Yale's Assure smart lock set me free from key anxiety

The convenience of electronic locks are worth the extra cost.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Every month, Engadget features what our editors are currently into, whether it be video games, podcasts or gadgets. These are not official reviews; they’re simply our first-hand experiences. This week, Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar dives into Yale’s Assure smart lock.

What if you could go through life without worrying about carrying your keys and potentially being locked out of the house? That's something I've always dreamed of, but it wasn't possible when I was renting in Brooklyn. These days, though, I've got a bit 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 figured it was a good time to move away from the tyranny of house keys. The last thing we need is to be locked out during a potty emergency.

You've got a few different options: electronic locks with key pads or biometrics, or smart ones that can be controlled via apps. Initially, we were turned off by the latter. Given just how finicky connected devices are plus the potential for remote hacking, app-controlled locks just didn't seem worth the trouble. So we opted for a well-rated electronic lock with a touchscreen pin pad: Yale's Assure Lock. It's a sturdy Grade 2 deadbolt with a key slot, which is helpful if the battery runs out. It also has an upgrade port for turning it into an August smart lock down the line. (Spoiler: that turned out to be very useful.)

Yale Assure Lock
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Installing the Assure Lock on our front door entailed the same process as any other deadbolt. We removed the old lock, installed the included strike plate and took care to make sure the Assure aligned with our door frame properly. It took a bit of fiddling, but eventually my wife was able to wiggle it into place. (And here's where I'll admit that my role in this installation process came mostly in the form of cheerleading, instruction-reading and drink-fetching. I'm the tech guy; my wife enjoys getting her hands dirty with house projects whenever possible.)

Setting up our PIN was a bit more cumbersome, since it involved following very specific instructions from Yale. It's not tough, but it's not exactly intuitive either. I immediately dreaded having to repeat that process whenever we need to set up guest codes. Once we had everything configured, the Assure Lock worked like a charm. I could run to the park with my daughter without fretting about keys, and punching in numbers was simple enough that she was eager to help out. (Gotta get that math training in whenever possible, right?)

While the Assure’s design didn’t bother me much, it’s definitely larger than most deadbolt facades. It practically announces itself as a high tech gadget. Partially, that’s because it still has room for a traditional key. Yale’s Assure Lock SL omits that entirely, and is therefore more compact. So if your aesthetics don’t align with 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 it'd be useful to know if the lock was open or not from my phone, something that would come in handy whenever we had a cat sitter visiting while we were away. So within a week, we installed Yale's smart lock upgrade kit and never looked back.

We still use the Assure's keypad most of the time, but it's been genuinely helpful having a bit more connectivity. Now I can easily change guest codes on the fly, and being able to confirm it's closed remotely is a much needed balm for my anxious dad brain. We've avoided activating Alexa integration — voice control seems like an unnecessary security risk — and we haven't yet connected the Assure to our HomeKit setup. Once we do, though, we’ll be able to see the Yale Lock alongside our Arlo cameras on a single screen.

Yale Assure Lock
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Despite living the smart lock life, I can understand why many people still find them untrustworthy. If there's one thing I've learned about smart home tech over the years, it's that it can all be pretty dumb at times. Security flaws may pop up, the connectivity may fail. But when it comes to security, I'm not too worried about someone trying to hack into my home.

But even if you don't want a connected lock, it's still worth upgrading to an electronic lock with a keypad. After loving the convenience of the Yale Assure so much, we added a simpler model to a rear door, which was a huge help while doing yardwork. Just think about the last time you were locked out. Or, if you've somehow been blessed never to experience that, imagine how annoying being locked out in the cold can be. Maybe it happens at the end of a long day, or at a point when you just really need to use the bathroom. If you had an electronic lock, you'd be inside your home already.

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