In our testing, it clamped down on surges as hard as the Trip Lite 12-Outlet did, and its joule rating is about 30% higher (meaning it’s designed to last longer, but that’s just an estimate). The APC’s shorter (6-foot) cord means you’ll have a harder time reaching faraway outlets, but we think it’s still plenty long enough for most people.
It offers two USB ports and six AC outlets in a round package that’s smaller than a dinner plate. It has an auto-shutoff mechanism, making it one of the few three-outlet options we’ve found that will disconnect power when the surge protection wears out.
Collapse all To separate fact from fiction about surge protectors, we reached out to experts in multiple fields while writing the original version of this guide. We emailed with Jack Lucknow, an insurance pro who has been in the industry since the 1960s, and got advice on what part homeowner’s and renter’s policies play in protecting your technology investments.
There’s little reason for anyone to leave their office, den, or home theater unprotected, or to hang on to old, worn-out surge protectors. And if your home is subject to frequent brownouts or blackouts, you might want to replace your surge protectors as often as every two years.
If you have a cheap, basic power strip (or the kind of multiport adapter that plugs right into a wall outlet), it most likely never had worthwhile surge -protection capabilities to begin with. But you should replace these subpar options as soon as possible and be thankful that they didn’t catch fire or damage your electronics (PDF).
That’s why we suggest looking for a surge protector with an auto-shutoff feature, which stops the device from conveying power when the protection wears out. They can also protect against occasional surges from your utility company and are especially worth having in areas with unreliable power grids.
Finally, if you want to protect equipment that could be damaged by a sudden loss of power, a hard disk drive that’s susceptible to data corruption, or critical gear that can’t ever go down (such as a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea), you shouldn’t be looking at a surge protector at all. Photo: Sarah Loose started our research by scanning the top results on Amazon, Google Shopping, and retailers like Walmart and Home Depot, as well as the websites of well-known brands such as Trip Lite, Ac cell, and Welkin, to compile a list of models.
For our top picks, we knew we wanted something heavy-duty for use with home theater gear and game consoles in a living room (or computer equipment in an office). We also looked at smaller units designed for kitchen outlets or bedside tables, as well as series mode and hybrid models for people who want the highest level of surge defense.
Otherwise, we required, at minimum, an indicator light that will notify you when items plugged into the unit are no longer protected against surges. But you never get to see the meter itself, and how long the surge protector will last is just an estimate, so we don’t put a lot of stock in the rating.
(We explain in the Care and maintenance section why you shouldn’t plug a surge protector into an extension cord.) We considered well-designed clamps, hooks, or holes for mounting the surge protector on a table or baseboard to be a bonus.
Filtering our candidates through these requirements left us with a short list of nine models to test against our existing picks: In a previous round of testing in 2017, our engineer dismantled each surge protector in order to assess the components and construction.
Lee Johnson, a veteran electrical engineer, set up our testing parameters. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, no home would ever experience a power surge over 6,000 volts (PDF), and most don’t even come close.
The major exception to this would be direct lightning strikes, but considering that a bolt means upwards of 1 billion volts, no home surge protector is going to save your TV from one of those. He compared the thickness of the wiring, the size and arrangement of the Move, whether any filters or capacitors were incorporated into the designs, and the overall construction quality.
For reputable brands selling surge protectors in the $15 to $50 range, the guts were so similar that the dissection yielded no useful information, so we haven’t torn down the models we’ve tested since. In contrast, when he funneled 5,000 volts directly into the unprotected monitor, it promptly cried out in pain, never to turn on again.
The internal designs of the Surge (left) and ZeroS urge models (right) we tested in 2017 were very similar, including these sealed metal boxes. But when we tested several models previously (the Surge SA-15, the ZeroS urge 2R15W, and the Furman Power Station 8), we put them through the same paces as their less expensive and more common Bio-based counterparts.
We also tore apart each unit and found similar designs and construction, with only minor differences in the visible components. Note that every surge protector we tested came in under 400 volts except for the cheap, generic model we picked up at a big-box store.
If you’re setting up a media center with equipment that requires a coaxial or telephone connection, these extra ports are nice to have. But since this type of surge protector commonly sits out of reach (behind a couch, desk, or TV stand) and is designed for more heavy-duty usage, we don’t think USB ports are all that important.
