Way back in October 2015, security specialist Yale announced a collaboration with Nest Labs to develop a keyless smart lock named Linus. Delayed numerous times and subsequently rebranded, the $249 Nest x Yale Lock has finally arrived. It joins an expanded smart home range that now includes a home alarm, the Nest Secure, a smart door bell, the Nest Hello and, of course, the excellent thermostats, smoke alarms and security cameras upon which Nest has built its reputation.
You could say that the delays in getting the lock to market are beneficial – there are now a plethora of devices that it can play with. But two and a half years on from the reveal, the smart lock marketplace looks very different. Most notable is that Yale’s parent company, Assa Abloy, made the decision to snap up smart lock specialist August, whose third-generation Smart Lock impressed us greatly last year. That move positions Nest and Yale as indirect competitors, and this collaboration a somewhat curious proposition.
Stylish exterior, poor internal design and components lack Nest’s usual polish
While the Nest X Yale Lock outer carton certainly advertises both sides as equals in the creation of the device, opening the box reveals a heavier Yale influence. The lock and its accessories are well packaged, but the unboxing lacks the premium experience you anticipate from Nest.
Thankfully, the lock itself is beautifully designed and finished. A sleek, but comfortingly heavyweight touchscreen keypad replaces the traditional key mechanism on the door front. Its design is consistent with newer devices in the Yale family, like the Assure Lock SL, but thanks to a slimmer, taller form factor, it’s certainly more elegant than its predecessors.
Sadly, while the keypad delivers a touch of modernity to the outside of your front door, you won’t escape having to hang a huge lock and automatic turning mechanism to its rear. Powered by four double AA batteries, Yale’s designers have done their best to hide the guts of the lock in a suitably premium housing – but there’s a lot of kit to pack in. At 7 by 2.8 inches, the rear housing is roughly 50 percent taller than the August Smart Lock, with a black plastic battery cover that is eye-catching for all the wrong reasons.
It’s also a bigger job to install than August’s locks, which conveniently fit over your existing deadbolt. Yale includes detailed, step-by-step installation instructions which are simple enough for most to follow. Drill guides are also included, in case you need to prepare holes for a brand-new door.
The lock’s exterior is beautifully designed and finished, adding style and elegance to your front door.
We weren’t impressed with the deadbolt and internal components supplied with the Nest x Yale Lock. Most deadbolts support a simple adjustment mechanism that allow the bolt length to be extended or retracted to fit your door. Some designs adjust neatly with a simple twist. However, this lock uses a spring-loaded pin that we found to be surprisingly poor quality in a $249 device. The mechanism frequently jammed and simply lacked the precision and quality we expect from a Nest-branded line.
A poorly cut internal screw thread on the right side of the keypad meant that it was impossible to secure it to the rear mechanism. Elsewhere, an off-the-shelf pin connector, which is near impossible to remove without yanking multiple wires out of the socket, was a disappointing choice.
In fact, we were so surprised by the difficulty we had installing the lock that we took the step of requesting a second review unit, in case the first we’d received was faulty. Again, we found the deadbolt to be stiff when adjusting, and the lock itself to be awkward to fit. On this unit, the cam bar (the long pin that turns the latch) had sheered off and fell out when we tried to install the lock housing.
You may expect low quality internals from a cheap $20 lock picked up from your local big box retailer, but not from Nest and certainly not from a product that’s been over two years in the making. Perhaps the story here is more “Nest minus Yale”?
Once you’ve got the lock installed and you start working with Nest’s side of the partnership, life gets a lot easier.
The good news is that once you’ve got the lock installed and you start working with Nest’s side of the partnership, life gets a lot easier. If you wish to connect to your lock while away from home, you’ll need the Nest Connect accessory (available with the lock at $279 or separately at $69). When plugged in to a nearby power outlet, Nest Connect allows you to lock and unlock your door from any location, provide passcodes for family and friends, and receive notifications when the lock is used. It’s a recommended choice if you want to get the most from your investment.
Steps to connect the lock to your Nest account and set up passcodes for family and guests are aided by voice prompts from the lock itself and guided instructions from Nest smartphone app.
Simple to operate, with surprisingly fewer features than competitors
Once you’re up and running, you can explore the features of the Nest X Yale Lock. It’s a job that won’t take too long, as there are fewer to check out than August’s smart locks. But what’s available works well. Tap your passcode (4-8 digits supported) on the keypad to open the lock or hold a button in the Nest app if you prefer (we did). To lock the door, touch the Yale logo on the rear housing, manually turn, or enable automatic locking in the Nest app, which activates after 10 seconds, one minute, or five minutes as preferred.
As you’d expect, the lock works seamlessly with Nest’s Home/Away Assist feature, automatically locking the door when you’re away, but unlike August’s devices, you won’t find an automatic unlocking feature available, which is a surprise. Not even when used in conjunction with a Nest Hello smart doorbell, which supports facial recognition. At this point, there’s no Google Home integration either, and if your smart home is packed with a Z-Wave or Zigbee kit that you’re hoping to connect, forget about it. Nest x Yale is almost an island, with one exception – Nest Secure owners can enjoy the convenience of their alarm being automatically deactivated when the door is unlocked. Bearing in mind that this device has been three years in development, the lack of features and integrations is disappointing.
The mechanism frequently jammed and simply lacked the precision and quality we expect from a Nest-branded line.
On the bright side, there are fewer features that can fail (August Home Smart Lock owners will relate), which means that Nest x Yale is both simple to operate and reliable to use. We found remote locking and unlocking of the door to be almost instant. Sending passcodes to guests is quick and easy, with flexible options for scheduling, activation, and expiry of up to 20 codes. Unlike other smart locks, the keypad means there’s no need for them to download and install the Nest app for access.
While it may take a little time for family and guests to get used to life without a metal key, there’s undoubted convenience in doing so. It’s a great option for older kids returning home from school, house cleaners, baby sitters and Airbnb guests alike, taking away the worry of lost or stolen keys. Of course, those same features can be delivered far more cheaply with an older-style keypad lock, but without the style, simplicity (once installed), and elegance of the Nest x Yale Lock.
The Nest x Yale Lock ships with a 2-year limited warranty, and on the evidence of two samples we received from Nest, you may well need it.
Having eagerly anticipated the fruits of the Nest x Yale partnership, the reality is that three years of development have resulted in a stylish and elegant lock that ultimately fails to live up to its billing. Pricier and bulkier than competitors but with fewer features, this lock may well be a reasonable upgrade for those heavily invested in the Nest ecosystem. But a long development cycle, limited integration with Nest’s own product lines, and fewer features than some Yale Real Living locks gives us cause for concern. Proceed with caution.
Is there a better alternative?
The August Smart Lock (currently $199 with August Connect accessory) is more compact than Nest x Yale and offers more features, including automatic unlocking, open-door alerts plus integration with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant. It’s big brother, August Smart Lock Pro ($279 with Connect), is bulkier but adds Z-Wave Plus and Apple HomeKit support.
How long will it last?
While Nest has a solid track record of supporting its products, the partnership with Yale has yet to be proven. We’re concerned this experiment, dogged by a long development cycle and limited success in execution, may well turn out to be a problem child, benefitting from limited love on either side of the relationship.
Should you buy it?
Even as Nest fans, we’d pass on the Nest x Yale lock and go with a competitor. Should Nest build out the lock’s features and integrations (with third-parties as well as its own products) our stance may soften. But at this point, the Nest x Yale Lock is a beautiful, but ultimately basic, choice.
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