Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Truly Shameless Hardware Reviews: The APC Back-UPS ES350 UPS System Is Another Winner!

The Good: Battery back up works, Surge protection appears to work, Reset function, Supposed warranty
The Bad: Plug spacing is inadequate
The Basics: With its wonderful battery backup function, this surge protector is wonderful for all computer equipment!

Lately, I've been venturing out of my usual media areas and reviewing things in the computer and electronics sections and this has honestly been a real challenge for me at times. With my reviews of such things as the MonsterPower PowerProtect AV600 (reviewed here!), I've been discovering just how much one may write about something as simple as a power cord. Today, I set out to evaluate my APC Back-UPS ES350 Battery Backup and surge protector. Considering that I have had two of these and they have been around my house longer than my AV600, I figured I ought to have more to write about it.

I have been protecting my computer and at least as important, my monitor (reviewed here!) on the ES350 for three years now and I am pleased to say that whenever I need a new battery backup, it will almost certainly be another ES350. The nice thing is that occasionally, APC will offer rebates on the ES350 and that makes it even more affordable!

The basics begin with the simple: battery back-up is a system by which computer components connected to it are able to run for a limited time during a power outage. This is essentially a big, bulky surge protector connected to a giant battery. When powered up and operating properly, components plugged into the battery back-up will survive electrical incidents involving surges (see the caveat below!!!) and will operate when the power goes out for a limited time. This is a six outlet battery backup, with the two rows of three sockets on opposite sides of the top of the ES350. All six outlets feature a grounding socket and the safety-constructed slots for safety plugs. For those unfamiliar with most modern appliances (in the last ten years or so), most three prong and especially two prong plugs come with the left prong slightly larger than the right prong so there becomes only one proper and safe way to plug devices in. This prevents electrocutions and destruction of computer components. This is less of an issue with computer components as most every computer component is a three pronged plug and all six of the sockets on the ES350 are three pronged - grounded - sockets.

The six outlets are situated on the top of the just under eleven inch long by seven inch wide base of the battery backup. This bulky accessory is three and a half inches tall, so when plugs are plugged in, this is not a space-saving device. In order to operate it without plug cords getting bent, this needs a bit of space (two to three inches) above the top of the battery backup. The plugs are arranged evenly spaced within the latter six inches (from the cord) of the ES350.

On the issue of the plug spacing, this leads to two important problems with the ES350. Only three of the six sockets are actually connected to the surge protecting function. When the power goes out, all six sockets may be utilized, but only three will protect against surges. Given the unpredictability of power outages and the sudden resurgence of power to a home, this is a huge liability. However, the other half of this apparent problem is this: it's highly unlikely one would have active devices in all six plugs when the device is engaged. I tend to use the three non-surge plugs only for devices that I use sporadically. So, for example, I do not keep my scanner (reviewed here!) plugged in. Moreover, because my Laserjet 1200 printer (reviewed here!) does not have a power switch, I do not keep that plugged in either. When I use them, I plug them in and they tend to go into the plugs that are not protected for surges. Whenever I've lost power while scanning or printing, the first thing I've done is pulled those plugs.

I couldn't plug the scanner into the surge-protector sockets even if I wanted to. That is the second problem with the ES350. When my computer and monitor are plugged in, there is not enough space to plug in the scanner plug. The difference is that the scanner has one of the big, bulky square plugs that takes up a lot of space. My printer does not have the bulky plug and that can be plugged into the third surge protected socket, but so long as the computer and monitor are protected - which they ought to be - the scanner cannot be protected against surges. With the scanner plugged in, I lose the use of the socket next to it, which is annoying.

The cable for the ES350 is six feet long and ends in a three pronged plug that connects into the wall at an angle. I understand this is supposed to save space, but it still looks funny, unless your outlet is offset by a forty-five degree angle. This function only truly makes sense when one is plugging the ES350 into the same socket as something with a more intrusive cord. This allows the cable to drape to the side of the socket and other cords as opposed to sticking straight out. This is not a key selling point for me, but might come in handy for those who have crowded outlets or are plugging into places that are hard to reach.

There is also a jack for the telephone line. You know how when they power goes out, your telephone will often still work? That's because telephone lines carry power as well and those lines power the telephones. Like electrical lines, telephone lines can have erratic surges especially during storms. Those surges can destroy computer components and telephone equipment. The ES350 eliminates that problem by surge protecting the telephone power line that is run through it! This is a remarkably clever and convenient function of the ES350 and one that APC does not capitalize on enough.

The ES350 Battery Backup plugs easily into the wall and is turned on with the press of a button. There is an LED above the button to clearly indicate when the power is on. When turned on, the unit beeps as well to let the user know it is working. According to the paperwork on this, the battery back-up works for about one and a half minutes with components plugged into every socket. I have gotten ten minutes out of the ES350 with just the computer and monitor plugged in when the power has gone out. This is an exercise in annoyance, though, as the device beeps constantly when it is running devices on the battery power. Indeed, it beeps whenever power is out. Sometimes the first way I know I've lost power is by hearing my ES350 beeping from the basement!

But the battery back up works! It has protected my computer components and whenever I have exhausted the battery, I simply unplug it from the wall and turn it off (otherwise it would keep beeping until it fully ran out of power). When power is restored, I unplug everything from the ES350, plug it back into the wall and turn it on. This resets the surge protection function so my equipment is once again protected.

As a side note, I once decided that the ES350 would be great for protecting my microwave, as surges have killed previous microwaves of mine. So, for a while I had my microwave (reviewed here!) plugged into an ES350. This brilliant idea - the ES350 DID protect the microwave from the erratic power surges surrounding my power outages - was trumped only by my decision to try to microwave something during an outage. This battery back up does not - repeat NOT - support power-intensive devices like a microwave. Enough said on that, I think.

The other nice thing about the ES350 is that whenever I leave my house, I am confident my computer components will be fine and I do not need to unplug them. Having witnessed how much it takes to cause the ES350 to need to be reset (indeed, it's only needed it after intense storms when the battery backup function has been exhausted) I have never worried about returning home to find my computer components damaged. That level of confidence is great and quite reassuring. That's what we pay surge protectors and battery backup devices for!

This battery backup has a $50,000 equipment replacement or repair warranty, which I have never had to exercise, which is valid for two years. Presumably, if my system gets fried and it can be shown to be a result of a failure of the ES350 from normal use, everything plugged into it will be replaced or repaired up to a value of $50,000. So, while a microwave might not be protected, the computer and monitor are protected by both the device and its warranty.

This is certainly a better-than-average battery backup and it does a wonderful job protecting all computer components!

For other power-related reviews, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Hi-Capacity AC Adapter For Acer 5532
DLO Power Bug
CB-5L Charger


For other electronics reviews, please click here to visit my index page!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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