Every month, Engadget presents what our editors are currently doing, whether it’s , or gadgets. These are not official reviews; these are simply our first-hand experiences. This week, editor-in-chief Devindra Hardawar takes a look at the Yale Assure smart lock.
What if you could go through life without worrying about carrying your keys and potentially being locked outside the house? It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, but it wasn’t possible when I was renting in Brooklyn. These days, however, I have a little more freedom in my own home outside of Atlanta. And now that my wife and I are also responsible for a precocious three-year-old, we thought it was a good time to step away from the tyranny of the house keys. The last thing we need is to be locked out during a potty emergency.
You have several options: electronic locks with keypad or biometrics, or smart locks that can be controlled via apps. Initially, we were put off by the latter. Given the difficulty of connected devices and the potential for remote hacking, app-controlled locks just didn’t seem worth it. We therefore opted for a highly rated electronic lock with a touch keypad:. This is a heavy-duty grade 2 deadbolt with a key slot, which is useful if the battery dies. It is also across the board. (Spoiler: This turned out to be very useful.)
Installing the Assure lock on our front door required the same process as any other deadbolt. We removed the old lock, installed the included strike, and took care to make sure the Assure lined up correctly with our door frame. It took a bit of tinkering, but eventually my wife managed to put it together. (And this is where I admit that my role in this setup process was mostly in the form of cheerleading, reading instructions, and collecting drinks. I’m the technician; my wife likes to get her hands dirty with house projects whenever possible.)
Setting up our PIN was a bit more onerous, as it involved Yale. It’s not difficult, but it’s not really intuitive either. I immediately dreaded having to repeat this process every time we had to set up guest codes. Once we got everything set up, the Assure Lock worked wonderfully. I could run to the park with my daughter without worrying about the keys, and typing numbers was simple enough that she was eager to help. (I have to take this math training whenever possible, right?)
While the design of the Assure didn’t bother me much, it’s certainly taller than most deadbolt fronts. It practically advertises itself as a high-tech gadget. In part, this is because there is still room for a traditional key. Yale omits this entirely and is therefore more compact. So if your aesthetic doesn’t match mine, don’t worry, you have options.
Even though the Assure worked well as a keypad lock, I still couldn’t help but feel the pull towards something smarter. I wanted an easier way to open our front door remotely while we were playing in the backyard. And I realized that it would be helpful to know whether or not the lock was open from my phone, something that would come in handy whenever we had a visiting cat sitter while we were away. So within a week we settled in and never looked back.
We still use the Assure keyboard most of the time, but it was really helpful to have a little more connectivity. Now I can easily change guest codes on the fly, and being able to confirm that it’s closed remotely is a much needed balm for my anxious father’s brain. We’ve avoided enabling Alexa integration – voice control seems like an unnecessary security risk – and we haven’t connected the Assure to our HomeKit setup yet. Once we do, however, we’ll be able to see the Yale Lock next to it on one screen.
Despite the life of the smart lock, I can understand why many people still find them untrustworthy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about smart home technology over the years, it’s that it can all be pretty silly at times. Security vulnerabilities may appear, connectivity may fail. But when it comes to security, I’m not too worried that someone is trying to hack my house.
But even if you don’t want a smart lock, it’s still worth upgrading to an electronic lock with keypad. After loving the convenience of the Yale Assure so much, we added a simpler model to a back door, which was a big help when doing the yard work. Just think about the last time you were locked out. Or, if you’ve been lucky enough to never experience this, imagine how boring being locked in the cold can be. Maybe it’s happening at the end of a long day, or when you’ve just really need to use the bathroom. If you had an electronic lock, you would already be inside your house.
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