Kwikset Signature Series SmartCode touchpad electronic deadbolt review

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kwikset_smartcodeI have four kids, two of which I share with my husband’s ex, at whose household they spend part of the week. Needless to say, there is a constant stream of human comings-and-goings in our household, all to the vulnerability of home security.

Of course, in the mind of a teenager, the lowly house key is afforded very little mind space. This is understandable, when you consider the chemistry final to be taken, the learners permit to be secured, the new girlfriend, and the resultant new job to be acquired in order to take said new girlfriend somewhere other than 7-11 to eat dinner. That’s not even counting all the sleeping in that must be accomplished by teenagers on the weekend. So asking one of our teens to lock the door when they leave the house is like asking a baby to change its own diapers. They just stare blankly as if they’ve never heard of such a device. Sometimes, I find the errant house key in the dryer, clanking about, screaming out for attention.

The result is usually a case of “leave the door open” or “the key is under the mat.” A couple of times, my husband and I have made quite a little show out of pretending to lock the door as we leave the house should we spot any potential ne’er do wells skulking about. It’s silly really. So what I decided to do was call in a bunch of keyless locks for review, considering that a) I’m a technology writer and that’s my job; b) I actually am the perfect person to review such a device considering my lifestyle; and c) keyless entry and remote operation locks are one of the most popular smart home devices around.

I started with this Kwikset model because it’s a nice, entry-level deadbolt that looks great and is not so feature-rich as to be intimidating. For that the nervous part of me wondering what happens when the battery dies, I also wanted to retain the ability to use a key. Of course, I’d already been over all that with Kwikset in an interview I did with them earlier this year, so I’m not sure why I was so trepidatious about losing the ability to use a key. After my (spoiler-alert) positive experience with this Kwikset lock, I can honestly say, I hope to never have to use keys again, and they actually seem a bit archaic and analog to me now. But I digress as per usual…

My review unit, the  Kwikset SmartCode 910 Contemporary  Deadbolt with Home Connect runs around $234 at retail. I chose the Contemporary form factor with Venetian Bronze finish because I thought it would look best with the lines of our craftsman bungalow. My model includes Z-Wave compatibility to enable the door lock to wirelessly communicate with, say, a home automation system, allowing the user to unlock or lock the door through a web-enabled device to remotely check the door lock status, lock or unlock the door and receive text or email messages when someone comes home. 

Before we proceed, a few specs. For one, this is a motor-driven deadbolt latch, which means you really can lock and unlock it remotely. Kwiskset also has included some of their patented technology that improves security by protecting against lock bumping, an attack technique used to defeat conventional pin and tumbler locks. 

notifyBgSetup was actually very easy to do. I am intimidated by anything having to do with home improvement, and if I had actually purchased this lock from, say, Home Depot, I would probably have tried to get someone to come out and install it. That’s how unhandy I am. That being said, I had nothing to lose, considering my previous deadbolt lock literally had no surviving key. It had to be changed. Worst case, if I couldn’t install the new one then we’d be in the same situation as before, albeit with a big airy hole in the door where the deadbolt used to be.

That being said, I couldn’t have felt stronger or more satisfied after I grabbed my screwdriver, disassembled my old deadbolt, and installed this one. I didn’t have to do any cutting into my door, because the opening required is the same as for a traditional circular deadbolt. My five year old son helped me install it, so you know it’s gotta be easy.

Once you install the deadbolt into your door using the simple instructions, you can go ahead and program two four- to eight-digit codes into the device and adjust a few different options, including the blinking LED indicating lock status, automatic relock after 30 seconds, and the use of beeps to indicate you’ve pressed a button. After installing this lock, I went outside with my little kids and quickly realized I needed to disable the feature that automatically relocks the door after 30 seconds. They go in and out like a bunch of waiters at a restaurant, so it was super inconvenient to have that feature on all the time. By now, the young kids (and maybe the teenagers) know the code, but I still prefer to lock the deadbolt as I choose.

The haptics on the keypad are great. It features nice, cushiony buttons that feel responsive and beep when you push them (unless you disable that, of course). To lock it, you simply press the little lock icon; to unlock, you press your pin and you’re in, easy as that. What I love is that I am never searching my purse for keys and I feel secure knowing that only my family knows these codes and we can change them at any time. To give you plenty of time to change the batteries, a red LED light comes on and blinks when it’s time to start thinking about changing your battery. And if the battery dies, just use your key to get in, old-school style.

Once you program your Kwikset lock into the home network, you can program up to 30 different codes and assign them to different folks, like the housekeeper, dog-sitter, baby sitter, in-laws, etc. My only two criticisms of this lock are aesthetic. I think the interior assembly is a little clunky. I think if it was shorter I would like it better. [Editor’s update: Looks like Kwikset was on the ball with this one, their next iteration, the 914 lock, has a dramatically reduced interior assembly, so check that one out! Our own Michael Riesenback does a good job describing it here.] Secondly, why not give those buttons a little tint to look more like the surrounding Venetian bronze. Sure, they need to light up, but the contrast gives the lock a sort of industrial feel by drawing attention to the numbers.

Other than those two minor gripes, I have to say my family and I all love this lock and couldn’t recommend it more. My teens feel cool, futuristic even, using it. It’s easy to install, can be operated remotely, and lets you say adieu to your keys for the most part.


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