Pros: Plenty of backup power, good surge protection and voltage regulation, easy to maintain, well-designed interface.
Cons: Nothing significant found so far.
My digital darkroom has everything I need to do my work as a photographer: desktop computer, large CRT monitor, film scanner, flatbed scanner, DSL modem, etc. Realizing that the power company doesn't always provide clean power for this sensitive equipment, and realizing that mother nature likes to contribute a few thousand extra volts sometimes, I've always protected by equipment with an American Power Conversion (APC) surge protector. Several years ago, I added my first basic Back-UPS unit to provide enough power to give me time to save my files and safely shut down my computer. It worked fine for this purpose, but didn't really give me any additional battery power to continuing working through a brownout or blackout. With my original Back-UPS getting on in its years, and summer thunderstorm and power shortage season in full swing, I decided to invest in a serious Back-UPS that could keep me going for awhile when the lights went out. To date, I've used at least six different models of APC products and they have all worked flawlessly so purchasing another APC Back-UPS was a no-brainer.
The Back-UPS XS 1200 is also identified by its official model name as BX1200. It is nearly identical to the APC Back-UPS RS 1200, except for one difference - the RS model provides Ethernet protection, whereas the XS model does not. Although I would have liked to have Ethernet protection, I probably won't need it for the foreseeable future because my Ethernet cable only runs between my computer and the DSL modem; the modem data line is protected by the BX1200 so everything is safe. Also, the XS model was readily available in local electronic stores and the RS model was scarce.
As of June 2006, the BX1200 sells for approximately $150 at most retail stores, and slightly less in online retail stores. This model includes a $150,000 connected equipment warranty.
From the manufacturer:
- Battery-protected and surge-only outlets: Reserves power capacity and run time for connected equipment that require battery back-up while providing surge only protection for less critical equipment
- Boost and Trim Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR): Automatically corrects low and high voltage conditions, allowing you to work through brownouts and overvoltages without discharging the battery. This saves battery life, increases uptime, and improves your productivity.
- Dataline Surge Protection: Provides protection of connected equipment from power surges on the data lines.
- Lifetime data recovery warranty: Provides peace of mind by providing professional data recovery services in the event data is lost due to the failure of the unit.
- Safety-agency approved: Ensures the product has been tested and approved to work safely with the connected service provider equipment and within the specified environment. UL, FCC, CE, C-Tick approvals.
- Power conditioning: Protects connected loads from surges, spikes, lightning, and other power disturbances.
- Audible alarms: Provides notification of changing utility power and UPS conditions.
- Automatic restart of loads after UPS shutdown: Automatically starts up the connected equipment upon the return of utility power.
- Automatic self-test: Periodic battery self-test ensures early detection of a battery that needs to be replaced.
- Battery replacement without tools: Provides reduced risk of load disruption by allowing quick and easy battery replacement.
- LED status indicators: Quickly understand UPS status with indicators.
- Cold-start capable: Provides temporary battery power when the utility power is out.
- Hot-swappable batteries: Ensures clean, uninterrupted power to protected equipment while batteries are being replaced.
- Resettable circuit breakers: Enables quick recovery from UPS overload events.
- Transformer-block spaced outlets: Protect equipment with input transformer blocks without blocking access to other receptacles.
- User-replaceable batteries: Increases availability by allowing a trained user to perform upgrades and replacements of the batteries reducing Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
- Adjustable voltage sensitivity: Provides the ability to adapt the UPS for optimal performance in specific power environments or generator applications.
- Adjustable voltage-transfer points: Maximizes useful battery life by widening the input voltage window or tightening the output voltage regulation.
- Serial Connectivity: Provides management of the UPS via a serial port.
- USB connectivity: Provides management of the UPS via USB port.
- Multiple mounting methods: Allows for standardization on one product for use in different environments.
- Intelligent battery management: Micro-processor controlled battery charging and diagnostic testing ensures maximum battery life.
1200 Volt Amps
Out of the box, this Back-UPS is a piece of cake to use. APC advises charging the unit for at least 8 hours prior to use to make sure the battery is fully charged, but it is operational after about 30 minutes of charging. The XS 1200 can be positioned vertically using the included stand, or positioned horizontally on its side. Vertically, it is an attractive unit that occupies a space 6 inches wide by 15 inches deep. My depth measurement includes 2 inches for cord plugs in the rear; the actual unit measures only 13 inches deep. My width measurement includes the full width of the stand; the actual unit measures only 3.5 inches deep. Overall, this is fairly compact considering the capabilities of this model. At 22 pounds, it isn't light but that's the price to be paid for serious battery power. Since most of this weight is in the bottom of the unit, it is extremely stable when mounted vertically.
