Buying Guides -> Hardware -> Others
Team CHIP | 24 August 2010
Erratic power lines and frequent black-outs can damage expensive computer hardware and also ruin your important data. Opt for a UPS to power your PC during a power crisis.
By FRANCIS DSA
The monsoon brings in relief from the scorching summer heat, but pronounces several problems for the electronic devices. Deficiency of the power lines is one such problem which can be witnessed all over the country. Mumbai and some other metro cities are fortunate to have cleaner electricity lines with reduced power cuts and such, but the rest of the urban and rural India are not as lucky. Power conditioning is a major problem when it concerns expensive and important electronic equipment such as the television sets, refrigerators, etc and more importantly computers.
These are the times where a UPS is required to give you that extra power just sufficient to close and save your important files and shut down the computer to prevent data loss, operating system crashes and possible hardware failures. An average home would use a single desktop computer and the power consumption would be approximately 150 watts to 200 watts considering a standard desktop computer with 1 GB RAM, an onboard graphics processor, a single hard drive and an LCD monitor. The desktop computer with this basic configuration would consume around 100 Watts unless the monitor is a CRT or additional peripherals such as printers, scanners are used. This roundup features uninterrupted power supply units ranging from 550 VA to 1000 VA models which are sufficient for powering a single computer along with other small peripherals such as a printer, modem or such. Usually one would require around 15 minutes of power backup just sufficient to save and shut down the computer and hence a 550 VA or a 1000 VA UPS unit should suffice. Those who need additional power time or to connect multiple desktops should consider a higher rated UPS. For example, if your system has a 250 Watt power supply and your monitor has a power rating of 85 Watts, a 600 VA UPS should suffice with around 5 to 10 minutes of battery power.
Each UPS was tested on an average household desktop computer running at full load and consuming 100 Watts of power. Testing a UPS involves stringent methods — power filtering, protection, power output condition, backup time and many more parameters. But we have considered a basic method of testing the UPSes and the parameters we considered are Features and Performance.
In the features section, we noted each UPS’ important characteristics such as the type of UPS, its power rating, the number of batteries employed, its control panel and software features and more. The power rating of the UPS is important as it indicates the capacity of load it is designed to handle, while the backup time depends on the number of batteries connected to it. The control panel on the unit itself and the ability of the UPS to be handled by the computer system using monitoring and controlling software is very important. This informs the user about the condition of the input and output voltages, the internal circuit condition of the UPS and the amount of charge held in the batteries by which the backup time can be calculated. Additional features such as line filtering for Ethernet networks embedded in the UPS itself can reduce damage to network cards and switches, keeping the network safe from dangerous spikes.
Finally, the performance of each UPS is tested by calculating the amount of backup time it can deliver. The amount of time the machine was powered during the UPS running on the batteries was calculated.
We also calculated the amount of emergency shutdown time of each UPS. The emergency shutdown time is when the UPS starts beeping rapidly indicating that the battery charge level is dipping and the balance power remaining in the batteries would be sufficient for around 2 to 5 minutes. This emergency time is sufficient enough for saving all work and shutting down the systems before the UPS batteries are exhausted and need to be recharged.
Kicking-in into the first place, the APC BR550CI-IN 550 VA UPS bagged the Best Performance title purely on the amount of time it could handle the 100 Watt load. This line interactive UPS is as tiny as a small-sized toaster. The body is an all-black plastic case which houses a single 12 V, 7 AH SMF battery unit and is powerful enough to keep an average home desktop PC running for around 20 minutes plus additional 3 minutes of critical time. The rear panel sports two 5 A power points which has provisions for one desktop PC and a monitor. A push-button switch present on the rear helps reset the UPS when there is an over or under voltage, preventing the unit from damaging itself or the connected load. The front panel has a backlit power switch which along with the built-in buzzer helps indicate the status of the UPS, such as battery run, overload, critical time, battery status and more. Once the UPS is totally drained, it charges in around 8 to 10 hours.
