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I've tested dozens of smart locks and this one is the most seamless of them all

The Schlage Encode Wi-Fi lever can be installed on almost any door with a standard handle, with no deadbolt required.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Lever
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Schlage Encode smart Wi-Fi lever is a smart door handle that works without a deadbolt.
  • It can replace almost any door handle in households and businesses.
  • But it's not compatible with Apple HomeKit, and the Schlage app has room for improvement.

As a smart home reviewer, different smart locks have made their way through my home's front and back doors. The door that leads from our laundry room to the garage, however, never had a smart lock, even though it's one of the doors we use the most.

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Since this door doesn't have a deadbolt, my family decided to go with a $30 keypad lock from Hugolog, which worked wonderfully throughout the past year. This month, I made the upgrade to the Schlage Encode Wi-Fi lever lock, and here's how it's fared.

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Installing the Schlage Encode lever was easy. If replacing an average dumb doorhandle takes about five or ten minutes, you can expect this Schlage lever to take you about 15. 

The only difference between the Schlage Encode lever and a conventional door handle during installation is the smart component, which means you need to thread the wires carefully and install batteries, then set it up on the app. Other than that, it's a pretty straightforward installation.

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Once it was set up, it was time to create an entry code for the lock and begin testing. The Schlage Encode lever stays loyal to the Schlage aesthetic with a classic design, ensuring it will match existing traditional door handles in a home. Its touchpad has no buttons, making for a classic yet modern look, and no need to press any buttons.

The classic look makes its way into most things related to the Schlage Encode lever lock. However, the Schlage app looks outdated and is slow to perform actions or even update to show the status.

As a Wi-Fi smart lock, the Schlage Encode lever lock can be monitored from anywhere using the app. This means you can always check to be sure the door is locked or from wherever you are. 

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Regarding voice assistants, the Schlage Encode lever lock works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. 

The Encode lever does fall short on other smart capabilities that competitors feature like door sensing and auto unlock. 

Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Lever
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The lock can't tell when the door has been closed, a capability made possible with a sensor or gyroscope mechanism. That means you can only tell when the lock is locked or unlocked, not whether the door is open. I didn't miss this feature, as I put this lever lock on a door that is always closed behind us and doesn't remain open. But it would've been a nice feature to have. 

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Many other smart locks allow for auto-unlock, which automatically unlocks the door when you arrive via geofencing or Bluetooth. The Encode lever lacks auto-unlock, but I'll admit this isn't a feature I use often. I sometimes go into the house through the garage and other times through the front door, and I don't want either lock unlocked if I'm not using it.

Since the door to the garage is always closed, and it's one we close as soon as we pass through, I've set up the Schlage Encode lever lock to auto-lock at five seconds. Our previous Hugolog used to auto-lock at four seconds, which worked well for us. 

ZDNET's buying advice

The Schlage Encode Wi-Fi lever smart lock has turned out to be a good fit for our laundry room door that doesn't have a deadbolt. It can be unlocked via a passcode, the Schlage app, or a physical key, and I'm partial to the fact that it can smarten up almost any door with a traditional door handle. 

That aside, it's not compatible with HomeKit, and it's typically priced high at $319. Its price seems to be sustained by the reputation of the Schlage brand, as its locks (smart or not) are highly rated and sought after.  

I'd recommend the Schlage Encode lever smart lock to anyone looking to replace a traditional door handle to a guest suite, short-term rental, or side door with a smart and reliable option.  

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