Today’s Guinea Pig: APC BGE90M-CA
UPSes come in many shapes and sizes to accommodate the needs of different applications. APC launched the literally rodent-sized BGE90M in early 2015 with the goal of providing efficient backup power for home networking equipment and mobile devices.
I do not remember reading about APC’s Connect UPS product line until I saw this model pop up in a Staples clearance sale for $30 CAN. At such a low price for a potentially very useful little UPS, I could not resist having a look inside.
As is common with APC UPSes, they ship with the battery disconnected and a sticker reminding you of this stuck across the battery backup outlets.
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In typical consumer-oriented fashion, each side of the packaging is covered in full-color marketing material. The key points to remember are:
- Four and a half hours of run-time at 10W and 90 minutes at 20W
- Two USB power outlets, one current-limited at 1A and the other at 1.5A (2.5A total)
- 75W and 125VA maximum output
- Three-year, $75,000 equipment protection warranty
The only number that might correspond to the 90 in this product's name is the 90 minutes at 20W specification. My own modem (TP-Link 8816) + router (Asus N66U) + ATA (Cisco SPA112) combo uses 14W, which means I could reasonably expect about two hours of network backup time from this critter.
One-inch-thick foam blocks protect the top and bottom down the length of the unit. It is also bagged for extra protection. Instead of putting a plastic cap at the end of the cord and stuffing it below with the UPS, APC molded notches in the foam for the cord to pass through and the plug to safely rest in. There's nothing left to chance in this inexpensive UPS’ packaging.
While handling the unit, I could hear the battery rattle around. It sounded like APC could not be bothered with designing a snug-fitting compartment.
When I wrote that this unit was about the size of a rodent, I was serious. It takes two BGE90Ms standing on their end to make up about the same volume as the 1000PFCLCD, and they weigh less than half as much too. Can you guess where most of the size and weight reduction comes from, aside from probably having half the battery capacity? Hint: the more interesting part of this answer can be found in my old BX1000 tear-down. Need another hint? Battery backup designed for very light loads cannot afford to waste 10-20W in an iron core transformer.
What else is included inside the box, aside from the UPS itself? Since the hardware lacks monitoring ports, phone/DSL, and coax protection, there's nothing in terms of software or cables. Only the paperwork:
- Instruction sheets in French and English
- A bilingual warranty information sheet
- A product safety sheet
- A registration reminder sheet
- An Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) slip dated October 19th, 2014
Ordering a device in late June 2016 and receiving it with evidence that it sat in a warehouse for 20 months implies that the BGE90M may not have been a particularly popular product. Either that or distributors found pallets of old units they needed to get rid of before the batteries died. Valve-regulated lead-acid batteries (VRLA) have a typical shelf life of about six years, and there is no doubt that these batteries are older than the finished UPS.
Plug and Cord
I never thought I would buy a UPS with a lamp cord and plug, but here it is: a 2x#18 cord with a polarized plug (polarized here meaning that one blade is wider than the other to indicate neutral and no ground pin). That’s one way of reminding people that this UPS is only meant for low-power electronics.
A gauge #18 cord may sound awfully thin, but it is suitable for about 8A. The UPS’ 125VA rating means few units will ever see more than 1ARMS. I would be really surprised if I found a 15A breaker at the other end of this cord.
There's no PC connection for remote shutdown or monitoring, no wiring fault indicator, and no coax or phone surge suppression anywhere on this unit. You'll only find the power cord’s strain relief, a pop-up breaker, and ventilation holes.
In case you're tempted to mistake a two-pin power cord or outlet for a three-phase (3Φ) device, labeling above the cord clearly identifies it as 1Φ.
Front And Back
Both sides are identical, except for the presence of wall-mounting slots on the back. I cannot help but think I would prefer having the outlets accessible from the front of the unit rather than the top in a wall-mount application.
As is often the case with small UPSes, the bottom is dominated by the battery door. Various information is scattered across the remaining space. Instead of the usual plethora of safety warnings, the caution text area only mentions how batteries pose a risk of chemical, electrical, and energy hazards.
Aside from that, one sticker states the model and serial numbers, while the unit’s basic electrical specifications are printed directly on the bottom.
On the top side, you can see three outlets with adapter-friendly spacing, two USB type-A ports, and the power button, which lights up green when the unit is turned on and flashes red for a disconnected or dead battery. It also flashes green during self-test and when the inverter is running.
I picked up the largest adapters I had lying around my workbench and plugged them in to see how well (or not) everything fit together. Between my original NES power brick and the humongous Energizer quick-charger adapter, I could have used an extra millimeter between outlets for a cleaner fit. As it is, the NES adapter brushes against the Energizer and goes in slightly crooked with a little bit of prying. If this was an actual installation, the simple work-around for a clean fit would have been to put the Linksys brick in the middle instead.
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