Master Lock’s fingerprint-secured padlock means never losing fiddly keys again

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Your phone has a fingerprint sensor, your laptop may have a fingerprint sensor, and even getting access to your gym or place of work may require tapping a little sensor before being let in. Security mega-brand Master Lock has taken the same technology and added it to the humble padlock, replacing keys entirely, and leaving combination locks firmly in the past.

The tiny sensor is about the size of that found on phones like the iPhone 6S, only it’s square rather than round. It’s recessed into the body making it easy to locate and touch even in the dark. Surrounding the sensor is an illuminated bezel, which glows to show the status of the lock. A blue light shows it’s reading your fingerprint, a green light shows it was accepted, and a red light indicates you need to try again.

Registering your fingerprint is quick and easy, and within minutes of taking it out of the packaging my fingerprint was registered and the lock ready to use. There are clear instructions, and anyone who has used a sensor like this on a phone will have no problems setting it up.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Using the padlock indoors when my hands were warm returned a 100% success rate, but the sensor itself is a little finicky in our brief tests, as taking it outside to use showed it doesn’t like cold or wet fingers very much. Mostly it wouldn’t recognize my finger, which made me lift it up, at which point it would start scanning. This led to frustrating delays in unlocking the padlock.

However, none of this will probably be a problem in the warmer weather, and there’s no questioning the strength of the padlock. It’s a serious piece of kit, designed for use outdoors on gates or outbuildings, or on heavy-duty storage cases or lockers, rather than keeping luggage secure when traveling. The 56mm wide body is made from metal and covered in a rubber skin, while the 9mm thick shackle is made from boron alloy making it highly resistant to cutting. It’s powered by a small CR2 battery found in a compartment on the back, and a yellow light illuminates when it needs replacing.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

What about if the sensor refuses to recognize your print, or the battery dies? The padlock has a backup code entered using the directional buttons around the sensor cutout, should the sensor itself stop working. There’s a clever solution to unlock it should the battery completely fail too. Contacts on the bottom of the padlock can be used to “jump-start” the padlock’s biometric sensor with a 9V battery.

The Master Lock Biometric Padlock is available for $100 in the U.S. or for 89 British pounds in the U.K., through the respective Master Lock online stores.

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