The Bottom Line: The APC Back-UPS CS 350VA does what it is supposed to doprotect my wifes computer from harmful electrical events and provide a stable source of emergency power.
My axiom on blackouts and or sporadic power outages is the same as hard drives: the question is not if it will happen, but when it will happen. And when it happens will your computer equipment be protected from those inevitable power surges that accompany them? I have learned the hard way that the sensitive electronics that make up the insides of my computers need to be protected from errant electrical interference, having had to replace two motherboards as a result of electrical power surges. Add to that the constant treat of data lose as a result of unplanned for power outages, and it becomes clear that a robust, reliable, smart Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is essential.
I have over the years relied on the UPS units from American Power Conversion (APC). The company has been making UPS systems since 1984 and is the industry leader in UPS and related technologies. From very small home systems to very large multi-battery enterprise systems, APC has something for everyone. So when it came time to protect my wifes new desktop computer recently, I purchased a new APC Back-UPS CS 350VA to compliment it.
What is a UPS?
A UPS is a hardware device that is placed between a power outlet or source, and your computer, peripherals and or printer. The UPS is designed to protect the computer and related equipment from power outages, surges, electrical noise and power spikes, by; 1). automatically switching power over to an internal battery whenever AC power is lost; 2). providing a source of clean, regulated power whenever a noise on the line is detected, and; 3). protecting the equipment attached to the UPS from spikes and surges.
Each UPS is rated as being able to handle a load (output) expressed in Volt/Amperes (VA), and watts (W). The level of equipment the UPS can handle depends on this rating. The CS 350VA is designed to provide 350VA with a 210W output. When planning on which UPS to purchase for your needs, care must be taken to account for ALL the equipment you plan to attach to the battery backup outlets on the back of the UPS. This is accomplished by adding up the wattage each piece of equipment will draw. Failure to account for all of the equipment can result in overload, and thus inadequate protection for your equipment.
APC targets the APC Back-UPS CS 350VA squarely at home user and or small office user. The APC Back-UPS CS 350VA is a 350A/210W UPS designed to provide short-term emergency (battery) power to a computer, monitor, and essential peripherals in the event of a power outage or noise. According to APC product literature, the CS 350VA can provide up to 5 minutes of power at full load (210 watts), and approximately 18 minutes with a half load (100 watts). This is enough time to enable you, or the system itself, to save work and shutdown the computer in an orderly fashion.
The CS 350VA is equipped with three battery-powered/surge protected outlets and three regular surge protected outlets on either side, with one of the three outlets on each side spaced to provide room for those ubiquitous transformer blocks.
Like all modern UPS units the CS 350VA can also provide surge protection for built-in phone/fax/modem line (DSL compatible) protection. A hybrid RJ-11 /USB cabled is used to connect the CS 350VA to a computer in order to utilize APC proprietary PowerChute software. The CS 350VA also features a long 6-foot cord, a re-settable circuit breaker, LED status indicators, an audible alarm, and a user-replaceable, hot-swappable battery.
The CS 350VA is touted by APC as being maintenance free, and according to the company, the CS 350VA also performs an automatic bi-weekly test of its internal components, including the battery. The battery is a maintenance-free, leak-proof, lead-acid battery. Setup and Configuration
In the Box
Back-UPS CS 350VA CD with software, USB cable, User Manual
Unlike most APC products, the CS 350VA is not all that heavy. Initial set up of the UPS is fairly simple. The unitor any UPS for the matteris shipped with the battery un-plugged, so the first step in the install process will be to plug it in; easy to follow directions for doing so are provided on the outside of the unit. Next, plug the CS 350VA into the wall and let is charge at least 6 12 hours before putting a load on it.
Once installed and powered up the UPS can be monitored via the aforementioned USB cable (included) and PowerChute Personal Edition software, which can be installed on a Windows 98 or later, or MAC OS X computers.
As I stated above, the USB cable is a hybrid: the USB port plugs into your computer, but a RJ-11 port or serial plugs into the UPS on the other end. However, once the USB cable is plugged into your computer, the OS recognizes it as a UPS and installs the necessary software to communicate with it. Then you can install PowerChute Personal Edition software to monitor and configure the UPS for the type of protection you want; i.e. in the even of a power outage you can elect to have the UPS keep your computer on battery power as long as possible, or you can choose to have it shutdown the computer automatically. Since most power outages in my neighborhood last less then five minutes, I have configured the CS 350VA to do an orderly shut down after five minutes on battery power. Right now the only pieces of equipment plugged into the unit are the computer, monitor, and printer.
