About Our Trusted Experts
Katie Dundas is a freelance journalist and tech writer who has written for Lifewire since 2019. She has thoroughly researched all products reviewed here.
Jeremy Laukkonen is a tech writer and the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. He specializes in consumer technology, including uninterrupted power supplies.
Erika Rawes is a tech reviewer who’s been writing for Lifewire since 2019. She is a consumer tech expert and tested the APC Gaming UPS on this list.
Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he’s not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he’s playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he’s a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.
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Which One Should I Use
A surge protector is intended to protect your electronics from physical harm, in addition to just being generally handy for multiple power outlets. An uninterrupted power supply is meant to save you from the headache of losing time from failing equipment, either for a split-second brown-out or an extended power outage.
Most home users can get by with a simple and inexpensive surge protectorif the worst comes to the worst and you have a power spike in your home, just replace it and youre good to go. A UPS is probably warranted if you frequently do critical work on a computer and cant risk it losing power even for a second. Its also a good upgrade if you live in an area with an unreliable power grid or frequent power outages from weather those split-second power losses can be more or less ignored, restoring a bit of peace of mind.
If you want both maximum electrical protection and a means of keeping your PC constantly powered, you can combine both a surge protector and a UPS. Most UPS devices include a basic surge breaker and ground, and you can plug non-critical devices like speakers, phone chargers, or lamps into a cheap surge protector on the second wall outlet.
What To Look For In An Uninterruptible Power Supply
Many smart devices like phones and laptops have built-in battery packs, with phones such as the iPhone 13 Pro Max bordering on two-day battery life and modern laptops packing enough cells to last a whole day. But typical desktop computers, routers, and similar devices still need to be plugged into a power source all the time to work.
Thats where an uninterruptible power supply comes in. Its main function is to act as a big battery that powers your devices when your electricity goes out. They range from small units that can sustain a few low-power devices to big house units for entire homes.
Battery capacity should be the number one focus when getting a UPS. A sub-1000W UPS should be good enough for most appliances, but if you have really powerful systems like a gaming rig, you might want to look beyond the 1000W mark.
Once youve sorted the capacity, you need to evaluate the devices youd be connecting to the UPS, specifically their sensitivity to signal fluctuations. Sensitive equipment like some newer LED TVs, CFL light bulbs, and audio equipment perform best on a pure sine wave. In this case, youd need a UPS with a pure sine wave output. However, most other devices, including laptop computers, cell phone chargers, and any equipment that uses an AC/DC adapter, will usually work fine with a modified sine wave output.
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What Is A Surge Protector
Surge protectors, like power strips, can come in the form of a wall mount with USB ports extending outwards for easy access to plug in devices. They also, however, can come in different forms that plug into the wall containing parts specifically designed to block a power surge.
Additionally, these come with a spike suppressor, surge diverter, and a surge protection device . Some also come with a transient voltage surge suppressor for max defense against a power surge. Surge protectors are meant to defend against a spike in voltage coming from a power line and are made to absorb power to keep it from going out or malfunctioning.
Instead of plugging a surge protector directly into a wall socket, you can also mount your surge protection device to your circuit breaker panel. Or, choose a single-outlet surge protector for one device or appliance. You may also find surge protectors designed specifically for telephone lines, cable and more.
Surge Protector Vs Power Strip
Not all power strips are surge protectors. A power strip may or may not have surge protection. A surge protector, however, functions like a power strip with multiple outlets while also protecting your electronics from sudden power loss due to voltage spikes. This is particularly helpful with lightning strikes or surges from a power company issue.
While there is surge protection built into some power strips, their primary attributes are equally distributing voltage across a multiplicity of electronic devices and their lower average cost.
Surge protectors, on the other hand, come in at a bit pricier cost but are specifically designed to protect against power surges. another. When it comes to using a surge protector versus a power strip for your PC and devices, you shouldnt have to choose. To safeguard your equipment, you should make sure any power strip you buy is also a surge protector.
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What Is A Power Strip
Power strips are devices that can be useful when it comes to feeding power to devices. Most strips have a built-in LED light system that indicates when the strip or individual sockets are functioning properly. Equipped with numerous wall outlets, power strips have energy-saving features that can power off an outlet momentarily if a device goes on stand-by mode. These strips can also include surge protectors built within them, decreasing the likelihood of a power surge causing damage.
Power strips are an excellent choice for anyone looking to power multiple devices safely. The energy-saving features and dual functionality of these strips allow people to work at a fast rate and never have to worry about issues with power not working.
