Current State of Z-Wave & Zigbee Portable Button Controllers?

I'm attempting to expand my horizons and get into more true home automation[1] rather than just monitoring and simple timing automations. I was thinking my first foray would be into scenes for a couple of specific situations. Looking around for portable button controllers, it seems that there really aren't any available that just scream "buy me!"

What I am looking for is at least four buttons with at least 8 actions available from those buttons (buttons x 2 [press and hold]). A larger number of buttons wouldn't be bad, there just don't seem to be many floating around. (The Remotec ZRC-90 looks good, but it's double or more the price of the other models.)

I've looked at the Sengled Smart Light Switch, the ERIA remote, the Hue Dimmer, the Lightify Switch and others in the Pico-style. All of the above fail for some reason, either the 4x2 requirement and/or abnormal behavior with HE. The only remote that seems to meet the technical requirements at a good price is the RGBgenie ZW-5121 (And -5122. I'm assuming those are functionally the same, just with different screening for the icons.)

What really caught my eye were the RGBgenie remotes that look more like a TV remote -such as the ZB5003-, but those appear to not work with HE, based upon old forum posts. (@Gnant Any updates?)

The various Aeotec buttons look good, but are expensive, and I don't like the lack of button icons for this application (even if the icons aren't exactly what I am controlling.)

Is there any device I may have missed (or misinterpreted?) I looked at both the Compatible Devices List and the Button Controller Matrix, but really didn't learn anything I didn't already know. I know someone will say Pico, but I really don't see the utility in adding another hardware device/hub solely for this purpose.

[1]I know the "motion lighting crowd" will disagree with me that one should not have to interact with ones home and automations, but I currently believe that a 'hands-off' automation approach wouldn't be beneficial to me today. Perhaps down the road...

I've been in the same quandary and finally took the plunge with a NanoMote. It's supposed to show up here in a couple days. I'll post my experience here when I actually have some :wink:

I'm not sure what the "4x2 requirement" is, but I've used a lot of button devices, including the Hue Dimmer, Eria Remote, Aeon Minimote (never tried the Nanomote; I'd moved on by that point, haha), Osram/Lightify 2-button and 4-button switch, SmartThings buttons, and Pico Remotes. I also have (or have had) some Z-Wave Central Scene dimmers like the Zooz, HomeSeer, and Inovelli, which can send button events and act in a similar manner.

My favorite, by far, are the Picos. I know you're not a huge fan of adding another bridge to your setup, but you also mentioned price, and it's worth mentioning that the Picos are so incredibly cheap (< $12 USD on Energy Avenue right now), so if you buy enough, you'll eventually compensate for the cost of the Bridge compared to other devices. Even at Energy Avenue's Bridge price, 12 Picos would be 12*11.74 + 150 = $290.88, which would get you an equal number of $24-ish Hue Dimmers, which besides the Eria and ST dimmers, are one of few things I can find that are even comparable in price. I think Picos are even more functional than the alternatives because you can choose between drivers that respond to the events they send differently to get different events on Hubitat (pushed-then-released, or pushed or held-then-released). And you're likely to find an even better price on the Bridge than EA (formerly routinely one of the best, but they've increased and someone has posted another source here a couple times), so the tipping point will probably be lower if anything.

I try to automate my lighting to the greatest extent possible and still won't disagree that button devices or other manual controls are still nice to have. :slight_smile: So no arguments from me there--just a plea that you can avoid trying the dozen or so other solutions I tried if you didn't try avoiding Lutron for as long as me.

Please do. Thanks!

What I was trying to say is that I'd like at least 8 functions available to me, with at least 4 hard buttons on the unit to get to those 8 functions. I know some of the cheaper units can't do all 8 for various reasons. (I'm assuming that press and hold are all that I can really use. I don't think I have any cases where release buys me anything since you'd have to activate hold to activate release.)

I get the point about the Picos, but I'm just not ready to make that leap yet. This is more "will a button controller work for me?" than "which one should I buy 5 or 10 or 15 of?" If this trial run is successful (and I do understand the argument that it could be less successful with inferior equipment,) and I see the need for more than the 2 or 3 "remotes" I do today, then Lutron looks a lot better.

Ah, I get that requirement now. On some 4-button devices, a non-"dimming" button or two often has a hold feature reserved for device or network tasks, as you've probably found. Picos are almost an exception here, except excessively long holds of buttons not intended for dimming also tend to not get "released" events (for "regular" length holds, this is not a problem).

But don't discount the release. :slight_smile: You do indeed need a pushed or held event before it, but it's great if you're controlling lights. You could use a push or hold (depending on the device you're using and what you want) to initiate a "Start Level Change" on a dimmer/bulb and a "Stop Level Change" on release, emulating the behavior of a "real" dimmer. Not all devices support these functions (and Hubitat groups don't, nor does their Hue integration, but I wrote my own that does).

At least for now, this is more of a on/off and groups/scenes/rules-firing remote than trying to emulate a dimmer, though I can envision some scenarios where remote dimming would come in handy. As I said in the OP, I've primarily been focused on monitoring and very simple automations for my HA 'career,' so it's a bit foreign to be thinking about true automation. I'm finding lots of squirrels and rabbit holes.

A couple of Pico questions, if you'd be so kind...

I'm assuming that the 3-button with raise/lower is really just 5 buttons. Is that true for Hubitat?

Looking at a Lutron catalog, they have Pico remotes and Caseta Pico remotes. Am I looking at one over the other, or will both work with the bridge/hub?

Thanks for the input, I appreciate it.

Yeah, Lutron's nomenclature is a bit weird (they don't count dimming buttons as buttons), so the "3-button" really has 5, and that's how Hubitat's driver uses it.

Pico remotes work with a variety of Lutron systems, including both Caséta and RA2 (Select or "full"), along with a bunch of other residential and commercial systems I'm not as familiar with. This is a bit unusual with Lutron's other products; e.g., their in-wall switches and dimmers are totally incompatible between Caséta and RA2. Picos aren't--I upgraded from Caséta to RA2 myself and re-used them all. I assume that must just be a branding thing (anything that starts with "PJ2-" is, I think, the North American ClearConnect frequency and should work with either platform if it's a Pico).

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I really like the 4 button sylvania remote. Push , held released x 4 = 12 actions. Very economical & cheap enough to try
I paid 10 bucks each

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I use three Aeotec Minimotes I had from my "Vera era". Pair easily, compact, rechargeable and simple to integrate. Four buttons, twelve functions.

I can't find them quite that cheap, but 1 or 2 of those will still be cheap enough for test subjects. Thanks!

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