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Let's Take a Trip Inside Budget Power Bars, Part Three

Tripp-Lite's Y-Wings

The TLP604 is the only other bar in this round-up to use security screws of some sort (in this case, the tri-wing or Y1 type). We're presented with yet another occasion to justify tool hoarding.

Trip Inside The Tripp-Lite

TrippLite's layout is similar to CyberPower's, with the PCB soldered directly on the breaker's terminal. And since this one has a switch illuminator, it has the third (neutral) terminal to power it. For some odd reason, Tripp-Lite decided to bring the live wire half-way down the outlet strip instead of connecting near the tip.

Tripp-Lite's PCB

If you like nice and shiny solder jobs on clean PCBs, you might want to avert your eyes. There is a generous quantity of solder flux all over the board, and most leads have blobtastic solder jobs. Fortunately, soldering does not need to look pretty to get the job done.

I am not going to solder-wick this one.

Trippy Spying

From what I can glean from the sides, the live-neutral protection has two GNR 14D471K MOVs and a third blue MOV further back that I can't identify. The main shut-off fuse is sandwiched between the orange and blue MOVs, so I would hazard a guess that the blue MOV has a lower clamping voltage. I could not read the live-ground and neutral-ground MOVs' models, but they also have one each (as expected).

Pinched

Safety codes generally tell people not to use extensions and appliances with damaged power cords. Here, the bar's cable got pinched clean through right at the housing's outer edge when it was assembled. You can see the wires' paper wrap through the hole.

Barely Visible

With the enclosure nearly closed, the nicked cable area is barely visible.

This is one of those cases when trying to file a warranty claim technically proves that you voided your warranty. When I mailed Tripp-Lite about the issue, I was told the company's engineering department would look into it.

Skewy Trippy

Here is more proof that no manufacturer is immune to slip-ups: the tip of that ground strip has a few extra bends to it. While that may not affect performance, it does complicate keeping the strip in place for (re-)assembly.

The TLP604's power strips are 5.2mm wide by 0.5mm thick, while the ground strip is 3.7mm wide by 0.4mm thick, placing both at the chunkier end of the scale.

On Second Thought...

As I was re-arranging the rest of this article to form a third part, I had a change of heart about desoldering Tripp-Lite's entry. The tabs looked straight, after all.

Indeed, the task turned out much easier than getting into CyberPower's unit since the tab holes were far enough below the PCB to not draw solder in. Liberal use of solder flux also helped.

Tripp-Lite's Components

Here are those components I almost didn't dig out. The live-neutral protection comprises two 14D471K MOVs (orange) and one 14D201K (blue), while the neutral-ground has a lone 14D201K and the live-ground has a single 14D471K. The PCB clearly contains a footprint for a 47-100nF X-rated capacitor. Tripp-Lite decided to go with a tiny 1nF Mylar capacitor instead, so no EMI filtering happens.

Hanging By A Thread

Do you see that jumper wire above the 'N'? This is the wire that connects the MOVs to the power cord's neutral line. Above and further to the left is the “Protection Working” LED's anode wire. Does anyone else find it ironic that a LED wire, which carries less than 0.02A, is twice as thick as a jumper wire that may need to bear 3000A during a surge?

Obviously, this piece of wire (and an identical one on the ground side) is intended to serve as a fuse. Tripp-Lite must have calculated them to be sufficient for the surges this bar is intended to cope with. The company could have gone even cheaper by simply using a narrow PCB trace and extra separation between copper islands.

Daniel Sauvageau is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He’s known for his feature tear-downs of components and peripherals.