A large, recessed button on the top front panel easily turns the unit on or off, but not so easily that you need to worry about accidentally bumping it and shutting off everything. This has been a problem on some APC units in the past. Four large LED lights just above the power button show the status of the unit. The lower front panel is removable to allow access to the battery. Removing it is easy, and hooking up the battery is equally easy - just mate the connectors together and you're done. The power cord is well shielded and six feet long, which has been long enough to reach the outlets around my work area with some length left over. Unfortunately, the power cord does not have the 90 degree flat mount plug that I have come to love on some other APC units, but it is flexible enough to usually not get in the way.
The XS 1200 has all of its power and data outlets on the rear of the unit. This is less convenient than the outlets located on the top of many of the less expensive (and less capable) Back-UPS models. However, it looks much nicer because it reduces cord clutter and it is more difficult to accidentally bump a cord out of its outlet. If you need to swap cords frequently, consider a Back-UPS with top mounted outlets instead of rear mounted outlets for ease of use. Otherwise, the outlet spacing provided by the XS 1200 is every bit as good as any of the other currently available Back-UPS from APC. Six of the outlets provide battery backup power, and two of these have transformer block spacing. The remaining two outlets offer surge protection only, and both of these have transformer block spacing. These eight outlets provide for the majority of my digital darkroom equipment. The remaining equipment, which does not require battery backup, is surge protected by a separate unit. There are also two phone cord outlets, which together work to protect one phone line from surges (one phone cord runs into the unit from the wall, another runs out of the unit to my modem). Power cords plug into the outlets with ease, making this rear outlet unit fairly easy to use when I do need to swap cords. Thankfully, the cords don't unplug too easily such that they fall out of the outlets. However, because the cords plug into the unit on their side (90 degrees from their usual vertical orientation), some of my transformer blocks aren't as stable in their outlets as I would like them to be. They do not creep out over time, but if I bump them lightly, they begin to fall out. This is not really an issue unless I'm moving the unit around when I'm rearranging my office. Otherwise, the side oriented outlets are great because they keep the cords from becoming tangled and allow for a lot of transformer blocks on a small unit.
The included PowerChute software is the "Personal Edition", so it has just the basics that are needed to manage this unit. This software is optional; the XS 1200 can function just fine without it. I installed mine to be able to have the unit automatically shut down my computer if I'm not at home during a power failure. Use of this software requires a USB cable (included) that connects the data port on the rear of the unit to a computer. From a pull-down menu in the program, I chose how many minutes of remaining battery power I was willing to accept before the shut down process began. Also in this software, the user can manage the over- and under-voltage range according to the sensitivity of the equipment that is being protected. A current status monitor lets you see the load placed on the Back-UPS in real-time, and estimates how minutes the battery can provide power for the current load. This is a great feature for estimating your power requirements. Overall, the software was very easy to install (with no hang-ups on Windows XP) and use.
So how well does it work? I kicked the plug (on purpose) to find out just what XS 1200 can do. The unit immediately sensed the power loss from the AC source and switched to battery without interrupting any of the processes running on my PC. With an Intel 3.4 gHz Pentium IV, 19 inch CRT Trinitron, DSL modem, memory card reader, laser mouse, and flourescent desk light all running at the same time continuously, the battery held out for 30 minutes. Impressive, considering the cost of this unit along with its relatively small size and surge protection capabilities. Speaking of surge protection, hot spring days have brought lighting storms and power grid fluctuations to my town. The XS 1200 hasn't flinched for an instant. Most of the time, it sits on my desk doing nothing, waiting for something to happen. When it does, it handles it as advertised and keeps my digital darkroom in good health.
American Power Conversion has crammed a lot of power and utility into a slim, easy-to-use package in the XS 1200. Although Back-UPS units can be had for less than $30 these days, these models will usually not provide more than a few minutes of battery power during a blackout, nor do they provide the quality of voltage regulation found in the XS 1200. The XS 1200 gives me half an hour of computer and lighting power, which is good piece of mind with today's questionable power reliability. Combined with solid surge protection, APC has a winning power solution here, especially for those living in areas with unstable power grids.