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18 Dec 2020

Can a smart lock keep your home safe? Nuki smart door lock reviewed

We installed Nuki's home security smart gadget to find out if it can add convenience, and peace of mind

If you're keen on the idea of a smart home, a smart lock may have been on your list of additions.

While they haven't grown in popularity as quickly as smart speakers, security cameras, and doorbells, there are a range of models available to choose from that offer some pretty intriguing features.

We installed the Nuki Smart Lock to find out if the benefits outweigh the not insignificant £200 cost.

Kitting out a smart home? Browse our reviews of smart speakers, video doorbells and wireless security cameras.

What is a smart lock?

You might be wondering exactly what smart locks have to offer. In a nutshell, a smart lock is a keyless way to open and close your door. Some work with your existing locks, while others entirely replace the one you have. The different types include:

  • Keyless locks - these smart locks have a pin-pad included and can work with your existing night latch or include one for you to fit. You can often enter with the pin, a card, or tag.
  • Smartphone connected locks - locking and unlocking is usually done via your smartphone by a swipe, or by pressing a virtual button to enter your home. Sometimes you can also use a fob, card or keypad to get in too.

And it doesn't stop there - some smart locks have additional features, like an activity log, or notifications when someone comes home - handy if you want to check the kids have arrived after school. They can be linked to your location and Bluetooth (so it automatically opens when you're close to it), or you can open the lock remotely, if you have a cleaner or a delivery.

Nuki Smart Lock 2.0 review - £189

Over the last month we've been living with the smartphone-connected Nuki Smart Lock 2.0 to see how easy it is to install, use, what features it offers and importantly, whether it unlocks your door when you need it to. The Nuki retro-fits over your existing door lock, but you'll need to make sure you have the right type.

How easy are smart locks to install?

With the Nuki Smart Lock 2.0, installation can be easy, but there are some things you need to know in advance. Check the Nuki website to make sure the lock works with the keyhole on your door.

This is important - before successfully testing the lock, three other people at Which? tried and failed to install it. For example, if you have a door that requires a handle to be lifted to open, it might not work for you.

There are different versions of the Nuki for euro cylinders and UK oval cylinders. If you have a rotating knob on the inside of your door, you can order an adapter too (for free).

If your lock is compatible, the actual installation is simple. You put the plate onto the inside of your door, fix it to your existing cylinder, put in your key, and fit the smart lock mechanism. You then just follow the instructions in the app to set up and configure your smart lock, which was straightforward. There are also videos online if you get stuck.

In summary, if you're looking to purchase the Nuki or any other smart lock, make sure you're clear on the installation process before you buy.

How does the Nuki smart lock work?

The lock works with your mobile to unlock your door, and is also compatible with smart watches, Nuki fobs and Nuki keypads.

If you want to open or lock the door with your phone, you just swipe on the app. This only works for people with a virtual 'key', which can be permanent, scheduled, or one-off.

For the ultimate in convenience, you can choose auto-unlock. For this you don't even have to get your phone out of your pocket - it uses your location and bluetooth to open your door automatically as you approach. This works well, although it uses a certain distance to determine if you've left. 100m wasn't enough for us to auto-unlock after heading to the corner shop as it was too close.

You can also manually turn the Nuki on the inside of your door and operate it like a doorknob to lock and unlock. The button on the front also locks and unlocks too. If you press it twice, it'll 'Lock 'n' go', which means you have 20 seconds to leave and it'll lock the door behind you.

If your phone is out of battery, you will still be able to still use your physical key, if you have a lock which operates on both sides with a key in the lock. Or, you can buy a small, bluetooth fob which will let you in. Another option is to ask someone else who has access to open the door for you remotely (you'll need the Bridge to do this).

What else can the Nuki smart lock do?

In addition to locking and unlocking with your phone, there are plenty of other settings. You may find some a bit buried, so it's worth taking the time to explore the app.

These include things like night mode, which allows you to set the door to lock at a certain time each night, and disable auto-unlock. Other settings allow you to set up smart notifications, which tell you when you're near and unlock the door instantly, or alert you that you've left and the door is still unlocked.

You can also use the app to set how long it holds the latch for you, select energy saving mode, give out virtual keys and more.

There are a couple of settings we'd recommend you look at right away. It might surprise you to hear that the Nuki is loud. So loud that you're probably going to wake everyone up after a night out if you live in a flat. Reducing the locking rotation and stopping unnecessary locking distance greatly reduces the annoying whirring noise (and saves time and battery too). You can adjust these by looking for 'locking rotation' and 'optimise locking' settings.

That said, you probably will get used to the noise and we thought the benefit of not having to fumble around looking for your keys was worth it.

How does the Nuki smart lock work with my smart home?

Nuki is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit, so you can use your voice to unlock and lock your door. Don't worry, you won't have a burglar shouting 'Hey Google, unlock the door' from outside your window - you'll need a code for it to work.

With Apple HomeKit, you can set up one command which works with lots of smart devices at once, including Nuki. You could say 'Hey Siri, Goodnight' to Siri, and it could turn off your lights, lock your door and turn your heating down, all in just a couple of words.

If you've got a Bridge, which you can buy in a kit with the Nuki Smart Lock 2.0, or on its own, you can control it remotely. This is ideal if you want to open the door for people when you're on holiday, or you could set it up to allow carers access for elderly relatives.

How to buy a smart lock

Nuki is one of a range of smart locks available, and they vary a fair bit when it comes to appearance, functions and price. Consider the following before you start shopping around.

Check your lock
As mentioned, installation can be frustrating, or if you don't have a compatible door, completely impossible. Make sure you check the exact one you have before buying a smart lock, or bear in mind that you might have to install a different cylinder if you can't find anything compatible.

Smart home integration
If you want a true smart-home experience, check for Alexa, Google and Apple compatibility. This can make things even easier, and you may be able to control multiple devices in combo with your lock.

Bluetooth or WiFi
Depending on how the smart lock works, you might not be able to control the device remotely without something connecting it to the internet. Check if the lock you're shopping for allows remote access if you're planning to lock and unlock the door from work, while you're at the shops or even abroad.