As I had already reviewed the offering from their rival Kwikset, Schlage sent me over a complete suite of products for their LiNK line, and while I may not be easy to impress on some things, these gadgets did the trick. For those that don’t know, Schlage’s LiNK system is another specialized home automation system, and while the Kwikset HomeConnect was fairly limited in what it did, the Schlage counterpart is very robust – provided you buy the right pieces. As there’s multiple parts here, I’d like to talk about each of them separately (with a separate score for each), followed by a final score on the whole system. Read on – this one’s going to be fun.
The wireless bridge is the central part of the whole system – think of this as the brain that makes everything work. You connect it directly to your router and a power source, then link everything else to it like you would connect Bluetooth devices – push a button on each to pair them. It’s remarkably simple in how it works, and the simplicity carries over into the internet functions as well. There’s no need to set up any manual port forwarding with this – just connect it, and it works. It’s such a nice change of pace from having to do things like than manually. It’s also quite small as well, which means that you can hide it pretty much anywhere – behind a TV, under an entertainment center, or just leave it in plain view – its not like it’s aesthetically unpleasant or anything. The only thing that would have made this perfect, would be if the bridge would have been able to connect to your network wirelessly so I could have moved it away from the router. Still though, it connects to all of the components sans wires, so I can’t really complain.
The first accessory to the system that we’ll talk about (since the bridge is the system) is the lock that I got with it. Unlike the Kwikset lock with buttons that serve as two numbers, the Schlage offering keeps each number on its own separate button, which in my opinion is a much better system as it gives you more options for codes. The simple lock/unlock buttons on the interior side of the lock are really nice as well. While by itself, it’s a really good electronic lock, it’s when you pair it to the wireless bridge that it really shines.
Through the computer interface or the app, you can remotely lock or unlock the door for someone with a minimal (usually two seconds) delay. You can also set up notifications for yourself, so that the door will actually text message your phone whenever it’s unlocked. What makes this great, is that if you assign different people in your house different door codes, you can always know who is coming or going without even being there.
Speaking of knowing who’s coming of going without being there, the Schlage LiNK system also has a wireless and wired camera that you can get as an optional accessory. These cameras are nice, but there’s a few issues that I have. The main one, is that I would like to be able to actually record the video that they take. I have 8 TB in a network drive, and it would be nice to just set it to save all video there. Unfortunately the cameras don’t give you that option – in fact you have no ability to save the video at all (unless you take a screenshot on your phone). It seems like an oversight that someone made, and I’m hopeful it’s fixed in the next iteration.
For now though, the video that you get from the camera is decent, but it could be a lot better. I was seeing between 10-15 fps and the video was grainy and blurry. It’s good enough if all you want to do is see who goes into your house when the door goes off, but don’t think that this will be your main security monitor if that’s what you need. It’s more along the lines of a low grade webcam.
This is pretty simple and straightforward – you plug it into an outlet with a lamp plugged into one side of it. Turn the lamp’s switch to the “on” position, and then you can remotely manage its status with ease. It’s especially nice if your light has a dimmer, because you can set how bright you want the light to be with the remote management software. I scared the hell out of my kids when I hooked it up the first time because I didn’t let them know I was doing it. then, while I was out one night and they were watching Paranormal Activity, I started messing with it. Coming home to scared teenagers was worth it by itself (evil grin).
As simple as it is, it works – and that’s the best compliment you can give to anything like this.
This was the one accessory that I was really impressed by. You need to make sure your furnace or central air unit has the right wiring to support it, but chances are if it’s newer than fifteen or so years old, you’ll be covered. I have a new furnace, but old wiring so I needed to run a few wires to my furnace’s electrical box that weren’t there before – an electrician told me it was going to cost $150 to get it done, but in reality it cost me 30 minutes to look online and read how to do it myself.
As to how it works – it’s wonderful! If I know no one is going to be home for a long time, I can just log into it from my phone and change the temperature, then turn it up so that it warms up right before we get home. I haven’t gotten an energy bill since it started getting cold out, but I can imagine this will save us quite a bit on wasted gas. Another nice thing is the ability to program a schedule in, so that if you have specific times each day that you do things, you can make sure the thermostat is set accordingly.
I never had an electronic thermostat before – only the old fashioned dial ones, and I’m proud to say that my first one works better than I could have imagined.
Other than the sub-par camera, the Schlage LiNK system is an extremely good alternative to going with some of the more “high end” home automation systems out there. The biggest downfall to this one though, and something rival Kwikset didn’t have, is a monthly charge. You can buy all the pieces you want, but unless you pony up the dinero to keep the service running, they’re going to be pretty worthless to you. You can choose the $8.99 monthly option, or the yearly option and pay $99.00. The prices aren’t outrageous by any means, but consumers need to be aware of them before purchase.
The Bottom Line: The Schlage LiNK system is really good for people that want to pick and choose what home automation parts they want and need, but stay away from the camera until it’s upgraded, and be aware of the monthly access fee.
Editor’s Overall Rating (not an average):
- The ability to pick up parts as you need them is a huge plus
- The ease of use over the internet with the wireless bridge is something truly welcome
- Connecting parts together is simple, and each connected part boosts the effective range
- The camera is an over glorified webcam, with no way to save video
- Uneducated salesmen might not tell people about the monthly fee
- Wireless bridge doesn’t wirelessly connect to your router
You can pick up all of the Schlage LiNK products at an authorized retailer, or at their website for a variety of prices.