Best smart door locks 2021: Reviews and buying advice

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While traditional lock-and-key systems have improved over time, the basic mechanism hasn’t really changed since the first lock was invented more than a thousand years ago: A piece of metal that is just the right shape pushes pins inside a lock into the proper position, allowing the lock mechanism to turn. As a society, it’s been tough to replace a system that has worked reasonably reliably for literally a millennium.

Updated September 1, 2021 to add a link our news story covering Yale Home’s announcement that it was upgrading its Yale Assure line of smart entry locks to the Z-Wave 700-series

Are smart locks really better?

You can thank the hospitality industry for finally pushing locks into the digital age. Hotels learned long ago that keys are easily lost, expensive to replace, and simple to bypass, as thieves can pick locks or simply make copies of a key to allow for unfettered future access. On the flipside, hotel guests have readily accepted key cards (and in some cases, smartphone-based solutions) as the primary means of getting into their room. The electronic solution is just so much simpler. Lost hotel key card? Replacing it is no big deal.

But the biggest benefit of electronic entry systems is that they are highly configurable. Digital locks can be changed at a moment’s notice (which is why that old hotel key card in your wallet isn’t good for anything), and the property owner can generate a record of when each door was opened. In a more advanced setting, different keys can be generated for the same lock, so a homeowner can tell when each member of the family came in, or when the housekeeper arrived.

Whether you have a teenager who tends to break curfew or merely want to give temporary access to houseguests, service providers, or Airbnbers, smart locks are an incredible upgrade over the old way of doing things. Ready to make the jump to smart lock technology? Here are our top picks of the market at the moment. 

Best smart lock overall

Some will argue that we should have named the Level Touch our top pick in this category—it earned a higher score, after all—but Level treats iOS users better than it does Android users. Kwikset also ditches the old familiar keypad in favor of a fingerprint reader on its latest smart losck. This enabled the company to dramatically shrink the footprint the lock presents on the exterior side of your door. Kwikset also gives you the option of opening the lock with a conventional key, in the event the reader won’t recognize an authorized fingerprint (should your skin prune up after a dip in the pool, for instance). 

Runner-up

The minimalist Level Lock – Touch Edition looks as good as it operates and is our highest-rated smart lock. The reason we’ve named it runner-up, versus best-of-the-best in this category, is that it can be remotely controlled only with an iOS device. The Android version of the Level app includes every feature the iOS app does, with that one important exception. If you can give up the convenience of touch operation, the new Level Lock costs $80 less.

Best retrofit smart lock

The August Smart Lock Pro has been deposed. Level Home’s Level Bolt is our new favorite retrofit smart lock, thanks in large measure to its ability to disappear. The smart components of the Bolt hide inside your door, where they replace the interior mechanical elements of your existing deadbolt. You re-attach your existing interior and exterior components, so that your door’s overall aesthetic doesn’t change in the least.

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