Verdict: The APC BR550CI-IN 550 VA UPS is an ideal choice for those needing around 10 to 15 minutes of backup time on a single mainstream desktop computer.
For: Tiny unit, excellent battery runtime and life.
Against: Batteries cannot be added.
The highest scores in the performance section along with the second best feature-set helped the Asia Power AP 1080 UPS to grab the Best Performance award this time. This 1000 VA line interactive UPS was one of the heaviest unit because of the four internal 12 V, 7 AH SMF batteries which can together power a 100 watt load for 73 minutes. Additionally, it sustained a critical backup time of barely 2 minutes was considered quite insufficient, but it works out sufficient enough if you quickly shut down the computer as soon as you hear the pacifying beeps.
The unit charges in quickly is barely 6 hours and the battery life is estimated at 360 cycles. The front panel has a good set of individual indicators each of which highlight the different sections such as charge levels, load and overload indicator and battery failure. If you are looking for a UPS with PC control and a similar performance, consider the Asia Power VGD 1000L. The additional benefits are that the VGD 1000L can be controlled and monitored using the control panel or the PC.
Verdict: Opt for the AP 1080 if you are looking for a UPS with a higher power backup in a tight budget
For: Great performance, quick charging.
The UMAX UMP 1000DX hits the sweet spot in the 1000 VA category with its low price and blend of performance and feature-set. The UPS is a line interactive model and can power a 100 Watt load for an hour during a power crisis along with a critical time of 3 minutes. Ideal for a single desktop computer, the UPS can also support additional peripherals such as modems, printers and scanners, but the additional (possibly unnecessary) load will tend to run down the batteries a lot sooner. The UMP 1000DX houses two 12 V, 7 AH SMF batteries which take around 8 hours for charging completely. The battery life rated by the company is approximately 250 Cycles before you need to replace them. Each time the UPS runs on battery mode during a power failure and then recharges again when the power resumes is considered one cycle. Hence the UPS batteries can be estimated to be used for 250 power breakdowns. Retailing at Rs 4,000 and carrying a warranty of 2 years, the UMAX UMP 1000DX bagged the Best Value title among the others in the category.
Verdict: The UMAX UMP 1000DX is great for those in a tight budget and need to power two or three mainstream desktop PCs for around 20-30 minutes.
For: Low price, decent backup time.
Against: No individual status indicators.
Opting for the appropriate UPS for your computer setup is not as simple as you might think, but actually requires a bit of mathematical skills. This involves a few checklists and calculations to be made before you pick the right model. When opting for a UPS, you first need to consider the amount of backup time you would require your computer to be running during a power crisis. You would then need to finalize on the number of peripherals that will need to be powered at that given time. And last, but not the least, the quality or condition of the electrical power your city or area has.
In short, you need to finalize the amount of peripherals, such as the printer, modem, external storage and others, that would be connected to the UPS. Then calculate the total amount of power buy summing up each unit’s power consumption.
For example, if the computer consumes 200 Watts including the monitor, the printer consumes 50 Watts, and the modem consumes 10 Watts, then the total would be 260 Watts. In this scenario, you can opt for a 600 VA UPS which would give you around 15 minutes of power backup. If the consumption is higher, you can opt for a 1 KVA or higher. But if the backup time is important too, then opt for a UPS which has an option to connect higher capacity battery packs or greater amount of batteries to extend the power backup time. Finally, depending on how clean the electrical power in your area is, you should opt for a line-interactive or an online UPS.
An online UPS is the best option for those living in rural areas or locations that have frequent erratic power spikes and voltage rise and falls. For those living in developed towns such as Mumbai, a line-interactive UPS would suffice. In all the UPS units that I tested, I would recommend the Asia Power VGD 1000L. It is an online UPS with features such as a physical and software control panel for monitoring and controlling the UPS functionality. Apart from this, you can also install additional external batteries to extend amount of backup time.