lock offers activity logs so you can go back in time to see who has entered or exited your home and when the activity took place.

The latest smart locks offer things like voice activation, geofencing, and auto-locking features. With voice activation, locking and unlocking doors is as easy as it gets; simply tell your phone to “unlock the front door,” and the lock will disengage. With geofencing, you’ll never have to worry if you locked up before you left the house; just use the mobile app to set up a perimeter around your house, and use your phone’s location services to pinpoint your exact location.

When you leave the perimeter, you can have the lock automatically engage behind you. Similarly, an auto-lock feature will have the lock automatically engage after it has been unlocked for a specific period of time. Other features to look for include keyless touchpads for those times when you don’t have your phone or your keys, tamper and forced entry alarms that warn you of a possible break-in, and push, text, and email notifications that let you know who is coming and going in real-time.

Easy to Install

None of the locks we’ve tested are especially difficult to install, but some are easier than others.

If your new lock comes with both an interior escutcheon (the housing you mount on the inside of your door) and an exterior component (usually a touchpad or a keyed cylinder), you’ll probably have to completely remove your old lock, including the deadbolt mechanism and strike plate, before you can install the new device. This is simply a matter of removing the two bolts that attach the interior escutcheon to the exterior component and removing both pieces. The deadbolt is also held in place by two screws.

The good news is that most smart locks use the standard pre-drilled holes so you don’t have to worry about drilling new ones. Additionally, there are smart locks available that attach to the inside of your door and are designed to use your existing keyed cylinder and deadbolt hardware, which means you only have to remove the interior escutcheon. Either way, you can count on spending anywhere from 10-25 minutes removing your old lock and installing your new smart one.

Smart Home Integration

Some locks integrate with other connected home devices, like the Nest Protect[3] smoke alarm, and services, like Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and If This Then That (IFTTT)[4].

For example, you can have your doors unlock when a smoke or CO alarm is triggered, or have certain smart lights[5] turn on when a door is unlocked. Depending on your home automation setup, you can even pair your lock with a connected doorbell cam, like the Ring[6], so you can see who is at the door before you unlock it, or have an interior camera begin recording when a door is unlocked. Just remember: The more features you get, the more you can typically expect to spend.

Other Kinds of Smart Locks

Keep in mind, there are also smart locks out there that aren’t necessarily door locks.

Master Lock’s 4400D Indoor[7] and 4401DLH Outdoor[8] are both Bluetooth-connected padlocks, for instance. They’re built to be as tough as any standard lock, but use Bluetooth to unlock with the tap of a button when you’re nearby. They also let you grant temporary or permanent guest access on your terms simply by using an app.

For more in smart home safety, see our picks for The Best Smart Home Security Sytems[9] and The Best Home Security Cameras[10].

References

  1. ^ smart home devices (www.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ router (www.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Nest Protect (www.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ If This Then That (IFTTT) (www.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ smart lights (www.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ Ring (www.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ 4400D Indoor (preview.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ 4401DLH Outdoor (preview.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ The Best Smart Home Security Sytems (www.pcmag.com)
  10. ^ The Best Home Security Cameras (www.pcmag.com)