It’s late at night, and you’ve been shutting out all distractions to get something finished on time, maybe it’s coursework or that project you have for work, but either way, it needs to be done as soon as possible.
You’re just finishing up when the screen goes black, and the lights go out. Uh-oh. Power cut, and we’re betting you hadn’t saved in ages.
That’s where an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) would genuinely have been a lifesaver. These provide a secondary source of power to your hardware so that even when the main power is cut, you still have some time to save and backup your stuff.
We’ve done some research and picked out some of the best uninterruptible power supplies on the market so that you can find one that’d suit your needs without doing any of the legwork.
We’ll be looking for any strengths or weaknesses each product has, as well as finding the person the product would best fit, starting with our first model, the APC Back-UPS Connect BGE90M.
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- 4.5 hours of power for low draw devices
- Small, lightweight and can be wall mounted
- Generous warranty
- Very inexpensive
- Not strong enough to power large devices
- Replacement batteries cost more than the unit itself
Most UPS’s provide enough power for a few minutes of electronics use, but then what? You have to deal with the age-old problem of keeping yourself entertained during a power outage, and that’s where the APC Back-UPS Connect BGE90M comes in.
It’s specially designed to provide low-draw devices like phones and tablets with enough power for up to 4.5 hours of use, and even better, charges them whilst doing so. This will allow you to get into contact with people and let them know what’s going on, or just keep the kids calm and occupied until power is restored.
It’s even strong enough to provide power to a router, so you can even get online, assuming your connection hasn’t been interrupted.
This unit has three 2-prong outlets and two USB charging ports, so multiple devices can be powered at the same time, although this will decrease the amount of time the UPS battery lasts.
In terms of lifespan, the battery is expected to last between 2 and 5 years, with replacements available on APC’s website. Since new batteries cost $40 and a new unit is also around $40, though, you’d be better off just buying a new one in a few years.
This is a pretty small unit, measuring at 8.8×4.1×5.2” and weighing just 15.4 pounds. This product beeps just once when power is cut, which saves you from having to deal with the continuous noise which some of its competitors insist upon making. If you don’t hear the beep, there’s also a flashing green LED to let you know which is always good news.
The power cord is five feet long, and the UPS itself can be mounted on a wall using the side mounting slot. It also comes with surge and lightning protection built-in, so you don’t need additional surge protection.
APC provides a three-year limited warranty with this UPS, as well as a lifetime equipment protection policy, which means they’ll either repair or replace anything which is damaged by a surge whilst properly connected to one of their units.
This lets you breathe easier knowing that even if something goes wrong and your phone gets fried, you’re covered and won’t be left out of pocket. It’s always good to see a company providing this guarantee, and doubly so since it’s such an affordable product.
There’s a lot to like about this UPS: it offers far longer usage than most other products, and whilst this model isn’t strong enough to power anything larger than a tablet, it definitely fills a niche in the market.
The fact that it’s so light and small means that it can be placed just about anywhere, and the warranty coverage will be a welcome source of reassurance to many people. If your budget is a little tight and you don’t need to power anything big, this model is a great choice.
- Good backup runtime
- LCD and maintenance tools allow for highest performance
- Energy efficient
- Top heavy
The CyberPower CP600LCD is a powerful piece of kit that packs far more punch than its small frame might imply. It’s a vertical standing model that comes with a wealth of different outlets and can even be mounted to a wall for easier access.
This product is both GreenPower and Energy Star certified, meaning that it has lower energy consumption than most – up to 75% less, in fact, and this results in lower energy bills for the customer, making this product a wise long term investment.
It’s a compact model with a Mini-Tower form factor and measures just 11” tall, 6.5” wide and 3.5” deep. It weighs just 14 pounds, so it’s as portable as it is useful. We did find that the unit is slightly top-heavy, which can cause it to be somewhat unstable, so for this reason, we’d advise using the bottom outlets first as this will help redistribute the product’s weight.
There’s a small LCD at the top of the unit, which displays various important system metrics like battery level, the runtime in minutes, load level, and whether the battery is currently being used. There’s also a button that allows the user to switch between normal and silent modes – this allows you to silence the audio reminder that sounds when the battery is being drained.
The battery provides around 2 minutes of power when at maximum capacity, but with most PCs, you’re likely to get around 15 or so minutes before it’s completely drained, which is more than enough time to save your work. The battery takes about 8 hours to recharge fully, so depending on your situation, you may need more than one.
There are eight outlets, all of which are surge protected, and four of these are widely spaced to accommodate plugs with larger heads, such as the kind often found on brick style adaptors. The power cord runs from the top of the unit and is 6 feet long, which is more than long enough for most room layouts.
