Review: The Best Surge Protectors of 2017
Surge protectors are becoming a necessity, even for newer houses with lots of wall or floor outlets. There have never been more electronic devices being used with home theater equipment, home offices or smart home hardware.
Cord cutting is no exception.
Take a router, cable modem, amplified TV antenna Amazon Fire TV, and HDHomeRun tuner, plug them in and you suddenly have a problem. Those chunky, box-shaped adapters take up a lot of real estate: so much so that it crowds out other needed outlets. Even common sized plugs can crowd out potential neighbors.
The Belkin PivotPlug 12-Outlet surge protector is the best surge protector to address most of your needs with shielding your hardware from life-ending damage.
The PivotPlug also deals with a common problem among surge protectors. You bought a 12-outlet surge protector, needing every last outlet. But you can only use six or seven of them. Why?
Your surge protector has a bad case of what I call “adapter-itis.” It looks something like this.
Oh God, it’s hideous!
You’re dealing with a twofold problem. You need protection, and you need plenty of space between your outlets so you can use them all.
This review will break down for you the best options on the market for a multi-device household. They include recommendations for cord cutters with lots of streaming devices or hardware, along with choices for a home office or PC gaming setup. There are a few important specs to talk about when deciding what will be the best surge protector for you.
How surge protectors work
Surge protectors were designed to guard against any damage to your hardware. It does this by limiting the voltage supplied to an electrical device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe threshold.
We are talking about let-through voltage, or rather, what spike in voltage will prompt a surge protector to divert unwanted electricity from the protected line. Lower “clamping voltage” generally indicates better protection. The standard let-through voltage for 120 V AC devices is 300 volts.
How many joules of surge protection do I need?
You will also want to pay attention to the Joules rating. This is a measurement that indicates how much electricity a surge protector can absorb in a single event without failure. You want a rating of at least 1,000 joules.
All that unwanted electricity needs someplace to go. You need a guard rail of sorts to protect your PlayStation 4, or 4K Ultra HD Roku TV from the ricochet of electricity coming at it.
Surge protectors don’t react immediately.
Electrical surges can happen in a few microseconds, and ideally, you want them to run into a number of metal-oxide varistors (MOVS). These MOVs should be running that unwanted electricity into ground. Like the guard rail on the road, they take some damage each time they’re taking a hit while protecting your pricey goods on the other side.
Power strips vs surge protectors
Power strips can often be mistaken for surge protectors, but there’s an important difference. Power strips can sometimes have basic surge protection, but can be erroneously labeled as surge protectors.
So don’t buy a power strip if you want to protect your valuable electronics.
A surge protector should, at minimum, provide a strong line of defense against spikes of energy headed towards your equipment.
Whether it’s a 4K television, Xbox One console or gaming PC, your electronics cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. So you shouldn’t skimp on a surge protector. But you should also buy what you realistically need and not go overboard. Surge protectors are designed to become damaged instead of your equipment. So they won’t last forever. You will eventually have to replace them like a light bulb or fuse.
Are power strips totally useless? Absolutely not. You might want a Tripp Lite 16 Outlet power strip for your garage. It’s rated for 1650 Joules. That’s fine if you are just using these outlets to occasionally operate handheld power tools, a small radio or other light equipment.
Most hardware built today can handle a loss of power. There are some exceptions like older equipment. You should always look over an instruction manual to any piece of hardware that you intend to add a surge protector before plugging it in.
Keep in mind that a surge protector won’t do you much good if you are trying to guard against damage from a sudden loss of power.
If you’re worried about data corruption on an external hard drive or NAS, then you want an uninterruptable power supply (UPS). It’s essentially a battery that goes between your hardware and outlet. Surge protection is a built-in feature to most UPS hardware. The Tripp Lite 850VA UPS Battery Backup is a better pick if you are looking to protect a gaming PC, or a home office where you are concerned losing data on hard drives.
