We received four different models from two manufacturers this time around - two from the reputed APC and two by somewhat less known Eaton. All devices are relatively similar in characteristics and features, with minor price differences, positioned in such a way that they can satisfy the needs of most home users. The interesting thing is that the numbers “on paper” don’t necessarily reflect real-world advantages, in fact, as you’ll be able to see from this review, it can even happen that the situation is vice versa.
Let’s start with the cheapest, but by no means the least interesting Eaton model Nova AVR 625 USB. Although this UPS is the lowest-priced one, it belongs to the mid-class in terms of UPS devices, since it works as a line-interactive device (fusion of on-line and off-line technology), and unlike the other three, it contains automatic voltage regulation (AVR). Its neutral and unattractive looks make it reminiscent of cheaper Mustek models that can often be seen. The front panel contains little else than the power on/off button and two indicator diodes, whereas the back contains three IEC female output plugs, the protection of phone and network lines, as well as a USB port type B for communicating with the PC. Unfortunately, the USB cable isn’t bundled in the rather poor packaging, even the software disc was excluded, but the drivers can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website, so this isn’t much of a drawback. Speaking of the UPS control application, we could say that it offers more than just basic functionality. You can adjust automatic PC shutdown after the battery has reached a critical level through several simple and intuitive menus and submenus. The total power consumption of our PC with the monitor and speakers also connected was around 160 W. This is the idle mode consumption of several percent of load, not more, of course, but these devices would keep up with much stronger devices, it seems, albeit with much worsened autonomy. The maximum 625 VA of power made the new AVR 625 USB keep the computer on for an entire eight minutes, which is admittedly more than enough time for any user to save work, close any open applications and shut down the computer. It’s also worth noting that the user is constantly informed of the battery state and the current status in general via the LED and typical sound signals, featured on all tested devices.
The second Eaton belongs to the Ellipse series, and we’ve received the model under the name ASR 750 USBS. With a much more likeable design, metallic grey paint and green diodes, it looks more like a gaming console than a UPS. Unlike the previous model, ASR 750 can support up to 750 VA of load and offers as much as four outputs, but only three of which are connected to the battery, while the fourth one is a “surge arrest” output, taking care of voltage variations only, which makes it fit for a printer or other high power consumption device. The outputs themselves aren’t typical IEC PC connectors, but Schuko ones. LED and sound signalization is present, of course, the phone and network line protection is also available, and the provided USB cable and the accompanying software will enable you to tweak the same settings as on the previous model. This Eaton treated us with more than eight minutes of continued work.
And now onto the famous APC UPS devices, to be precise - two off-line models BE 550G-GR and BK500EI. We have to stress at the very beginning that APC products are noticeably different in production quality, at least as far as finish and the “feeling under the fingertips” are concerned. The lack of internal electronics movement during movement, something that Eaton models showcased, are thankfully gone, which leaves a much better impression. The BE 550G-GR model is reminiscent of a high-quality socket outlet, which it actually is in a way. It has a total of eight Schuko power plugs, four of which are battery-supported, and the other four of which, located on the opposite side, only have voltage protection. You also get the protection of communicational infrastructure by filtering the telephone/network plug, and the mandatory data port for communicating with the PC. As far as software support goes, we have to say that APC gets serious in this department, with the software ability to set loads of things on the accompanying devices, such as voltage filtering limits, alarms, shutdown time and method, various notifications etc. BE 550G-GR stood fast for almost six minutes without electrical supply, which is in accordance with its 550 VA specification.
The BK500EI model looks as if it dated from 1998 at the very least. Its light beige exterior, sharp ascetic lines and a minimalistic design all resemble the casing of the earliest Pentium PCs. It supports a total of four power plugs, three of which are battery-powered, with the remaining one being surge protection only. Modem protection is also present, as well as a data port for communication with the operating system, while maximum load is declared to 500 VA. However, it’s situations like these where quality truly comes under the limelight, and BK500EI, although the weakest according to the specs, managed to hold the system up for an entire eleven minutes. Good performance comes with a slightly higher price, as evident when comparing the price of this model with the rest of the competitors.
One could say that Eaton models give slightly more for the money invested, whereas on the other hand APC provides its proverbial reliability and quality. In general, the differences are small, which means that those who value the price/performance segment the most will choose Nova AVR 625 USB, while those going for the highest performance will indubitably invest their money in BK500EI.
The fact that the price of an average UPS device can be many times less than that of certain components inside a modern PC speaks loads of the value of such an investment.
|Model||NOVA AVR 625 USB||Ellipse 750 ASR USBS DIN||BE 550G-GR||BK 500EI|
|Capacity [VA/W]||625 / 360||750 / 450||550 / 330||500 / 300|
|Voltage range [V]||165 - 280||161 - 284 (adjustable)||180 - 266||160 - 300 (adjustable)|
|Authonomy (declared/measured) [m:s]||15:00 / 8:00||13:00 / 8:10||12:30 / 5:37||13:00 / 11:00|
|Charging time up to 90% [h]||8||8||16||6|
|Connections||3 x power, telephone, USB||4 x power, telephone, USB||8 x power, telephone, Data port||4 x power, telephone, Data port|
Surges, brownouts, lightning and fridges
Let’s clarify things a little - the damage to sensitive computer circuitry can be caused by a short-term lesser voltage jump, i.e. the appearance of a surge; a sudden voltage spike; during brownouts, when the voltage drops below the standard 220 V value; and finally, various noise and other problems that shouldn’t exist in our electrical networks, yet they do. Have in mind that the cause of these variations is not always bad installation work in the building in question or a breakdown on the long-distance line - it can also be a number of other circumstances, such as a lightning strike during atmospheric discharges, works on the power line, turning major power consumers, such as fridges, stoves, lifts, on or off, the proximity of certain devices (neon lights, transformers) etc. It’s evident that the number of variables is large enough for anyone to be careful at all times. Having in mind the fact that “bad electricity” doesn’t necessarily kill the target device, but can also shorten its lifespan, the importance and role of a UPS device is obvious, even critical to any PC.