So, if you’re going to buy pricey electronics and want to keep them safe, you’ll definitely want to pick out a surge protector. And, since they’re not the most exciting product to shop for, we’ve saved you the trouble of searching for the surge protectors that are worth your while.
TL;DR These are the Best Surge Protectors
1. Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL
Best Surge Protector
Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL
This Tripp Lite 10-outlet model surge protector has a generous number of outlets as well as DSL/phone line protection. Six of the outlets are spaced normally, while four more are widely spaced to accommodate oversized plugs – and all the outlets also include safety shutters, great if you have small children crawling about.
But the best attribute of the TLP1008TEL is that it cuts off power to your devices when the surge suppressor eventually is exhausted, which happens after 2880 joules. This is the behavior I wish all surge protectors had (see “What to look for,” below). Yes, you’ll need to replace the surge suppressor, but when the MOVs die, it’s just a power strip anyway.
2. AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector
Best Budget Surge Protector
AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector
Not everything in your home needs the same level of surge protection as your TV, Xbox, and PC. For $10, you can get an AmazonBasics surge suppressor for small appliances, your phone charger, and so on. I just wouldn’t use it for sensitive electronics, given its 800-volt clamping voltage.
Looking like a simple power strip with 6 outlets – five closely spaced and a sixth to accommodate oversized plugs – it has a modest 790 rating, and delivers current even after failing, so you’ll want to check the status light occasionally.
3. APC SurgeArrest P11VNT3
Best Multi-Port Surge Protector
APC SurgeArrest P11VNT3
The P11VNT3 has 11 outlets laid out in a wedge formation, with the six on the bevel spaced far enough apart that you’ll almost always be able to accommodate oversized plugs. All the outlets are also equipped with safety shutters. If you want comprehensive surge protection, this is your guy: It has passthrough ports for coax, DSL/telephone, and RJ-11 network cables.
The generously long power cable has a fully rotating shoulder (where the cord connects to the power strip), so you can orient it in any direction without bending or kinking the cable.
On the business end, the P11VNT3 is rated for 3020 joules. Depending on which MOVs fail – it’s a little complicated – the surge suppressor may opt to cut off current to your equipment, or let it continue to flow with an indicator in the status light. In other words, you’ll want to inspect the status light occasionally.
4. TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300
Best Smart Home Surge Protector
TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300
If the last piece of your smart home puzzle is a voice-controlled surge suppressor with its own mobile app, then the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip is just what you’re looking for. This 6-outlet strip also has a trio of USB ports. Each of the six plugs can be independently controlled via Alexa or Google Assistant. Using the mobile app, you can also group plugs and command them as a unit, and you can create scheduled events to toggle devices, or use IFTTT for additional programmability.
Each outlet gets its own recessed button to turn it on or off. Since it’s a smart device, it’s one of the few surge suppressors you’ll find with 802.11 b/g/n. It has a breaker for large surges and is rated for 1710 joules. But it will eventually fail with a closed circuit—meaning it’ll keep the power flowing without any surge protection—so keep an eye on the status light to know when it needs to be replaced.
5. Belkin PivotPlug BP112230-08
Best Surge Protector for Oversized Plugs
Belkin PivotPlug BP112230-08
Too few surge suppressors acknowledge the reality of oversized plugs and transformers. The PivotPlug arranges four outlets in standard spacing down the middle and then four more on each side that can also pivot up to 90 degrees. With a little planning, you can connect virtually any array of oversized plugs. It also features a convenient cable trap, so you can thread most or all of your cords through a channel at one end, keeping everything tidy. It also includes coax and DSL/telephone port passthroughs.
The PivotPlug doesn’t have a resettable circuit breaker, but it offers a beefy rating of 4320 joules. When it fails it continues delivering power after the ability to protect is exhausted.
6. Tripp-Lite 2-Outlet Traveler
Best Portable Surge Protector
Tripp-Lite 2-Outlet Traveler
If you’re a frequent traveler, the gear you take on the road is probably unprotected. That’s where a portable surge suppressor like the Tripp-Lite’s Traveler comes in. It’s a compact two-outlet surge protector that has a fully retractable three-prong plug for easy packing, and features a pair of outlets along with DSL/telephone sockets.
