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

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:

  1. Beware of dollar-store power bars if you did not already
  2. Every manufacturer can have a Bad Fur Day
  3. 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
  4. 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.

  • blackmagnum
    Don't use a $10 powerstrip with your $1000 equipment; said my favorite salesman.
    Reply
  • Amdlova
    thank you daniel for another bad trip. when i look for those bars i have a bad feeling about what happens inside of it.
    Reply
  • babernet_1
    Is it just me? For this and another similar presentation I can only get one picture switch then the rest of the pics are locked, I cannot see them.
    Reply
  • mortsmi7
    Makes me wonder how the power strips like the 3' 12 outlet TrippLite bars fare.
    Reply
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    15085733 said:
    thank you daniel for another bad trip. when i look for those bars i have a bad feeling about what happens inside of it.
    Those last three were fairly decent and the Belkin was not too bad either as far as basic surge protection go.

    If you want dangerous everyday stuff, someone asked me to take a look inside their LG microwave yesterday. Complaint: not heating up. Cause of failure: door safety micro-switch rated for only 0.6A at 125V in series with the HV transformer which should draw at least 10A based on the oven's 1100W rating, likely more due to reactive power and crest factor. The connector covers were melted and partially carbonized onto the switch.
    Reply
  • rdc85
    15086478 said:
    Is it just me? For this and another similar presentation I can only get one picture switch then the rest of the pics are locked, I cannot see them.

    usually caused by connection problem (lag)..
    try refresh and wait a while the pic is loading...
    Reply
  • aentreri00
    I can't read the article, the arrow key takes me to digikey.
    Reply
  • hydac8
    How about doing a tear down of European power strips ? I'm sure it would be interesting for non US residents
    Reply
  • synphul
    Doesn't surprise me, seems like as time goes on and tech 'improves' basics get crappier. Most anything electrical anymore is a fright fest, especially compared to older 'outdated' things. I've noticed this with a variety of electrical appliances. Old funky power bars no one gave a second thought about just worked. New ones with all the bells and whistles are melting down.

    Who used to worry much over their psu for their pc? So long as it had an appropriate wattage rating, it just worked. Now? Buzzing, popping noises, puffs of smoke, melted sata power wires, you name it. Literal Chernobyl in a box. Countless stories recently of people using electric heat tape to keep their pipes from freezing (since it's winter here in the u.s.) and fires breaking out. Many just from friends of mine alone who have smelled burning and smoke and panicked, shut off their main house power. Fire dept confirmed they did the smart thing since it was burning their home's insulation and about to start a major house fire.

    I've personally had 2 electric heaters just within the past couple of months getting so hot that they melt the plugs. To the point the contact spades are literally falling out of them and the plastic insulated plug head is like goo. On a 1500w heater, that's ridiculous (although at least I didn't experience blue sparks or smoke/flames emitting from the front as others have). That's not a 'cheapy' either, it was a $100 DeLonghi. Everything electrical anymore is flat getting scary terrible in build quality and worse than not performing as we'd hoped is becoming a health and fire hazard.
    Reply
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    15092925 said:
    How about doing a tear down of European power strips ? I'm sure it would be interesting for non US residents
    The main problem with that would be the basic fact that european power accessories are not readily available in North America.

    15097247 said:
    Doesn't surprise me, seems like as time goes on and tech 'improves' basics get crappier. Most anything electrical anymore is a fright fest, especially compared to older 'outdated' things.
    If you want something frightening, I saw a video on youtube a few months ago of someone doing dangerous appliance tear-downs. I do not remember if it was an Euro or Australian bar but it was absolutely horrible: packaging said it had a fuse or breaker but there were none, it said it had surge protection but there was none, same for filtering. It claimed to be heavy-duty but its power cord was copper-plated aluminum thinner than #16. The outlets were strung together using #18 gauge copper-plated aluminum. Wiring insulation started melting with the bar passing merely 8A out of its 16A rating. At 10A, wiring caught on fire. Packaging claimed the product used fire-resistant material but the plastic failed to put itself out after power was removed.

    I think none of the units I had in my three parts tear down come anywhere near that horrible - though I did not do actual load/conductivity or flamability tests.
    Reply