I find myself locked out of my office quite often of late. Partly because I’m the absent-minded type. But mostly, my toddlers, who just recently grew tall enough to reach the deadbolt, love the idea of shutting daddy out in their new game of “hide and seek.”
So when Alfred offered me to review its latest Smart Door Lock, I jumped at the chance. I’m no locksmith, but the idea of beating my kids at their own game was irresistible.
There’s a lot about this lock, so keep reading. But in case you’re in a hurry, here’s the quick take: If you’re an Airbnb host or just want the convenience of not having to carry keys around, the Alfred DB1-B-BL Smart Door Lock is an excellent investment. I recommend it.
Alfred DB1-B-BL Smart Door Lock$199.00
- Easy to install and use, rugged weather-proof design
- Reliable performance
- Excellent touchscreen
- Bluetooth, Z-wave support
- Nice hardware design, well-thought-out mobile app with helpful features, such as Auto-Re-Lock and One Touch Unlock
- Long battery life with alternative power source
- Key entry
- Auto Re-Lock feature triggers even when door is left open
- Mobile app requires an account with vendor.
- Manual PIN programming can be a pain
- One Touch Unlock is hit or miss
- A bit noisy during operation
Alfred DB1-B-BL: A Well-Rounded, but not perfect, Smart Door Lock
Alfred Smart Door Locks come in a few flavors that all are Bluetooth-enabled and designed to replace a traditional deadbolt. As a result, they have two main parts, called escutcheons, for the outer side and inner sides of a door.
Alfred DB1-B-BL’s quick specs:
- Outside escutcheon: 5.91 x 2.56 x .55 inc (150 mm x 65 mm x 14 mm). Wether-proof.
- Inside escutcheon: 7.87 x 3.03 x 1.81 inc (200 mm x 77mm x 46 mm)
- Operation temperature: -22° F ~ 140° F (-30° C ~ 60° C)
The Alfred’s outside escutcheon is a touchscreen number pad, and the inside one is a box that houses the lock’s battery-operated circuit board and mechanism. The two are connected via a cable through the hole on the door. Once assembled, an Alfred Smart Door Lock looks quite fancy.
The DB1-B-BL is the latest and a full-featured lock that has everything you collectively find in all other Alfred Smart Door Locks. But still, it’s very similar to its cousins.
The DB1-B-BL’s touchscreen has two little indicator lights on the sides that show lock status (locked/unlocked) or unlocking results (successful/failed). In the middle, there’s a low battery life warning light. By the way, the touchscreen flashes to respond to your touch, which is nice since the keypad has no tactile response.
Below the touchpad, there’s a Mortise cylinder with two included keys. This key entry feature is great if somebody in your home doesn’t want to remember a PIN, or tend to forget theirs. By the way, Alfred locks use the standard Schlage C 5 Pin Keyway — you can re-key the cylinder to fit your needs.
At the bottom, the outer escutcheon has a small micro-USB port for an alternative power source, such as a phone or a power bank. This port comes in handy in case the lock is out of juice, and you have misplaced the keys.
The inside escutcheon has a battery bay for four AA batteries, a little reset hole, and a thumb turn nob. It also has built-in Bluetooth and Z-Wave for wireless connectivities.
So, the Alfred DB1-B-BL has all you’d want from a Smart Door Lock. Owners of other Alfred locks will miss out on the support for Z-Wave, or the key entry, or both. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say the DB1-B-BL represents them all. I’ve tried other variants, and they all worked similarly.
Easy installation, even for a dummy
I was a bit nervous when replacing my office door’s original deadbolt with Alfred, but the process turned out to be straight forward.
The only skill required is knowing how to operate a screwdriver, or better yet a cordless drill. It took me just about 20 minutes to install the set the first time. Yes, I had to do it twice — more below.
The Alfred DB1-B-BL includes all parts you’ll need for the job. All you have to do is swapping the existing lock’s escutcheons with those of the Alfred. Things are pretty obvious. There are not many areas where you can make a mistake. Or are there?