Tripp-Lite managed to pack 1050 joules of protection in this small package, but be aware that it will eventually fail with a closed circuit, so keep an eye on the status light.
7. APC SurgeArrest P12U2
Best Surge Protector for Equipment and USB
APC SurgeArrest P12U2
APC’s P12U2 is a go-to option for people who have a lot of things to plug in. It features eight normally-spaced outlets and four on the periphery that can accommodate oversized plugs. It also includes a pair of USB ports as well. If you worry about exposed outlets, fear not: This one comes with safety shutters. The power cable also has a rotating shoulder, so you can orient it in any direction without bending or kinking the cable.
It has a respectable rating of 4,320 joules, but like the other APC on this list, how it handles the loss of surge protection is a little dicey. The surge suppressor may cut off current to your equipment, or let it continue to flow with an indicator in the status light, depending upon how the MOVs fail.
8. Austere VII
Best Looking Surge Protector
This is what a surge suppressor might look like if it were designed by Apple. The aesthetics may be lost if you keep your power strip behind furniture, but it’s hard to deny the beauty of this polished aluminum case with elegantly beveled edges and braided power cable.
Otherwise, this is a pretty typical surge protector, though its eight outlets are generously spaced to accommodate oversize plugs. But it includes a pair of USB-A charging ports, two USB-C ports, and a 45-watt high-power USB-C for fast charging.
Austere’s rating of 4,000 joules should last longer than similar models, though when it eventually fails, it’ll continue to power your gear.
9. CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD UPS
Best Uninterruptable Power Supply
Surge energy: 1,445 joules ● Battery Backup: 1500VA/1000W● Mounting holes: No ● Outlets: 12 (2 x USB) ● Cord length: 5 feet ● Dimensions: 11″ x 14″ x 3.9″
With a uninterruptable power supply (UPS) you’re protecting your devices in a different way. This UPS from CyberPower is not only keeps power surges from hitting your sensitive and expensive electronics, it’s also a temporary battery back up that can keep your electronics powered on in case of a blackout.
The UPS takes the power in from your wall and then maintains a consistent output voltage, so your electronics don’t experience fluctuations that could cause issues. Another key feature is that it can keep your devices temporarily powered even if there’s a complete loss of power. This model is estimated to run for 2.5 minutes at full load or 10 minutes at half load, giving you a window of time to save important work before a power outage shuts down your electronics. All of the outlets on the CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD have surge protection, while six are also connected to the backup battery.
What to Look for in a Surge Protector
Surge suppressors may look like power strips. But while all surge suppressors do the job of a power strip, run-of-the-mill power strips don’t suppress electrical surges. Most surge suppressors rely on a device called a metal oxide varistor (MOV) to divert excess current to the ground, “clamping” the voltage to a certain level to protect your electronics.
MOVs don’t last forever, and depending on the design, can continue to behave like a dumb power strip and pass power to your equipment, or fail “safe,” cutting off power to your gear. I’d recommend using a suppressor that opens the circuit when the MOVs eventually fail, so your equipment isn’t left unprotected. The downside is your stuff may power down unexpectedly, and you’ll have to buy a new surge suppressor to get back in business.
Some specs you might care about: An indirect measure of the life of a surge suppressor is its rating in joules (basically, a suppressor with a rating of 4000 joules should last about four times longer than one with a rating of 1000 joules). The clamping value, in contrast, measures how much voltage gets through during any single spike, where a lower number is better for your gear. Expect to generally see values from 333 volts to 500 volts. Most surge suppressors also include a circuit breaker which can trip if a surge exceeds its abilities.
Convenience is also worth considering. You might want to find a model that spaces outlets far apart or uses some sort of pivoting system to let you fit oversized plugs on the strip.
Oh, and about those equipment warranties: I wouldn’t put much faith in them. The find print can be onerous, and I guarantee you’ll never collect money over an equipment failure that resulted from a surge-related problem.
Dave Johnson has been writing about gaming and tech since the days of the Palm Pilot. See him shout into the Twitter void @davejoh.
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark