Is it time to buy a Smart Lock? 5 Smart Locks Reviewed

Today on the hookup we’re going to cover a slightly controversial subject, smart door locks, and whether they pose a security risk to your home. We’re going to take a look at some of the most popular and anticipated smart locks on the market today and figure out if any of them have a place in your smart home.

Your home should be the place where you feel the safest, and technology should increase that feeling of safety, not decrease it.  Adding cameras allows you to keep a watchful eye, and sensors give you insight into of what’s happening, even when you’re away.  However, when these services are compromised and bad actors are able to again access, the invasion of privacy can make you feel more unsafe than ever.  It’s this underlying uncertainty of security that makes people reluctant to modify the most basic security device in any house: the door lock.  In this video, I’ll show you that a smart door locks, when implemented properly actually significantly increases the safety and security of your home and have virtually zero risk of being remotely compromised.

In this video I’m going to test out 5 of the most popular and anticipated smart locks on the market.  From least expensive to most, we’ve got the $89 Wyze lock, the $160 Kwikset 914, the $190 Yale Assure, the $210 Kwikset Smartcode 916, and the $229 Alfred Locks DB2.

Kwikset 916 (My personal pick): https://amzn.to/2VmUKLi
Yale Assure (Best Overall Value): https://amzn.to/38Z6WWl
Wyze Lock: https://wyze.com/wyzelock.html
Kwikset 914: https://amzn.to/390T0va
Alfred DB2: https://amzn.to/2ThU4Ea

At this point, all smartlocks on the market should be able to deliver on a few key features:

Number 1: Installation is fairly simple requiring a Philips head screwdriver and about 15 minutes of your time.

Number 2: All these locks maintain manual control from the inside of your house.

And number 3: These locks can provide with additional information about the state and history of the lock to give more peace of mind.

Lets start with a quick comparison of the key differences of these locks.  The Wyze lock and the Kwikset 914 maintain a more traditional look by only having a keyway visible from the outside,  while the Yale assure, Kwikset smartcode 916 and Alfred DB2 all have external keypads for keyless entry.  You can see that the specific version of the Alfred DB2 that I tested doesn’t have a traditional key, but Alfred does offer a keyed version, and similarly the Yale and Kwikset are available in non-keyed touchpad only varieties.  The Wyze lock is a bit of a hybrid because it has an optional remote keypad that can be installed on or next to your door to add pin code functionality if desired.

The keypads on these locks operate with only slight differences.  All 4 keypad locks have the ability to easily add and remove pin codes to allow someone to have temporary access to your home without giving them your main pin.  And operation is similar as well, to operate these keypads you place your palm over the screen to activate it and then enter your pin.  The Alfred lock requires you to press the # key after entering the pin while the Yale Assure requires you to press the check mark, and the Kwikset automatically unlocks once the correct pin has been entered without an additional button press.  The Kwikset also has an additional feature to add some dummy keypresses at the beginning of the sequence to prevent fingerprints and wear on the keys that are used for your pin.

All the keypads work well and are nice and responsive, but I slightly prefer the lock specific icons on the Kwikset keypads over the generic asterisk and pound symbol on the Alfred, OR the checkmark and gear on the Yale.

Since a keypad does represent an additional point of vulnerability I wanted to test what happened when multiple wrong codes were entered consecutively.

All the locks run on 4 AA batteries and have similar torque when actuating the deadbolt.  A major issue that I came across in the reviews for ALL smart locks was people noting that the motors were not strong enough to overcome misalignment of their deadbolt and strike plate.  To attempt to simulate a mild to moderate misalignment I used scotch tape to decrease the size of my strike plate opening and tested each motor’s ability to lock and unlock the deadbolt with increased friction.  All of the locks passed this test successfully, but it’s important to note that even if you get a lock that can power through imperfect alignment, it will significantly reduce battery life, and as the battery drains the power of the motor may also decrease.  Honestly, it’s best just to take care of the situation by correcting any alignment issues rather than selecting a lock that can power through it.

On a related note I wanted to see how each lock would respond if the deadbolt failed to actuate completely.

This seems that’s a pretty important feature that all of these locks deliver on in their own way, including reporting a jammed lock in their status.  Speaking of status each lock reports multiple different status messages including the general state of the lock, something called the notification, and a detailed lock status.

