Talking tech since 2003

Home security certainly has evolved over the years, we've gone from high castle walls and moats to deadbolts and advanced security systems with cameras and sensors. I recently decided to invest in a lock for our front door – the existing one just wasn't cutting it. I knew I wanted a smart lock but the question then became: "which one?"

I wanted a smart lock that came with everything I needed out of the box. I didn't want to have to buy a smart lock and then pay another $60 to $100 for a keypad which may or may not work half the time. The main features I was looking for were: fingerprint sensor, keypad, proximity unlocking, and a backup key. After not having much luck with my search for the best smart lock on my own, I reached out to a friend of mine who recently bought a house and who I remembered had also just bought a smart lock that he was raving about a couple months earlier. His recommendation? The Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro.

His thought process was simple (and I agree with it): the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro comes with all the features of the other major smart lock players and is much less expensive. Other "big name" smart locks with comparable features will run you at least $250. In fact, the Quickset is $250, the Nest is $279, and the August with keypad is $329. How much is the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro you ask? $199 and it includes everything you need right out of the box.

Build + design

Another thing my friend was really excited about with the U-Bolt Pro was how good the build quality of the lock is – and I can confirm, it's very good. My door feels significantly more secure (meaning, it doesn't move at all) with the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro when compared to the rinky-dink lock that was installed previously.

While the build quality of the lock is superb, I don't necessarily feel the same about the overall design of the lock. It's not hideous or anything but I do wish it was a tad more atheistically pleasing to look at.

Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro close up. Ignore the fact I need to paint my door.

The Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro is powered by four AA batteries that allow it to be accessed 8,000 times, which is essentially equivalent to battery life of up to one year (assuming an average use case of 20 access times per day). But I hear you wondering, "Jeff, how will I know when the batteries are low?" Good question! The team over at U-tech has made it practically impossible for you to miss the fact your lock's batteries are dying. When your lock's battery is starting to get low, you will get a low battery alert via beeps; red LED flashing, and notifications in the app. That's three alerts! At that point, your U-Bolt Pro will still be able to be unlocked hundreds more times but at least you'll be well aware that it's time to replace the batteries.

The last thing I'll mention for now about the build/design of the lock is that you can install it on both a right handed and left handed door – simply use the app to select which kind of door you installed the lock on during the setup. This is important because if you select the wrong side the lock will not be able to lock/unlock your door (the error message you'll see will likely pertain to the lock being jammed). Fear not though, if you do select the wrong setting, just re-open the app, select the other, and you should be good to go.

Killer features

The Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro comes standard with almost every feature you would want in a smart lock. Here's what you need to know about each.

Fingerprint sensor

The fingerprint sensor on the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro is, frankly, really very good. I've only had to rescan my finger once in the time I've been using it so far – which obviously makes me very happy.

It's easy to setup your fingerprint(s) too (along with controlling the rest of the lock). Simply download the U-tech app from your respective app stores and you'll be well on your way. Once the app is installed and your smart lock is paired to the app, you can setup profiles for the people who live in your home. Each person can add up to two fingerprints to their profile. I personally added my thumb and pointer finger because, to me, those are the more convenient for me to place on the fingerprint sensor. Obviously your experience may vary there.

Unlocking the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro with my fingerprint.

Keypad

The built-in keypad is a nice addition to the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro. It features a rubberized keypad with big numbers that are easy to press. Within the app you can set a 4 to 8 digit passcode – similar to how you do on your smartphone. I like having a keypad as a backup entry method, especially if for some reason I can't get my fingerprint to work.

Proximity unlocking

So the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro comes with a feature you can enable called "Auto-Unlock," which will automagically unlock your door when you pull up to your house. It's really slick and it works exactly as you would expect. The only thing I had to do to make it work better for me was increase the time it takes for the U-Bolt Pro to auto-lock – by default, the lock will auto-lock 30 seconds after its been unlocked. Now, being that I need to walk from the parking lot, up a path, up some stairs to my door, 30 seconds just wasn't enough time. I bumped the auto-lock functionality to 3 minutes (you can increase it up to 5 minutes) and that's been perfect.

Auto-locking the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro.

Backup key

I love technology, but even I wouldn't put complete trust into a smart lock when it comes to ensuring I'll never get locked out of my house which is why I love the fact that the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro comes with two physical backup keys. All you need to do is flip down the front faceplate and you'll get access to the key hole. Slide in your key, turn, and unlock – now you're living in the 20th century again!

Ultraloq bridge

The Ultraloq Bridge accessory.

If you buy the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro with the Bridge accessory (which I highly recommend, it's included in the $199 price tag) then you can pair the bridge to the lock and have full access to it from wherever you are in the world (provided you have an internet connection). So for example, if your friend gets to your place before you get back from picking up some snacks, you can use the app to unlock the door and let them in – without you even being nearby. How amazing is that? Now they don't have to awkwardly sit around in their car waiting for you to return.

Also, imagine this: you want to set your U-Bolt Pro to unlock and lock at certain times every day such as unlocking at 9AM when you leave for work and then ensuring that the door is locked at 5PM when you get home. This is something you can do with the U-Bolt Pro, the bridge, and third-party tools and services such as IFTTT.

U-tec app

Honestly the weakest part about this product is the U-tec app. While the app works fine in my experience to date, the user interface leaves much to be desired. It would be nice to see a fresh new UI in a future update. That being said, the app has four key areas that are accessible from the app's home screen (see screenshot below).

From within the app if you tap on the lock icon it will pull up a screen with a big lock/unlock button as well as the screen where you can add users to your smart lock. As you can see in the screenshot above, at my house, I have added both Mandy and myself. Once you add a user you can add up to two fingerprints for them, a 4-8 digit passcode, and the ability to unlock the door with their smartphone (via Auto-Unlock or Magic Shake). As you can see, I, personally added all entry methods for myself – allowing me to have multiple ways to gain entry, you know, should it be necessary.

In addition to adding permanent residents as users, you can also use the app to setup temporary access for people via fingerprint or passcode – this is really nice if you have a babysitter or house cleaner that comes over regularly.

There's also a screen where you can view access logs to see who is entering and leaving your home at all times. This is a nice feature that I'm sure parents of teenagers really enjoy.

The verdict

The Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro is a wonderful smart lock. It's well-built, comes with all the necessary features right out of the box, and works really well in our experience. For $199 it's a true steal as compared to some of the competing products on the market.

I'd give the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro an A- rating.


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