The other key issue with UPS devices is their capacity. The bargain on a 300VA or 400VA UPS — the off-brand or name brand with packaging that clearly states it will "Run your computer for 10 minutes!" — is a disaster in the making if you don't read the fine print. What you may find is that the only computer which the UPS will run for ten minutes consists of a seven year old, low-powered, desktop PC running a 15" monitor, hardly the typical machine found in homes and offices today. In our tests and field trials, we found that the minimum usable UPS is 700VA for powering 400 watts worth of devices during an emergency. We also found that only APC and Tripp Lite publish easy-to-find, realistic numbers on actual estimated run times. For the unenlightened, run times aren't based solely on the VA rating of the UPS—you also have to calculate or estimate the wattage being consumed by the devices plugged into the UPS in order to determine how the UPS will support the devices during a power failure. For example, the LS700 will support 400 watts of usage for 5 minutes. That's it—and less time than that if you're running a 20" or larger monitor. There's still more than enough time for the APC PowerChute monitoring software to shutdown a PC or Mac automatically, or for you to manually shutdown the computer. Five minutes—that's it. The 1300VA will provide that same 400 watts for almost 15 minutes—a huge difference—or 780 watts for 5 minutes. The message? Choose your UPS size carefully and do a little wattage addition of all the devices you want to support with the UPS during a power failure.
Both the APC BackUPS LS700 and APC BackUPS 1300VA LCD 120V are well built. Rear outlets are reasonably well spaced. LED front panels provide readout information about everything from voltage spikes, power availability, remaining time during a power failure and internal battery charge cycle. The APC PowerChute monitoring and automatic shut down software is available as a free download from APC.
When you've only got a few minutes (or less) to shut down in a situation in which you're not running PowerChute and your monitor is not powered, keyboard shortcuts are in order to do the shut down blindly. In Windows Vista hit the Windows key once then the right arrow three times then hit the Enter key to shut down immediately. Windows 7 users have it even easier: Windows key then right arrow once then the Enter key. Mac OS X users can hit Control+Eject then the Return/Enter key to shut down immediately, or Control+Option+Command+Eject to save open documents then shut down immediately. To save documents directly by keyboard shortcut in Windows (all versions since Windows 95), hit Alt+F+S; in Mac OS X hit Command+S. This is all to point out that if you actually install the APC monitoring software when you first install the UPS, computer life is more likely to proceed without problems.
Cons: APC makes several uselessly underpowered UPS models (not the ones reviewed here mind you), which have no business being on the market because too many people are tempted by their lower prices and end up with a UPS that doesn't last long enough during a power failure. The PowerChute monitoring and shut down utility software supplied either directly on CD or via download from the APC web site seems to work well, but unavoidably adds yet another background app with which Windows or Mac OS have to contend. Despite the huge amounts of RAM shipping in standard PC configurations these days, we're still engaged in a policy of less-is-more at Kickstartnews — i.e., fewer backgrounds apps are better—but PowerChute seems to be a necessary evil. An older version of AVG Security Suite, Norton Internet Security, System Suite 8 and ZoneAlarm Firewall flagged PowerChute as malware until we added specific permissions.
Pros: The LS700 is the minimum size UPS for home use in our opinion. Even with a 22" widescreen LCD monitor plugged in, you'll typically have 3-5 minutes to get to the computer and shut down if you're not running the APC PowerChute monitoring software which does it for you. The big 1300VA is ideal for all users in my opinion, but the higher price may put off most home users. Never mind — it's a beefy powerhouse with backup time to spare and the juice to run a powerful PC or Mac workstation for ten minutes or more along with a 24" monitor. The PowerChute monitoring and shut down software kicked in perfectly on every test power shut off we tried. AC power conditioning was excellent with our meter showing beautifully trimmed voltage spikes and drops and extremely fast reaction times. Great products that will save you in more ways than one. Highly recommended.