Review APC "Back-UP EPS" Home PC Backup Power Supply - Description & Features
This is a review of the American Power Conversion Back-UPS model ES 750G. The “G” in the name stands for “green.” At a MSRP of $99.99, APC claims that the unit will pay for itself in about two years. How can it do this? One way is that it provides a centralized location for your computer’s power connection and all the peripheral connections, too. A master/controlled outlet feature senses when the computer has been shut off (or hibernated) and smartly shuts down up to three accessories automatically. This translates into savings by reducing so-called, seldom considered “phantom loads” or parasitic power loss. Internally, the unit has a “high frequency design” that minimizes the use of copper. A total of ten surge-protected outlets are provided, as well as protection for cable (coax) and DSL and/or phone line.
Let’s get the ES-750G unboxed and hooked up, and try it out.
Packaging and Unboxing (5 out of 5)
The backup power supply was sent directly from APC in West Kingston, Rhode Island. It came protected by a cardboard box with the retail box inside it, and it arrived without damage or missing parts.
Below are some views of the packaging. (Hover your mouse over the image to read the label, or click to enlarge.)
Inside the box was the device itself, a literature package, and cables for USB (to communicate with the PC), cable, and DSL or phone. A prominent yellow sticker proclaimed, “Stop,” and advised that the battery should be hooked up before plugging the unit in. A thoughtful inclusion was a black hook-and-loop strap with the APC logo in red. It was very handy for organizing the power cords that plugged into the APC and directing them to the PC.
Setting Up the APC (4 out of 5)
Hooking Up the Battery
The first step involved in setting up the Back-UPS was to remove it from the shipping bag, turn it over, and connect the battery leads. We found a detailed quality control checklist taped directly to the side of the unit.
A push of a thumb on the release tab slides off the battery cover. We found that it was easiest to slide the battery up onto the rim to connect the power wire. (For safety reasons, the unit is shipped with the positive red power wire disconnected.)
The battery should be charged for at least 16 hours, the manual says, before it will provide a full-length runtime on just the APC’s power. They note that it also charges as long as it is plugged in, whether the switch on the unit is on or off.
Hooking Up Surge-Protected Non-AC Connections
All of the non-AC accessory connections are made on the power-plug end of the Back-UPS. There is also a line-fault indicator. If this indicator illuminates, stop and have an electrician check your wiring before you continue. You may want to unplug your PC and expensive accessories in the meantime, too.
The Back-UPS provides surge protection for two-line phone inputs, including DSL. To be effective, the line from the wall jack should be plugged into the center phone line port before the third port is connected to the DSL modem. There are also connections for cable TV or cable Internet in and out, as well as a USB jack for the line going to the computer.
Hooking Up Surge Protected AC Cords
A major “green” feature of the Back-UPS is the Master/Controlled outlet design. Beside the main, or master outlet for the PC, three controlled or slaved outlets are provided for accessories. Basically, the Back UPS shuts off power to the controlled outlets when it senses that the component plugged into the master outlet has been turned off. (We’ll touch on this a little more when we look at optimizing the Back UPS for use with a laptop.) The notion is that things like monitors, printers, scanners, and external drives continue to draw power when not in use. By connecting these peripherals to the controlled outlets, you can assure that they will be powered down when the computer is shut off.
The flip side of this is that you should not plug accessories into the controlled outlets that you want to continue to run after the computer shuts down. This would likely be things like battery chargers for devices that sync with and therefore live close to the PC, like cell phones, iPods, and PDAs. (Maybe such devices should be hooked up to their own power strip, as vampiric power draw also contributes to the overall electric bill.)
Next: More Making Connections, Installing Software, Operation and Use
The choice of connections can be further broken down. For example, a spinning hard drive draws more power than an LCD monitor in sleep mode, so if forced to make a choice, an external drive would be a better candidate to use with a controlled outlet. That said, I think that the computer, monitor, and external drives will be the devices most likely to be used with the master and controlled outlets.
A further consideration involves whether the device is essential to the operation of the computer. Printers and scanners are not, so you wouldn’t want them running when on backup battery power. (But you sure would want that monitor.)
Four other outlets are both surge-protected and backed up, and these are located on the same row as the master outlet.
The two right-most outlets in the second row are surge-protected only. They are not backed up, and they will not provide power to accessories during a main power failure. These would be logical for a scanner or a printer. (If you need to use a printer or scanner during a power outage, you might need a backup generator.)
Software Installation (4 out of 5)
The Back-UPS ES 750G comes with the venerable and respected PowerChute® Personal Edition version 2.0 power management program. It’s compatible with Windows 2000, XP, and Vista. Version 1.5 for Windows 98 and ME are also included on the CD, as is version 1.33 for Mac OS X 10.3.x and 10.4.x.
The unit should be plugged in to the wall socket and have the USB cable from the power supply connected to the computer. The installation will abort if a supported APC backup power supply is not found.
The installation is pretty standard. The second step involves agreeing to the terms of service, and then it offers a default install location.
The installer provides the option of registering the device online in the final step. The model number and serial number for the device can be found on the outside of the box. There’s also a printed, triple-fold registration sheet in the box that you can fill out and mail in. APC seems to be very interested in where, how, and with what equipment the Back UPS will be used.
An icon is then placed in the notification area (system tray). Right-clicking and selecting “Open Application” shows the main program dialog.
And here’s what it looks like at first run.
