Tile Mate review: A great key finder under $30

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Tile may have ushered in its fancy Tile Pro series, featuring stylishly designed key finders that promise loud alarms and a 200-foot range so that your keys will never be left behind again. But it continues to sell the Tile Mate, which remains an excellent alternative if you don't want to pay $35 for either the Tile Sport or Tile Pro.

The $20 Tile Mate may not have the bells and whistles of its more expensive siblings, but it still does an excellent job of keeping tabs on your keys. What's more a two-way find feature lets you use the Tile Mate to locate your missing phone. It's the key finder to get if you're not looking to spend more than $30 on a gadget.

Update (April 27)

Since we posted this review of the Tile Mate, Tile dropped the price from $25 to $20, making it an even better value. If you're a Comcast customer, Tile just struck a partnership with the cable and internet provider that lets you locate your keys using the Xfinity X1 Voice Remote. Just ask where your keys are (or any object you've attached the Tile Mate to), and its last known location will appear on your TV screen. Comcast says the service, which requires the Xfinity Home app for your smartphone, will expand to all Xfinity internet customers later this year.

Tile Mate Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ModelTile MateTile SportTile Style
Size1.3 x 13. x 0.2 inches1.6 x 1.6 x 0.2 inches1.5 x 1.5 x 0.2 inches
Listed RangeUp to 100 feetUp to 200 feetUp to 200 feet
Tested Range68 feet on average160 to 170 feet on average160 to 170 feet on average
Loudness Claimed88 decibels98 decibels98 decibels
CompatibilityAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
ColorsWhiteBlackWhite and Gold

What's New with the Tile Mate?

The biggest change from previous versions of Tile's key trackers is the Tile Mate's size. At 1.3 x 1.3 x 0.2 inches, the Tile Mate is noticeably smaller than the 1.5 x 1.5 x 0.2-inch Tile Gen 2, which makes this model a better fit on your key chain. The Tile Mate boasts an 88-dB alarm, which is a fraction quieter than the 90-dB alarm on the older version, though not anything I noticed during my testing. (The newer Sport and Style trackers are noticeably louder, as is the Chipolo Plus.) You can choose from among four alert noises with the Tile Mate, and the button on the Mate that you press when you want to find your phone is now outlined in gray, making it easier to spot.

MORE: Best Key Finder

Incidentally, Tile includes another tracker in its portfolio, the card-shaped Tile Slim, which is 0.9 millimeters thin, making it better-suited for tucking into a wallet. The Slim has the same features as the Tile Mate, though its range was more limited. (We lost contact with the Tile Slim at 48 feet on average, while the Mate's range was around 68 feet in our tests.)

How the Tile Mate Performs

As with other key trackers, you attach the Tile Mate to your key chain — or any other object you don't care to lose — and use Bluetooth to connect the Mate with your phone. A Tile app on your Android or iOS device lets you sound the alarm on any object you've misplaced. Tap the Find button in the app, and the Tile will start playing a jaunty tune until you tap the Find button again. A map built into the app displays the last location where your Tile was logged, though don't expect a detailed view.

Tile has revamped its companion app, which you use to control any of its various trackers. The new look is a bit cluttered for my taste, loaded down with tips and options when really, the main purpose of the app is to reunite you with your lost stuff.

The Tile Mate's range remains among the best of the key finders we've tested. I was routinely able to sound an alert as far 74 feet away (though I had trouble hearing the alarm past 55 feet in a crowded city park). The Mate was a little erratic when re-establishing a connection with my phone, but typically, I could reconnect within 40 to 50 feet of the tracker.

If you can't find your Tile Mate (and, more importantly, the object it's attached to), you can mark the device as lost. You'll get a notification should the Tile Mate ever come back within range, and a crowd-finding feature lets other users help you locate any missing objects, though that feature depends on other Tile-toting users being honest, and located in the vicinity.

Tile's two-way tracking feature, added a few years ago, is still a welcome part of the Tile Mate. Just press the lone center button on the Mate, and your phone will sound an alarm that keeps playing until you unlock the phone or launch the Tile app.

As with past Tiles, the Tile Mate's battery should last about a year before it runs out of juice. You can't replace the battery, but I'm less bothered about this than I was with the original Tile, as the company has a fairly robust Tile replacement program in place. Prior to the battery on your current device going kaput, Tile sends you an email with an offer to upgrade to a new device at a significant discount. (You get 50 percent off when you upgrade, as of this writing.) It's a bit of a hassle not being able to pop in a $4 battery instead, but at least Tile's regular hardware updates mean you can generally expect an improved version of the device.

The Tile Mate still lacks a geofencing feature, which would send alerts to your phone whenever you're out of range of your keys. So if you consider that a must-have feature, look to the similarly priced TrackR Pixel.

Bottom Line

From its smaller design to its dependable performance, Tile's latest device remains at the head of the key-tracking class. While we'd welcome the addition of geofencing capabilities, the features the Tile Mate offers will help you find missing keys quickly.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.