Have you experienced power outages in your area? If so, you know how frustrating it is when there is a blackout and your current session on your computer is interrupted because of it.
It is very frustrating because you might be in an intense gaming session or you might have typed a very long essay only for it to be lost because of the blackout.
This is pretty annoying indeed. Now, there are some areas where blackouts are almost non-existent, but if you live in a place where power fluctuations and blackouts occur on a consistent basis, then you will need a UPS.
A UPS, otherwise known as an “Uninterruptible Power Supply”, provides enough power to let you turn off your computer safely when blackouts or power failures happen.
In this article, I will talk about the UPS; what they are, what they do, why you need one, and I will also talk about some of the best ones on the market should you decide to get one.
Before anything else, what is a UPS?
What is a UPS?
As previously mentioned, UPS stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply. It is called such because it provides ample power to your appliances or computer systems so that you can turn them off properly should a power failure occur.
It does this because a UPS has a battery pack. You might notice that most UPS have a big form factor and are usually placed on the floor; that is because of its huge battery.
Aside from providing power, the UPS also acts as a voltage regulator and a surge protector. You see, power fluctuations are very dangerous to your appliances and components. Fluctuations are often characterized by flickering lights or a sudden electrical jolt when using electronics.
Having both properties ensure that your electronics (appliances and computers) will have protection against these unwanted occurrences.
The premise of the UPS is simple. It has an on switch, a battery, and a slew of outlets at the back of the device so that you can plug your electronic devices in.
It turns on like you would an Automatic Voltage Regulator and it will be on standby. It will automatically provide sufficient power whenever it detects that it doesn’t get power from the wall.
Despite this basic functionality, not all UPS are created equal. There are different types of UPS and I will cover them in the next section.
Different Types of UPS
There are three different types of Uninterruptible Power Supplies and it is important to know them so that you will have a better grasp on which one you should buy for your own setup.
- Standby UPS- Also known as Offline UPS, the Standby UPS is the most common in the market. The Offline UPS has a battery that will kick start whenever it detects no power coming from the wall. This type of UPS is ideal for home and small office setups because they are the most inexpensive and batteries can be replaced easily.
- Line-Interactive UPS- This second type of UPS is common in most homes, servers and small offices. It works a bit differently than the Offline UPS in that the inverter/converter and the Battery are directly connected to the outputs. Whenever AC power is detected, it provides power to every electronic device that is plugged into its output sockets whilst also charging the battery at the same time. Once the power is cut-off (in the case of blackouts, for example), the battery will then resume operation by providing power. The difference between the line interactive UPS and the Standby UPS in this scenario is that because the former’s power supply is tied directly to the output sockets, it provides immediate backup power as opposed to the latter which may take a split second or two. Also, the line-interactive UPS also provides a passive protection that protects your devices from power fluctuations, spikes, and other electrical distortions.
- Online UPS- The last common type of UPS, otherwise known as the “True” or “Double Conversion” UPS, is somewhat intricate in the way it works. It first converts AC power from the wall to DC power and then converts it back again to AC power again to the output sockets. It is called an “online” UPS because of the fact that its rectifier and inverter are always used even if there is power coming from the wall. This type of UPS is not ideal for homes because it is costlier and it will also require a dedicated cooling system as well.
How does a UPS work?
Earlier in the article, I mentioned how an uninterruptible power supply typically works in general. But, how does it perform its magic when the power is cut-off?
The UPS has three main components: Rectifier, Battery, and Inverter
The Rectifier acts as the storage medium wherein it stores the converted AC to DC power to charge the battery. When electricity is normal, the rectifier is charging the battery.
The Battery stores all of the backup power for use whenever the electricity is suddenly cut-off; such as in the case of blackouts or power interruptions.
And lastly, the Inverter is the one converting the DC power (from the battery) into usable AC power for use in the devices you’ve plugged into the UPS (it can also work the other way, depending on the need).
When the UPS’ battery is in use, its built-in alarm will sound off signifying that the power supply (in this case, from the outlet), has been cut-off due to a power failure and you’re now using its reserved power.
Now, you might notice that most Uninterruptible power supplies use VA as opposed to watts in their product information. VA stands for Volt-amperes and it is essentially 1.67 times of the power consumption in watts. For the layman, just take the VA as 50-60% more than the total power it supports in watts.
