Surge protector reviews

How much do you need to spend to keep your expensive equipment safe?
 
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02.Results

 The following models scored the best results in our test 

What to buy
Brand Price
Crest PRPBS6TC $43
PowerTech Plus MS4024 $65
APC P5B-AZ $39
Jackson PTO888 $40

Our testing proves that you can get decent surge protection at a reasonable price. Our top performer in the 2kV test, the Crest PRPBS6TC, cost only $43 and the top four ranked boards ranged in price between $39 and $65.

If you live in a city, there's generally less chance for a severe spike or surge making it to your home, but for peace of mind any of the top seven boards in our table will do a good job of protecting your equipment from mains power surges. While some are a lot more expensive than others, you may want to select one of them for other features built into the product.

If you live in an outerlying or country area, rather than go for the cheapest board available, recognise that you will generally need to spend a bit more to get a good board to be on the safe side – in the table you can see the units which didn’t handle the 4kV test, and wouldn’t be a good choice for country areas.

In selecting a board be wary of packaging claims of clamping voltage and joule ratings. We found little correlation between the figures on the packaging and our test results. There’s no hard and fast rule, but as a guide aim for a board that has as high a joule rating you can get for the money you’re willing to spend – and, as our tests showed, you don’t need to spend a lot. Theoretically, a higher joule rating should indicate better performance.

Two of the most important features, however, are a status light to show surge protection is active, and a failsafe to prevent the board continuing to work as a simple power board if the surge protection fails. Finally, don’t let connected equipment warranties influence your decision.

 

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Full results for all models are shown in the table below

Surge table

Table notes

  • Price: RRP in Australian dollars April 2009.
  • Performance: Max clamped voltage measured at 2kV — ranking is based on this result; Max clamped voltage measured at 4kV — supplementary test is indicative of the device’s performance at an extreme surge level, that may be reached in outerlying and country areas.
  • Features: Power outlets number of mains power outlets only; Other connections includes phone/fax, coaxial cable, Ethernet networking, F-type antenna; Protection modes (claimed) types of protection offered by the device including AC power and other modes; Status lights or audible indicators what device status is indicated by lights, including surge protection, power on, safety/earthing and if the device has an audible alarm to indicate a fault/failure; Claimed clamping voltage the voltage claimed on the packaging at which the device should suppress/divert excess power; Connected equipment warranty ($) how much is offered to compensate for damage to connected equipment caused by board failure.
  • Specifications: Weight (g) measured weight of the device in grams; Size (HxDxW) cm measured dimensions of the main body of the device in centimetres; Power cable length (cm) length of the connected power cord in centimetres; Warranty (yrs) length of warranty for the product itself in years.
  • [A] Highest clamped voltage measured out of three series of surge tests (Active to Earth, Neutral to Earth and Active to Neutral). Due to pulse variances, measured voltage can vary. Pulse is additional to mains voltage.
  • [B] Not all warranties have the same provisions or restrictions. Check the documentation carefully.
  • [C] Due to this apparent anomaly we tested a second identical board, with the same result. We sought comment from Monster but didn’t receive one in time for publication.
  • [D] ‘Lifetime’ definitions may vary, check the documentation wording carefully.
  • ns not stated.

How we tested

Testing high-voltage devices requires very specialised equipment and needs to be conducted according to established standards. We employed external high-voltage testing laboratory EMC Technologies and manager Les Dickenson to help test the surge boards. EMC Technologies is accredited by NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) for surge protection testing.

Each board was subjected to a series of tests in accordance with the Australian Standard AS/NZS61000.4.5:2006 (which is identical to IEC 61000-4-5:2005), designed to test products for surge immunity.

We took each of the 12 surge boards and applied a series of electrical surges through the mains power connection at 1000 and 2000 volts (1kV and 2kV) at 60-second intervals and measured at what voltage the protection circuitry ‘clamped’ (see Jargon buster), diverting any excess charge away from connected equipment.

This tests what’s known as a ‘Class 3 installation’ and represents the severity of electrical surges that can be expected in a normal urban home. We rated the devices on their ability to handle 2kV surges, the upper limit of this class. A 100 Watt light bulb was used to simulate an appliance being connected to it.

We then applied a series of 4kV surges to simulate the type of surge that could occur in outlying or country areas and recorded the result, but didn’t factor this into our product ranking.

We tested only mains power connections, not any other connections, which may have separate anti-surge circuitry depending on the board’s make and model.

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