When it comes to protecting your computer kit there are various steps you can take. Most users go along the route of a surge protector, that plugs into their main socket and takes the hit of any electrical surges or spikes before they hit and damage your equipment. One potential hazard that many overlook is that of a power outage or powercut (as we refer to them in the UK). Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) are just like big rechargeable batteries. You plug them into your main socket to recharge and in turn you plug your equipment into the UPS. If the power goes down, then the UPS takes over and gives you a window in which you can save you work and shut your system dow in a safe a proper manner. Some of these units also protect from surges and spikes too. Equipment suddenly shutting down is very important to protect against and can sometimes do just as much damage as a power surge.
In this review I take a look at the Belkin Active Battery. I place UPS units into two categories, those that can protect complete systems and those that are good for maybe one or two peripherals. The 'Active Battery Backup' unit (Part # BU308000ukDB) that I am testing here, just about fits into both categories, let me explain why... all UPS units are rated by Volt Amps (VA) or Wattage (W) and the Active Battery comes in three flavours. A 400A/240W, 600VA/360W and 800VA/480W. The first two in this series I would say are only really good for peripherals or maybe older less demanding computer systems. If you take into account that a 20-inch iMac draws 200W then you would barely expect three of four minutes of battery use from the entry level model if your mains power fails. Imagine you are using a Mac Pro drawing 360W and a separate monitor that draws 60W and you can see where I am going.
Well, although I tested the Belkin 800VA/480W model on our 24-inch iMac, my main test was in keeping my broadband equipment protected and running. I already have a beefier Belkin UPS (1200VA Universal UPS) which I will be reviewing next week for you, so my iMac is safe. What I need to ensure is that I can still communicate with the outside world when the power goes out. So, into the Active Battery I plugged the following. A Linksys WAG160N router, a Negear GS608 ethernet switch and my BT DECT landline phone. This presented me with the first stumbling block, but one that is very easy to overcome. Almost all UPS units have IEC sockets on the back, rather than 3-pin UK sockets.
If you take a look at the image here, you will see what an IEC socket looks like. Well, this is east to overcome with a computer, you simply plug in with the supplied IEC cable, or purchase extra ones for a couple of pounds. They have an IEC plug on one end and a socket on the other that plugs into your computer. Well, all three of the products I wanted to plug in have their own AC/DC adapters, so I could not exchange these for new cables, nor could I chop their plug off and replace it.
The solution was to get a two or three gang trailing socket, with an IEC plug on the other end. These are available from the likes of Maplin or CPC in the UK. Problem solved, I now had three standard 3-Pin UK sockets.
Once everything was plugged in, I left the UPS charging for a good 24 hours. It was then time to simulate a powercut. Switching the socket off that the UPS was plugged into was the easiest way. The Active Battery lets out a beep to warn you that this has happened. Then I carried on using my laptop with full network connectivity for a very useful 16 minutes. I must admit I was expecting longer, but I am no mathematician, so was part guessing the result. Just under an hour of continuous hard use, without mains power is fantastic. The results on the computer set-up were a lot different, but again they really impressed me. With a 24-inch iMac, external 21-inch Samsung monitor and ScanSnap S300M scanner plugged in, I flicked the switch off and was able to finish a few scans and post an article on the website. I also checked my emails one last time, then safely saved my open documents and shut the system down. This took around six minutes and no sooner had I shut down the iMac safely that the battery was depleted. In total this meant I in real use, you could expect around five or six minutes using this sort of system to save your work and safely shut down, this is more than enough time.
For your money you get a fairly compact UPS here, capable of protecting either just a few peripherals or a medium sized computer. The Active Battery Backup also protects from electrical surges and spikes, with a £40,000 connected equipment warranty too. Add to this a two year replacement warranty (including the battery itself) and this really puts the icing on top of the cake. This is fantastic value for money, it does exactly what it claims for a really great price.