We've tested more than a dozen key finders for weeks at a time — indoors and outdoors — and Tile's trackers routinely finish at the top of our list. We've been particularly impressed with the $35 Tile Sport or Tile Style, both of which have the best range of any tracker, a loud alarm to help you find your keys and stylish designs. If you're looking to save money, the $25 Tile Mate has been a good alternative.
From left to right, the Tile Sport, Tile Style and Tile Mate (Credit: Tom's Guide)And now Tile is shaking things up again by addressing the biggest complaint about its key finders. The new Tile Mate ($25) and Tile Pro ($35) now have replaceable batteries, so you won't have to upgrade to a new Tile every year. We've only had hands-on time with the revamped Tile Mate and new Tile Pro, but both feature louder alarms and greater range than their predecessors. Stay tuned for our full review.
Before Tile added replaceable batteries to its trackers, we recommended TrackR's Pixel as the best option for a key finder with a battery you could swap out. We still think the Pixel is worthwhile if you're looking for a compact key finder. We also like the Pixel's LED light ring that can aid in your search for misplaced keys.
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The biggest shift among key trackers is Tile introducing two new models — a revised Tile Mate and the Tile Pro — that let you replace the battery after a year. Previously, Tile's trackers ran on battery with a year's worth of power; when that battery died, you replaced your Tile, usually via a discount through the company's annual upgrade program.
As we learned in our hands-on time with the Tile Mate and Tile Pro, the new trackers have louder alarms and improved range. They're also slightly larger than their predecessors to accommodate the replaceable battery. And because the back of the new Tile trackers is removable, the latest key finders aren't as water-resistant as their predecessors.
In addition to new trackers, Tile is also introducing a Tile Premium service at a cost of $3 a month or $30 if you sign up for a year. Under Tile Premium, Tile will send you a free battery to replace the one in your Tile Mate or Tile Pro. The service also logs your location history, offers a dedicated text line to customer service and lets you share your Tile with an unlimited number of users. The biggest feature, Smart Alerts, notifies you when you've left your Tile behind at a specified address, but that feature is still in beta.
What Key Finders Cost
The average key finder costs between $20 and $30. A few, like the Tile Pro, cost $35, but offer longer range than standard key finders. At $50 at the time we reviewed it, the Pixie Point has been the most expensive key finder we've reviewed, but it relies on augmented reality to help you find your keys. Note that key finders are often offered at a discount from these prices, especially if you buy multiple trackers.
4 Quick Key Finder Buying Tips
• Range: How far away can you be from your keys while still keeping connected to your phone? Always count on the actual range being less than what key finder makers advertise as walls, doors and other structures can interfere with signals.
• Alarm Sound: Check the decibel rating for the key finder. You'll want a good loud signal of at least 80 to 85 decibels so that you can hear your key finder over any ambient noise. In our testing, we've been impressed by the loudness of both the Tile Pro Series key trackers as well as the Chipolo Plus.
• Other Features: Consider key finders that have two-way finding features, where you can press a button on the key finder to track down your phone. Some key finders also offer digital leash features, where your phone will get an alert if your keys are ever out of range.
• Battery Life: Look up how long the battery will last on your key finder. If it's a replaceable battery, count on about six months, though the latest Tiles promise a year's worth of battery life. Non-replaceable batteries should also last a year and offer a clearly defined replacement program for when your device is running low on juice.
Tile's Pro Series introduced an eye-catching looking to its family of key trackers — black in the case of the Sport and white and gold for the Style — but these two trackers also outperform the competition. They remained connected up to 170 feet in our tests, and a loud alarm helps locate your keys from that distance. The Tile Pro trackers also include the two-way find feature where pressing the Sport or Style can trigger an alarm to help you find your phone. That these trackers are waterproof only adds to their value. The just-released Tile Pro has the same $35 price tag, but offers a replaceable battery along with greater range and a louder alarm.
Though it doesn't have the range or the alarm volume of either the Tile Sport, Style or Pro, the Tile Mate remains a good option, especially since it costs $10 less than those trackers. You're not making too much of a compromise for that lower $25 price tag: the Tile Mate performed consistently in our testing, and its two-way find feature helps you locate a misplaced phone. Some users may balk at a non-replaceable battery, but Tile's upgrade program cuts the cost of replacing your key finder with the latest improvements. If you prefer a replaceable battery, a new Tile Mate offers that feature. It also increases the range from the old Mate, and the alarm is 50 percent louder.
Tile's trackers may now offer replaceable batteries, but don't forget about TrackR and its key finders. The TrackR Pixel is the better choice over the TrackR Bravo, as it's less expensive at $25 and more compact. It also delivered comparable range in our testing. TrackR's key finders can perform inconsistently from device to device, but at least the company continually tweaks and improves its companion app.
How We Test and Rate Key Finders
We put every key finder we review through a series of tests. To test the volume of the alarm, we bury the key finder in a clothes hamper filled with laundry and see how far we can walk away before the alarm becomes inaudible. We also check to how long the alarm sounds before shutting off.
To test range, we go to a public park and leave the key finder behind. We check every 10 feet until we lose the signal or can no longer hear the alarm. We also take note of how quickly the key finder re-establishes a connection with our phone once it's back in range. If a key finder promises a digital leash feature, we walk away, taking note of how long before we receive an out-of-range notification on our phone.
TrackR Bravo (left) and TrackR Pixel (right) (Credit: Tom's Guide)In addition to those tests, we take these factors into consideration when rating key finders.
Design: We consider the size and shape of each proximity sensor. We also look at the ease of inserting a new battery into those devices with replaceable batteries.
App Features:We look at the design of the companion app for each key finder, and consider additional features such as two-way finding capabilities.
Volume: We compare the volume of each key finder's alarm, giving extra consideration to key finders that are louder.
Range: We consider how far away we can get from a key finder before it loses its connection with our phone. We also pay attention to how quickly that connection gets re-established once we're back in range.
Battery Life: We look at how long the batteries powering the devices last, and whether or not you could replace them yourself. Whether or not a key finder features a user-replaceable battery is one way these devices stand out from each other, though Tile is responding to customer demand by adding trackers with replaceable batteries to its product lineup. The Chipolo Plus still lacks a replaceable battery, though, instead offering replacement programs where you can buy a new device at a discounted rate after a year. Other trackers we review — most notably TrackR's line of key kinders — let the user swap out the battery after it dies, which is about six months in most cases.