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The Degree Bolt and Degree Contact good locks are a aggressive benefit when it comes to design and ease of use

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Level is one of the newer players in the Smart Lock space, but it has a design pedigree that includes many ex-Apple products Employees. The company is already receiving great praise for its industrial design. I have tested both of the current offerings, the Level Bolt and the Level Touch, and found that they are well-designed, easy-to-use smart locks that stand out from the competition in terms of aesthetics and functionality.

The basics

Level's debut product, the Level Bolt, valued at $ 229, works with existing latches and merely replaces the insides with an attached locking mechanism that you can control from your smartphone using the Level app. The newer Level Touch for $ 329 is a complete bolt replacement, including the faceplates, but unlike most other smart locks on the market, it looks like a standard bolt from the outside – albeit very nicely designed. The Level Touch is available in four different styles including satin nickel, satin chrome, polished brass and matte black (the latter two are listed as "Coming Soon").

Credit: level

The bolt is similar in concept to other Smart-Lock products like the August lock in that you use it with your existing deadbolt, eliminating the need to change keys. Plus, the thumb remains intact, which means that regardless of any external appearance, it is not obvious that you have a smart lock at all. Installation is relatively simple and basically boils down to a locking mechanism transplant. Level includes a variety of cam rail adapters that cater to the vast majority of the deadlocks available. Hence, most homeowners should be able to do this in just a few minutes. The Bolt offers access sharing via the app, automatic lock on departure, automatic unlock on arrival, an activity log, temporary passes and a built-in audio chime. It also works with Apple's HomeKit for remote control, voice control via Siri, automation, and push notifications.

Credit: level

The Level Touch has everything that is great about the Bolt and has some super smart add-on features like a capacitive external latch case that allows for amazing touch-to-lock / touch-to-unlock functionality, and NFC that you can use Programmable NFC cards and stickers for issuing revocable badges to unlock your door. Plus, it's probably the most attractive bar I've ever owned or used. This says a lot in a smart lock area where most offerings have unsightly large keyboards or large battery compartments.

Design and functions

The Level Bolt's design is clever in its ability to be completely invisible when in use. The latch itself is the battery case, which houses a lithium CR123A battery (included, offers a service life of over a year). Installing the bolt was as easy as loosening my existing latch, removing the internal latch mechanism, finding the correct adapter for the cam rod, inserting it into my door latch lock, and screwing back the outer face panels. It took less than 10 minutes to finish.

Setting up the lock was easy too. Just download the app and follow the instructions. You can also control your app in a few minutes. With the app, you set up a home profile for your lock or locks and you can also invite other people in your household to share access (they have to install the app and get a profile for it). You can also set up HomeKit if you have an Apple device and HomeKit hub (this can be an Apple TV or iPad) and instantly unlock many features, including remote unlocking and lock controls, when you're not home.

Credit: level

Even without HomeKit, you can set up Level so that it locks automatically as soon as you leave a specific geofenced area around your house and unlocks automatically when you return within that area. It's a fantastic convenience feature that works great and has tons of benefits when it comes to coming home with armfuls of groceries or large packages.

With the Level Touch, you get all of the above functions plus a function that I consider indispensable: the touch controls. The metal outside of the outer cylinder of the Level Touch has capacitive touch sensors. This means that like your iPhone's screen, it can recognize when it is touched by a finger or skin. You can activate a touch-to-lock feature that can be used to lock it when people leave the latch cover and hold their finger on it. You can even set it to unlock when a touch is detected in connection with your phone's close proximity to identity for verification purposes.

To me, this is even more useful than automatic lock / unlock, yet much more convenient than fiddling with keys or even manually locking / unlocking the app. This is one of the unique advantages of Level Touch, and a great one.

Installing the Level Touch is very simple too – no more difficult than installing a latch you might buy at a hardware store. Like the bolt, it uses a single CR123A battery that is charged directly into the bolt itself and should give you enough power for over a year of use.

Bottom line

Smart locks have become much more common in recent years, but haven't really advanced in terms of functionality or design either. Level has improved all of that, bringing the best of convenience features and miniaturized hardware technology into a smart, modern design that overtakes the competition.

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Melinda Martin