Level Touch review: This smart lock opens to your touch

This top-shelf smart lock commands a top-shelf price, but it's not the best choice for Android users.

lev touch in door profile
Level Home

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At a Glance

With the launch of the Level Lock (now known as the Level Bolt) a few months ago, the startup changed the conversation around smart locks, proving that monstrous keypads and chunky battery packs didn’t need to be part of the smart lock equation.

While the Level Bolt is a retrofit design that is effectively invisible, contained fully inside the door, the Level Touch includes exterior hardware and replaces the lock altogether. To make it worth your while to swap out your existing lock, the Touch offers a few compelling new features.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart locks, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

Let’s start with the hardware. Both the exterior and interior escutcheon look completely innocuous, and one of the three available finishes should allow it to fit in fine with just about any interior. Simplicity was the goal of the original Level Bolt, and the same is true here. One tiny screw is needed to connect the internal lock mechanism to the backset—which is now adjustable, as Level previously promised—and two screws are used to connect the deadbolt to the door frame. Two more screws connect the two escutcheons together, and that’s it. A wildly clever design hides the screwheads by making the interior deadbolt paddle magnetic. Just pop it onto the housing and it instantly adheres in the correct orientation. (Insert a paperclip into a tiny hole underneath if you need to remove it.) The lock can be installed inside of five minutes—although Level’s printed installation instructions could decidedly use some work.

leveltouch macro Level Home

The barely-there interior escutcheon on the Level Touch smart lock.

You can open the lock via myriad ways, all of which I tested at length and all of which worked well. First, there’s access through the app, which can be shared with other users permanently or for a limited time (though not, say, for certain hours of the day or certain days of the week).

Level app on iOS Christopher Null / IDG

The Level Touch comes with NFC-enabled cards that can be programmed to unlock the lock-very handy for children and other people who don’t have a smartphone.

For those without a smartphone, a pair of included NFC-enabled cards, roughly the size of credit cards, can be activated on demand and used to open the door by simply swiping the card against the lock. Also, if you have the app on your phone in your pocket (and Bluetooth is turned on), there’s no reason to fish it out: Just touch the lock with a fingertip and it pops right open—hence the name of the product. (You can also use touch to lock the door after you leave, and all the touch settings are individually configurable by the user.)

Geofencing support unlocks the Touch when you return home without even touching the door. There’s also a geofencing angle built into the touch-unlocking feature: Once the door is locked, you must cross the home perimeter (about a 600-foot circle around your house) and cross back before the door will unlock via touch. There’s no way to disable that behavior, and while it’s arguably better for security, it’s a pain if you’re not going very far. Finally, if all else fails, two physical keys in the box give you access even if the battery (a CR2 cell still secreted inside the deadbolt), your phone, or anything else is dead.

Once installed, setup hasn’t changed appreciably. As with the Bolt, the Touch is HomeKit compatible and a quick scan of a QR code will add it to your network. But you will need a HomeKit hub (a HomePod, an Apple TV, or an iPad that stays in the house) in order to control the lock when you’re away from home, a fact that will dissuade many Android users from going this direction. The new lock gives you a few additional settings to work with, but it’s still a fairly bare-bones operation, and power users will probably want to see additional ways to control access as the system matures, such as the ability to allow access only on Tuesdays, or only before 9 p.m. every day. As well, the activity log remains limited to just 20 entries, and support for Alexa and Google Home reportedly remain in the works.

leveltouch4 Level Home

Like the Level Bolt, the Level Touch is powered by a battery hidden inside its deadbolt.

The only big problem with the lock is one you probably saw coming: the price. The original Level Bolt was $229. The Level Touch is $329, which puts it in a rarified position as one of the most expensive smart locks on the market. I’m not convinced that the additional hardware and new features like the touch-sensitive opener are quite worth another $100—and personally I’d still gravitate to the Bolt—but there’s no question it’s an outstanding product. If you’re planning on upgrading hardware and a retrofit option isn’t right for you, the Level Touch merits the strongest consideration.

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At a Glance
  • Level gets external hardware, touch-sensitive opening, and more features in a compelling—but expensive—smart lock system.

    Pros

    • Incredibly easy installation, with newly adjustable backset
    • Solid performance, very easy to use
    • Easily the best-looking smart lock on the market (save perhaps the Level Bolt retrofit lock)

    Cons

    • HomeKit hub and iOS device required for away-from-home control
    • Still no support for Alexa or Google Home
    • Exorbitant price
  
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