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By: Gabor Bernat
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    Table of Contents:
  • APC Back ES-550VA UPS
  • First Impressions
  • Setting it Up
  • UPS in Action
  • Final Thoughts

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    APC Back ES-550VA UPS - UPS in Action

    (Page 4 of 5 )

    Once you start up the computer, your operating system will bserve the new device and install the necessary driver. However, for better control of the device, itís recommended to leave the job to the dedicated software written by APC and use the CD you got with it.

    The name of the application you want is APC PowerChute Personal Edition. And this is the first place where APC went down the wrong path. Finding an older version on the CD was no surprise; however, when I installed it anyway, I discovered it was smart enough to update itself. 

    Once I registered and downloaded the new version for my OS (Iím using Vista, and for this OS the latest is version 2.1), I was eager to get started with it. Once I started the setup of the new version, the truth is I was quite disappointed to see that it was unable to truly update itself; rather, it invites me to uninstall the previous version and do it myself by reinstalling the new product once again. APC could speed up this phase by doing all of this automatically.

    As I ventured further into the software, I became more disappointed. The device itself is flawless if you ask me. It handles most of the problems you can have. If you are less informed about possible issues I invite you to read the article I wrote here on Dev Hardware about Uninterruptible Power Supplies. Youíll find it under my profile; it explains how these devices operate and what problems they must take care of.

    Basically, monitoring is divided between Performance and Current Status. While Performance should keep  track of the problems the device meets, Current Status is responsible for information about the battery, current action, and input voltage. I was disappointed to see that I could not measure the power being currently drawn, despite this ability being in place in most APC systems. 

    The software overall was aimed at less experienced users; it follows the principle of keeping things simple. A little more detailed performance log would be welcome. Why must I either shut down the system after it was on battery for one to two minutes, or when it has 5 to 8 minutes of battery left? What if I want to be on as long as possible, should I stay until I have 1 minute left?

    Another aspect that is too restrictive and not practical is the limit of the voltage after the battery comes into the picture. The bottom limit starts from 196, while the upper limit sits at 256. The lower limit is too low, as some modems, for instance, restart once a 210 limit is reached.

    Fine, let's see how it behaves in action. Iíve been using it for a week and every time it responded really quickly to blackouts and other issues. All you hear is a clank sound and you will see an icon in the tray that indicates that it's using the battery. 

    Iíve been stressing it with the folding system of an E4300 overclocked to 2.4 GHZ (110W) and a G80 8800GTS (110W). I also had two SATA HDDs, an 80 percent efficiency PSU, two fans coupled with a modem, and a router. A 22-inch LCD is also on the list, namely a Samsung 223BW (216BW). So it was around a total of 300+ watts. In case of failure, as the specification said, it held out for about 3-4 minutes with the system in full load.

    Iím living in a part of the world that's a little more problematic in terms of electricity, so donít be scared, here are my scores:

    I had 130 issues, including under voltage, electrical noise, and several blackouts. In every case the UPS worked just at it should, letting me continue my job as if nothing happened.

    Moreover, I must mention that I observed the Estimated Battery Time is measured after the power is consumed, because switching between idle and full load had no effect on it until a blackout occurred, so the battery can feel the difference.

    Also here we must not neglect the low noise generated when devices are powered from the battery. If you donít have a silent computer itíll probably be imperceptible. And it's a good thing that it can communicate with the hibernation option inside Windows, so no document will be left unsaved. However, it isnít OS-dependent; it manages to live very well with a Mac or any other flavor of *NIX too.

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