Surge protector warranty claim
Before going over the picks for this review, let’s talk about warranties for a second. Some manufacturers come with warranties for hardware that’s damaged during a power surge. You will see some eye popping numbers like $150,000 or $300,000 in equipment coverage being mentioned. These warranties are often met with skepticism, and rightly so. Hopefully, you will never need to make a claim. No matter what you buy, take the three minutes to send in your product registration for the warranty. Someday, you may be glad that you did.
Best surge protector in 2017 for large plugs and adapters: Belkin 12-Outlet PivotPlug
The Belkin 12-Outlet PivotPlug offers the best protection for its price, especially for a multi-device setup like a home theater.
It has a low threshold for let-through voltage. The PivotPlug has low-clamping voltage at 330V on all legs, and 4320 joules, making it more durable to protect your hardware.
Having a surge protector that can beat those numbers is great. But those better numbers get a bit academic if you can only use a few outlets.
Those chunky adapters will still need a home.
The 12-outlet PivotPlug dodges such common surge protector woes. There are four outlets on each side that rotate outward, allowing you to add adapters and plugs at varying degrees. There are still plenty of larger adapters that can block a neighboring outlet from being used.
But the PivotPlug gives you one of the best shots at eliminating the problem of free outlets going unused. The center of the surge protector has a third row of four additional outlets. If you plan well, you may be able to use all dozen of them.
The benefit of rotating outlets can’t be emphasized enough.
With an 8-foot cord, the PivotPlug can also serve as a defacto extension cord. That’s pretty handy in rooms where you don’t have a lot of outlets, but need them for multiple computer monitors or computer peripherals. The extra cord length also gives you the ability to tuck away your plugs in a nearby closet or behind an entertainment center.
Rather than a circuit breaker, the PivotPlug uses MOVs to guard against unexpected surges. There are two lights at the top of the strip, one red, the other green, indicating whether the outlets are grounded and protected.
Some people prefer their surge protector to stop working entirely once it is no longer protecting equipment. The Belkin PivotPlug doesn’t do that.
Depending on what kind of hardware you’re plugging in, a surge protector that automatically shuts down might not be optimal. Hard drives and computers can sometimes lose data when they unexpectedly lose power. Consider your setup and what might work best for your hardware. I think its the best surge protector for cord cutters who have streaming devices, a gaming console and other peripherals.
The PivotPlug also has phone and coax connectors below the outlets. While I don’t have a use for them, it could be handy for someone with an older setup. Belkin offers a $300,000 warranty for connected equipment that’s damaged while connected to the PivotPlug.
The Belkin 12-Outlet PivotPlug is ideal for a home office or a home entertainment setup with lots of brick-sized adapters.
Best surge protector for computer setups: APC Performance SurgeArrest 11 Outlet
The 11-outlet APC Performance SurgeArrest has impressive customization, and an ideal design to deal with brick-sized adapters.
You can set some outlets to a power-saving mode while having others set up for “always on” hardware. Always-on hardware could include a mini PC running as a Plex Media Server, or one operating smart home devices or a home security system.
The SurgeArrest’s 11 outlets have 3020 joules of surge protection. An LED light indicates when an individual piece of hardware is not protected or properly grounded.
Six outlets are set at an angle, and are block spaced to accommodate large adapters. That gives more space to the row of five more outlets set in the middle of the surge protector. The six foot cord rotates at 180 degrees, making it ideal for tough-to-reach spots where you need to expand the number of available outlets.
The outlets themselves run a bit tighter than other surge protectors. The SurgeArrest does have Ethernet port, but only has a 10/100 passthrough, which isn’t ideal in the age of Gigabit speeds.
With sliding dust covers, you can keep your outlets gunk free when not in use.
The APC Performance SurgeArrest is the best surge protector for a home entertainment center with a NAS setup, or game consoles with notoriously large adapters.
Best surge protector with USB ports: Accell Powramid DO080-015K
If you don’t need to make space for an army of huge adapters, the 6-outlet Accell Powramid offers a lot of protection with a compact circuit.