For example, you might see a UPS that has a 1000VA support and you also see probably 600W just beside that specification.
What exactly is a VA? It is a measure of power in a DC circuit.
Why is the VA specification important when buying a UPS? Well, it is important because it represents the total volume of electrical load it can support as well as it tells you how long the UPS can give power to your electronic devices.
Best Uninterruptible Power Supplies in 2017
Now that you know what a UPS is, its functions and uses, I am now going to recommend some of the best ones on the market.
I will recommend uninterruptible power supplies that can be used by PC owners because most people who buy them own a PC and wants to protect their prized investments.
So, without further delay, here are some of the best UPSes you can find on the market.
CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD 1500VA
Pros: Lots of power, plenty of outlets, can power even high-end gaming rigs, comes with a companion software
Cons: Heavy, only five ports are covered by the battery
The first UPS on the list one from a prominent company, CyberPower. The CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD 1500VA is one of the best UPS for PC enthusiasts and gamers because it has a lot of juice and it also has a lot of outlets.
It has a total of 10 outlets at the back of the UPS so you can plug in a lot of devices. It also has USB ports on the front if you want to charge your smartphones and any other USB-powered electronics. It even has a phone in and network out port so you can plug in your modem/phone combo as well.
Most subpar UPSes do not have a way to let you know about its current status, but not this one. The CP1500PFCLCD has an LCD screen on the front that tells you the current battery capacity as well as other important information about the unit.
Since this is a line-interactive UPS, the CP1500PFCLCD 1500VA comes with Voltage protection that prevents sudden power fluctuations, spikes, and surges from damaging the things that are plugged into the UPS.
It is important to note that the 10 outlets at the back are not fully covered when the electricity is cut-off. Only five of the outlets run on battery power should there be a blackout. However, all of the outlets are protected by a surge protector, so you do not have to worry about electrical surges and other electrical problems.
Now, what if you’re not in your house and there was a blackout while your computer is still running? Fortunately, your computer can be turned off automatically because the CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD 1500VA comes with a companion software.
In the software, you can assign the UPS to shut down your computer if it reaches a certain battery threshold. This is a very useful feature that not a lot of UPSes on the market have.
Lastly, this UPS has a 1500VA which means that it can power even enthusiast-level rigs. Have a multiple GPU setup? No problem; this UPS can handle it.
If you want a solid UPS that has a lot of ports and protection, the CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD 1500VA is definitely the one you should get.
APC Pro BR1500G
Pros: 1500VA offers a lot of juice when needed, a lot of outlets, Awesome Warranty
Cons: Heavy, only 5 ports are battery-protected
The APC Pro BR1500G is almost the same as the CyberPower UPS I mentioned above with a few differences. This UPS does not come with USB ports on the front, but this one does have the ability to have another battery pack connected to it for more power. More on this feature later.
This UPS has a predominantly matte black finish with a glossy black glass on the front for the LCD indicator. This indicator functions the same way as the CyberPower UPS I’ve highlighted earlier in that it gives you pertinent information that you need such as the battery status, the number of minutes left on the battery capacity, just to name a few.
At the back, you will also find ten outlets; 5 of which are battery protected and all of them have the electrical surge protection. Be sure to use the five outlets for the most important components like the Computer, the modem, etc.
Because this is another line-interactive UPS, it comes with the AVR technology that prevents harmful electrical surges from damaging your prized devices. It also comes with three buttons at the top to disable the alarm, to power on the UPS, and the last button accesses the menu screen on the LCD indicator.
One of the highlights of the APC Pro BR1500G is its included software: the APC PowerChute Personal Edition. This software is able to not only shut down your computer when the battery is low, but it is also intelligent enough to save the programs you have running at that moment. You can set the parameters to your preference and all you have to do to have this program work in tandem with the UPS is by connecting the power supply to the computer using the included USB cable.
Also, you can buy another battery pack so that you can hook it to the BR1500G for some extra power. Do remember that the battery pack is sold separately.
Because this is an 865-watt/1500 VA UPS, it is very heavy. How heavy? All in all, this power supply weighs at around 26 lbs.
