Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt review: Hub-free for a simpler smart home

Our take: An excellent lock for Ring users, but otherwise pretty standard

Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt
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Stalwart lock-maker Schlage (pronounced shleg) rounds out its dominance of the smart lock space with the Encode, its fourth entry into securing your door with smarts.

Following on from the Schlage Connect (Zigbee and Z-Wave versions) and the Schalge Sense (HomeKit version), the Schalge Encode is a Wi-Fi lock, requiring nothing but your internet connection to work. This makes it the perfect entry-level smart lock for someone who wants a smart lock but not necessarily the whole kit and caboodle smart home.

It's also an excellent companion to the Ring video doorbell, and will pair with the camera to let you lock or unlock your door while talking to a visitor at your front door through the Ring app.

Alternative: Lockly Vision review

However, Schalge hasn't really upped the design and innovation here, just slapping some smarts on to its existing keypad locks. And while there is a traditional and contemporary option that will fit most door decor, this isn't going to win any awards in the looks department.

This lock ticks most of the boxes - remote unlocking, keyed-access, voice control, good integrations, auto-locking, strong security, up to 100 access codes - but there's nothing truly exciting here, most specifically no auto-unlock.

If you happen to live in an Amazon Key City, however, you can pair this with a smart camera and get Amazon packages delivered inside your home. Whether that's exciting and innovative or just plain dumb, is up for debate.

Schlage Encode's Wi-Fi lock is made for the smart home lite

Schlage Encode: Design and features

The Encode is a full deadbolt replacement lock, which means you completely take out your old lock and replace it with this. There are two parts, the front facing keypad and the rear housing that contains all the electronics and mechanics.

It's a party up front but a mess behind. While the folks at Schlage clearly have decades of experience designing a nice looking lock for the outside of your door, when it comes to the internals, all bets are off.

The "housing" for the electronics and batteries is huge, bulky and has barely any correlation to the outside design. Considering you spend more of your time inside your house than out, it's what you're going to be looking at the most, and that's unfortunate.

But also, not unusual. It's like all the traditional door lock manufacturers got together and developed a standard - that smart door lock mechanisms should be giant, black and ugly. I know there's a lot to cram in there, but if Simplisafe can develop a slimline lock, and Danalock and August can at least put some thought into what it's going to look like inside, it doesn't feel like too much to ask to do away with this unfortunate style.

On the front, however, things are more aesthetically pleasing. There are two trim styles, the modern, straight lined Century and the classic, curvy stylings of the Camelot. The Century comes in Matt Black or Satin Nickel and the Camelot in Aged Bronze or Satin Nickel.

Why aren't all smart door locks like this? Because Wi-Fi is a huge battery drain

We tested the Camelot Satin Nickel, and, as it replaced a Schlage satin nickel door lock, the Encode looked right at home on our front door.

Feature-wise, the big one here, as you would expect, is Wi-Fi. While it uses Bluetooth to communicate when you're nearby (so you can still get in if the power is out or the internet is down), if you want to control it away from home, there's no need to plug in a separate hub or pay for an additional piece of hardware as you do with every other smart lock. Instead, you can control it remotely just using your wireless router and your smart phone.

So, why aren't all smart door locks like this? Because Wi-Fi is a huge battery drain, and while the Encode takes 4 AA batteries, just like most locks, it's likely we'll be replacing them a lot more frequently. Schalge promises 6 months, based on use. We'll see.

Schlage Encode's Wi-Fi lock is made for the smart home lite

Otherwise, Encode features a fingerprint resistant touchscreen keypad and a keyed lock - which is uncommon among most full-replacement smart door locks and is a welcome alternative to having to resort to some of the tricks other locks employ if you wait until its too late to change your battery. Although it still leaves you open to all the security issues surrounding physical keys (just don't put one under the potted plant... please).

It has a built-in alarm that goes off if the door detects it's been tampered with and you can assign digital keys with various levels of access for up to 100 people simultaneously, as well as add the door into your smart home routines using Amazon Alexa, and lock it using your voice through Alexa or Google. It also works with Ring's video doorbell and is a Certified Commercial Grade 1 lock (so it's very secure).

Schlage Encode's Wi-Fi lock is made for the smart home lite

Schlage Encode: Install and app

Installation is very straightforward, with surprisingly few steps. You just unscrew your old deadbolt and slide this one in. Pop in the bolt, install the strike plate, screw in the backplate and connect the housing with a short cable. Then you secure it with screws and insert the batteries.

The included instructions are a bit bare, but the Schalge Home app has a very detailed step-by-step walk through, complete with short videos. Where it gets a bit tricky is the app connection.

Schlage's Home app is easy to use but a bit too simple at times, especially when it comes to setting up those much touted smart home integrations.

The app walks you through connecting to your Wi-Fi and calibrating the lock (letting it know if it's locked or unlocked). You then set pin codes (which you can also do on the keypad using the included master codes) and enable or disable auto-locking and the built-in alarm.