Operation and Use (4 out of 5)
We tested the unit in several different configurations. One was with a multimedia desktop with one external hard drive, one external CD/DVD drive, a sound system, and LCD monitor. Another setup was a laptop with no external accessories. We also tried the laptop with an external CRT monitor. Finally, we tried the laptop with an APC UPB-90 universal battery extender plugged in between the laptop and the Back-UPS.
Using default settings, the device worked like a charm with the desktop PC. We tested with the external hard drive, monitor, and external CD/DVD drive plugged into the controlled outlets. The sound system was plugged into a surge/backup outlet, and we added two “power bricks” for cell phones in the surge only outlets. Shutting down Windows from the Start-Shut Down menu caused the Back-UPS to quickly shut down the accessories as well.
Results with the laptop were interesting. Between the start of testing and finishing, I had installed a new hard drive in the laptop and moved the existing hard drive to a caddy in the CD/DVD drive bay. After doing this, I was surprised to find that the Back-UPS failed to detect when the laptop was hibernated. I confirmed this by removing the hard drive and reinstalling the CD/DVD drive, and the Back-UPS worked normally. This called for some head scratching, as the “Master Enable” LED was lit, indicating the system remained active. The answer, of course, was in the User’s Guide, and we’ll include this in the review as it will be good information for laptop users.
If you are using the ES 750G with a laptop plugged into the Master (main) outlet and the APC fails to recognize when the laptop is hibernated or put to sleep, refer to the “Threshold Programming” section in the User’s Guide. You could also conceivably have the opposite problem. A really low power device like a netbook could make the Back-UPS think that it should shut off the controlled outlets even though the PC is still running.
Next: Accessing the Threshold Settings, Testing, Using the PowerChute Software, Fit, Finish, and Design, and our Conclusion
Here’s how one accesses the Threshold settings:
- Plug the Back-UPS into power, but don’t turn it on. It should be in standby mode with no LEDs lit.
- Press and hold Master/Enable for ten seconds. All the LEDs will then flash to indicate that it has entered programming mode.
- Release Master/Enable. The LEDs will then indicate which threshold setting is being used.
- Press Master/Enable to select a different threshold setting.
And the LED indications are:
- Low (10 Watts) Master/Enable LED flashing.
- Medium (25 Watts) Master/Enable and Online LED flashing. (This is the default.)
- High (60 Watts) Master/Enable, Online, and Replace Battery LEDs flashing.
Hopefully you won’t need to alter these settings, but if you do, there it is.
Results of Testing
Out of the box, the APC worked fine with the multimedia PC. We had to change the threshold settings in order to work with the laptop. Performance was spotty when the UPB-90 external battery was in line between the laptop and the APC, but removing it and resetting the threshold back to 25 Watts solved the problem with the additional drive in the laptop. The unit then correctly identified both hibernation and hybrid sleep (in Windows Vista) and worked with a satisfying CLUNK when it switched the controlled outlets off.
And, as a note, in normal operation, one does not need to get under one’s desk to switch the unit on before starting the computer. Simply pressing Start on the PC causes the APC to also apply power to the controlled outlets. It’s very convenient in use.
Using the Software
Here are some of the PowerChute screens. “Runtime Configuration” is where you can adjust it to run your computer as long as possible, or shut down after some specified time when running on backup power. The “Performance Panel” shows events like power outages, under and over voltages, and line noise that happened in the past. The “Self-Test” screen checks on the operation of the device and the condition of the battery. It also has a link to order a new battery or to inform APC that you’ve installed a new one.
The “Notification Configuration” screen allows you to specify the times that the device should remain silent, even in the event of a power interruption. This is handy if you live in a place that frequently has power fluctuations when you’re trying to sleep.
There are also user-selectable settings for sensitivity to line noise and voltage fluctuations.
Fit, Finish, and Design (5 out of 5)
As Bright Hub reviewers have come to expect from APC, the fit, finish, and design of the ES 750G are excellent. It has long, full-length, functional vents on the sides. Four of the outlets are widely spaced for angle and overhanging end plugs, which seem to be becoming common (and commonly annoying) with cell phones and other small devices. Connections for DSL/phone/cable, the reset switch, and the power fault LED are all conveniently grouped on one end along with the main power cable. The other end is unadorned and elegant in its simplicity, and the LEDs are bright.
The unit weighs 10.36 lbs (4.7 kg) and is 3.5" high, 13.5" long, and 7.1" deep (88.3 x 342.7 x 180 mm).
The unit is warranted for three years from the date of purchase. The customer should contact APC Tech Support for an RMA (return materials authorization) and should pay shipping to APC. APC will pay for ground shipment back, and the common practice is to replace the device with a remanufactured unit.
So there you have it - the Bright Hub review of the APC Back-UPS® ES 750G backup power supply. Should you consider spending $99.99 for this unit? Yes, if you have a need for a backup power supply and want to be eco-friendly while saving a little on your electrical bill, it’s an excellent choice. It’s a set it and forget it device that you won’t normally have to spend much time thinking about. When needed, however, it will continue to run your PC and accessories for the time you’ve specified and even shut down your PC and controlled components when completely unattended.
We also found that it works as well with laptops as it does with desktop computers and that having three controlled outlets is enough for the peripheral components that need to be powered during blackouts and brownouts.
Bright Hub gives the APC ES 750G an overall excellent rating and it carries our best recommendation. It is a product that works as advertised.
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