Black Bob rides into town


Uninterruptable power supply (UPS) unit
Price: RM690
Review unit courtesy of Metro Trading & Engineering, (05) 526-0203/8996

UNINTERRUPTABLE power supply units are so boring. They're unattractively rectangular and heavy objects that spend most of their time tucked away below a desk somewhere.

Not anymore. PK Electronics -- the local UPS people -- have given their newest batch of units a face lift. And a name, even.

Meet their Blackout Buster, who's affectionately also called Bob. Now, Bob does not look anything like what we're used to, and believe me, we see a lot of UPS units in our line of work.

Bob's a little lighter than most UPS units, too. He tips the scales at about 5kg. PK Electronics also dressed him in black, not the dull kind of black, but a colour with sheen, so Bob won't look out of place next to one of today's jazzed up PC boxes.

No larger than a desktop dictionary, the Blackout Buster measures a slim 22cm x 10cm, and was developed specifically with the small office in mind.

In the time we had Bob around, brown-outs were reduced to an inconvenience and he took everything from power spikes to power cuts in stride.

The Blackout Buster keeps going for 15 minutes after the lights go out, then it starts beeping out a warning that power's getting low. According to the manufacturer, Bob will keep a HP Vectra 166 or Compaq DeskPro 133 going for at least that long.

Unable to put Bob through a longer test, we can only hope that he'll do better than some of the other UPS units we've crossed paths with. These tended to become problematic after about six months of continued use.

Neat features

This UPS unit also offers some interesting and useful features. It has four power-protected outlets for emergency back-up and surge suppression, to give you enough time to safely shutdown systems and prevent data loss.

Two additional outlets -- a data port and a phone jack are also built in to ensure PC peripherals are secure from spikes and lightning strikes. You can connect a printer or external drive to the data port.

It is certainly useful to be able to hook up a modem to Bob. However, this will only work with modems that have phone and line jacks as most voice-based modems do not come with both.

For an additional RM600, you can invest in a PowerPack that will double your power backup capacity. For RM250, you can invest in a SmartPack which can be programmed to shutdown the PC automatically in the event of a powercut. Also available is a MicroPack which is an attachment for automatic file-saving for Windows 95 systems.

Pros:- Smart-looking UPS unit; doesn't take up much space; good for the Small Office Home Office environment.

Cons:- 15 minutes of backup time isn't very long, especially if you have a deadline and about 30 minutes of article still to go.

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