One last thing I want you to know about the BR1500G is its warranty. In the event that the peripherals or components you have plugged into the UPS get damaged during its time of operation, the company will cover the damages.
In other words, APC is kind enough to have your things replaced or repaired in the event that it gets destroyed while using the UPS.
If you want a slightly cheaper option than the first UPS recommendation, then the APC Pro BR1500G is worth considering.
Pros: 9 outlets, Inexpensive, 2.5A USB ports for charging USB-powered devices
Cons: Does not have an LCD indicator, Surge Protection only
If you do not want to spend more than $100 on an uninterruptible power supply, then you may want to consider the APC BE850M2.
The BE850M2 is a rectangular-shaped UPS that has a total of 9 outlets; six of which provide battery power in case of power failures and the remaining three only provides surge protection.
In this day and age, a lot of have smartphones and other devices that can be charged using USB power. Thankfully, you can now charge them using this UPS as it has two 2.5-ampere USB ports just right beside the power button.
Since this is an inexpensive UPS, it does not come with an LCD screen to show you important real-time information about the power supply. Instead, the power button lights up with three different colors that indicate any problem with regards to the electrical connection (just refer to the manual for more information on this).
The APC BE850M2 is a 450-watt/850 VA power supply that powers a standard PC up to a gaming PC that has only one discrete GPU. Sadly, this UPS will not be able to provide sustainable power to maintain usable power for enthusiast rigs.
However, this UPS is perfect for people who do not have a lot of money, but want a solid uninterruptible power supply.
Since APC is a renowned brand, this UPS is also covered by the company’s amazing warranty that covers any damaged components up to $75,000 worth of repairs or replacements.
Lastly, the BE850M2 can also be connected to your computer via the USB cable because this one also supports the APC PowerChute program that will power off your computer whenever it detects that it is running low on battery power.
If you have below $100 to spend for an uninterruptible power supply, the APC BE850M2 is a good choice.
Tripp Lite SMART1500LCDT
Pros: 900W/1500VA capacity, Lifetime Insurance, built-in AVR
Cons: Does not have USB charging ports, Heavy
Here’s another line-interactive UPS that has plenty of parts and capacity to power those high-end gaming rigs.
The Tripp Lite SMART1500LCDT is a 900-watt/1500VA UPS that has a built-in AVR protection so that electrical interference and power surges will not damage your equipment.
On the front, it has three buttons: one power button, a “Test” button, and a mute button. The test button is there if you want to test the UPS and its battery. The mute button just mutes the alarm whenever it is tripped due to a power failure or blackout.
This UPS has 10 ports; five of which are backed up by the hefty battery and the other five having only the Surge and AVR protection. There are also ports for the telephone and modem, coaxial inputs, and it also has a USB data port so that you can hook this up to your computer so you can use its companion software.
The companion software has nearly the same functions as the ones I’ve previously mentioned. The software allows you to turn off your computer in the event that the battery is under a certain percentage. Even though it comes with a CD that contains the program, ditch that one and download the latest version from the Tripp Lite website instead.
The SMART1500LCDT also has a convenient LCD screen that allows you to know the battery level, the maximum load, the input voltage, and whether it is using the battery or AC power.
What most people love about the Tripp Lite SMART1500LCDT is that it comes with a $250,000 lifetime insurance. In case your computer or other electronic devices that are plugged into the UPS gets damaged, the company will repair or replace them for a maximum of $250,000. Remember that it is a lifetime insurance guarantee; just make sure to secure the receipt!
The only thing that you need to remember, really, is that uninterruptible power supplies of this capacity are always going to be heavy. I do not recommend that you put the SMART1500LCDT on a desk because it is really hefty.
With a solid lifetime insurance, a sub $200 price tag, and a load of protection mechanisms and ports, the Tripp Lite SMART1500LCDT is definitely worth your money.
Pros: Efficient, 8 outlets, AVR technology
Cons: Not powerful enough for overclocked PCs
CyberPower is a trusted brand when it comes to UPSes and the CP685AVR-G caters to people who just wants a pretty good one which can power modest PC setups.
The CyberPower CP685AVR-G is an affordable solution if you want a UPS because it comes with 8 outlets, two coaxial outputs, and it even has ports for both the modem and the phone as well.