The Yale, Kwikset, and Wyze locks did a great job reporting these statuses in their respective apps, but in my testing my Alfred lock was all over the place when reporting its state via Z-Wave and in both the Samsung SmartThings App and in Home Assistant where general state of the lock didn’t follow the detailed lock status and sometimes the detailed lock status was just compltely wrong.  I’m not sure if this was an issue specific to my Alfred lock or a general problem, but it is a huge deal and needs to be fixed ASAP because reporting that a door is locked when it is unlocked is perhaps the biggest possible vulnerability you could introduce.

In fact, I think misinformation, not hacking is the biggest risk of all of these locks.  Another potential issue I found was in the way that these locks have implemented the “auto re-lock” feature.  Auto re-lock is great in concept and does exactly what you would expect: After a specified amount of time the deadbolt with automatically re-engage if you forget.  You wouldn’t want this on a non-smart door because the potential to lock yourself out of the house is high, but on a keypad based door lock you can always unlock the door regardless of whether you have your phone or your keys.  The problem is that of the 5 locks that I tested, only the Wyze lock was able to determine if the door was open or closed.  So if for some reason your door fails to close completely, the autolock feature will engage the deadbolt, and change the status of your door to “locked” even if the door is wide open.

Obviously adding a simple contact sensor to your door and using an automation in home assistant or SmartThings solves this issue completely, but I’d love to see whatever technology wyze is using to detect the state of the door make it into these other locks.

BUUUUTTT, I’d also like to see Wyze take some queues from these other brands.  All these locks except for the Wyze lock use z-wave meaning adding them to a Z-wave hub like SmartThings, Hubitat or Home Assistant will let you integrate them into the rest of your smart home.  And while the Wyze lock technically Zigbee, it won’t connect to any of your Zigbee hubs and at this time must use the included Wyze Zigbee to WiFi bridge and Wyze cloud app.  The open source smart home community is already hard at work decoding the nuances of the Wyze zigbee protocol, so expect the Wyze lock to eventually be compatible with home assistant via projects like Zigbee2MQTT, but don’t expect it to easily integrate with smartthings or Hubitat without using an additional cloud service like IFTTT.

And now it’s time to talk about putting your lock on the cloud.  But before we start, I want to make the general statement that compromising a lock rarely represents the easiest way to gain access to a building.  Bricks are cheap and have a 100% success rate for opening windows, with very little skill involved.  That being said, a common complaint I hear about smart locks is that if compromised someone can walk up to your home and enter through the front door as if they were supposed to have access.  To illustrate that this concept is nothing new, I purchased a $20 lock picking snap gun, spent about an hour learning to use it, and here’s what that entry looks like from the street.  As I said before, It’s up to you whether you want your smart lock to also include a physical key, but lock picking is a much more common skill than wireless protocol hacking.

In fact, hacking the zigbee or zwave protocol while technically possible requires significantly more skill, knowledge, and access, since most of the known vulnerabilities involve listening in during the initial setup process.  In other words, if a potential hacker doesn’t know the exact date and time you are planning on installing your smart lock, and is not within Z-Wave listen range when you do so, they are pretty much out of luck.

Protocol specific exploits are actually EXTREMELY uncommon and most of the time as it pertains to smart devices we are incorrectly using the term hack, when what we mean is compromise.  You may have heard the recent stories about a “hacker” who gained access to a ring camera in a child’s room and used the 2 way audio feature to talk to the child to encourage her to do bad things.  While this behavior is unquestionably deplorable, in my opinion calling it a “hack” takes the focus away from the immoral actions of this one bad actor and focuses them on some perceived vulnerability of ring cameras.  In actuality, this “hack” was carried out simply by plugging username and password combinations that were leaked from an unrelated website into the ring app until one of them worked… It’s not exactly high skill or high tech.  You should know that any time you expose your devices to the internet it does represent a small risk, but exposing your devices to the internet using shared and insecure passwords represents a enormous risk that I don’t believe anyone should take, which is why I specifically haven’t shown any Wi-Fi only locks in this video.

Wyze has taken steps in the right direction by offering two factor authentication when logging into their service, but no cloud service will ever be as secure as using a locally controlled option.  With a Zigbee or Zwave lock you can use a hub like Home Assistant or Hubitat and get all of the added convenience and security benefits without any of the potential negative impacts associated with cloud based security.

So far, this has mostly been a general overview of smart lock technology, but now it’s time for me to give you my impressions of each lock individually:

The Wyze lock delivers some serious value:  By reusing your old deadbolt you don’t have to worry about matching your exterior finish or style, and it also allows them to cut costs significantly.  You’re getting a lot of new functionality for just $89 and the Wyze app is really well made and extremely responsive.  It’s got features like auto lock, specific pin code notifications, lock state tracking, and even door state tracking.  Still even with all this great stuff for a great price, I can’t get over the cloud only integration.  I don’t feel comfortable implementing it in my own home, so I can’t recommend it for yours.  If and when Wyze allows their lock to join other Zigbee hubs for local control it will get my overwhelming recommendation, but until then I’d hold off.

