“Where the heck did I leave my keys?”
That’s the question that the Tile ring-attached Bluetooth tracker set out to help you solve when it first launched more than five years ago. But Tile has grown since then, with its current lineup consisting of three models — the Tile Pro, Tile Mate and Tile Slim — making “What the heck Tile should I buy?” the more pressing question these days.
The answer, for the moment, may be to wait and see what Apple announces at its Sept. 10 product event. In addition to new iPhones, Apple is reportedly planning to introduce a key finder of its own that could seriously threaten Tile's dominance of this category. Tile's different trackers may still be more compelling than whatever it is Apple introduces, but we won't know for certain until after Apple's big product event.
Until then, here’s a closer look at Tile’s different trackers, and which one is best for your needs.
Shape, size and color
The first difference you’re likely to spot among the three Tiles is the basic build of each. The different shapes tell you a lot about what each Tile is meant to do.
The smallest of the three models is the Tile Mate, which measures 1.4 x 1.4 x 0.24 inches. That’s a square about the length of the long side of an SD card and the same thickness as maybe three SD cards stacked together. The Tile Pro isn’t a huge amount bigger and thicker at 1.6 x 1.6 x 0.26 inches, but it is more than twice the weight -- 0.5 ounces to the Mate’s 0.2.
|1.4 x 1.4 x 0.24 inches
|2.1 x 2.1 x 0.09 inches
|1.6 x 1.6 x 0.26 inches
|Up to 150 feet
|Up to 100 feet
|Up to 300 feet
|Water Resistance Rating
Coming from a whole different shape and size is the Mate Slim. It’s a taller and wider 2.1-inchsquare body with a tradeoff in thickness compared to other Tiles, coming in at only 0.09 inches — just a bit thicker than most credit cards. The idea here is that the Slim is meant to slide into your wallet or stick onto your phone, tablet or laptop without bulking things up too much. It also lacks the keyring hole found on the Tile Mate and Tile Pro.
MORE: Best Key Finders
The last piece of aesthetic difference to mull over when it comes to the Tile models is color. Don’t worry, there aren’t too many options here: Tile Pro comes in black or white, while Mate and Slim come only in white.
Ring volume, wireless range and other features
All of the Tiles generally work about the same: You pair them with the Tile app on your smartphone, and when you realize what it was that you’ve chosen to attach your Tile to is missing, you can use the app, available for both Android and iOS, to remotely trigger the Tile to ring and audibly lead you to it.
It's important to note is that each of the three Tile models have different ring volumes. The Pro is the loudest (128db), the Mate is just below it (119db) and the Slim is by far the quietest (82db). Our testing showed that the Pro and Mate are both plenty loud, but in order to get any Tile to ring, it needs to be within Bluetooth wireless range of your phone.
Bluetooth range is another important difference between the trio of trackers. Mate Pro brings largest listed range at 300 feet. Mate is half of that, 150 feet, while Slim promises only 100 feet.
As we’ve found when testing these trackers, real-world range tends to fall short of what’s listed, thanks to physical obstacles like walls or doors and interference from other wireless devices. Still, our testing bares out that the Tile Pro has a much longer range than the Mate.
If your missing Tile is completely out of Bluetooth range, the Tile app has a community feature that allows the device’s location to be anonymously detected and sent to you after coming into range with another Tile user’s smartphone. Though the feature is available on all Tile models, the Pro’s larger wireless range makes it the device with the best odds of being found by random passersby.
Something else the two main Tile designs differ in are water resistance ratings. Tile Slim is IP57, basically meaning it can withstand strong splashes or jets of water, while Mate and Pro, at IP55, are rated only for normal splashes.
All three Tile models are guaranteed under warranty for one year of battery life. But when that window of time passes, you’ll find out that the Pro and Mate run on standard, replaceable CR2032 and CR1632 batteries — the kind you can buy for a few bucks and replace yourself.
Thanks to its thin design, the Slim has a built-in, non-swappable battery, requiring you to buy a new tracker when the old one runs out of juice. Tile does try to make that a little easier with its reTile program, where customers, a year after any Tile purchase, are given the option to buy a new Tile (Pro excluded) at a 40 percent discount.
If the lowest-priced Tile Bluetooth finder you can get to stick on your keyring is all you’re looking for here, the Tile Mate is your pick; it’s $25 compared to the Tile Slim’s and Tile Pro’s respective $30 and $35 price tags.
For $5 more than the Mate, you can pay for the thinner and more wallet-friendly Slim, but you’ll be missing out on Bluetooth range and, considering its low speaker volume, potentially missing out ever finding it even when you ring it.
The Tile Pro has all the same characteristics of the Mate but just does everything better. Enough better to warrant an extra $10? If you’ve got a big house and a tendency to leave your keys behind, the answer could be yes.
Tile lets you buy multiple Pro and Mate trackers in bundles, which includes discounted per tracker prices. (A two-pack of the Tile Pro, for example, costs $60 instead of the $70 it would run you to buy two trackers separately.) Tile also bundles the Mate with the Slim in a $70 package that includes four mate trackers, and as of this writing at least, you can buy a bundle that packages the Tile Pro with the Slim, too.
Bottom Line: Get the Tile Pro
Some good news if you’re trying to decide which Tile to buy: having tested most key finders, we think Tile makes the best trackers overall. Whatever you pick, you’re likely to end up with a dependable device.
That said, anyone looking to keep tabs on their wallet would do well with the Tile Slim, provided they don’t mind the limited range and lack of replaceable battery. The best value overall is the Tile Mate, thanks to its low price tag. But if you want the loudest key finder with the best range, pay the extra $10 for the Tile Pro.
Credits: Tom's Guide
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Daniel Bean is a freelance writer with years of experience whose articles have appeared in Tom's Guide. He has previously worked for LinkedIn, Yahoo News, and the Observer, as well as TripleByte, Circa, Inverse, CBS, and ABC. Currently, he is full-time content lead for Mixpanel's blog, The Signal, writing about innovators and analytics.