Yale Real Living Key Free Touchscreen Deadbolt T1L Review

With more and more home products going the way of automation, it's no surprise that home door locks have joined the crowd. These "smart" locks offer extra security, connectivity and remote capabilities. The Yale Key Free Touchscreen Deadbolt T1L is a cylinderless lock with key code access only on the outside, so that in order to break in, someone will have to figure out your code.

Design

The Key Free Touchscreen Deadbolt looks modern and is pleasing to the eye, with a smooth interface and rounded edges. According to Yale, it's the smallest keypad for a residential Z-Wave-based lock, but it still packs some heft and feels heavy and solid.

The Touchscreen T1L has a rubber gasket to protect its internal parts from the weather, as well as a 9V battery contact at the bottom of the lock as a backup in case its AA batteries die. Because there's no key, and you need a power source to operate the lock, this is a smart addition.

The T1L is offered in three metallic finishes: Satin Nickel, Oil Rubbed Bronze or Polished Brass. The body of the lock does not take up much space on the door, and Yale also sells doorknobs in the same colors for extra "blendability" with your home décor.

As someone used to a typical deadbolt with a key, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the keypad-only design, but I was pleased with how unobtrusive it looked on the outside. The touch screen remains black until you activate it with your hand, and is visible even under bright sunlight.

Installation

Yale's T1L is no more difficult to install than a typical deadbolt. It took me about 25 minutes to get it on a door and powered up. As with most other smart locks, it replaces your traditional deadbolt. Yale provides detailed instructions with helpful diagrams and pictures.

You have to follow audio voice prompts, which can be confusing.

Once the deadbolt is ready to go, it will ask you to create a "master code," as well as program in any other codes you'd like to share to open the lock. You can then program up to 25 different user codes into the lock.

All of the T1L's programming is done manually on the touch screen. You have to follow audio voice prompts, which can be, if not confusing, then certainly a bit tedious. There was no easy way to manage the codes, other than to follow the lock's voice commands through a lengthy menu process to reprogram. Other smart locks, such as the Kwikset Kevo, let you program the lock through a smartphone app.

MORE: Best Smart Locks

To be fair, the T1L does not actually have its own app; it's a stand-alone, independently programmable deadbolt. But if you put the included Z-Wave module into the lock, it will be able to communicate with compatible smart home hubs.

Performance

As a stand-alone lock, the T1L works well. It's nice knowing that you never have to worry about losing a key – your master PIN will always get you into the house. The touch screen's illuminated keypad is easy to see, even in bright light, but you have to tap it to "wake it up."

The lock is very basic to operate. I just had to tap the keypad, enter my 4-8 digit PIN, hit the star button, and the lock would engage. The keypad also allowed for one-touch locking, which I liked, so when you close the door on the way out, simply tapping the touch screen to activate it will automatically lock the door.

Unless you're controlling the Y1L through a smart home system, you can't schedule time constraints – such as for a maintenance-man visit – that would apply to temporary codes on the deadbolt. 

Security

As someone who likes the reassuring, solid click of a manual deadbolt, I was nervous about using Yale's Key Less deadbolt, but I found that it does have its advantages. Cylinderless locks are touted as being more secure than regular deadbolts, because there's no real way for an intruder to jimmy the lock. There's no picking or bumping, and no need to ever re-key.

The lock also has an ANSI/ BHMA Grade 2 rating, the second-highest possible security rating. But unlike the Schlage Connect, the Yale lock lacks an alarm to deter intruders who try to force their way in.

While I might not use the T1L on the only door to my house, the lock's tapered smooth locking mechanism and quick response make it a secure and reliable lock.

But as a battery-operated lock without a key, what happens if the T1L's motorized deadbolt mechanism fails? Yale has a clever answer for that. If the lock's four AA batteries die (for which you would get a warning well in advance), there's a spot at the bottom of the outside lock where you can touch a 9V battery to give just enough power to enter the master code and gain entrance. This shouldn't be too much of a problem, as the AA batteries will last about one full year.

This is reassuring, and undoubtedly secure. While I might not use the T1L on the only door to my house, the lock's tapered bolt, smooth locking mechanism and quick response make it a good, secure and reliable lock.

Smart Home Compatibility

The Yale Touchscreen T1L can be connected to several smart home hubs that have Z-Wave technology, including the Samsung SmartThings, Revolv and Logitech Home Harmony. While the T1L doesn't work with Nest devices, the Yale Linus lock (due out in 2016) will connect with that network.

In addition to locking and unlocking the T1L remotely, you can program the Touchscreen T1L to interact with your home-security, automated-lighting or climate-control systems, depending on the types of smart products you have connected to your hub. For example, you can have your Z-Wave-controlled lights turn on when you get home, or automatically switch on your security camera when the door lock behinds you. You can also schedule the T1L to automatically lock itself at night at the time you usually go to bed, or to automatically unlock whenever your phone gets back into range of the network.

Bottom Line

The Yale Key Less Touchscreen Deadbolt T1L is a sturdy, super-secure lock that is competitively priced compared with other smart-capable deadbolts on the market. The touch-screen keypad entry is convenient, but hooking the T1L up to a Z-Wave hub will allow you to reap the most benefits, giving you remote and automated control of the T1L device. If you want to carry one fewer key with you, the Yale T1L could be a good option.

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