Uninterruptible Power Supply Buyers Guide
An uninterruptible power supply offers a simple solution: its a battery in a box with enough capacity to run devices plugged in via its AC outlets for minutes to hours, depending on your needs and the mix of hardware. This might let you keep internet service active during an extended power outage, give you the five minutes necessary for your desktop computer with a hard drive to perform an automatic shutdown and avoid lost work .
In terms of entertainment, it could give you enough time to save your game after a blackout orperhaps more importantlygive notice to others in a team-based multiplayer game that you need to exit, so youre not assessed an early-quit penalty.
This article was updated July, 2022 to add a link to our IOGear GBB1000N UPS review.
A UPS also doubles as a surge protector and aids your equipment and uptime by buoying temporary sags in voltage and other vagaries of electrical power networks, some of which have the potential to damage computer power supplies. For from about $80 to $200 for most systems, a UPS can provide a remarkable amount of peace of mind coupled with additional uptime and less loss.
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Battery Backup And Surge Protector Ups
- 12 small 4″ cable ties 24 cable tie pads Easy installation Removable adhesive Protects hardware and cables Prevents trip hazards Clutter-free workspace The mess of cables under your desk that make…$9.00
- Solid, sturdy constructionAccommodates hanging filesIncludes leveling glidesUltra scratch proof finishBlack or WhiteMechanical Interlock prevents tippingMeets ANSI/BIFMA standardsAvailable…$299.00
- All 6 outlets are grounded 125 Volts AC 15 Amps Max Surge Voltage: 6KV Maximum Surge Dissipation: 180 joules Max Spike Current: 12000 Amps Clamping Response Time: Less than 1 nanosecond Temperature…$29.00
The 350VA 6 Outlet Battery Backup and Surge Protector UPS will not only keep your equipment safe from harmful power surges, it will also supply enough battery power to allow for the safe shutdown of sensitive equipment, or for a new power source to be found without interruption. Medical professionals often use these backup systems on mobile computer carts to avoid constantly rebooting computer systems when moving equipment from room to room, but they are also commonly used in offices and home environments to avoid potential data loss when the power goes out. The average backup runtime of this unit is 6 minutes with an average load, but it can run as long as 24 minutes under optimal conditions.
- 14105 Avalon Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90061Email
Easiest To Use: Cyberpower Ec850lcd
This CyberPower EC850LCD is a UPS like the others on this list, but it has a trick up its sleeve. Three outlets shut down their output when the CyberPower unit detects the device thats plugged in is in standby or vampire mode. That can end up saving you real money.
So, the EC850LCD is a pretty modest unit, but it will allow you to save your work and safely shut down.
Outlets: 6 battery, 3 surge-protected, 3 Eco | Battery backup power: 850VA/510W | Sine Wave: Simulated
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Best Ups Battery Backup Overall: Apc Br1500g Backup Battery
- Numerous outlets
- Swappable batteries
- Option to connect additional batteries
- Smart vertical orientation minimizes space taken
- Large and heavy
- Step approximated sine wave like cheaper options
Our pick for the best UPS overall goes to the APC BR1500G Backup Battery. And its no surprise considering it made our best surge protector picks. At 1500VA/865W, it can power most of your devices, including computers, external hard drives, and wireless routers, from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the total connected load. This should give you enough time to wrap up what youre doing, save your work, and shut down your computer gracefully.
The device has an automatic voltage regulator to protect the battery from power fluctuations. It also has a built-in surge protector to safeguard your connected devices from abnormal jolts of electricity.
In terms of size, the APC BR1500G Backup Battery is pretty large. It has five battery backup and surge-protected outlets and another set of five outlets with only surge protection making ten in total. However, there are no USB ports to plug in your phone directly.
Theres also a small backlit LCD that shows plenty of information at a glance. However, you can get even more details by installing the bundled Windows PC power-management software that comes with it.
- No Automatic Voltage Regulation
- Simulated sine wave
- Simulated sine wave output
- Huge footprint
With Great Power Comes Great Power Conversion
UPSes for consumer and small-business purposes come in standby and line interactive versions. Standby units keep their battery ready for on-demand, automatic use, but its otherwise on standby, as its name indicates. A line interactive version feeds power through an inverter from the wall to connected devices while also charging the battery. It can condition power, smoothing out highs and lows, and switch over to the battery within a few milliseconds.
A few years ago, the price differential was high enough that you had to really balance the need for particular features against cost. Now, you may want to opt for a line interaction UPS because of its advantages, which include less wear and tear of the battery, extending its lifetime. Batteries are relatively expensive to replace, at a good fraction of the original items purchase price, so keeping them in fit condition longer reduces your overall cost of ownership.
A UPS isnt just about providing power when its interrupted, though, and thats another place that a standby and line interactive approach vary.