From here, you can stick with Schalge Home and connect the lock to Alexa for voice control (both lock and unlock, the latter requiring you set up a pin in the Alexa app) and to add to routines, or to Google Assistant (lock only).

Schlage Encode's Wi-Fi lock is made for the smart home lite

However, if you want to use it in conjunction with the Ring Video Doorbell or Amazon Key (Amazon's in-home delivery service), you have to use the Amazon Key app - and it can't be connected to both apps at the same time.

The Amazon Key app has mostly the same functionality as the Schlage Home app, however, just a different UI, but once it's connected to this you can't use it with Google, although you can connect to Alexa using a Skill.

We preferred the Schlage Home interface, and unless you want the Ring or Amazon Key functionality it's the more robust option. But both apps let you lock and unlock the door from the home screen, and view a history of who has locked or unlocked the door (including if it was done manually), although you can only enable the alarm with the Schlage Home app.

Schlage Encode's Wi-Fi lock is made for the smart home lite

Schlage Encode: Smart home compatibility

The Encode is designed primarily for users who don't want to deal with hubs, so it doesn't work with SmartThings, Wink, HomeKit or any eco-system that isn't entirely cloud-based. If you use those systems, Schalge Connect or Schalge Sense are the Schalge locks for you.

The best reason to buy this lock is if you have a Ring Video doorbell

It's really the "smart home lite" lock, ideal for a user who wants a smart door lock and maybe a security camera or video doorbell and not much else. Or for the person who has built their entire smart home around a cloud-based platform like Alexa and has no Z-Wave devices.

With Alexa you can add your door lock to Routines and have it lock at night (unlocking is not supported), or you can just ask the voice assistant to lock or unlock (unlock requires a pin code). You can also use the Alexa app to lock or unlock the device, which you can't do with Google Home app. In fact, all you can do with Google is lock with voice, it doesn't support any other uses.

The best reason to buy this lock is if you have a Ring Video doorbell and want to unlock it while talking to someone at your door. It's one of three locks supported for Ring integration, and while you have to use it through the Amazon Key app to get this function, it's a great addition to the doorbell, you can just tap a button to lock or unlock it while you're talking to someone at your door.

Amazon Key itself is a program that "securely" allows its drivers to place packages in your home using a combination of an approved lock (such as the Encode) and an approved camera. You don't need to sign up for or even live in a city where Key exists to use the app, and if you add a camera you can see a snapshot of who opens the door in the app - which is a handy security feature - and would be great for checking the kids got home, and that they came home alone - something a key code doesn't tell you.

Schlage Encode's Wi-Fi lock is made for the smart home lite

Schlage Encode: In use

The best thing about this lock for us was how well it fit in with our existing hardware (which is all Schlage). While it's still obviously a keypad, it blends in well with the design of the door's handle, and because the screen is a light color it doesn't stand out like some keypads we've tested.

Locking and unlocking with key codes was simple, and we reliably got an alert telling us how the door had been locked and by whom (or if it was manually unlocked) - great for keeping tabs on family members or service people.

We also liked how the Schlage Home app not only prompts you to send a message to the person when you assign a key to them, but also composes a detailed explanation of how exactly to use the lock.

Locking and unlocking remotely was also fast and reliable, although it would take some time - 30 seconds or so - for the app to register the request and send the updated status back to the app.

There's a quick lock button (which you can turn off) and the auto-lock feature worked reliably, although there's still the issue that it won't know if it's shut or not and therefore you could be locking a door that is wide open (a number of other smart locks get around this with a small door sensor).

Schlage Encode is Wi-Fi lock for the rest of us

Integration with Ring doorbell worked very well, and we were able to easily unlock the door when a visitor arrived with one tap on a new blue lock icon that showed up in the Ring app. We never lost connection with the visitor and the door unlocked smoothly.

Our biggest gripe comes back to that ugly mechanism housing. Not only is it ugly, but it is loud. Really loud, and grinding. A lot of smart locks are loud, it's another one of those character traits we'd like to see changed. And while I can see why a retrofit door lock solution might need to be loud, one built from the ground up to be smart seems like a missed opportunity to have finessed this in the design process.

Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt
A great, simple lock that anyone can install and set up - no hub required. The smart home integrations are a little tricky, however, and clearer instructions would be helpful. Connecting it to your Ring Video Doorbell is excellent, and as an easy solution for remotely unlocking your door from your video doorbell, it hits the mark. But there is nothing remarkable here in terms of style and innovation.
  • Traditional look
  • No hub needed
  • Integrates well with Ring doorbells
  • Works with Alexa
  • Works with keys
  • Auto locks
  • Indoor mechanism loud and bulky
  • Google can only unlock
  • 2.4 GHz only
  • No auto-unlock
  • No door sense
  • No IFTTT

TAGGED    Smart Locks    smart home

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