Third Round's Winner
CyberPower's unit lacks isolation slots on its PCB, and has neither power nor protection status indicator. With a retail price of $10, there are too many missing features to compete with other $10-15 units.
Tripp-Lite serves up a good PCB design if you do not mind flux all over the board. However, I am marking this bar down for its kinked ground strip, pinched cord jacket and missing X-cap.
This leaves APC's unit. It has practically all of the features you could expect from a budget surge protector, no obvious design or manufacturing flaws and cost practically the same as the other two entries at the time of purchase, making it an easy pick.
Best Value For Your Money
After wrapping up the third round, one fact became abundantly clear: none of the units from the first two rounds belong here. Apart from the Belkin we saw in round two, which deserves a thumbs-up for its MOV safety, the others are only marginally better than Sunbeam's solution from round one. The Diamond may also deserve somewhat of a mention for its shuttered outlets if that feature alone is worth more than $5 to you.
I suppose I am not going to surprise anyone by saying that, out of the nine units I looked into, APC's P74 wins overall. It can still be found for around $12, which is about the same (if not cheaper) than most other brands' nearest equivalent units lacking some of its features.
If the extra bells and whistles are not your thing, then Tripp-Lite and CyberPower also deserve honorable mentions if you can find them for cheaper than APC's first-place finisher.
Power Strip Wrap-Up
What do you get after leaving a bunch of power bars in various stages of (dis-)assembly on your bench? One rightful mess.
Here are my main take-away points for this story:
- Beware of dollar-store power bars if you did not already
- Every manufacturer can have a Bad Fur Day
- If you are going to spend $10 or more on a surge-protecting bar for electronic equipment, stick to companies involved with power and power-related accessories as a core business
- Belkin really surprised me with its use of flame-resistant fabric hoods
Everyone knows that old adage saying you get what you pay for. But when you see such a broad quality and feature range around the $10 mark, you gain a lot from looking beyond the price tag.