CyberPower provides a free download of their PowerPanel software upon purchase. This lets you connect your UPS to your computer via USB and get more detailed information than the LCD alone can provide. Things like event logs, test results, and runtime management are all available and, for best performance, should be made use of.
Like the APC model above, this unit comes with a three-year limited warranty and cover for anything which is damaged, up to the value of $175,000. This is great news, and to be honest, if you have hardware of that value plugged into a single UPS, you might want to consider investing in a couple more, just to have some redundancy and lower the risk of damage.
There isn’t much to complain about here; this unit provides enough power to get everything saved and shutdown in the event of a power cut, plus it’s not expensive at a little under $65. Its top-heavy design could use a little work, but it’s not going to tip over, and you can always prop it against something if you’re worried about this.
If you have a lot of vital high powered devices and want to make sure they don’t go off immediately, you really can’t go wrong with the CyberPower CP600LCD.
- Can hot swap batteries for increased runtimes
- Can easily debug problems and tailor performance
- Provides a lot of power
- Energy efficient
- Larger and heavier than its competition
- Slightly lower surge replacement coverage
The APC Back-UPS Pro is a mid-tier product that offers more outlet space than a lot of the less expensive models and far more in-depth customization options to allow it to fit your needs better. It’s a little larger than most, at 15” deep, 11.8” tall and 4.4” wide, and heavier too, weighing 26.7 pounds, but it makes up for this by being built to last.
This unit has ten outlets, all of which are all surge protected; however, only five can be used in the event of a power outage, with the other five essentially serving as an extension cable during non-emergency periods. This isn’t a huge problem, especially since power comes at a premium during an outage, but might not be suitable for people with a large number of plugs in a small space.
One of the benefits this model has over its competition is its capacity for additional batteries. At full load, this unit supplies around 4 minutes of power (and around 12 minutes at half load), but this can be extended by purchasing more battery packs.
The best part is that these are hot-swappable, which means there’s no power interruption when switching a nearly drained battery for a full one. With each battery taking around 8 hours to recharge, the value of these becomes immediately obvious, and although they aren’t included in the purchase, they’re sure to be attractive to a lot of people.
The LCD screen shows information such as battery load, remaining life, and can detect any potential faults in the wall circuit, plus it comes with a green mode to reduce its energy usage (which is already low, as this is Energy Star certified).
You can also change the voltage sensitivity and voltage-transfer points to optimize the supply of power to sensitive hardware. The unit periodically performs self-assessments and can warn you when it detects that a battery is nearing the end of its 3-5 year life.
Similarly to the other models we’ve seen, this unit comes with a three-year limited warranty, although APC will only replace up to $150,000 worth of equipment damaged by a surge. This is still a high payout, and the odds of surge damage are tiny, but given the higher cost of this model, we’d have liked to see a little more coverage.
There’s no doubt that this model is useful, but it’s geared towards professional use more than home use. Most people just don’t have the knowledge or motivation to perfectly adjust the settings for the best possible results.
As such, we’d recommend it for businesses with a strong IT or electrical department. The ability to switch in batteries and quickly identify any faults make it easy to debug a problem, should one arise, plus the large size might make it difficult to fit in a standard home office.
- Fits in any standard server rack
- 8 powered outlets
- Surge and under/over voltage protection
- Fantastic damage coverage
- Larger and heavier than most
The Tripp Lite 1500VA Smart UPS is a very powerful system aimed at providing power to essential systems such as servers or security camera networks in the event of a power outage. This UPS is the most expensive on this list, at a little over $200, but we feel it justifies this price by providing a range of functionality that is unheard of in lower-priced products.
Firstly, its server rack friendly dimensions mean that it won’t take up any unnecessary space in the office and ensures that you have quick and easy access to it, along with your most important hardware in an emergency.
Secondly, this model has eight outlets, and unlike the CyberPower CP600LCD, it is capable of providing battery power to all of them when the main power is cut. Each of these has surge protection too, although most of them are a little too narrowly spaced for large-headed plugs.
At half load, this UPS can provide power for around 13 minutes, so depending on the size and complexity of your setup, you might need multiple to ensure no data is lost.
The LCD screen is used to display system information such as the input voltage, battery level, voltage regulator status, and power status. This screen can be rotated if you’re using a vertical racking system, and its brightness can be adjusted using the nearby dimmer switch.
This product automatically adjusts under voltages and overvoltages between 75 – 147V without taking any power from the battery. Thus, allowing you to avoid brownouts and any possible drop in performance caused by an incorrect voltage.
