We’ve tested more than a dozen key finders for weeks at a time — indoors and outdoors — and the $35 Tile Sport or Tile Style stand out from a crowded field of Bluetooth-powered trackers. Both part of the Tile Pro Series, the Sport and Tile feature the best range of any tracker, a loud alarm to help you find your keys and stylish designs.
From left to right, the Tile Sport, Tile Style and Tile Mate (Credit: Tom's Guide)If you'd prefer to spend less on a key finder, Tile's $25 Mate remains a good value option, matching the consistent performance of its more expensive siblings, albeit with less range and not as loud an alarm.
None of the Tiles have a replaceable battery, requiring you to update every year through Tile's battery replacement program, which sells you a new key tracker at a reduced cost.
If you'd prefer that your key tracker has a replaceable battery, your best option is the $25 TrackR Pixel. It's cheaper and more compact than the $30 TrackR Bravo, and it comes with a ring of LED lights that can aid in your searches for misplaced keys.
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We've reviewed two new key finders. The best of the bunch is Orbit's stylish-looking key finder, which rivals the Tile Sport and Tile Style for looks but offers a replaceable battery. (The battery is much easier to replace than the TrackR Pixel's, too, provided you use Orbit's provided tool.) The downside to Orbit is that we had a hard time reconnecting with the key finder after losing its signal, making it difficult to locate our keys when we left them behind.
We're less enthusiastic about Lapa's key finder, due to a poorly designed app and annoying notifications.
What Key Finders Cost
The average key finder costs between $20 and $30. A few, like the Tile Pro series, cost $35, but offer longer range than standard key finders. At $50, the Pixie Point is 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. Non-replaceable batteries should promise a year of battery life and offer a clearly defined replacement program for when your device is running low on juice.
Tile's Pro Series introduces 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.
Though it doesn't have the range or the alarm volume of either the Tile Sport or Style, the Tile Mate remains a good option, especially since it costs $10 less than those two 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 a replaceable battery is a must, turn to TrackR's key finders. The Pixel is the better choice over the 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 of the main ways these devices stand out from each other. The Tile Mate and Chipolo Plus do not offer replaceable batteries, 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.
For some shoppers, a non-replaceable battery is a deal-breaker, and we can understand that line of thinking. The batteries that power key finders can be bought on the cheap, and replacing the battery every six months means an extended life for this gadget. That said, in the two years we've been reviewing key finders, we've found that Tile's devices deliver on their promised year of battery life and that the company is diligent about offering you a replacement.
More importantly, each year has introduced improved hardware to Tile's offerings, giving owners a chance to upgrade their key finder. A non-replaceable battery is a drawback, but not as big a one as you might initially think.