I like the National Geographic line at Petsmart. For one, it benefits animal conservation. Two, it has been on sale for over one month.
I have a 15.8 gallon and a 2.5 gallon National Geographic tank.
I like them both. People say the filter in the 2.5 gallon is overpowered, but I STRONGLY disagree. The little betta in that tank is quite happy and it doesn't blow the plants at all. I don't know what those people are doing with the filter, but I had no issue. The only thing the filter did was pull some over some loose pearl weed, but hey, it wasn't really rooted anyway.
Sand is sand. I used the National Geographic black sand in both tanks. It actually cleaned really easy. I didn't even clean it well to be honest because I was tired. I just basically rinsed it a couple of times and I didn't even really get that much cloudy water. I plan to buy National Geographic sand from now on, because I hardly cleaned it and it did not create a large cloudy mess.
On both of the hood leds that came with the tank, I can see the bottom of the tank. :-) I do not know about the separate ones. However, my plants are growing quite exponentially. Some are out of the tank. Therefore, I feel the lighting is sufficient for the needs of my low-tech tank. This is the lighting though that is under the hood of the tank (36 leds on the 15.6 gallon tank).
I think the LED touch sensor is nice for lighting. The filter that came with my 15.8 gallon was not too fabs. I went and bout an Aqueon more powerful filter (sized for a bigger tank actually). The heater works well.
In the 2.5 betta tank, I purchased a National Geographic submersible compact heater (again sale + coupons). It also works well. I mean, it heats the water. I think that is what I want a heater to do. The little betta seems happy and warm.
Therefore, I have purchased two tanks (on sale, with coupons), a compact heater, and sand. I like them all and intend to buy the sand from now on as long as I am using sand. That's it.