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Schlage Encode is Nearly Perfect Even Without a Smarthome

Rating: 9/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $250

The Schlage Encode Wi-Fi lock installed on a green door.
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

Smart locks are a great addition to the smarthome. But they usually require a hub for remote access and often that even means a full smarthome system. The Schlage Encode smart lock changes all that. Anyone can use it.

I’ve been using a Schlage Z-wave Connect deadbolt for years. It’s reliable, works well, and super convenient to have. I don’t even carry around house keys anymore because I don’t need them.  The keypad means I can unlock the door even when my hands are full, and scheduling features let me stay in bed without worrying if I remembered to lock up.

But it’s not a perfect lock. For one, it’s bulky and loud. And for two, it requires a Z-wave hub for any remote capability. That’s fine for me, a smarthome expert, but not great for any of my friends or family who aren’t ready to jump in the deep end of smarthomes just yet.

The Schlage Encode fixes all of that. It’s smaller, quieter, easier to install, and doesn’t require any other smarthome tech to work. The thing is darn near perfect. How near? I already recommended it to my in-laws who don’t like smarthome tech, and they love it too.

Smaller and Easier to Install

Smart locks have two components that make them mildly more challenging to install than a standard lock. The keypad on the front, which requires running power cables through the lock cavity. And the battery and circuitry box, which goes on the inside of your door. What’s impressive about the Schlage Encode is how much smaller it is than the Z-Wave Connect. And that size makes the install easier.

A Schlage Z-wave Connect and Encode unit side by side. The Connect unit is noticeably larger.
The Schlage Z-wave Connect is on the left; the new Schlage Encode is on the right. Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

I’ve installed quite a few smart locks over the years. For the most part, they’re not much more challenging to install than a standard door lock. The hardest part is keeping the pieces in place while you’re driving screws that attach the lock to the door. Usually, the components are so heavy they want to fall out. That leaves you trying to awkwardly clamp it with one hand while driving screws with the other. It’s not impossible, but it’s awkward and mildly frustrating.

The Schlage Encode doesn’t have that problem at all. It just sticks in place while you work on getting everything centered and aligned. That made installing the lock so easy I finished in less than ten minutes. When I recommended the Encode to my sister-in-law, my wife put in the lock for her. She’s never installed a smart lock (or any lock) before and came away impressed with how simple it was.

Unlike a lot of other locks, you don’t need to install a bridge or Wi-Fi adapter for remote access. Nor do you need to pair to a smarthome hub. The lock contains everything you need, and that makes the entire setup process far easier.

One thing that stood out to me is how quiet this lock is. Smart locks work by using a motor to turn the lock components. With the older Schlage Connect, the sound of the motor is loud and jarring. I have a scheduled routine that locks the door at 10 P.M. every night, and it always startles me (my front door leads to my living room). The Encode is quiet. I can still hear it, but it’s nowhere near as distracting or disruptive.

I also appreciate that the keypad has a dedicated lock button and Home button. With the older Connect lock, I need to press the Schlage logo to either light up the keypad (if the door is locked) or lock the door. That’s unintuitive, and it was ages before I figured it out. On the newer model, the Home button lights up the keypad if you’re trying to unlock the door in the dark and the lock button, unsurprisingly, locks the door. That’s much more intuitive.

An App that Does Nearly Everything

The Schlage Home app, showing lock command, codes, and locking history.

Once you have the lock installed, you can pair it with the Schlage Home app (for Android and iOS ). I usually try to avoid installing yet another app for every single smarthome device I own, but this is a case where I will happily make an exception.

That’s because the app is very well put together. When you open the app after pairing, the first thing you see is a big lock symbol you can push to lock and unlock the door. That’s the main to reason to open the app, so having it right there is perfect.

But Schlage didn’t stop there; the app gives you some great controls. When you dig into the settings, you can create and name lock codes to hand out to friends and family. And when you create a lock code, you can set it to expire automatically or specific times when it will work. That feature is great if you have a cleaning service, or you don’t want to give your extended family access to the home at all hours of the day.

The app comes with notifications that let you know when the door is locked and unlocked, and whether it was by turning the latch or using code, including the name you gave it.

Between the built-in Wi-Fi and the fantastic app, this lock has everything you need to install it in your home, even if you don’t have any other smarthome devices. And that’s great for people who don’t want a voice assistant like Alexa or Google in their homes or want to mess around with complicated smarthome hubs.

A Few Flaws

A closeup of the Schlage Encode showing the numbers somewhat faded in sunlight.
Sometimes the numbers can be challenging to see, depending on sunlight. Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

While the Schlage Encode is very close to perfect, it just misses the mark. For instance, it’s disappointing that the app doesn’t have scheduled locking (say, lock the door every morning at 8 A.M). You can set an auto-lock to lock the door automatically after a specific set of time (30 seconds up to 4 minutes)—but that’s not quite the same.

I walk my son to the bus in the morning, so I don’t want the door to lock when I know I’m coming back in ten minutes. But I do want it to lock automatically every night. I reached out to Schlage, and the company let me know it’s considering adding that capability in the future. I hope the company does, as this feels like a significant missing feature.

I did find that if you have Alexa paired to the Wi-Fi-powered Schlage Encode you can set up a routine to lock the door on a scheduled basis. Unfortunately, Google Assistant routines won’t let you lock the door currently, nor can you ask it to unlock the door.

Schlage tells me that Google doesn’t provide APIs for those commands, and it’s up to the company to create them from scratch. Although Schlage wouldn’t give me a date, it did assure me that adding those features to Google Assistant pairing was in the works. None of that helps you if you don’t want a voice assistant in your home.

It’s worth mentioning that the older Z-wave powered Schlage Connect lock does have scheduling features, through the connected hub you use with it.

Finally, my wife doesn’t like the keypad on this lock. The numbers are a very soft grey and set against an almost white background. She says when the sun is shining directly on the keypad, the numbers are hard to see. I don’t have the issue, but I have 20/20 vision. If you think that might be a problem for you Schlage also sells the lock in a dark bronze color scheme.

Great If You Don’t Own a Smarthome (or Even If You Do)

A Schlage Encode lock, above a matching door knob and installed in a olive colored door.
On the other hand, my sister-in-law’s keypad numbers are visible because direct light doesn’t hit them. Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

I’m am an admitted smarthome loving geek. And my very first smarthome device was a Z-wave smart lock (and a Wink hub to make it work). I think smart locks are a great way to get into smarthomes that have immediately tangible benefits. But until now, that did require a desire to own a smarthome.

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, does not care for smarthome tech. She absolutely will not install Alexa or Google speakers in her home. And until recently, she would mute them when she came to stay with us.

Despite that, she saw the benefits to a smart lock. It does nearly everything she needs and doesn’t require any other smarthome devices. Overall she’s happy with the lock, and that’s high praise coming from someone who typically shuns smart gadgets. Her only complaint is the lack of scheduled locking.

Even as a full smarthome user, I’m pretty happy with the lock. Thanks to Alexa, I can do everything with it, including scheduling, that I could with my Z-wave lock. And my hub doesn’t have an option for temporary codes that only work during certain hours, so the Encode does more!

Add in that it’s smaller, quieter, and easier to install, and you can call this a nearly perfect smart lock. And the fact that I’m willing to recommend this to family, knowing I’m the resident tech guy who will be called on when something goes wrong, should tell you everything you need to know.

Rating: 9/10
Price: $250

Here’s What We Like

  • Easy to install
  • Great app
  • Quieter than other locks
  • No hub required

And What We Don't

  • No scheduled locking
  • Satin numbers are hard to see
  • Google Assistant commands lacking

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »