MyGamer Hardware Score: 9.5/10
OK, I hear you already… "uninterruptible power supplies just ain't sexy. Don't you have some laptops or new PC games or something that you can tell us about, instead?"
Actually, we do, but that's something for later. Besides, all the cool hardware in the world isn't going to do you any good if, on some dark and stormy night, your beloved gear gets FUBARed because you lost power right in the middle of doing a Windows Update or, worse, ends up fried from a power surge.
Luckily, Ultra Products, the manufacturer renowned for their high-end PC power supplies is watching our backs. What do they have in their goodie bag this month?
The Ultra 1025 VA 615 WATTS backup UPS w/ AVR (yes, I know… the name's not terribly sexy – bear with me, OK?) is a hefty brick of a unit, not at first all that different from the UPS's one might find at Staples or CompUSA. But, dig a little deeper, and we think you'll find that this unit is anything but mundane.
For one thing, the device actually works. Not surprising really, or at least it shouldn't be, but we can tell you from bitter, bitter experience that more often than not, the use of a UPS unit between scary, uncivilized wall power and the PC is really just wishful thinking. We can't count the number of times that we've endured the agony of watching the lights flicker out, only to find that the UPS we were counting on to keep our hardware going until shutdown couldn't run much of anything for more than a minute or two. Eventually, we practically abandoned their use, as it just seemed wasteful to spend good money on something that never seemed to work as advertised.
Not the Ultra. In repeated simulated blackouts, the 1025 VA unit kept both a top-end, dual core, SLI-enabled PC as well as a 21" LCD monitor running for nearly twenty minutes at a stretch – plenty of time for a graceful shutdown. Even better, the Ultra comes bundled with something called UPS Mon, a software suite which allows the user to customize alerts, self-tests and even the parameters by which the UPS will shut down your PC in the event of a power failure. That's right: simply plug your PC into the Ultra via the supplied USB cable and the UPS will take care of shutting down your PC in the event of a power outage, assuring that, even when you're not at home, your hardware is protected against sudden outages.
We found ourselves really loving the UPS Mon software. It can send alert messages to a pager (via old-fashioned dial-up) or even via email in the event of a power outage, when power is restored, when scheduled tests are completed, when the PC is shut down and the like. Just remember to plug your cable router into the UPS as well as your PC, lest your connectivity to the web be severed with your power.
The UPS Mon utility really is a great value-add, and can do everything from sending alerts via email or pager to actually turning off your PC in the event of a power failure.
The Ultra 1025 VA isn't perfect, but it's close. In fact, our only real complaint (if you can even call it that) was the fact that, while the UPS does have a helpful LCD gauge as well as an on-screen meter which shows you the remaining battery life, we found that when the battery was drained much lower than 50%, the meter dropped alarmingly fast, so quickly in fact that, unless you're paying attention, you may find your PC unexpectedly powering off. Out tests generally showed about 50% battery life remaining after thirteen or even fourteen minutes, but then the last 50% would evaporate within minutes after that.
Of course, we were really torture testing the UPS at that point, and under normal usage the 1025 VA unit should perform nearly perfectly. Our recommendation? If you have an expensive gaming PC, run a multiplayer server, or simply want the peace of mind that your hardware is protected from surges as well as power outages, then the Ultra just might be for you.
Pros: Four battery-enabled plugs mean you can back up your PC, monitor and other essential devices like cable modems or hubs. Bundled UPS Mon software can shut down the PC, send alerts and schedule tests. Beefy batteries mean that even the low-end units can easily power a single workstation until shutdown, and the higher-end units can keep mission-critical hardware such as file or Counter Strike servers up and running in a blackout.
Cons: Battery meter is a bit misleading – battery life seemed to be much less predictable under 50%. Stick to the default shutdown values in UPS Mon, however, and you should be fine. We really had to stretch to call that a "Con", however.
Congrats, Ultra: you've made us believe in the validity of UPS's again.