I think we all know the benefits of a good uninterruptible power supply, or UPS. These units provide various types of electrical protection for you computer such as battery backup in the event of a power outage, surge protection, and voltage protection. Even if your computer is running in tip-top shape, sudden interruptions or abnormalities in the power it’s receiving can turn it into a very expensive doorstop. Think of that one time when you had just finished writing that term paper and were just about to save the final version when *poof* the power goes out. When the power comes back on you confidently push the on button on your computer and nothing happens, or your computer comes back to life but your paper is nowhere to be found. Even if these things don’t happen to you, at the very least your geek pride in your system uptime takes a serious hit as you begin counting again in minutes instead of days. All of these situations can be averted with a good quality UPS. In order to fulfill that need, Ultra Products has sent us their 1500 VA UPS.
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This product gave me a pretty positive first impression. It was well-protected in its packaging and is a very sleek looking product. In blends in well with my computers and is fairly small for a UPS of its capacity. In the picture below you can see how it looks in a real-life context and how its size compares to that of a mid-tower computer case.
This unit is brimming with features including:
- Digital display of voltage and battery capacity
- 900 Watt capacity
- 60 minutes backup time
- Automatic voltage regulation
- Overload protection
- Surge protection up to 2100 joules
- Telephone and Ethernet protection
- USB computer interface
- UPS Mon monitoring software
- Alarms for overload, low battery and loss of A/C power
The MSRP for this unit is $199, and you can find it on the street between $160 and $200. After doing and online price comparison, the price for this product seems to be exactly where it should be. Products from well known brands such as APC and Tripplite with similar capacity and features are in the same ballpark price range, between $150 and $200 depending on the store.
The unit provides 4 outlets protected by battery back-up and 2 outlets that only offer surge protection. Below you can see pictures of the front and back of the unit.
Using the 1500 VA UPS
Using the UPS is as simple as plugging it into the wall and plugging your computers or other equipment into it. The included UPS Mon software was very easy to install and did not require a reboot. If you use this software and connect the unit to your computer via USB it provides basic monitoring and will automatically shut down your PC after waiting a user-specified number of seconds from the moment the unit loses A/C power. The main interface screen of the software can be seen below showing the input and output voltages of the unit and the current battery capacity and load level of the unit.
With both of my computers plugged in the unit stayed around 30% load with the computers at idle. This isn’t the place to brag about system specs, but my units are fairly power hungry, especially when combined. My Linux box is based on an AMD AthlonXP 2500+ and my Windows box has a dual core CPU and one of ATI’s latest power-craving video cards. The power supplies for the 2 computers are 400 and 550 watts, respectively. I attempted to put as large a load as possible on the UPS by running a Counter-Strike: Source server on the Linux box controlling 16 bots and gaming on the server with my Windows box. Even with both systems under this fairly substantial load, the load level of the UPS never went over 42 %. Pretty impressive in my book.
The manufacturer claims a backup capacity of 60 minutes for this UPS, and one night when the power went out I waited around 15 minutes before shutting my computers down and the reported battery capacity didn’t seem to move. I did not do a controlled run-down test, but it would not surprise me at all if the unit lived up to the manufacturer’s claims.
One thing I did notice about the UPS is that the automatic voltage regulation never seemed to become active. The voltage output to my computers was always identical to the input coming into the unit. About the voltage regulation the Ultra Products website says:
“AVR automatically increase output voltage 15% above input voltage if -9% to -25% of nominal. AVR decrease output voltage 13% below input voltage if +9% to +25% of nominal.”
My wall voltage varies between 116V and 120V so that is well under the threshold for the AVR to get activated, so I have to conclude that the unit is working properly.
Since I have my computers networked together with a gigabit switch, I was a little leery of using the included ethernet protection. To my pleasant surprise, the ethernet protection circuit does not alter network speed at all and simply provides a physical pass-through connection that has surge protection between the incoming and outgoing cables. This protection is great if your computer is still connected to a phone line to use dial-up internet, but I’m not sure how useful it is for ethernet networks as these tend to be self-contained and not connected to the outside world like a phone line is. Nevertheless, too much protection never hurt anybody.
- Large capacity
- Digital display
- Sleek looks
- Reasonable price (very similar to other UPS units with similar capacity)
- Relatively unknown brand in the world of UPS units
The 1500 VA from Ultra Products proved to be a very sleek looking and well performing UPS for me. After using it for about a month I had no problems with the unit and would have no hesitation recommending it if you are in the market for a UPS of this capacity.