New Zealand can barely go a few months without a major power outage in some part of the country, and this poses risks to PC users: either a massive spike or sudden drop in the voltage coming out of your wall sockets and going into your sensitive computer components.
This is where uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units come into play. Essentially, they are just a battery in a box: you plug the box into the wall to keep the battery charged, and then plug your PC into the box for power. If the voltage coming out of the wall suddenly spikes or dips (or disappears altogether) then the UPS will continue to power the PC via battery.
This month we received the CyberPower VALUE1200ELCD from the Value SOHO series. The 1200VA rating equates to 720W maximum power draw, which is enough to power a very powerful workstation plus several peripherals such as a modem and fax machine.
Inside are two 7AH (amp-hour) 12 volt sealed lead-acid batteries, whilst externally it has four 240V power sockets, USB and serial connections, an LCD readout plus an RJ11/RJ45 passthrough (for protecting a phone, fax or modem from power spikes).
Also bundled is CyberPower’s PowerPanel software. This allows you to monitor power and charge statuses, as well as letting you configure when the PC will power down (after a set amount of time, or when a certain ‘time remaining’ threshold is reached). This software can only control one PC at a time – the other three power sockets are intended for screens and other peripherals.
To test the VALUE1200ELCD we loaded up a system pulling a constant 350W from the UPS, configured the software to put the PC into hibernation mode (which saves all open application and OS data to a hard drive) once the battery had only five minutes of operation remaining, then disconnected the mains power, timing how long it took the UPS to shut down the PC.
Before the mains power was cut the management software indicated there was approximately fifteen minutes of battery power available at the current load – this swiftly dropped down to nine minutes as soon as the power was disconnected, so that estimate was a tad inaccurate.
Five minutes and eleven seconds later, the PC was forced into hibernation mode. If the PC was unattended then it wouldn’t have really mattered how long it took to shut down, however if you were working on it at the time, five minutes is ample to finish up what you were doing and close it down gracefully.
Overall the CyberPower VALUE1200ELCD seems like a worthwhile investment – especially considering that a decent surge protector can cost around half the price of this unit without providing any battery backup capability at all, which would do nothing to protect your critical data in the event of an unexpected shutdown.
This review was first published in the June issue of New Zealand PC World.