SentrySafe SFW123GDC Review
For its small size, the SentrySafe SFW123GDC is unusually secure. But, in one way, it might be a little too secure. Here's how.
Basic Design & Specs
Inside, the SentrySafe SFW123GDC is a gnome-sized 13.8″ high x 12.6″ wide x 11.9″ deep. That works out to a very modest 1.23 cubic feet of space to store your valuables. For my situation, that's just far too small. In yours, it might be just right. After all, with some juggling, it is possible to fit a 16″ laptop into it diagonally.
On top of that, it weighs a mere 90 lbs. That makes it light enough to be carted away by most any strong burglar. Whether it can be a major consideration or a big concern depends on the neighborhood of where you live.
The limited theft protection is offset somewhat by its four, 1-inch locking bolts and pry-resistant hinges. In a safe this small, that's nice to see. Even better, this model offers a bolt-down kit that will provide plenty of security without compromising the fire resistance and water-damage prevention you want if properly installed.
I emphasize “properly installed” because you have to drill the holes to use the included mount kit to bolt down the safe. If not done correctly, you can lessen the fire or water protective quality of the safe. In this case, that's a particular concern because SentrySafe notes (in the fine print, of course) that, if you do choose to drill, the water resistant warranty no longer applies.
Among the minor, nice-to-have features of a home safe are such things as extra shelves, pockets, and the like. The SFW123GDC has a few here.
The internal drawer has its own lock and key, and there is a set of slots to allow adjusting its level inside the enclosure.
Best Mid-Size Fireproof Safe
SentrySafe SFW123GDC is your go-to choice if you're looking for a reliable, fire-resistant focused, mid-size safe for all your valuable documents, media, and data files.
There's a handy pocket in the door as well as a row of pegs you can use to store extra home or car keys. An interior light makes it easy to find your items inside the safe.
All that aside, whatever your personal needs and circumstances, there are a few attributes of the SFW123GDC that are likely to be evaluated the same for nearly anyone. Not least is the welcome level of fire and water protection this safe can offer.
You don't have to take my word for it, luckily. The unit has been tested by Underwriters' Laboratory, not something every consumer model on the market can boast of these days.
They gave it a 1-hour time rating. That might be too low in circumstances that if you live in an area where the fire department might not show up right away, especially in winter. One hour-time rating is not short, and it could be fully adequate.
The UL rating for the temperature isn't provided, but it is rated safe for electronics, so it must be UL 150 or better. That covers thumb or USB drives so it must be fine for a camera or tablet as well – if SentrySafe is telling the truth.
This model could remain on my wishlist anyway, however, since it goes beyond the norm in one key way. It's ETL rated as well. Edison Testing Laboratories, like UL, is a major and trusted certification company. In this instance, they found that the SFW123GDC can withstand sitting in up to 8 inches of water for up to 24 hours and the contents suffer no water damage.
You might not think that is something you need. But keep in mind, even if you live in an area where flooding is highly unlikely, fires are typically extinguished with water. It gives me peace of mind. If a blaze does break out, the fire department can have a field day with the hose, and my valuables will remain intact.
There's another aspect to the testing scenario here that's a little unusual. ETL subjected the safe to a 15-foot drop as part of impact testing. Personally, that wouldn't matter to me. But for those who live in an apartment building, where the safe can crash through a floor weakened by fire, it could be the difference between intact electronics and ruined ones.
Dual Key and Digital Lock
One thing I’m particularly stringent about home fire safes is the lock. It does no good to have stellar fire and water protection if you can't get your safe open reliably. A single visit from the locksmith – even if he doesn't have to destroy the safe to enter it – can wipe out a lot of savings buying one model over another.
This one uses a digital pad, not my first preference. Call it an old-fashioned attitude or just a general mistrust of battery failure. Or, call it experience with too many poorly made electronic locks. Either way, the prejudice is confirmed by experience in this case. The lock on the SFW123GDC is problematic.
Naturally, I don't have access to SentrySafe's records, so I don't have a large number of samples to draw on. But the locking mechanism has been known to fail on this model more than once. Customer Support recommended applying some WD-40 and tapping on it with a hammer after one failure. That did work but it's not what you want to have to do to get your safe open.
One possible reason for the weakness isn't hard to find. The internals are made of pot metal, not quality steel, integrated with plastic, and not particularly high-quality plastic. It can also fail when the batteries die. However, once replaced with a fresh set, the pad works as normal. No need to reset anything.
On the upside, there's a key override on this model. So, in the admittedly unlikely case that the primary lock does fail, you can get inside via the key. It goes without saying – but I will anyway – that you want to be sure to tuck the key someplace safe where you have easy access to it and won't forget.
If you prefer a combination lock, then look for the SFW123DSB. It's about the same model but with a multi-position shelf instead of the locked drawer (which can be bought separately) and no interior light. Here is our SentrySafe SFW205CWB Review.
The SentrySafe SFW123GDC is a little small for me. It does have good fire and water protection, though. The lock makes me a little nervous about recommending it, however. Proceed with caution.