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Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR Camera

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AMD Radeon HD 7970 .........................

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Antec HCG900 900W PSU

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Cooler Master Storm Enforcer Case ....................

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Kingston DDR3 Memory Review

ASUS Maximus III Gene Motherboard

ASUS M4A79T Deluxe Motherboard

Antec Midi Tower Case and PSU

Active Media SaberTooth SSD

More Power Protection Products ......................... ...............

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Leadtek K7NCR18D-Pro

Aopen CRW4850 CD Burner Review

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Global Win GAT-001 Case Review ....................

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Belkin Omniview 4-Pt. KVM Switch + Audio

AKASA Paxmate Acoustic Matting Installation Guide

Chieftec Winner Series: WX-01BD Case Review ..........

Cooler Master ATC-710 Case Review

80mm -> 60mm Fan Adapter

TDK USB Bluetooth Adaptor

Socket-A Cooler Roundup 

Promise FastTrak SX4000 RAID Card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power Protection Products Revisited

 

Introduction

It's been three years now since our initial review of power protection products from APC and Belkin, and things have moved on. The entry level products we reviewed back then (click here to read that review) were barely able to cope with a high end system and that gap has only widened in the intervening years. Fortunately, the manufacturers have not sat on their laurels and have newer, more powerful products to meet the challenge. In our experience, the greatest challenge remains one of raising awareness of the need for such products in the home. In a commercial setting it's what our American cousins would call a "no brainer" - there's simply too much to lose by having power supply failure. In the home, most people will not do a thorough risk assessment (or even regular backups of data) and hope to avoid the fateful day with fingers crossed. In this article we will highlight the benefits of power protection products and how, in the long run, they can save you money.



Why do we need them?


Today's power hungry CPUs and GPUs (even SLI has made a comeback) mean that modern PCs have hefty power supplies (420W to upwards of 500W) with power hungry large monitors to match. Also consider that the products reviewed here work just as well with Hi Fi and AV equipment and it is easy to see that all expensive electrical assets can be protected with these products. A recent report showed that the average electrical appliance had its life span reduced by a third due to electrical surges and line noise. For electrical appliances with no moving parts (televisions etc.) power supply damage is the greatest single cause of failure. All of this without even mentioning lightning strikes (which is generally thought to be the main reason for power protection products). Speaking of which, a friend of this reviewer had his PC totally destroyed (total component failure) during a storm. You might think that this was just bad luck but the actual lightning had hit three streets away! A lightning bolt doesn't have to hit your actual house before damage is sustained - it can happen from a considerable distance.



Cost/Benefit Analysis

How can having these products save money? The calculations are a bit complicated for those without MBAs or accountancy qualifications so we'll just describe the process and mention key figures.

Sticking with PCs we see that a good gaming system costs about £1700 and should give 5 years of useful lifespan (it may become obsolete before then for the latest games of 5 years into the future but that's to be expected). To calculate the Annual Equivalent Cost (AEC) we need to find the 5 year annuity that can be purchased for £1700. It's not just as simple as dividing by 5 (to get £340) because of inflation, cost of capitol etc. If we take 10% as a figure to represent inflation and the fact that you could have bought National Savings Certificates (which yield about 6%) instead of a PC we find that the AEC is £448.

So basically, buying a new PC for £1700 is that same as renting (or hire purchase) over 5 years at £448 per annum. We've ignored the residual value (a 5 year old PC is not going to be worth much anyway). If we use 1/3 as the value lost due to poor power supply that means a loss of £150 per year.

How much does one of the products being reviewed cost? In the case of the APC BACK-UPS RS 1500VA 230V which has an estimated resale price of £230 and a useful lifespan of 10 years we get an AEC of £37.43

Hopefully you are still with us now that the math bit is over. The point of all the above calculations was to show that someone who bought a £1700 PC would be better off to the tune of £113 (150-37) per annum if they also bought one of the power protection products reviewed in this article. The reasons are even more compelling for expensive Hi Fis or Home Cinema Systems (plasma televisions are still very expensive). We've ignored the risk of lightning damage as its effect is statistically small (the unfortunate victims would disagree) compared to the gradual damage caused by electrical supply irregularities over time. Both APC and Belkin provide more than adequate levels of compensation should the products not live up to expectations for additional peace of mind.

Now that we've shown that it pays to purchase power protection, let's take a look at the two products under review.


APC



The APC BACK-UPS RS 1500VA 230V does not come in a traditional retail pack but neither can it be described as OEM since all the pertinent information is printed clearly on the box. It's shaped like a Small Form Factor PC and comes with a stand so it can be mounted vertically.




Accessories include 2 power cables, a USB cable for monitoring and a modem cable. The supplied software allows for saving of open work and automatic shutdown in the event of a power failure.

