One of the big advantages of smart locks over conventional deadbolts, or even electronic ones, is that you don’t have to worry about carrying a physical key or remembering a keypad pin to unlock the door. Instead, the key lives in electronic form in an app on your smartphone and talks to your lock wirelessly.

Because these keys are digital, they can be created, deleted, and restricted to certain time periods with a few swipes of your smartphone screen. That makes them perfect for granting access to guests, whether they be repairmen, dog walkers, baby sitters, relatives arriving before you’re home from work, or anyone else you want to let in.

And when the key holder no longer needs access, you can revoke it just as easily as you created it.

Electronic keys also power your smart lock’s access log—a detailed digital diary of who comes and goes, and exactly when. That can be a handy forensics tool if something goes missing.

Consumer Reports recently updated our smart lock ratings and testing methodology, making it easier to see just how smart these locks are. Below you’ll find three models from August, Kwikset, and Yale that came out of our new round of testing. These are the three models from our ratings that offer free electronic keys, though not all give you an unlimited number.

How We Test Smart Locks

Every lock that enters our labs gets kicked, picked, and drilled into oblivion.

For the kick-in tests, CR’s test engineers built a custom jig that allows them to swing a 100-pound steel battering ram at a replaceable section of door with the deadbolt installed. They repeat the test eight times, at ever-increasing heights, or until the lock fails. The models that fail—and at least half do—then go through another test round with a reinforced box strike plate installed on a new lock sample. Again and again, CR’s experts have found that this basic DIY upgrade improves security for any lock.

More Smart-Home Tech

Models receive a score in each of the four break-in tests, allowing you to easily compare each lock’s relative merits in the face of a physical breach.

The smart locks in our ratings get additional testing. We investigate features like smartphone alerts, remote locking and unlocking, geofencing, voice control (via Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant), shareable electronic keys, logs of who comes and goes, and even tamper alarms. Our testers’ experiences factor into CR’s unique Smart IQ score, so you can judge what you’re paying for in a smart lock. We also run through wireless setup, including connecting them to a smartphone and linking them to virtual assistants for voice control, putting ourselves in your shoes.

Never Lose Your Keys With These 3 Locks

August Smart Lock AUG-HK, $230
Total hardware cost for all features: $310

The August Smart Lock is the Nest thermostat of the lock world. It turned a seldom-considered piece of hardware into a sleek, high-tech gadget, complete with a smartphone app and smart features such as auto lock/unlock, which detects when you arrive and leave home. In addition to electronic keys, this lock features an access log, as well as remote control, remote alerts, and voice control (compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant) if you pair it with the August Connect WiFi adapter, $79.

The August Smart Lock is a retrofit product, meaning it replaces the interior thumb turn of your existing deadbolt. As a result, its performance against forced-entry tactics such as kick-ins and drilling is dependent on that deadbolt. Be sure to check August’s compatibility list to see whether it will work with your lock.

August Smart Lock.
August Smart Lock

Kwikset 925 Kevo 2DB 15 (2nd gen.), $200
Total hardware cost for all features: $300

Kwikset doesn’t have the slick styling of August, but the brand offers solid smart locks that are worthy competitors. The Kwikset 925 Kevo features an unusual LED light ring around the keyhole that lights up in different color combinations when it locks, unlocks, and more. One of the Kevo’s hallmark features is its touch-to-open technology, which first appeared in the automotive world. When you touch the lock, it wakes up and searches for your phone via Bluetooth. When it detects your phone and makes a secure connection, it then unlocks the door—all in a matter of seconds.

Like the August, the Kevo smart lock also features an access log generated from its electronic keys. And if you purchase the Kevo Plus gateway, $100, you’ll also get remote control, remote alerts, and voice control via Amazon Alexa.

Kwikset Kevo 2nd-gen.
Kwikset Kevo 2nd-gen.

Yale Real Living YRD246-ZW-619, $200
Total hardware cost for all features: $319 to $399

A titan in the world of door locks, the Yale Real Living Assure Lock is the only 100 percent keyless lock in our ratings. A lock without a physical key might make you nervous, but it makes this lock much less susceptible to break-ins because it can’t be easily drilled or picked. Though it doesn’t have physical keys, this Yale lock does offer electronic keys. The only difference is Yale is a bit stingier and gives you only five free ones. Extras cost $2 apiece.

For remote control, remote alerts, and voice control, you’ll also have to buy one of three special Yale Network Modules, $50, to install in the lock. You connect it to either a third-party smart-home hub, such as a Samsung SmartThings Hub, $99, or Wink Hub, $69, or Apple HomeKit via an Apple TV or iPad. You’ll end up spending considerably more money to get all the features of the Yale YRD246, but you might find that worth it for the keyless design.

Yale Real Living Assure Lock YRD246.
Yale Real Living Assure Lock YRD246
Photo: Yale

To see all the smart locks we tested, check our smart lock ratings and get shopping advice in our door lock buying guide.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect a change in pricing of Yale's Network Modules from $75 to $50.