APCs website offers a handy tool that will help you decide which of its UPSes fit your requirements, based on total power draw and how long youll need battery power for your components.
These three voltage fluctuations can happen regularly or infrequently on power supplied by your utility:
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Best Overall: Apc Back
Our reviewer, Jeremy, tested the APC Back-UPS Pro 1500 with his own equipment and found it had more than enough power to allow him to wrap up what he was doing, save all of his work, and properly shut down his computer.
While this APC model has 10 outlets, only five of them are connected to the battery . We feel five outlets are plenty and should cover most setups adequately . This unit is vertically oriented, so while it doesnt have a large footprint, it will resemble a computer tower.
You could buy this one without reading the rest of our list and know you got a solid, reliable unit.
Outlets: 5 battery, 5 surge-protected | Battery backup power: 1500VA/865W | Sine Wave: Simulated
The APC Back-UPS Pro 1500 is a fairly utilitarian device, but it comes with a little LCD screen that shows vital information like your input voltage, battery status, and the current load, which is a nice touch. While simulating a power outage by flipping a circuit breaker in the house, the UPS immediately kept my computer running with plenty of time to save my work and shut down. This device is also capable of putting out over 800 watts of power, so you can safely charge any device at the same speed you would normally experience by plugging the same charger directly into a wall outlet. It’s a bit expensive, but it’s a great battery backup for medium applications. Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
When To Use A Ups
Uninterruptible power sources give peace of mind that your work and your devices are protected in the event of a brownout or total loss of power. Many UPS devices allow multiple outlets for connecting your entire system or several important appliances or accessories. Consider using a UPS all the time for your desktop computer to ensure you never suffer data loss. Understanding that a UPS will not provide a long-term power supply to finish working is important to your satisfaction level as an end user. In the event of power loss, use the UPS to give yourself enough time to save your work and find an alternate power source.
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Why Use An Uninterruptible Power Supply
Stay connected to your critical devices with a dual outlet selection battery backup with surge protection and surge protection only outlets
During an outage, the battery backup surge protected outlets deliver clean power for up to an hour depending on the power load of connected devices
All outlets provide surge protection& will protect your electronics from power disturbances caused by power line surges or voltage electrical spikes
Peace of mind â APC provides a 3 year, $75,000 Equipment Protection Policy on the BE550G
Can you adjust the alarm settings?
Yes, in the PowerChute software, UPSs that are connected to computers can have their sensitivity settings adjusted, as well as disable the alarm, if desired.
What is the lifespan of the battery, and does this UPS have a replacement?
Under normal use, the battery in the BE550G should have a lifespan of 3-5 years. When it’s time to refresh the battery, APC offers a replacement battery cartridge for the BE550G under part # APCRBC110
How long will this UPS power my system when the power goes out?
Runtimes of any UPS will vary based on the amount of power required by your connected devices. In the PowerChute Software, you can see ‘Estimated Battery Time’ based on the power-draw of your connected devices.
Can I plug my laser printer into a UPS?
Best Budget: Apc Back
Low power output
The APC Back-UPS 425VA UPS is our favorite budget option, and not only because of the clever name. The Back-UPS is designed to keep some low-power devices online when the power goes out. It won’t keep a desktop PC going, but it can keep you connected when you need it the most.
It’s small enough to keep on your desk if you want. There’s no LCD screen, which is something we always like to see on a UPS, but if you have just a few smaller devices to power, this UPS can get the job done.
Outlets: 4 battery, 2 surge-protected | Battery backup power: 425VA/225W | Sine Wave: Simulated
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Surge Protectors: Simple Protection For Electronics
Some people refer to a surge protector as a power strip, because they look more or less identical. This is a dangerous conflation: while a simple power strip might include a cheap circuit breaker , its essentially just an extension of your wall power outlet, allowing more electronics to be plugged in at once but offering no significant extra protection. A consumer-grade surge protector has multiple outlets as well, but it also includes a shorting mechanism and a ground line that will physically block excess electrical energy from reaching your devices.
Surge protectors range from simple to complex, with pricier versions packing in ten or more electrical outlets, plus extra in and out lines for other types of electronic equipment like phone lines, Ethernet cords, USB power, and coaxial cables. All that stuff is nice, and could certainly come in handy if youre planning an elaborate desk or television setup. But in terms of pure protection, what youre looking for is the joule rating. Surge protectors offer an amount of electrical joules for which they are rated to stop, and the higher the better.
Most surge protectors include a small LED light that indicates the safety ground is still working. Some more elaborate versions have a tiny LCD screen for the same purpose. Be sure to periodically check that the light is still on, especially after thunderstorms or power outages.