Much like the other UPSes on this article, only four ports are powered by the battery whenever blackouts occur while the other four only offers surge protection. Despite this shortcoming, the CP685AVR-G is coupled with the AVR technology.
Now, this feature is thrown around, especially when talking about line-interactive UPSes. Well, this feature makes sure that the UPS’ battery will not be triggered whenever a sudden power spike or fluctuation occurs.
If you’re only using a standby UPS that doesn’t have this feature, it will continuously trip the battery into supplying power every time a fluctuation occurs. This not only decreases the battery’s life but it can also wear down the battery at a much quicker rate as well.
Do note that this particular uninterruptible power supply only has a 390-watt/685VA capacity which will not be able to power modern gaming rigs that overclocked components. This UPS, however, is best suited for modest PCs or workstation loads.
The CP685AVR-G can also be used to turn off your computer whenever there is a power outage because it can be connected to the PC using an included USB data cable. This is becoming a necessity since blackouts can happen at any time, and there might be times that there will be no one to turn off your computer safely.
This UPS is backed by a 3-year warranty which is pretty standard with a solid company like CyberPower.
For only $71, you can get the CyberPower CP685AVR-G that has more than enough outlets to power a basic workstation and a phone/modem.
An Uninterruptible Power Supply might be very important for your computer and other electronic devices, but there are just a lot of terms that are being used that the layman cannot understand. So in this section, I will talk about the most commonly used terms when referring to UPSes.
- UPS- stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply. It will give surge protection for your electronics and it will power them up when there is a blackout or a power failure in your area. That can be done thanks to the battery that is stored inside a UPS.
- VA- stands for Volt-Ampere, this is a common unit used in UPSes. In technical terms, the Volt-ampere is just a measure volts x amperes x power factor correction. You need not worry much about the VA rating as the wattage is far more important. The VA just allows you to know the maximum capacity that the UPS can support as well as give you an idea of how long the battery inside a particular UPS can last.
- Watts- this refers to the real power that is drawn from the wall to be supplied to the UPS. The wattage rating on the UPS is about 50-60% of the total VA rating. You might see a 1000VA UPS that has a maximum wattage load support of 600VA and so on.
- Power Factor- Without getting too technical, the Power Factor is just the efficiency of the power being used by the UPS.
- Power Factor Correction- a term used to refer to the process of making the most of the efficiency of the power being used by the UPS.
- AC (Alternating Current)- By definition, the AC is an electric current that varies in the direction it travels. AC power is usually the one that is powering your electronic equipment such as the UPS, for example.
- DC (Direct Current)- Where AC has an alternating path of electrical flow; the DC has a fixed one. In the context of UPSes, the DC power is stored in the battery for use whenever there is a power failure.
- Inverter- converts either AC power to DC current and vice versa.
- True-Sine Wave Inverters- AC power is wave-like in form. So, to convert DC current to usable AC power, the True-Sine wave inverters create the wave-like AC current perfectly.
- Simulated/Modified Sine-Wave Inverters- also called as stepped-approximation inverters, it creates wave-like AC current at a much rapid rate. This is a much cheaper inverter and can be found in inexpensive UPSes. But, not a lot of electronics like this type of inverter as it can present problems such as buzzing, flickering, and sometimes, it can even produce smoke.
The UPS might have a very simple functionality, but not a lot of people know how to maximize its full potential. Below are some very useful tips to make the most out of your Uninterruptible Power Supply.
- Calculate your system’s Total power draw. This first tip is the most important of all. It is crucial that you calculate the maximum power draw of all the components and electronic devices you’re going to plug into the UPS. This step is important because it will then tell you which capacity UPS you’re going to buy. There are plenty of power calculators on the internet and it can help you gauge on how much wattage/VA you’re going to need. You don’t have to be too specific. For example, if you’ve calculated that your entire computer, monitor, and modem setup will just use, say, 350 watts of power, you can get a 400 or a 500-watt UPS to power it up. More is better in this case.
- Have realistic expectations. Most people who buy UPSes have unrealistic expectations. They rely on what is stated on the box about the number of minutes the UPS is going to power their electronic devices should the power be cut-off. But, the information that is printed on the box of the product is just a rough estimate; it is not specific to every setup. Different components and electronics vary in the amount of power they require. So, the more devices you have plugged in, the lower the duration of the battery backup will be.
