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Product Review – The Ultra 1000VA/600 Watt Time Machine

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Review of the Ultra 1000VA 600 Watt UPS and Time Machine

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” — Abraham Lincoln, (attributed) 16th president of US (1809 – 1865)

Caveat emptor – “Let the buyer beware”.

We call ”em like we see ”em. And we have to admit that over here at frrl dot net Southern Command we got fooled. We got slickered. It was due to an issue of trust. We placed our trust in some folks and they let us down. We were taken in, snookered, made fools of – the joke is on us. It’s our fault. We didn”t do the research. We saw something that looked good. But looks can be deceiving.

The Bait

So when we saw the Ultra 1000VA 600Watt UPS at TigerDirect.com for $79 we thought about the hundreds of dollars we lost when we got hit with a power surge during a storm. We thought about the data we lost when our servers got hit with a power outage. If we had the UPS our servers would be safe, our equipment protected from surges, and the router and wireless access point would provide our laptop internet access for the duration of a power outage.

So, the outside of the box for the Ultra 1000 UPS says 60 minutes of backup time for a average PC with monitor. We run our servers with a single monitor and KVM switch. The monitor is usually off and so all we have is a couple of servers and networking gear. 60 minutes – more than enough time for an orderly automatic shutdown of the servers and the network gear can continue to run. We have to thank the marketing people at Ultra for that valuable information encouraging our decision to make the purchase on the spot.

Making the kill

So, with $79 burring a hole in our pocket we made the purchase of the Ultra 1000VA 600 Watt UPS.

On getting the 25 pound box home the first thing we did was to open up the unit and see what was inside. As expected, a couple of sealed gel-cells, a big honking transformer, and a well laid out circuit board. Our non-expert opinion is that it looked well constructed.

Realizing we are Road kill

So now it was time to try it out. We plugged the UPS in and installed the software. The software monitors input line voltage and frequency, output line voltage and frequency, load on the UPS as % of capacity, and the capacity of the battery. This is some very nice software with lots of features. It will even send you event-based e-mail and it can page you. The UPS will “phone home” and tell you lots of stuff about itself and its environment. The UPS talks to a host computer via a USB cable. The software reported that the battery capacity was 99% after charging for a few hours. We are ready to rock and roll.

Our test system was a 2.6Gig PC with 1 GB Ram and two hard drives running MS Windows Enterprise Server 2003. Attached to the PC was a 19in flat panel display. The only thing we plugged into the UPS was the PC. The monitor was connected to conventional power. Of course the box says 60 minutes PC AND Monitor. So plenty of capacity to spare on the UPS.

We booted the PC connected to the UPS and all was well. After making sure the PC was fully booted with all services running we started the UPS monitor software. Line voltage was 120 Volts at 60 Hz and this was also the output voltage. Battery capacity was at 99%.

Pulling the plug

What else could one do now but to pull the power cord on the UPS? That is what we did. We were expecting to enjoy 60 minutes of uninterruptible UPS bliss. Feet on the desk, a glass of wine. We expected to surf the internet for 60 minutes while watching the real time UPS monitor.

The Reality of the situation

When we pulled the plug the battery capacity dropped instantly from 99% to 77%. Well, OK. We continued to watch the real time UPS monitor. No time for another glass of wine, the capacity was falling. In about 8 minutes the battery capacity fell to 50%. Another 2 minutes and the UPS started beeping indicating that it was in trouble. In another minute the UPS monitor software initiated a shutdown of the server. The server completed shutdown in another 2 minutes. Total time to enjoy a glass of wine and a snack was about 12 minutes. We didn”t even get a chance to type in a single URL to surf the net.

We have a Time Machine

Was the UPS some type of Time Machine? Was the UPS capable of compressing 60 minutes into 12 minutes? We looked down and there was not 60 minutes of damage to our wine. It didn”t feel like 60 minutes. We checked our atomic clock – 60 minutes did not pass. How could this be?

Checking the Oracle

We all know that the Internet is the source of all true knowledge. If Greek Philosophers only had the internet all questions of philosophy and metaphysics would be answered. So we looked for some reviews of the Ultra 1000VA UPS to see if others experience was like out own – that is, other folks experiencing their UPS capable of the manipulation of Time.

We did find such a review – you can read it here. In fact, it is an excellent factual technical review better than what we could write. No sales glossy here. This review is the real deal.

http://www.legitreviews.com/article/367/1/

Lessons Learned

So the lesson learned here is “Caveat emptor”. But we already knew that but we did not apply it. It is the issue of trust. If the box says that you have 60 minutes of backup power on a typical PC and monitor then you should have about 60 minutes of backup power on a typical PC and monitor. We have a typical PC but found that we got a Time Machine rather than a UPS. A Time Machine capable of compressing 60 minutes into 12 minutes.

The folks that designed the box and the writing on the box might be legit high class marketing MBA-types – or they could be sleazy trench coat guys who also sell “Rolland” watches on the street corner out of the trunk of their car with an implied 30-30 guarantee – 30 feet or 30 seconds. By the time you find out what you have they are gone – for good reason.

APC vs Ultra – Will the folks telling the truth please stand out

What about other UPS manufacturers? A well-known brand of UPS is APC. What does APC say about its UPS that has the same rating (1000VA/600Watt) as the Ultra 1000? We checked that out and APC says that the aveage run time on a typical PC is 15 minutes or less. That is about what we got.

