By Jon Chase
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter . When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full guide to smart locks .
Your front door lock is an unsung hero, quietly keeping thieves and rogues at bay. Smart locks are the superheroes of the species, with special powers that make life more convenient (and a little more fun). The Yale Assure Lock SL (YRD256) Connected by August is our top pick as it comes closest to hitting the sweet spot of convenience, security, reliability, and good looks. It’s fast, quiet, and completely keyless, and unlike with other models, its sleek, slim, glass-and-metal housing is stylish.
The Yale Assure Lock SL (YRD256) combines the hardware-security chops of Yale with the smart-home finesse of August. It connects to your Wi-Fi network (via the Connect bridge), allowing you to control the lock and manage access codes remotely. This ability to manage or even create new codes on the fly makes the lock especially suited to owners of vacation homes and short-term rental properties. The included August module makes the lock widely compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, HomeKit, and other smart gear. Unlocking it is simple, and its mechanism is far quieter than that of nearly every other lock we’ve tested. We also like the DoorSense accessory, which tells the lock if the door is open so that the deadbolt doesn’t engage before it’s shut. Although we greatly prefer the feel of the keypads found on Schlage locks, the Yale Assure Lock SL’s other features, reliability, and overall aesthetics make it a far better buy for most people.
If your door is a single-hole model—that is, with a doorknob or lever and no deadbolt—the Yale Assure Lever (YRL256) is the one to get. It offers features identical to those of the deadbolt version, with a couple of minor differences; for instance, you can wake the lock or have it lock when you’re leaving simply by pressing the Yale logo. We tested it on an internal door for several months, and we love how quiet it is.
One extremely important note: The Yale Assure Lock SL has no keyway—should its electronics ever fail or its mechanism jam, you would be locked out of your home and would have to destroy the lock to get in. (Yale also sells a version with a built-in keyway, which we do not recommend—see How we tested for more details.) As such, we recommend this lock only if you have ready access to another entrance, such as a back door or a garage. If you prefer to have traditional key access to fall back on, we strongly recommend going with another pick.
The Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro matches or exceeds the Yale Assure Lock SL in some ways, and it missed the top spot due to only a few minor performance flaws as well as its narrower compatibility with other smart-home devices and the fact that the company is a relative startup. Still, by any standard it is a wonderful device, with the cleanest, most precise hardware we’ve ever tested and a pleasing low-profile design. You can unlock it six different ways, including with a numerical code, in an app, through a physical keyway, and—the pièce de résistance—via fingerprint. (We highly recommend buying the $50 add-on Ultraloq Bridge , which allows for remote programming and control.) The companion app you use to set up and control the U-Bolt Pro is less polished and reliable than the August app, and we found that it sometimes required a restart to get back in sync. Although we believe the feel and function of the U-Bolt Pro’s rubber number buttons to be superior to pecking numbers on the glass screen of the Yale Assure Lock SL, the fingerprint unlock was our preferred way to unlock this model. Unfortunately, it balked on around 20 percent of our attempts to unlock it using this method, and that required us to make multiple finger presses or to resort to using a key code. We hope this is something that the company can improve, since the fingerprint feature provides the best balance of security and convenience. The U-Bolt Pro is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but unlike the Assure Lock SL it doesn’t work with Apple HomeKit or Samsung SmartThings—if that doesn’t matter to you, the U-Bolt Pro may be the better pick.
The Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt is a trimmed and toned update to similar previous picks, the Schlage Connect and Schlage Sense, but with the clever ability to connect directly to your Wi-Fi without the need of a plug-in adapter. (Most smart locks, in contrast, use battery-friendly Bluetooth and then connect wirelessly to a plug-in adapter that allows them to connect to your Wi-Fi and accept remote control.)
That capability is appealing, and along with the nicely designed hardware—which also includes a built-in impact alarm—it makes the Encode one of the easiest models to install and one of the simplest smart locks to use of those we’ve tested. In gaining its smaller internal housing, the Encode unfortunately shed compatibility with Apple HomeKit, though it can still integrate with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. We tend to prefer the feel of capacitive keypads like the Encode’s over that of a glass touchscreen, and we think that feature makes this lock less fussy to use, so it’s an especially good choice for rental properties.
If you are a renter who isn’t allowed to change locks (or a homeowner who doesn’t want to), the third-generation August Smart Lock is a wallet-friendly addition to an existing deadbolt. Unlike our other picks, which require replacing all the elements of your door lock, this August model lets you keep your deadbolt and keyway and swap only the thumb-turn mechanism on the inside of the door. When you have the Smart Lock on its own, you can set it to unlock when you approach the door and to relock after you close the door (thanks to the included DoorSense magnetic sensor), but you can also control it with August’s smartphone app or the August Apple Watch app via Bluetooth. An optional adapter (the $70 August Connect ) is required if you’d like to control the lock when you’re not home, and it enables voice control through Alexa and Google Assistant (unlike other models, this August lock is not HomeKit or Siri compatible). The August is surprisingly noisy in operation, and in our testing of the automatic unlock feature, we experienced occasional delays or outright failures to trigger, sometimes requiring use of the app to unlock the door. We think this issue is highly dependent on the specifics of the install environment and therefore can be lessened with troubleshooting and recalibration.