Well, you need to set the bolt direction correctly by moving a little switch on top of the inside escutcheon’s circuit board. The lock’s default settings apply to when you mount it on the left side of a door.
In my case, I needed to mount it on the right side. All excited, I finished the whole thing without adjusting the switch.
As a result, afterword, the lock’s bolt mechanism worked in the reverse direction — it tried to retract the bolt when I wanted to lock and vice vera. I ended up having to open the inside escutcheon to fix the issue. There was no way around it.
As this was my first time working with a deadbolt, I still considered the job a smashing success. But it did make me feel a bit like a fool — especially how I kind of blamed the lock itself at first, thinking it was “dumb.” So, please keep this between us, don’t tell anyone!
Alfred DB1-B-BL Smart Door Lock’s detail photos
Offline programming is a pain
Once the lock has been mounted, you’ll need to install the batteries and program it.
The Alfred DB1-B-BL comes with a default Master PIN, which is 12345678, for you to start. The first step is to change the Master PIN. And then, you can create up to 20 unique user PINs.
On top of that, you can also use the keypad to program other functions of the lock, such as Auto Re-Lock or Away Mode, and so on. There’s a built-in high-pitch beeper — you can adjust the volume — that responds as you tap on the touchscreen as well as to indicate if a command has been executed successfully.
However, programing the lock using the keypad is a pain. You need to use different patterns of the * and # keys, and if you miss-tap one number, you’ll have to start from the beginning. I tried it out and had a hard time changing the Master PIN alone.
This is where the Alfred mobile app came to my rescue.
Helpful, albeit login-required, mobile app
To use the Alfred mobile app, you’ll have to log in with an account with Alfred. But you can remove the app after having set up PINs and other features. Most of them will keep working.
Chances are you won’t remove it, though. That’s because managing the lock on the app is a world different. The app connects to the lock via Bluetooth and allows you to visually create/change PINs and manage its other features, with ease. You can also use it via Wi-Fi or the Internet with an add-on accessory — more on this below.
Using the app, you can check on the lock status, lock/unlock it remotely, manage PINs, share the lock access with friends, and do many other things.
Useful feature set
Indeed, with the Alfred app, there are at least a few features you’d love to try out.
Flexible PIN management
Take a PIN for example, you can do all kinds of things with it.
You can make it a single-use PIN, or one that works only during a fixed short period of time, like tomorrow between 8 AM and noon, or during recurring windows that happen every day. And of course, you can also make it work permanently at any time.
What’s more, you can assign a PIN to a user, so that you know who opens the door and when via the lock’s log.
PIN exposure prevention
This feature requires no setting up. To open the lock from outside, you need to enter the correct PIN code then press #. However, in case you want to conceal your PIN from prying eyes you can add unlimited random digits before or after the real PIN and it still works.
So for example, if your PIN is 2020, then the normal way to open the door is by pressing 2020#. But you also use xxxxx2020# or 2020xxx#, where x can be any number, to get the door unlocked.
The almost perfect Auto Re-Lock
Auto Re-Lock is a feature that, as the name suggests, automatically re-locks the door after 30 seconds. This allows you to just get out of the room, shut the door, walk away, and rest assured it will lock by itself.
Note that if you don’t close the door all the way and cause the bolt to fail to fully extend, Auto Re-Lock will try three times and then let the bolt protruding half-way. It won’t do anything else until you manually lock/unlock the door.
I loved this feature at first but soon found it to be far from perfect. For example, when I wanted to leave the door open, it triggered anyway causing the bolt to stick out. Now if I close the door without first manually retracting the bold using the thumb turn nob, I would cause a dent on the door frame — which I did.
That said if you’re short-tempered and love slamming the door to show your attitude, consider turning off this feature — you can cause serious damages. You can always lock the door from outside manually by pressing and holding any of the keys on the touchscreen for two seconds or use the app.
One Touch Unlock
The Alfred app supports geofencing, meaning it can detect a phone’s location and manage the lock accordingly, via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
With One Touch Unlock turned on, you can just keep the phone in your pocket, walk to the lock then touch it once to unlock the door. I tried out this feature, and it was hit or miss.
