There are so many different issues on zwave switches that people may not be aware of. Things like association groups, physical traveler wires, instant status, LED options, Minimum dim levels, ramp rate, A couple of network issues… And then there’s the whole issue of multi end point switches.
And zwave plus switches (any brand) will have a significantly longer-range then older zwave switches of any brand. Usual rule of thumb inside a typical U.S. House would be a maximum of 40 feet for the older zwave and around 60 feet for zwave plus.
Also, if the switch will be the mains-powered device closest to a Z wave door lock, it’s good if it supports “beaming” to help the lock gets its messages. Otherwise you may have to add an additional device like a pocket socket near the lock.
The “Good enough” easy answer
The shortest answer is that the GE switches are fine if you get a good price on them and you want a budget switch. There are some known quality issues with those, in particular, and an unusually high number of them seem to go bad about six months after they come out of warranty. But that’s still worth it to many people because even if they have to replace say 15% of the switches they originally bought, they probably still saved a bunch of money relative to the better engineered switches.
What works when the network doesn’t
The issue of physical traveler wires is more complicated. It limits the number of set ups you can do, but it also means that the auxiliary switches will still work even if The home automation controller fails. That’s important to a lot of people especially for lights in basement and attics where switch failing might be physically hazardous. The GE switches use physical traveler wires for three ways, which means even if the network controller is unavailable, the auxiliaries still work just like a non-network switch would.
Some of the expensive switches that use virtual three ways will also still work even if the controller fails, because they use a type of association. It’s the mid price switches where there is no physical traveler wire, but there’s also no direct association, where if the SmartThings cloud goes down the auxiliary might not work.
Dim Levels: How Low Can You Go?
Dim levels matter when you’re using a smart switch to control a dumb LED bulb and you want to be able to dim lower than about 30%. A lot of people are fine only Dimming a light between about 40% and 90%. And pretty much any dimmer switch can do that if it’s paired with the right bulb. But many of the available dimmer switches just can’t get LEDs below about 25%. (This includes the GEs) That has to do with the physics of how LEDs work.
There are newer switches, particularly some Levitons, some Coopers (and Lutron, but the Lutron are not compatible with SmartThings) which use a different design and can dim dimmable LEDs much lower. These are much more expensive switches. But some people will care about this feature a lot. The GE’s just can’t Dim any LED as low.
On the other hand, the smart bulbs can dim themselves very well, so you can actually get better dimming from a smart bulb and a dumb switch then you can from most smart switches and dumb LED bulbs.
Ramp Rate and Transitions
Ramp rate is another one of those features that most people don’t care about at all, but some people care about a lot. And again, a smart Bulb can generally offer a lot more ramp rate options than a dumb bulb, even a dumb bulb with a smart switch.
Double tap is a feature where if you tap a rocker switch quickly twice in a row it will cause something different to happen then if you just tap it once. People often use this for zone lighting, where a single tap will turn on just one light but a double tap will turn on all the lights in the room. But in most cases you should be able to assign pretty much any smartthings action to the different taps.
Many people don’t use double tap because it’s obviously not intuitive. Visitors won’t have any idea what to do. And it can even confuse people who live there! But other people love the feature.
Theoretically, you should be able to set up software that would process it double tap for almost any switch, and indeed there used to be a smart app they did just this. The problem, as mentioned higher up in this thread, is getting the timing exactly right is tricky in a cloud-based system.
An alternative method depends on the switch hardware. A few switches, although not many, can themselves recognize different tap patterns and just send a different numeric code to the hub based on the pattern detected. These generally work very well. Cloud lag doesn’t affect the operation at all.
As of May 2017, the only ST-compatible load controlling switches I know that can do this are the new Homeseer line and the newest Z wave plus models from GE. But I expect more switches may support this in the future.
So if you really want to have double tap as a feature, I would look for switches that support that in the hardware itself.
If you want a traditional “toggle” switch, the only brands that I’m aware of are the GE and the new Zooz. However, it still won’t look quite like a regular toggle because instead of staying up for on and down for off, it always returns to the center position so it’s sticking straight out. This will be very noticeable if you put it next to a non-networked toggle.
Homeseer switches use a traditional “rocker” format, as do many brands including the GE rockers . These also return to the neutral position each time, but it’s less obvious.
Leviton’s zwave classic models had an unusual format that some people like and some people hate where only the bottom part of the rocker is used. So you always press down.
However, Leviton upgraded to their new “Decora Smart” line in 2017 with Z wave plus, which changed to the more conventional rocker where you press at the top for on and at the bottom for off, and a dimmer bar on the side.
Back to the easy choice
So you can see why there’s a lot of different stuff to consider, if you want to consider everything. If you just want to get a decent switch at a value price and you’re OK with replacing about 10% of them in the year after the warranty runs out, then GE is an easy choice. They’re easy to find, they’re often on sale at the big box stores, they offer a choice of toggle or rocker, and the physical traveler wires mean they’re sometimes easier to understand and they work fine as non-network switches if for some reason The home automation controller goes flaky.
Plus everybody else goes “OK, GE switches, that sounds fine.” so building inspectors, landlords, other family members, electricians, all accept them easily.
GE is due to release Zwave plus versions of most of their switches in December 2016.
my personal opinion is not the most popular choice
Me personally I like better engineering and more features and I’m willing to pay more for that. But that’s just me.
If SmartThings worked with Lutron, it would be an easy choice – – I don’t think anyone makes better switches than Lutron. But there’s only indirect integration through IFTTT, and that’s too much lag for a lot of use cases. So then it starts getting complicated again.
(edited to update an official cloud to cloud Lutron/SmartThings integration was announced at CES 2017 for release early this year. Since it’s cloud to cloud, it won’t be as lightning fast as a local Lutron mplementation would be, but it will probably be faster than using IFTTT. So this becomes a good retrofit option for a switch-box without a neutral, assuming the integration actually gets released.)
If I had the money and I had to pick zwave switches today, I would probably pick Coopers.
Or if I was going for style I’d use in wall micro relays and LeGrand momentary switches. This is one of @Mike_Maxwell 's LeGrand mods:
But again those are both expensive choices compared to GE.
As it is, I’m waiting until May to put together my candidate list for my phase 2, which will probably include switches, because I keep hoping that one way or another Lutron will get back on the list.
Meanwhile, I’m using smart bulbs, which I’m really happy with for the places where I’m using them. And we do most of the control by voice with echo. But there are some existing ceiling fixtures where switches would make more sense. So we’ll get to that eventually.
Not a very complete answer, but there it is.
There are a lot of forum threads on lighting where you can get different people’s opinions on different switches.