Best and Worst Wireless Key Finders 2018

Product Use case Rating
Tile Pro Series Best Wireless Key Finder 9
Tile Mate Best Key Finder Value 8
TrackR Pixel Best Key Finder with Replaceable Battery 7

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)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)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.

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  • syl4
    Thank you for the advice on the keyfinders! Now I need one small enough to attach to my glasses so I can find them in order to read all your advice!!! ;)
  • bodkan101
    I'm using Finderator on Android, it's not tracking or fancy stuff but using Bayesian search theory to optimize the "classic" search by walking and looking
  • syl4
    Anonymous said:
    I'm using Finderator on Android, it's not tracking or fancy stuff but using Bayesian search theory to optimize the "classic" search by walking and looking

    My husband found my glasses in the freezer in the garage--now what was the probability of that!!?
  • realmadmartian
    The one feature I most want is the croudsource feature for tracking lost luggage. Which finder has the largest network of users? And how close is second place?
  • harmonyhearsey
    Anonymous said:

    Hey PhilipMichaels would you be able to do a review on the Orbit Bluetooth range? They have Bluetooth trackers for your Keys, Wallet and even one for your glasses!
  • metesting001
    Thanks for the product feature explanation. Tile Mate is very good product. Many of like to use .
  • ablang
    I need one of these too. My family keeps misplacing at least 1 of the iPad Minis in the house every now and then.
  • realmadmartian
    So, I tried the following four methods and here are my comments:

    1. throw an extra phone in the suitcase and use "find my phone"
    2. Trackr Pixel
    3. Pebblebee Finder
    4. Tile Pro (Style & Sport)

    The "extra phone" theory did not work. The extra phone needs access to both LTE and GPS at the same time while it's buried in your suitcase. Also your main phone has to have access to LTE. It's rare during travel that all three occur at the same time. Also, I found the extra phone needed to be rebooted occasionally to be found - not sure why.

    The Trackr Pixel clearly has the best Android app - the only one that tells you how close you are to the device. It is also the smallest and lightest of the devices and it lights up - which none of the others do. Were it not for the fact that the Trackr only works in the same room as your phone (even with doors open - nowhere near the advertised range) it would be my device of choice. That said, I decided not to return it as it will be useful for finding things in the home.

    The Pebblebee Finder easily had the weakest Android app of the bunch. It is also the largest and heaviest of the devices. However, it does look cool - nice design, though too heavy. It has the same range problem as the Trackr Pixel - same room only, won't detect it until you're through the doorway. Due to having three things I didn't like about it - the app being the biggest issue - I returned it. They REALLY need to work on their Android app.

    And lastly, the Tile Pro. Easily worked across three rooms in the house, which the other two did not. Tile Pro wins range by so much that it's really the only choice for travel. It also has the largest network for crowdfinding. The app is ok - doesn't show distance like the Trackr app. You can't change the battery - which really stinks. The Style is slightly smaller and lighter than the Sport. Only get the Sport if you like the looks and it will be visible - otherwise the Style is more practical.

    In conclusion, I recommend Tile Pro for travel and Trackr Pixel for finding things in the house (keys, remotes, etc)

    Note that I sometimes couldn't find ANY device when right next to it - I had to reboot the phone and all was well. This was the phone's fault, not the device, but be aware of that if it happens. I think my phone was conserving battery by turning off bluetooth when not in use. I suspect this is the cause of a lot of 1-star reviews for all devices. Since I had three different manufacturer's devices "failing" at once, I knew it had to be the phone.
  • davidjdumont
    Tile "RETILE" replacement program is only 8% WOW big discount
    I bought 12 of these for my family and in speaking to TILE you can only
    replace the ones registered with one email account !!! it works but the cost
    is on the border of ....... well what can I say it sucks
  • jasonnet
    In the last year I've been pickpocketed twice on my train commute. I'm wondering which product(s) would be best to deal with that. This use case is of course more complex than just tracking lost keys.

    I typically have multiple vital objects: keys, (one or probably two) phone(s), man wallet. They need to all stay together with me. The alarm needs to go off before the errant object gets very far away in these fairly crowded environments. Pickpockets will do things like turning off phones fairly quickly or throwing away any obvious tag. It's unlikely that more than one object will be taken at once. At least one object that stays near me needs to alert me of an object getting away.
  • wheatism
    Whilst I am a Tile Pro user I should point out it is far from great.
    1. The map function currently shows my keys as sitting in the UK when in fact they are beside me in pretty useless! (Yes I have auto update on). I find the view on a map is rarely accurate unless I kill the app and reload it, and turnm off and on bluetooth.
    2. Tile app is a huge battery drain (iOS 11 on iphone 6)
    3. Their support is one of the worst. I emailed a problem (again about maps) and they answered a different question. It was a "copy/paste" answer to something irrelevant. When I followed this up I was thanked for the feedback and they closed my ticket without any fx or explanation. Grrr
    4. On iOS you have to have Apples Maps installed, the Tile app is too dumb to let you use Google Maps or any other map app. This is specific to Tile and not iOS as other apps let you choose
    5. Expensive as another poster said, the "retile" discount is minuscule.
    Summary: I will NOT renew or replace my tiles. So they "may" be the best out there, but they fall far from what should be expected for the money.
  • jwieczerzak
    While the tile may be the best choice, it’s 1 year battery life, poor customer service and limited discount for replacements make Tole a very expensive choice. The devices are $35 each and $25 annual replacement cost mean that you will be spending hundreds of dollars to find your keys a few times. I suspect that when the novelty wears off and people see the cost of maintaining these devices is very costly, most will abandon the product. Not the best endorsement for a product...
  • signupjunk70
    If you lose your stuff at the bottom of your purse or in your house, great. but if you leave stuff behind ... good luck! you'll never find it. the selling point of crowd sourcing is absolute BS and doesn't work. Twice now the Tile product has failed me and cost me a lot of money to replace the lost items.
  • John Kiser
    Anonymous said:
    Here are the best Bluetooth and RF tracking devices for finding lost keys, wallets, phones or anything else that is easily misplaced.

    Best and Worst Wireless Key Finders : Read more

    Frankly I don't think the stuff needs to be replaceable, but the fact you cannot recharge the tile is absolute freaking garbage period. It just leads to plastic and a lot of extra junk and waiting for no reason. Tile while a decent product needs a better design, user rechargable battery (even if it's just wireless charging like a smartwatch uses) or something. They try and lock you into a wasteful and costly yearly thing.