By David Casteel
When you get into reviewing products as simple as Z-Wave plugs, attention to detail is key. When you really break them down, there really isn’t much to a Z-Wave plug. You plug in a device and hook it up to a Z-wave hub and turn it on and off (or Dim it up and Down in some cases). On the surface the Inovelli plug looks fairly similar to the popular GE Z-Wave plug. It’s when you compare them side by side and dig deeper the plugs start to separate. While there are other plugs out there, it seems in my experience that GE is the 800lb gorilla and for the sake of this review I will be using that as comparison.
While much of this could be considered subjective, I’m going to say the Inovelli right out the gate is simply a better-looking unit. It’s about 1/3rd as wide as the GE unit (I’ve got the older first-generation GE outlet) and thus blends into the wall much better than other plugs, especially the GE. While the newer GE outlet has improved its looks over the first generation, it’s still as wide as the original. All three plugs have manual activation buttons but only Inovelli’s has a light that indicates the on/off state. A small detail, but a welcome difference none the less. The Inovelli plug has clearly labeled which outlet is smart and which one isn’t, something GE didn’t think was a needed feature. In their defense you don’t have to worry about this on the new model though, both outlets are smart but are only controllable together. I will let you decide how useful that really is. Another feature that again sets the Inovelli out from GE is Scene Control. The button on the front of the unit can be used to trigger a Scene or a group of devices on hubs such as the SmartThings that support this control. Even though this feature is a nice addition, it might be difficult to use this if conditions weren’t just right for the button to be conveniently located. Most of my use cases for this plug wouldn’t really lend itself to easily access that button to activate the scene.
While often overlooked by the best of us, the included documentation warrants a discussion when comparing these products. The GE documentation is standard for this kind of product. The instructions are good and explain just how to pair the device with hub and a couple basic troubleshooting steps when it comes to Z-Wave range and then the plug. When compared to the instructions included with the Inovelli, the difference becomes much more apparent. The Inovelli documentation gives step by step instructions for SmartThings, Wink and Vera hubs. And let’s be honest, if you are rocking a HomeSeer or Indigo setup and you need detailed instructions, you probably have the wrong controller. On top of that, the documentation goes into detail on exactly how Z-Wave mesh networks work, even pictures with floor plans and examples. And just in case you wanted to know how much “Red Brick” along with about a dozen other materials reduce the Z-wave wireless signal its included on the sheet (Its about 35% if you really were curious). This might sound like a small detail, but if you are new to this hobby then these things really matter and will greatly affect your enjoyment of the product and home automation in general.
Like I mentioned before, the differences in the plugs are very slight, even if a few features set the Inovelli apart (although being the information geek that I am, I would argue the documentation isn’t a small difference). But when you look at purchasing these two, you are going to notice one difference right away, the price. To compare apples to apples you really must look at the newer GE plug because it, like the Inovelli, has Z-Wave Plus. When you compare the price on those two, the Inovelli is about 25% cheaper at the time of this review. While I haven’t had to deal with the customer service of Inovelli directly, I have talked to several of their customers on our Facebook page and they had nothing but great things to say. Clearly, they are doing something right. The fact that the Inovelli plug is cheaper and has more features makes this pretty much a no brainer.
Budget Smart Home Rating: 10/10
Disclosure: The review unit used by Budget Smart Home was sent to us by Inovelli. The thoughts expressed in the article are my own and weren’t influenced in any way by Inovelli. Budget Smart Home might receive a small commission if you use the included Amazon link. We would greatly appreciate the support by using the Amazon link.