At some point, the power is going to go out in your home. When that happens, you can briefly live like it’s the 17th century or, with a good UPS unit, you can keep living your modern life.
A UPS unit—or uninterruptible power supply—is essentially an upgraded surge protector with a huge battery in it. When the power goes out, a UPS can keep your gadgets working, at least for a little while. Whether that means giving you time to save your work and shut your computer down before you lose power completely, or just keeping your internet working during the outage, a UPS can be a valuable asset.
The Internet Emergency Pick: APC 600VA/330W ($60)
The most basic reason to want a UPS is so you can keep your internet working during a power outage. Whether you use dial-up, cable, or fiber, the physical wire that connects you to the internet works just fine during a power outage. If your modem and router can maintain power, then all your wireless, battery-powered devices—like your phone or laptop—can stay connected to the internet.
If that’s all you need a UPS for, then this unit from APC should work just fine. At $60, it’s less expensive than most UPS units. It comes with five battery-packed outlets (plus two additional normal, surge-protected outlets) which is more than enough to keep a modem, a router, and even a couple smart home hubs up and running. There’s even a USB outlet so if you need to charge your phone a bit while the power’s out, you can do that, too.
Most of your personal gadgets have a battery in them so even if the power goes out, you can keep going. Your desktop is the major exception to that rule. If the power goes out, the whole thing shuts down with absolutely no warning. That can be avoided with a UPS, but you’ll need to make sure you get one that outputs enough power. Your desktop draws a lot more power than your modem or router, so a bigger battery is necessary. A UPS can’t keep it running forever, but it can give you enough power to save your work and shut your computer down properly (and a good UPS unit, like this one, comes with software to do that automatically for you even if you’re away from the machine when the power goes out).
Picking the right UPS for your needs can be a little complicated, but if you have a basic desktop computer that you only use for work, then the CyberPower 900VA ($105) should work for you. It outputs 560W of power, which is more than enough for the average desktop. If you built your machine for gaming, heavy video editing, or anything else that uses a lot of power-hungry equipment, this might not be the best fit for you. But if you bought your computer off the shelf and only use it for browsing the internet and doing light work, then this UPS will give you enough time to save whatever you’re working on.
If you have some heavy duty power needs—or if you just want a UPS unit with all the bells and whistles—then the CyberPower 1500VA is right up your alley. It outputs a whopping 900W of power, which isn’t the most a computer could ever possibly demand, but it’s plenty for most gaming PCs or video editing rigs. If you’ve ever lost a game progress or hours of editing work because of a power outage, the $145 price tag will feel more than worth it.
The most expensive option on our list isn’t just a bigger battery. It also features an LCD display on the front that shows you the current capacity of the battery, an estimate of how much longer the battery should last, and how much power is currently being drawn. These are great features to have if you want to maintain close control over your battery backup. For most users, these features will be entirely unnecessary, but even if you don’t care about the extra features, the larger battery can help you maintain a power-hungry workstation.