Plus, by using the free PowerAlert software or the power management options in Windows or OSX, you can check various system parameters, set a routine in case of a mains power outage or schedule automatic file backups.
This UPS has a three-year limited warranty but comes with the highest amount of cover for surge damaged hardware – $250,000, for as long as you use the product.
This is a great big safety net if you intend to use a lot of high-value equipment and given the rack style build of the UPS itself, we’d say that’s exactly what this product is made for: it measures 21.6” wide, 15.2” deep and 7.3” tall, and weighs a little over 32 pounds, so it’s clearly intended to be a stationary piece of kit.
You also have access to technical support via telephone, email or live chat should anything go wrong, so there’s another avenue of customer service.
All things considered, the Tripp Lite 1500VA Smart-UPS is great for big businesses. It will fit into the rack neatly amongst your most crucial hardware and can even protect them from voltage irregularities as well as total power loss.
The LCD accommodates two orientations, and the level of customer support provided is unparalleled, both in terms of surge damage cover and technical assistance. If you’re going to trust anyone to protect your data when the power goes down, trust Tripp Lite.
How To Buy The Right UPS For Your Needs
Uninterruptible power supplies. They aren’t the kind of thing that people get excited about and at first glance, they can seem complicated and even intimidating. Luckily, they’re actually pretty simple and we’ve put together a quick glance guide to some of the more important things to look out for before buying so that you can be 100% positive you chose the right one for your needs.
The first and most important thing you should consider is battery life. Say your UPS has 400W of power, and all of the hardware you plug in adds up to 200W, you’ll get maybe 10 minutes or so when the mains are shut off, but only around 2 minutes if you use the full 400W. Is everything you’ve plugged in essential? If not, consider taking it out and earning more runtime for the things that are.
Most batteries last between 2-5 years before they need replacing. For a low-cost UPS, you might be better off just buying a new one since the cost of a replacement is so high, but for high-end models, you’ll want to make sure you know where to get one, and for how much, since these products can often cost hundreds of dollars.
Once the battery is depleted, how long does it take to recharge? Most take around 8 hours, so if you want to use your hardware during an extended outage, you’re going to need multiple power supplies. Bear in mind that these aren’t supposed to be utilized as batteries, they’re intended to provide you with enough time to safely save and shut down.
Many UPS systems have options, with built-in or accessible through the software, which allows you to tweak various facets of their performance for optimal results. These can include changing the voltage sensitivities or running in a low-power mode.
Most people won’t have the knowledge required to effectively make a difference, so most of the time, you’re better off leaving these alone, although if you are lucky enough to know what each setting does, you can create a system which works exactly to your specifications.
Bear in mind that electronics is a field itself, and is outside of the scope of this article, but if you’re interested in the different UPS specifications, there’s a useful guide here.
One thing you should check every so often, though, is the battery status. Your UPS may be able to tell you when the battery is approaching the end of its life, and if it is, it needs replacing as soon as possible – the last thing you want is for it to die when you really need it, after all.
Firstly, how large and heavy is the power supply? Will it even fit where you want it to go? The smallest and lightest power supplies around will fit just about anywhere but tend to be intended for keeping your phone or tablet alive, rather than a whole computer system. For this, you’ll usually need a far larger, heavier UPS.
Which way is it oriented – horizontally or vertically? Will this prevent you from using it the way you had planned to?
Are there enough outlets to support all of the things you want to plug in? If not, you’ll likely need to raise your budget a little, but whatever you do, do not plug in an extension cord – this is just dangerous and an all-around bad idea. Also, if some of your plugs have large heads, make sure to find a UPS with widely spaced outlets, or else you risk not being able to fit them in next to each other.
Does your UPS support wall mount? Often, this is the perfect solution to what would otherwise be a messy and disorganized power supply, but make sure that it has a mounting bracket before you buy it – you really don’t want to try and drill holes into a product like this.
Also, make sure your mounting surface can support all of the weight you’ll be adding to the power supply – it might be okay when the UPS is empty, but the weight of large plugs can add up quickly.
It’s safe to say that all of the products we’ve covered today are great in their own ways, but we think that the best overall has to be the CyberPower CP600LCD. With a solid backup battery life and plenty of ways to maximize it, it’s a fantastic UPS with a price tag as small as its frame.
We hope that this article has been helpful to you, and if so, we’d like to ask you to remember us the next time you’re looking for purchasing advice – we’d love to help you out again and we’re sure you have more important things to be doing than researching products for hours. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and have a great day.