When I first got my hands on the CA$120 Tile Combo Pack, I immediately went out and bought a 4-pack budget key finder, which cost me under CA$30—less than a quarter of what the Tile Combo pack is selling for. I wanted to compare the two and see if the Tile was really worth its hefty price tag. Which one of these is worth your money? After using the two for a few weeks, my answer might just surprise you.
The Video Review
If you can’t be bothered to read through the written review, you can check out the video below. Pop quiz, hotshot. The video is 18 minutes long. The written review is about 1500 words long. For no reason at all other than to add some drama to the situation, you only have time for one. What do you do? What do you do?
The Written Review
For some reason, you’ve decided to sit through a roughly 1500-word written review instead. Maybe you don’t like my voice. Maybe you like reading. Maybe you’re some sort of twisted psychopath who’s playing the video and reading the review at the same time. Whatever the reason, enjoy.
The Tile is clearly a premium product. You can tell this from the box the Tiles come in (it actually looks like a Tile, which is cool) and the top-notch build quality. Inside the box, you get the usual paperwork (user manual, warranty, regulatory statements), 2 Tile Slims, and 2 Tile Mates.
Each Tile shares the same dual-tone white and grey design. The Tile Slim is the larger but slimmer of the two Tiles, as thick as two credit cards. The Tile Mate, the smaller but thicker Tile, is about as thick as 1.5 Tile Slims. They’re both ridiculously thin, especially compared to the budget key finder.
At the front of each Tile, you get a grey Tile logo which doubles as a button. Considering how thin the Tile Slim is, the button has a surprising amount of travel and feels solid. At the back, you get a single speaker, which is fairly loud but easy to cover up.
Each Tile also has a non-removable, non-replaceable battery, which allows the internals to be sealed up. This gives the Tile an IP5 rating, meaning it can get pretty wet, but won’t work underwater.
Cheap In Every Sense
Turning now to the budget key finder, you can instantly tell that this is a much cheaper product. Inside the box, you’ll find the four receivers and their batteries, the remote control and its battery, a bunch of keyrings and double-sided stickers, and the user manual.
The remote control looks decent, but is plasticky and lightweight, even with the battery installed. The buttons at the front offer excellent tactile feedback and a decent amount of travel. There’s also an LED at the top which flashes whenever you press any button. Each receiver also has the same LED. This is a clever idea, because without it, you’d never know whether it’s the remote or the receiver which has a dead battery.
Both the remote control and the receivers use a CR2032 battery. Having a removable battery that’s easily available (you can get it from Amazon or your local electronics store) is a clear advantage the budget key finder has over the Tile. I’ll talk more about this point later on.
Going back to the build quality, the receivers feel as cheap as the remote, if not more so. I feel there’s a lot of extra space in the receivers and because of this, they’re unnecessarily thick. They’re about as thick as SIX CA$0.25 coins stacked!
Unlike the super-svelte Tile Slim, the budget key finder is absolutely terrible for wallets. It’s ridiculously thick and impractical.
The Tile Community
As I see it, the Tile has one main advantage over its budget counterpart that makes it completely worth the price tag: the Tile community. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:
- The Tile app installed and running on any Tile-user’s phone is constantly searching for other Tiles
- It sees other Tiles in its Bluetooth range and makes a note of their locations
- You forget your Tile somewhere (it’s no longer connected to your phone) and mark it as lost
- A Tile-user comes within Bluetooth range of your lost Tile
- Their Tile app sees the lost Tile and posts its location online
- You can check the “Where it was last seen” thing on your phone to see where your lost Tile is
- Eventually you find it
The more Tile users there are in your area, the better the Tile experience.
That single point determines if the Tile is worth your money instead of a budget key finder. It’s a great feature that acts like a gigantic lost-and-found. The more people using Tile, the better it is for every Tile user. There aren’t many Tile users in my area, so this feature doesn’t have much use for me. Also, some think the Tile app is taking too much personal information and that this is an invasion of privacy.
Stemming from that point, you could make a pretty decent argument against the Tile and the data it collects about your location and then uploads to the internet, even if it is anonymous. Especially when you compare it to the stupidly simple setup process of the budget key finder: just add batteries and you’re good to go, no personal info needed.
One Tile-specific feature is that you can use any Tile to find your phone. You can’t do this with the budget key finder. Double-press the Tile logo/button and it’ll make your phone ring and vibrate like there’s no tomorrow. This is a pretty handy feature, even though Android users can do the same thing using Google and iOS people have “Find My iPhone.”
One clear flaw of the Tile is its non-removable, non-replaceable battery. After a year, your Tile will die and then you are forced to buy a new Tile. You get a “customer discount” when you buy another Tile, but no specific dollar value is mentioned anywhere on their site, which is weird. As a consumer, I find this to be a bit of a rip-off.
The budget key finder, on the other hand, uses removable batteries (CR2032) that can be bought from Amazon or your local electronics shop. The batteries are pretty cheap too, so you can stock up and buy in bulk. You’re getting a lot more stuff for your money if you go with the budget key finder.
And I realise this is a petty thing to mention, but the budget key finder also came with a bunch of two-sided stickers and extra key rings, so I could connect the receivers to whatever I wanted (keyrings, remote control, walking stick etc.). On the other hand, $120 buys you nothing but 4 Tiles. If you want adhesives, they’re sold separately.
Not Even a Remotely Good Idea
The problem with the budget key finder, apart from the stupidly thick receivers, is the idea of the remote control. It adds more problems than it solves. For starters, it’s small, meaning it’s easy to lose. And if you lose it, everything else becomes useless. Secondly, it’s got an attachment that’s clearly meant to be hooked up to your keyring. If the whole purpose of using this product is to find lost keys, what’s the point of attaching the remote to your keys?
I can see its value if you have memory problems, dementia, or Alzheimer’s and keep the remote at home. You could attach the receivers to your medicine box, walking stick, the TV remote, or whatever you want, and keep the remote control on top of your mantelpiece or a place that’s easily accessible. The idea is that your remote control will always be in that one place. If you lose any of your items, you know where the remote is so you go there, press the button(s), locate your lost items, and then put the remote control back in its proper place.
But for people who want to use this when they go out, attaching the remote to their keys is a pretty backwards idea, especially since the whole point of the remote is to find your lost keys. The budget key finder has some serious quirks it needs to sort out, even if you take into account its sub-CA$30 price.
And The Winner Is…
Overall, the Tile is a solid product with a lot of features, and it would have been the clear winner EXCEPT for the fact that the Tile community, its main advantage over the budget key finder, depends entirely on how many other Tile users live in your area. Without the Tile community, there’s not much which separates the Tile from a budget key finder. Sure, there’s the water-resistance and great build quality, but that’s not enough to warrant the CA$120 price tag.
That’s not to say the budget key finder is perfect. Far from it. It may not have as many features as the Tile does (it can’t find my phone, it can’t show a map where my item was last seen, and it has no community support whatsoever etc.) but it also costs a quarter of the price and it does its main job (locate my lost item by ringing loudly) just as well as the Tile.
At the end of the day, you’re paying CA$120 for the Tile community. And if there aren’t many Tile users near you, the Tile’s value drops down to about CA$60, at best. There aren’t many Tile users near me, so I can’t justify spending CA$120 on something which does the same thing as something I could get for under CA$30.