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Tripp-Lite isobar Surge Protector Tear-Down

Tripp-Lite isobar Tear-Down

Some of you asked for this, and forum member kyuuketsuki kindly offered to send a spare my way. So here it is: Tripp-Lite's isobar 8 Ultra.

A Staple Of IT

The isobar brand, which surfaced in 1982, quickly established itself as the go-to for office surge protection. Those of you old enough to remember may have noticed these boxes in government, education and medial environments about that long ago. The general external design remains mostly unchanged except for the switch, which went from stamped steel to an extruded aluminum housing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

From California

You may want to thank forum reader kyuuketsuki for punting this box all the way from Bakersfield, CA to Saint-Hubert, QC. Postage across the border costs half as much as buying one of these on sale. Most of the front is covered by the customs declaration, address, USPS and CP postage labels.

The naked box survived the trip in surprisingly good condition considering the distance. One of its corners does show signs of getting banged up worse than the other three, though.

Under The Labels

After half an hour of careful peeling and cleaning, I have a mostly clean box to take a picture of.

Aside from touting isobar as a best-selling surge protector and a 3840 joules rating, the only two other highlights featured on the front are the all-metal housing and isolated filters. When your product is the de-facto standard in so many institutions, there is no point in preaching to the choir or bothering with minor features nearly all other surge protectors also have.

The Other Side

Aside from the crumpled corner, there is no other obvious shipping damage on the back.

Most of the rear is dedicated to a brief overview of how the isobar's protection works, complete with an annotated picture highlighting the key components and their roles. I will save comments on the image for later, after I get a look at the actual PCB.

The bottom square lists slightly more detailed specifications than usual.

The Spiel

To make a long story short, the isobar's main claim to fame is simply using more and bigger components than competing products.

The Monster unit I looked at back in February possessed a common-mode choke but no inductors, while the SurgeArrest Performance from last summer had inductors but no common-mode choke. The isobar has both and some extras, making it the most complete of the three for power filtering and surge blocking.

The Ratings

Aside from the cord length, 1449-rev3 surge voltage and energy rating, the most interesting specification listed is the 35V surge let-through. This is something usually associated with fancier surge protectors like SurgeX's older designs.

Also of interest (but for a different reason) would be that 97kA surge current specification. It needs to be taken with a pinch of salt; modern 20mm MOVs have a one-shot rating of 10kA, and with 10 MOVs total, the sum barely gets there. This is clearly marketing fluff – a value that should not be achievable in practice.

Extras

As part of your purchase, you get a folded sheet containing the owner's manual, warranty and miscellaneous other information. You also get four Tripp-Lite-branded outlet covers.

How many people actually use their power bars' outlet covers? I simply throw mine into a spare parts box.

The Plug

Inside the packaging, the power plug was tucked into the banged-up corner, which may explain why the ground pin has a slight inward bend. The plug size is about the same footprint as APC's, except the isobar's also has ears on the sides to provide extra grip, making it much easier to pull out. Cabling, on the other hand, is the usual PVC fare.

Spotting Differences

When companies update products, they sometimes opt out of printing updated packaging. Here, the artwork shows a plunger-style breaker on the right end-cap, while the actual unit uses an illuminated breaker-switch.

Rear View

The usual complement of warning and certification stickers adorns the rear cover (five in total if you include the tiny “QC pass” one below the serial number).

Wall-mounting accommodations are provided by bent ears extending from each end-cap, putting about one centimeter of clearance between the enclosure and whatever it rests or mounts on. Should a fire actually start inside, the surface supporting the isobar should be spared most of the heat and hopefully remain intact until the fire dies out.

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