July 28, 2004

Office Series 750VA Review

A few weeks back, the folks at Belkin were nice enough to send over one of their new Office Series 750VA Uninterruptible Power Supplies for me to review. After having had a chance to spend some time with the unit, I'm finally ready to publish my notes.

I should add here that both Tripp-Lite and APC were contacted regarding doing a comparison of their equivalent units (despite Tripp-Lite not having a Mac version of their UPS software), but neither company chose to participate.

As most of you are probably aware, power failures can be a major headache to computer users, resulting in anything from losing unsaved documents, to corrupted files, to damaged hardware. Case in point, while I was out on vacation in July, a power glitch at the office fried the hard drive in my main desktop system, not only damaging my drive, but causing an automated backup I have scheduled to copy over the corrupted data, essentially losing everything permanently. Obviously not what I wanted to come back from vacation to.

Back at home, the same storm that tore through the area apparently dropped power while I was gone, I was greeted with flashing alarm clocks and my VCRs blinking 12:00 at me. But my web/mail server didn't miss a beat, and more importantly, my cable modem was still up and running, thanks to the Belkin UPS.

My cable modem seems to be especially picky when power drops for brief moments then comes back, my CPU will restart all by itself, but the cable modem, even though it has power, will stubbornly sit there with all lights off until unplugged for a full 10 seconds before power is restored. To say the least, a major pain.

To the rescue comes the Belkin Office Series 750VA, rated at a battery capacity of 750 volt/amps, and able to power a 400watt load, this little unit now protects my web server, cable modem, and router from power failures. In fact, as I write this, the system is on battery power with the AC cord dangling off the edge of my desk.

My G4 for the site is an older model (rated at 200 watts), and does draw less power than the later G4 models, and certainly less than the G5 systems. With the router and cable modem I figure I'm pulling no more than 250 watts max, this puts about a 16% load on the UPS while in operation. Obviously if a user were to run their display through the UPS, this would cause a much larger drain on the available power, depending on the display type, but for my use, this isn't really needed.

Belkin offers several different models in the Office Series, with varying battery capacities, and some additional features like broadband protection (to keep spikes from your cable connection away from your router). For some folks, just having a few extra moments to do a proper shut down can be a lifesaver, for others, being able to keep a system up for an hour or more without power may be critical.

For my particular setup, I was able to run without power for 30 minutes, and had only run the battery down to about 50%, so I should be able to get close to an hours use out of this particular model during a power failure.

As you can see from the picture of the unit here and on Belkin's web site, it's a very stylish design, not the ugly brick of UPSs from years past. It would look just fine sitting on top of your desk, or alongside your computer. There are six outlets on top, four are battery backed, the other two are surge protected only.

The USB cable includes with the unit plugs directly into one of your Mac or PCs available USB ports (or through a hub, but if it's powered, be sure to put that on the UPS too!), and communicates to a software package called Bulldog.

Bulldog is pretty slick, there's a bar meter showing the current battery and loading level, and two other analog meters showing a number of other indicators selected via a pull-down menu, including battery, input, and output voltage, input or output frequency, and battery and output loading.

The software allows the scheduling of short and long UPS tests, as well as scheduled shutdowns and restarts. The software can automatically shut down your system after a power failure, or can even wait until the battery has run down and given a battery low warning, giving you every last bit of power remaining and still shutting your system down properly. The software will even let you set the UPS itself to power off after your CPU has shut down, to keep the battery from draining further..

For anyone that's ever lost a piece of electronic equipment to an electrical storm, you'll be happy to hear that a $75,000 connected equipment warranty is included.

The battery in the unit is replaceable, and the Bulldog software can even be set to give a battery replacement notification for some date in the future. Unfortunately, no information on the battery or with the unit indicates when the battery should be replaced, and Belkin's web site does not currently give any information on how a replacement battery for the Office Series of UPSs can be ordered.

The UPS itself retails for $109.99, but a quick search around the net found prices all the way down to $66.14.

As I was beginning this review, some questions arose that I submitted to Belkin's Tech Support staff, specifically the battery life/replacement date, availability of replacement batteries, and an updated version of the Bulldog software that might be more compatible with MacOS 10.3.4. After receiving their automated reply, nothing further was heard. More than two weeks later, a followup email was sent, which also went unanswered. My recommendation here is to call and reach a live person, as their email support is definitely lacking.

A 10.3 compatible version of Bulldog was found online, but it was problematic, with intermittent connectivity to the UPS, failure to show available gauges, and other problems I believe caused by their low level routines that monitor UPS activity. As the monitoring software is definitely not a requirement, I didn't weigh this terribly heavily.

All in all, I would highly recommend this unit, and Belkin's other models in the Office Series, for any user needing reliable short term power and peace of mind.

Posted by Jim at July 28, 2004 12:22 AM | TrackBack