The Powramid is best suited for a place where you need a few extra outlets for lamps or even a laptop. It’s an ideal charging station for your dresser, where you might put a smartphone, tablets or other portable hardware. The angled design gives you enough space for smaller adapters, but the outlets can sometimes feel tight.
The Powramid has a surge protection rating of 1080 Joules, and a 5-year limited warranty. Pry open the top of the pyramid-shaped surge protector, and push the blue button to turn it on.
There are six outlets total and two USB ports that fit into the Powramid’s triangular design. The Powramid blocks electricity from passing through it when protection fails. An indicator light on the side of the unit tells you whether your hardware is protected. The instructions for the Powramid are scant, but you probably won’t need them once you figure out how to turn it on. The USB ports are useful also have surge protection, but are a bit slower to recharge your devices when two are being used simultaneously.
The Accell Powramid is the best surge protector for putting next to a dresser or end table. The USB ports can handle smaller adapters on smartphones and tablets.
Best surge protector for 4K TV: Tripp Lite TLP 1008TEL
If you want a surge protector that will completely stop working once protection is gone, get the Trip Lite TLP 1008TEL.
If you spent thousands of dollars on a 4K TV, and you want some added security from surges, the TLP 1008TEL is the best choice.
The Trip Lite design has two filtering capacitors on the incoming AC line, current-limiting fuses and varistors that further limit voltage. The design has four outlets spaced apart for adapters, but it’s not as useful as the rotating design in our top pick.
This is a 10-outlet surge protector with a resettable circuit breaker. Like our top pick, it has an 8 foot cord and sliding covers for outlets that are not in use.
This surge protector has clamping voltage of 150V and a 2395 Joules rating. There are jacks for telephone, fax or modems, giving you some options for a home office setup.
Some people prefer the Tripp Lite HD10DBZ Home Theater Isobar for a home entertainment setup with expensive items like a 4K TV and high end audio system. Spend the extra money if you want. But the less expensive Tripp Lite TLP 1008TEL is arguably one of the best on the market within its price range for a home office or home entertainment setup.
Best surge protector for Gaming PC: Tripp Lite 850VA UPS
If you have a gaming PC, you have a lot of money on the line. Chances are you may have even spent many hours assembling the gaming rig yourself.
You want the best protection against data loss or corruption, and you probably want to be able to save a game before your power goes kaput. The Tripp Lite 850VA UPS Battery Backup gives you the extra power you need for a short period of time with what’s known as a uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
The UPS has a full load of 425 watts. It can run on full load for about three minutes, or approximately 13 minutes at roughly half load (210 watts). An LCD screen shows how much battery power is available. The display shows voltage, load percentage and remaining battery power.
Six of the 12 outlets are battery supported. Four of the outlets have more space to fit large adapters. You can automatically power off unused desktop accessories like a printer when your computer goes into sleep mode. The Trip Lite 850VA is also ideal for larger home office setups with a lot of equipment. It has outlets for devices like an ooma VOIP box, a cable modem.
The USB port works with PowerAlert software for “unattended” computer shutdowns and file saves. The Windows version of the software is more up to date, and works well.
One downside you should be aware of is that this surge protector isn’t updated as it should be for Mac computers. It’s advertised as compatible with Macs but requires an older version of OS X, and Java.
The battery isn’t easy to replace, but it’s not impossible either.
All of the features on the Tripp Lite UPS Battery Backup are great, but it’s a lot pricier too. If you are looking for a less expensive surge protector for a gaming PC, a Tripp Lite Isobar 6 outlet surge protector is also a popular choice for gamers.
The Tripp Lite 850VA UPS Battery Backup surge protector is ideal for a gaming PC. It’s also a good option for people who live in rural areas with more frequent power outages due to storms and felled trees.
What do you think is the best surge protector? Tell fellow readers in the comments below.