The Kwikset 914, without any external keypad, is an interesting concept, but I don’t love it.  Although it has important features like auto re-lock, without an external keypad the potential to lock yourself out is high and unlike the Wyze lock that includes Bluetooth backup control for the lock, the 914 can only be controlled via your Z-Wave hub, so if you are experiencing problems with your hub you could get locked out of your house if you didn’t bring your key.  The additional features on the Kwikset locks are set using small dip switches located under the inside cover, which means you can’t automate them and probably won’t be changing them often after initial setup.  Also, another small nitpick that I have like the Kwikset locks that they are by far the loudest of all of the locking mechanisms, I’m not sure which circumstances would cause that to be an issue, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

The Yale Assure Z-Wave smart lock is pretty great.  Not only is it the lowest price lock to give us touch keypad functionality and Z-Wave connectivity, but I think it looks pretty nice and operated flawlessly in all of my tests.  I do have two small nitpicks for this lock: Tirst, it has a big black battery cover on the inside, and while I understand the need to not have it be made of metal for Z-Wave antenna purposes I’m not sure why it isn’t at least colored the same as the rest of the lock. And second, the included deadbolt feels the roughest when turning… not to say it’s difficult to turn, but it almost feels like something is grinding inside the mechanism, I’m also not sure what the small inner core of deadbolt is for, let me know down in the comments if you know.  Additionally, there is a default feature called “one touch locking” that I found to be very annoying that locks the door anytime the keypad is activated, luckily it is easily turned off via the menu system which is available by using the keypad.

The Kwikset 916 has all the features of the 914 while adding a keypad to the exterior, making it significantly better in my opinion.  The 916 has my favorite keypad due to its lock specific icon buttons and decoy keypresses.  The Kwikset is also my favorite aesthetically, but I understand that is largely personal preference.  My nitpicks for this lock are the same as the 914, which are that additional options are inconvenient to change, and the actuation of the deadbolt is the loudest of the bunch.

Last is the Alfred lock, which I wanted to love since seeing their wireless powered lock at CES, but after testing I’m underwhelmed.  The DB2 is the most expensive lock that I tested, which is fine considering it also has the most features, including Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and touch functionality… But aside from that there were lots of problems.  Inside the premium packaging is a lock that looks nice from the exterior, but on the interior is a huge black plastic enclosure.  The exterior keypad is responsive, but explaining to my wife and 7 year old that they needed to hit the pound key after entering their code seemed unnecessarily complex considering that icon could have easily been replaced with a key that said “Enter” or “OK” or a picture of a lock.  None of those issues matter when looking at the biggest problem with my Alfred lock: The states reported via Z-Wave were wrong.  My door often registered as locked when it was unlocked, or unlocked when it was locked.  Pressing the lock button via home assistant, changes the status to “Manually Locked by Key Cylinder or Inside thumb turn”.  I’m hoping that these issues are isolated to the specific Alfred lock that I tested, and not common.  I’m going to reach out to Alfred to see if there is a fix for these problems and I’ll post a sticky comment below with those updates.

So, quick recap:  Smart locks, when controlled locally are not vulnerable to hacking, and are certainly less vulnerable than your current lock and key system.  Smart locks add additional features that increase not only the convenience of your lock, but also security.

On paper my favorite lock is the Yale Assure because it has a very similar feature set to the Kwikset 916, for $20 less.  However, I plan on using the Kwikset 916 on my door because I prefer the look, and I like that the key can be standardized between my interior garage door and front door using the Kwikset magic key system.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to test, let me know down in the comments and I’ll give it a shot.  Thank you to my awesome patrons over at patreon for your continued support of my channel which allows me to purchase products and do unbiased reviews like this one.  If you’re interested in supporting my channel please check out the links in the description.  If you enjoyed this video please consider subscribing, and as always, thanks for watching the hookup!

Locks Tested:
Kwikset 916 (My personal pick): https://amzn.to/2VmUKLi
Yale Assure (Best Overall Value): https://amzn.to/38Z6WWl
Wyze Lock: https://wyze.com/wyzelock.html
Kwikset 914: https://amzn.to/390T0va
Alfred DB2: https://amzn.to/2ThU4Ea
Follow me on Twitter: @TheHookUp1
Support my channel:
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thehookup

Music by www.BenSound.com

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