When I lived in Southeast Asia, power outages were a daily occurrence. Annoying, because then the PC went out – and the data was wasted. However, a power failure cannot be ruled out – it happened to me once in the last few months. It becomes particularly uncomfortable when you work in the home office and the work is lost.
Or you fly out of an important meeting. Of course, those who use a notebook have an advantage. But even then the router can fail and you are offline. And then there’s NAS– if they lose power at the wrong moment, the RAID array must be rebuilt. This can take several days and puts a lot of strain on the hard disks – in the worst case, data can even be lost.
Of course, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is very useful, especially in the home office. These consist of a battery and some electronics to intervene in an emergency. There is also overvoltage protection. But it gets even better: Depending on the model, they even compensate for voltage and frequency fluctuations.
How well that works, I look at in this test. Having had a cheap no-name UPS a long time ago, I bought an APC Back-UPS 950 last year. Why APC? Because the company is the de facto standard in the UPS sector, both in the end customer sector and in the professional environment. By the way, APC is now a brand of Schneider Electric – manufacturer of hardware for network operators. APC has now sent me two current models from different price ranges to test.
The APC Back-UPS 850 for about 125 euros and the Back-UPS Pro 1600 for about 400 euros. I also find two power strips in the box for connection to the Back-UPS Pro. The devices are symbols of APC’s wide range of products– you get both models with a variety of different capacities and configurations, which of course also affects the price. For example, you can purchase an advanced UPS at an attractive price when capacity is less of an issue.
A Brief Introduction to Ups
Basically, UPS is divided into three types. Let’s start with stand-by devices. With these, the PC is connected directly to the socket. Only when the UPS notices that the voltage is outside defined parameters does it switch to battery operation. While this happens fairly quickly, it can disable particularly sensitive devices.
Apart from protection against lightning strikes, there is no further protection against minor voltage fluctuations. In addition to the price, low power consumption is also an advantage, because once the battery is full, it is no longer charged. The APC Back-UPS 850 belongs to this genus.
The next variant is called line-interactive, is also very efficient, and always regulates the output voltage so that the connected devices are not damaged by fluctuations. However, minor irregularities and changing frequency responses are not removed. Both my APC Back-UPS 950 and APC Back-UPS Pro 1600 use this technology.
The premier class is online UPS. The input current is always converted into direct current here. Both the charging electronics for the battery and an inverter, which converts the DC voltage of the battery into AC voltage that can be used for connected devices, are attached to it. If the mains fails, the UPS switches immediately to the battery. The switching times are minimal.
Thanks to the complete separation of input and output, this UPS variant is particularly gentle on your devices: Voltage and frequency response are always perfect. Unfortunately, this also increases power consumption. At APC, these devices are called Smart-UPS or Easy-UPS, although not all models with these names are online UPSs – they can also be line-interactive. It’s worth taking a look at the datasheet.
Informative & Well Packaged
Due to the current situation, the test devices will be sent to me by post. It’s nice that the courier rings and then say “I’ll put the package in”. That’s never happened to me before – when I walk down to the front door I can understand why. Depending on their capacity, UPSs are quite heavy. The packaging has to be correspondingly good – and it is. The good old egg carton is waiting in the colorful box. Unspectacular but effective, it absorbs shocks well, is sufficiently stable, and reduces unnecessary plastic waste.
Since not every potential buyer is so familiar with UPS, APC printed the boxes with all sorts of information about the device.
PowerChute catches you before you crash
The UPS itself is just one component of the PC parachute. It is equally important that the device communicates well with the PC and that the computer is shut down in an orderly manner in a timely manner. My QNAP NAS automatically recognizes the APC – this is where it pays to be one of the market leaders.
APC provides PowerChute Personal Edition (at the time of testing in version 3.1) to Windows users. In addition to the orderly shutdown, the application offers a lot of information about the current status, past events, and some setting options. In the case of special events, a notification also pops up. The UPS adds up how much power the connected devices used this month and tries to make me feel guilty. So it takes 64.8 trees to offset my CO2 emissions. Luckily I drive less now. More important is the expected battery life. But why am I not informed about how long it will take until the battery is full again?
One of the most important settings is behavior in an emergency. It either goes into sleep mode (incorrectly called “shutdown” in the PowerChute software) after a freely selectable time (between one and five minutes), or the software lets the PC run until there are between five and eight minutes of runtime left. Since the charging time for the battery is very long, the first option is probably more worthwhile – if the power fails again, there is enough capacity left. I can also tell the alarm how long it should be silent.
I can also set how sensitive the device should be to overvoltage or Undervoltage. That is, what is the threshold before the UPS switches to battery mode to protect the connected equipment? I can choose between low, medium, and high. Interestingly, there is also another point where I can set the exact voltage.