Here are the manufacturer's specifications:

 

Technical Specifications
 Output
 
 Input
 
 Batteries & Runtime
 
 Communications & Management
 
 Surge Protection and Filtering
 
 Physical
 
 Environmental
 
 Conformance
 

 




Belkin



The Belkin UPS by contrast comes as a retail pack with a useful carrying handle.

 

The side view show considerable ventilation because of the lack of a fan (which the APC unit has).

 

Accessories are similar but the power cables use standard household plugs rather than PC power cables.

Here are the manufacturer's specifications:

Advantages :
• Line-Interactive UPS with Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) Technology
• Provides up to 100 Minutes Backup Time
• Battery Capacity Load: 1200VA (670 Watts)
• Bulldog Plus Shutdown Software (compatible with Windows XP)


Features
• Provides 4 Sockets: 3 Battery Backup Sockets w/Surge Protection; 1 Socket with Surge Protection Only
• Serial and USB Communication Ports
• Phone, Fax, Modem, Network Protection (RJ11/RJ45 Protected Ports)
• £200,000 Connected Equipment Warranty
• Data Recovery Warranty
• 3-Year Product Warranty

Colour: MIDNIGHT GRAY



Side by Side Comparison



Seeing them together instantly highlights the difference in design, with the tall thin APC towering over the smaller more traditional shape of the Belkin. Despite this, the Belkin weighs considerably more than the APC product even though it has a lower VA rating.



Peering round the back shows the biggest difference between the two. Belkin have opted for standard plugs which means that any household appliance can be plugged straight in. The APC has twice as many connectors of the more traditional type. This comes as no surprise when you consider that APCs main customers are commercial (all the way up to huge UPS products for large data centers) whereas Belkin are increasingly targeting the home user. It's good to see USB being used for PC connection as RS232 connectors are becoming ever rarer as newer PCs ditch legacy components and ports.




Tests

We performed as many tests as we could with the limitation of having to fill up the batteries between each test. Software installation was very straightforward with icons appearing in the task bar to monitor the UPS status. When power was cut with many running applications both devices shut down the PCs saving all of the Microsoft Office files but not Newsbin Pro. This leads us to conclude that only applications with the standard FILE > SAVE menu structure will be automatically saved and if you regularly use non-standard applications then it may be better to disable automatic shutdown. Both units make a loud beep every few seconds when power is lost so there is no chance of the event going unnoticed (assuming someone is home at the time).

Timing the life of the battery backup we found that both were very close to the rated values. We were able to run a PC (520W PSU), 21" Monitor, 41" Sony RPTV, Sky+ PVR, VCR and DVD player simultaneously connected to each without overloading the systems. It should be mentioned that some plasma TVs have very high power requirements so this should be checked before purchasing a power protection product.

Oscilloscope tests showed perfectly clean power being output (there was some noise on the input). As with our previous review we were unable to simulate a lightning strike.

The fan on the APC product was quiet in operation and could not be heard above the PC connected to it. The Belkin product used passive cooling but was only warm to the touch indicating that perhaps a fan was unnecessary for this task.

We would have liked the APC product to have at least a couple of household sockets as it would encourage purchase for devices other than PCs. The limited number of sockets on the Belkin was not a problem as we used extension leads to expand connectivity. One note of caution is to never connect a UPS to another UPS as a fluctuation in one can result in overcompensation in the other leading to a vicious cycle that can damage both. If you have more than one UPS then they should be connected in parallel not in series.

In terms of design, the APC unit was a definite step in the right direction and would not be out of place next to a PC whereas the Belkin is the more traditional (albeit compact) box and best kept out of sight.

For less critical uses (where battery backup is not required) both APC and Belkin have cost-effective solutions in the form of surge and line noise protected multiway sockets which are ideal for household appliances (fridges, washing machines, microwaves etc.) - they'll provide some peace of mind if you decide not to purchase an extended warranty for your appliance.



Conclusion

Both of the mid-range products we tested managed to cope with everything that was thrown at them and the only difference is in price and strength. The APC is rated at 1500VA (roughly 1070 Watts) but costs slightly more than the Belkin unit rated at 1200VA (about 850 Watts).

The main players in this field (APC and Belkin) have managed to stay ahead of the game by offering products that exceed the requirements of increasingly hungry hardware. It cannot have escaped the attention of their marketing departments that a rapidly growing segment (power gamers, Hi Fi enthusiasts etc.) have a need that is not being addressed. Like many new market segments, most of these people are not aware of a viable solution to this need. Hopefully this article will address that to some extent.

Both products win our Gold Award for performing flawlessly.


We would like to thank both APC and Belkin for the review samples.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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