I don't use plants as a water test. You only seem to distinguish cheap and expensive test kits, leaving out the 'middle ground' of perfectly acceptable test kits. For example, SeaChem. I trust SeaChem test kits on my marine/reef tank, which is more sensitive than a freshwater planted.
Therefore I trust SeaChem for my freshwater planted tank.
In all actuality there's only a few test kits that are too unreliable to trust. I'd put RedSea in that category, along with any sort of 'dip strip' test kits, which are too easily ruined by minor levels of humidity (plus the fact that they're expensive)
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- see specs on my tanks, and photos of how they've evolved