- Is your computer overclocked? A lot of people nowadays overclock their CPUs, RAMs, and even Graphics cards. It is good and all, but the one thing you should consider is that overclocking such components would mean that it would draw more power. Keep this in mind when you’re buying an uninterruptible power supply for your computer setup.
- Be aware of voltages. Since we’re dealing with electricity, it is important that you know the voltage of the components you’re using. It actually depends on the region where North American electronics usually use 120 volts or 240 volts, while in Asia and Europe, both regions typically use 230 volts. It is crucial that you know this to prevent any incidences like fire or explosions.
- Plug important components in the battery-protected outlets. As you may have noticed in this article, all of the UPSes only have a limited number of outlets that are protected by the battery should a power failure occur. Plug only the most important components into these outlets such as your computer, modem, and a monitor. The fewer devices that are connected to the said outlets, the longer the battery’s capacity will last.
Things to be aware of when buying a UPS
If you want to get the most value for your money, you need to be aware of some things. Below are just some of the factors you need to be aware of and consider before buying an uninterruptible power supply.
- The very first thing you need to consider is the maximum capacity you want to get. That is why it is very important that you know how much power your current setup needs. You can use an online power calculator or you can buy one of those wattmeters for a more accurate reading.
- The next important thing to look for are the outlets. How many of them are you going to need? I recommend that you think of how many outputs you’re going to need and add two. Suppose that you need a total of 6 outlets. Make that 8 so that you will have two additional outlets for later use.
- Monitoring system. Do you need an LCD screen that has all of the important information? Or, you just want to have a simple solution to cut down on the costs? High-end UPSes have built-in LCD screens to help you know the current load, battery level, etc. Do note that they are much more expensive, but they are great to have if you are willing to spend money.
- How much battery life you’re going to need? Part of the reason why people are getting UPSes is because it can supply much-needed power to your electronic devices and PCs for a short period of time. Decide for yourself how much battery life you’re going to need. It is usually indicated on the package, but do remember that it is just a rough estimate. For accuracy, calculate your total power usage in watts, compare it with the information on the box, and look at the VA rating of the UPS to have a better knowledge about the battery level.
- Added Features. Aside from its basic function of providing ample power in blackouts and power failures, you may want to look at the other features that uninterruptible power supplies offer. Some nifty features include an LCD screen, a companion software that lets you shut down your computer in the event of a power loss, some USB charging ports that charge your smartphones or other USB-powered devices, just to name a few.
- Which type of UPS? As mentioned earlier in the article, there are three common types of UPSes on the market. Standby (offline) UPSes are the cheapest, but they offer only a few features. Line-interactive UPSes, on the other hand, are ideal for most setups because it also offers an AVR protection and it also has the right set of features as well. Online UPses are not ideal for home use because they are bulky, noisy, and they are also the most expensive. But, the price is warranted given their much more reliable in how they function.
- Warranty/Guarantee. You’re going to plug your precious devices into the UPS. And, since it deals with electricity, anything can go wrong. The last thing you’re going to look at, but definitely not the least, is the warranty. Most UPSes on the market have a 3-year warranty. Some companies, like CyberPower and APC, even offer guarantees. In the event that your devices get damaged while using the product, they are going to cover the repair and replacement costs. Buy a UPS that has that guarantee as well.
An uninterruptible power supply or UPS is a very valuable component in any computer or home setup.
You might think that you do not need one because you do not experience a lot of power fluctuations, blackouts, or anything of the sort. But, these things happen so suddenly that you might not notice it.
That is what’s lethal about these occurrences, which is why you will need a solid and reliable UPS to handle the job.
Aside from the aforementioned functionality, the UPS also serves as a backup power whenever power loss occurs.
Now, do not think of UPSes as sustainable power supplies because it will ultimately depend on the battery capacity and the charge it has once it is being used. The main benefit of using the UPS is just to give you enough time to save your work and gracefully shut down your computer, and that’s it.
I hope that this article has covered the major bases and I also hope that I have helped you in choosing the best UPS for you.