APC may have different kind of marketing folks – maybe real MBAs with integrity and no trench coats. It may be no surprise that you will more likely find an APC UPS in a corporate data center and not an Ultra brand. Isn”t it clear the reason for this – what type of people woiuld you want to deal with for corporate data?

Resources

Detailed Review of the Ultra 1000VA
http://www.legitreviews.com/article/367/1/

Ultra spec sheet ( Fool me once… )
This sheet says 1000VA/600W runtime 50 minutes – box says 60 minutes
ultraspecsheet

APC Spec Sheet
These folks tell the truth.  They say 1000VA/600W runtime is 5-16 minutes
We got about 12 minutes
apcbackuups600w1000va

APC Runtime chart for various models of UPS
upsapc_runtimechart

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Written by frrl

August 5, 2008 at 5:14 pm

7 Responses

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  1. I modify my ups’s with external car batteries. Some will run for hours or even a day depending on load.
    This Ultra is a time machine. It aperently does not measure battery voltage at all because I still have 25V DC when it shuts down. This one only has 1 amp draw running the credit card machine. With two car batteries, it shoud run for 20+ hours. At 10 min, it shuts down reguardless of battery voltage.

    The APC I have with the same 2 batteries runs 12 video cameras, A 16 input security DVR. A 750W power supply computer, A comercial phone logger and a printer for just over an hour.

    Guess what;s going in the trash!

    Anonymous

    February 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    • I took this UPS apart and found that it uses 2 x 12V batteris in series; so it really runs on 24 volts. Now it’s running on 2 x 12V deep cycle batteries that are outside the case. It’s a bit big but this UPS is now “usable”.

      frrl

      February 29, 2012 at 5:04 am

  2. Power Solution Services offers a variety of service such as Renting of UPS and batteries, after sales services and AMC of Emersion UPS sales.

    ups manufacturers

    gream.pather

    June 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

  3. Hey – your ULTRA backup UPS worked! My new ULTRA 1000 failed with the first power outage – ie, it works fine charging the batteries, but cannot switch from AC to DC when the AC power fails. I had a similar problem with windshield wipers that would not work when it rained…A used 10 year old APC brand UPS costs more than a new ULTRA – now you know why. Private reviews of this ULTRA product are filled with horror stories.

    John Yonkop

    February 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm

  4. Some of the better UPS (APC, for example) have switches in the back so that you can lower the voltage provided in a power-out situation.

    The reason for this is MOST PCs run on switching power supplies which are equally happy on 80 VAC or 120 VAC. If your UPS is providing, say, 90 VAC – that’ll keep the PC running and lower the load on your battery. It might buy a few more minutes of extended run-time until power is restored.

    I’ve read that a trend is to eliminate 120 VAC from server rooms – if you remove the jump DOWN from 120 VAC to 12 / 5 VDC inside the machines (and the jump UP to 120 VAC from the 12 volt batteries in the UPS) you save a considerable amount of energy lost in rectification and inversion.

    Mike Y
    KM5Z
    Dallas, Texas

    KM5Z

    September 25, 2008 at 4:58 pm

  5. Thanks to WA9EVF for showing those measurements.

    For those who want a easy and inexpensive way measure power draw there is a device called “kill-a-watt”. These cost about $25 and can show you amp and watt draw of anything plugged into it. Plus it measures line voltage and frequency. Another feature is that it can measure total power usage over time. A very handy device.

    You can find kill-a-watt by searhing the web.
    At the time of this writing- here a a site that describes this device
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/electronic/7657/

    An unconventional idea might be this – want a huge capacity UPS – why not jack in a bigger battery and use what’s in the box as just the inverter.

    I keep a two big honking deep cycle batteries in parallel on my secondary 12v emergency sump pump in case of power failure. These are huge capacity batteries and it increases substantially the run time of the pump.

    Now if space was not an issue (my network and server gear is in the basement) why not go get a deep cycle marine battery and put in in paralle with the battery already in the UPS?

    One could mount a set of external battery connectors on the outside of the UPS case by drilling a couple of holes and mounting some battery terminals that would be in parallel with the battery inside the UPS. Then, if one wanted to, hook another deep cycle battery of a size of you choosing to extend the capacity.

    I am not an electrical engineer – not in real life, not on TV, and not on ham radio. So, I’m sure this idea would probabaly have someone going nuts. But this idea occurs to me as a way to easily extend the run time of any UPS if space and cosmetics was not an issue.

    frrl

    September 14, 2008 at 10:15 am

  6. I use UPSs in my line of work all the time, but I measure my loads before buying to properly size them. So I went to the lab and did a few measurements of PC power draw ( normally work with servers and there is a BIG difference)
    Here is what I found:
    CPU Speed Memory Disks Current Watts Mfgr.
    3.33GHZ 2 GIG 2 1.8A 216 PowerSpec
    2.5 GHZ 1 1 .9 108 Systemax
    900 MHZ 512K 1 .3 36 Compaq

    So there are PCs and then there are PCs. You would need to know what kind they used when they made the claim of 50 minutes (from their web site).
    When selecting a UPS one has to find out how much battery capacity is available.
    Keep in mind thay batteries are rated in amp-hours but at a 20 hour discharge rate.
    Faster discharging reduces the energy you can recover.
    If you look at the APC website you can find that a powersupply with 182 w/h (2- 12v 8 h)of battery will put out 270 wats for 17.9 minutes and 540 for 5.4 minutes

    SWo yes, Buyer educate your self!

    WA9EVF

    September 12, 2008 at 9:46 pm


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