Frankly I do not find PowerChute Personal Edition very informative or useful outside of its rudimentary functionality. Compared to other USP systems I have had occasion to usemost notably Belkin, the PowerChute Personal Edition interface is pretty barebones. Granted, PowerChute Personal Edition allows you to monitor up to 24 weeks of power events but viewing the current status of the unit is limited to the following: remaining battery capacity; the status of the battery (charged or charging); how many (approximate) minutes the battery can power your system; and what kind of power event caused the last transfer to battery power. Viewing current load level, timelines, an event log, and a more detailed status report would be nice.
Testing and Use
I have attached the CS 350VA to a Pentium 4 2.06GHz PC powered by an Antec 250W power supply and a Samsung SyncMaster 191n flat screen 19-inch monitor, and an HP OfficeJet T-45 printer. No the printer is not essential, but it gives me peace of mind to have it protected.
After charging the battery for 12 hours, I put the CS 350VA in place, connected the USB and installed the PowerChute Personal Edition software. It initially indicated that I had about 18 minutes of battery backup time. But in order to assure the accuracy of the estimate, I simulated a power outage by unplugging the unit from the wall outlet, and let the UPS do its thing. The CS 350VA can only keep the system on as long as it battery holds out, and through PowerChute Personal Edition it will dynamically update the estimated time remaining on the battery as it starts discharging.
As soon as the CS 350VA was unplugged it went to battery power and I received a popup box on my screen that stating, your battery backup is now supplying battery power to your equipment. An (annoying but effective) audible alarm sounded and produces four beeps every 30 seconds. This alarm can be disabled via the software. After approximately 10:00 minutes, battery power had dropped to 25% and the computer went into hibernate mode, as I had set it up to do.
After several hours of recharging the UPS was back to full capacity, and the estimated battery time was now a more realistic 15 minutes.
APC backs the CS 350VA with a 2-year repair or replace warranty and a $50,000 lifetime protection policy. The policy stipulates that APC will replace or repair your APC equipment as well as any other equipment that was connected to the UPS and damaged in a power event up to $50,000.
To me a UPS is a must have, and the APC Back-UPS CS 350VA is a solid investment in my book. The average life of a UPS battery is approximately four years, and my CS 350VA cost me $30.00 (I took advantage of APCs trade-up program, plus my brother works for the company). Since installing the CS 350VA, we have suffered through three blackout including one hit in the middle of the night that lasted in excess of 30 minutes just the other night. When I woke up at 4:30am (my usual waking time), I noticed that my wifes computer was off (we leave our computers on 24/7/365). By the power had been restored, so I turned on the computer and it came out of hibernation just a it was designed to do; the CS 350VA had done it job.
In the final analysis the APC Back-UPS CS 350VA does what it is supposed to doprotect my wifes computer from harmful electrical events and provide a stable source of emergency powerand it does it exceedingly well. With enough power to support almost all of todays power-hungry computers, monitors and printers, not to mention the odd peripheral the APC Back-UPS CS 350VA is the idea solution for home and small office users.
Output power capacity: 350VA/210W Voltage input/output 120V Backup time (estimate): 18.0 minutes (half load), 5.0 minutes (full load) RJ-11, USB interface port Audible alarms Automatic self test Building wiring fault indicator Hot swap batteries Intelligent battery management Lightning & surge protection (365 joules) Re-settable circuit breaker Control Panel Status indicator LEDs: status display with On Line; On Battery; Replace Battery and Overload indicators. Includes software for unattended safe & graceful shutdown 2-year repair or replace warranty & Lifetime $50,000 Equipment Protection Policy.
Net Weight: 13 pounds Watts: 210 Watts Volts: Amps 350VA Surge Energy Capacity: 480 Joules Connected Equipment Warranty: $50,000 Outlets: 6 Nema 5-15R Outlets Data Line Protection: RJ11 Modem / DSL
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About the reviewer
Vincent Martin (vemartin)
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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The Back-UPS CS provides professional-grade power protection for office and home office systems. Battery powered & surge protected power outlets, built-in phone/fax/modem line (DSL compatible) protection, safe system shutdown software with sophisticated power management features and pro-active audio-visual status indicators ensure office systems and their valuable data are protected from dangerous power surges, spikes and blackouts. Serial or USB connectivity gives users more flexibility making installation quicker and easier. Easy access to a hot-swappable, user-replaceable battery also makes servicing the Back-UPS CS hassle-free. These features along with its classic styling make the Back-UPS CS a perfect choice for protecting your important office and home office systems.