Nonetheless, for this feature to work, you need to give the app access to your location in real-time, and it will also need to run all the time in the background. It’s not good for the battery life of the phone and the lock itself.
That plus the privacy issue mentioned above, and the fact you can use the app to remotely unlock the door anyway, I find One Touch Unlock is worth the convenience. Personally, I can live without it.
A bit noisy
As mentioned above, the Alfred DB1-B-BL has a built-in high-pitch beeper that makes noise to respond to your touch, or when the door is locked/unlocked.
This beeper has only three volume settings including high, medium, and off that you can adjust via the app. The issue is I found that even at the medium position, the sound was a bit too loud.
You can turn the beeper off, but then, the only way to know if your press is registered is via the flashing of the screen itself, which can be a bit hard to see during daylight.
On top of that, the lock’s mechanism makes quite a bit of noise when it performs a lock/unlock operation. I could easily hear the sound of the motor from across the room.
In all, this is not a huge deal, but it’s a good idea not to use this lock where noise can become bothersome, like a bedroom.
Alfred WB1 Connect: An excellent Wi-Fi Bluetooth bridge add-on
Apart from Bluetooth, the Alfred DB1-B-BL Smart Door Lock has built-in Z-Wave for wireless connectivity. But if you don’t have a Z-Wave hub, which I didn’t, you can also connect it to the Wi-Fi using Bluetooth via the $49 Alfred WB1 Connect accessory.
Z-Wave is a low-energy alternative to Wi-Fi. It’s a wireless communication protocol used in the Internet of Things (IoT) devices where high-bandwidth is not necessary, and Wi-Fi is too energy-hungry to be useful. Z-Ware has the max range of about 100 feet (30 m) and the max data rate of up to 40 Kbps.
The way it works, the WB1 connects to an existing Wi-Fi network and pair itself with up to multiple supported Alfred Smart Door Locks. Now the locks connect to the Internet, and you can use the Alfred mobile app to manage the from anywhere, just like you do them via Bluetooth locally.
By the way, Alfred didn’t reveal the specific number of locks the WB1 can handle, but generally, a Bluetooth hub can handle up to 22 devices. Bluetooth has a relatively short-range of 100 feet (33 m) which can be greatly reduced by walls and obstacles.
Easy to setup, smart compact design, excellent performance
Just like with the lock, getting the Alfred WB1 Connect up and running is straight forward using the mobile app. The bridge has a little speaker than gives you messages on what to do.
One thing to note though, in my case, I needed to turn off my Pixel 3 XL’s cellular Internet for the setup to work. Once set up, though, the WB1 worked well in my trial. I was able to manage the Alfred remotely, when I was out and about, with no issue at all.
By the way, I love the WB1’s design. Not only it’s super compact and light. It comes with a smart mount that allows it to hang tightly on a wall power socket, without taking up too much space.
I tested the WB1 with three Alfred Smart Locks, this DB1-B and two DB1-C units, and all of them worked without any problem. It was quite fun and helpful to be able to lock or unlock your doors from anywhere in the world.
Excellent battery life, so far
Per Alfred, if you use the DB1-B-BL 10 times a day, the four AA batteries can last for about a year.
For this review, I used the locks (via the WB1 bridge) very often for more than a month with all features turned on, and the battery gauges, within the app, still showed 100%. So it’s safe to say, you won’t need to worry about the Alfred Smart Locks’ battery life.
Also, the middle light on the lock’s touchscreen will give you an advance warning when the batteries run low.
The Alfred DB1-B-BL is the first Smart Door Lock and also the first home automation product I’ve used for myself. Other than the concern about privacy, it’s been an excellent experience. The lock has an outstanding combo of well-designed hardware and a well-thought-out mobile app. I’m thinking of getting a few more.
That said, if you’re in the market for a lock that’ll truly make your life easier, Alfred Smart Door Locks seem to be safe choices.
Regarding getting my life easier, as in beating my kids at their own game, well, I spoke too soon. Since I installed Alfred, the kids have been insisting on being locked out instead. Apparently, the touchscreen, with its beeping responses, is way more fun than hide-and-seek.