Unlike with your run-of-the-mill power strips (or even the Hyper Tough surge protector we considered in a previous round of testing), its veneer seems built to stand up to most minor scratches and scuffs. It’s compact enough to slide under a bed or entertainment center, and a set of holes on the back gives you the option to mount it on a baseboard.
Its thick, rubberized, 8-foot cord is 2 feet longer than the one on the , making it more convenient to run underneath bookshelves and couches. The joule rating tells you how much the surge protector can take before it’s worn out, so our top pick is unlikely to last as long as the APC model.
If our top pick, the Trip Lite 12-Outlet Surge Protector, is unavailable, get the 12-outlet APC Surgeries Performance P12U2. It has just as many AC outlets as our pick, it recorded roughly the same average output and let-through voltage in our testing, and its joule rating is almost twice as high.
This is the only model we considered with that design; most other surge protectors’ notification lights are the size of a pinhead. It lacks telephone and coaxial connectors, which might be an inconvenience if you want to hook up your landline phone, dial-up internet, or cable box through your surge protector.
These aren’t super useful for a media center but are nice for a home office or anywhere you have devices that can charge directly over USB. It also has a rating of 4,320 joules, which is about 50 percent higher than that of our top pick (though it’ll protect your equipment equally well from any single surge).
Like our top pick, the Power Air safely shuts down once it can no longer protect your electronics, so you’ll know when you need to replace it. Even if you aren’t using it to power pricey equipment, as you might do with one of our main picks, it’s nice to have the added peace of mind.
The Power Air is sleek and compact, with a flattish shape that makes it easy to slide under an end table. Its 6-foot cord is thick, flexible, and durable, and its outlets are spaced generously around the top of the unit, giving you full access to all of them.
Lastly, its blue and green LEDs (which let you know, respectively, if the unit is powered on and protective) are well-marked and clearly visible on top. In our full guide to small power strips for travel, we recommend models with as many as four AC outlets and up to two USB ports.
It also has an auto-shutoff feature, making it one of just a few small, portable surge protectors we’ve found with this capability. It has a three-prong plug, as well as a plastic rod that fits into the bottom hole of the second outlet, ensuring a snug connection.
Most people don’t need this degree of protection, but the Furman Power Station 8 (PST-8) offers the strongest surge protection of the dozens of models we’ve tested, besting even high-end series mode surge protectors that cost hundreds more. Instead of relying on standard Move to absorb the entire surge, Furman adds extra protection: Once a surge goes over 137 volts, the entire unit shuts down to protect itself and any connected equipment (switching the unit on and off resets it).
Any surge that gets through before the shutdown passes through a series of capacitors as well as a large inductor meant to filter the extra power. The large MOVE, similar to those found in less-expensive units, sacrifices only part of itself as a last resort after the filtering stage.
The Welkin Surplus USB Swivel Charger (BST300bg) was by far the worst performer in our latest round of testing, letting through more than 800 of the 5,000 volts we threw at it. The Trip Lite Sinecure used to be our also-great pick for light use and travel, but unlike our, it doesn’t have an auto-shutoff feature, nor does it have USB ports.
We bought the cheapest surge protector we could find at a local Walmart (the Hyper Tough 6-Outlet PS682B_B) for a previous round of testing, and it failed spectacularly in pretty much every way. We liked the six high-amp USB-A ports of the Powerade 12 in 1 Surge Protector, but we found that it didn’t slide as neatly under a nightstand or bed as more streamlined models like the .
In any case, all quality power supplies, whether internal or external, have some noise filtration built in. We suggest that you read the fine print, since often you’ll have to jump through a bunch of hoops to collect in the event of disaster.
This is an easy way to exceed the current ratings on the surge protector and even the wiring in your walls. Always replace your surge protectors after any large event (such as a lightning strike down the block or multiple outages in rapid succession), and if you’re plugging in new gear, check each outlet for burn marks or any sign of damage.
If your protector delivers power even after its Move have failed, plan to replace it anytime you have a major electronics upgrade, or at least every three to five years. The extra connections and cord length of a surge protector also add resistance that can allow heat to build up, potentially catching fire or otherwise damaging the device.
We know they’re not the prettiest things to look at, but you should never cover up any part of a surge protector or extension cord with rugs, poufs, or other decorative items. She has been a science journalist for over seven years, covering a wide variety of topics, from particle physics to satellite remote sensing.
Since joining Wire cutter, she has researched, tested, and written about surge protectors, power banks, lap desks, mousetraps, and more.