Best surge protector: Reviews and buying advice

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You only know for sure that you needed a surge protector after your equipment fries. Then it’s too late. For a very reasonable amount of money, you could put an almost literal firewall between your expensive (and cheap) electronics and the juice coming in from a wall socket. A surge protector throws itself into the line of fire, sacrificing its components again and again so that your devices stay functional.

These reviews are of surge protectors designed for a home office or cubicle, or a home-entertainment system. Such power mediators have a single function: keeping voltage from exceeding a certain rated level, beyond which equipment can blow a fuse, burn out its power supply, or completely fry its circuitry beyond repair. The surge protector takes a hit instead of your hardware or A/V system, and it could potentially save you hundreds to many thousands of dollars, depending on what you have connected.

You want to make the modest investment in a surge protector for the same reason you want to have a backup of your data: because there’s no going back after an adverse event. Getting ahead of a problem that may be unlikely but not improbable saves you from the enormous consequences if it occurs. (You do have multiple backups of your data, right?)

Editors’ note: This story was updated on May 17, 2018 to add our review of the Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL. It is now our top recommendation for a surge suppressor that stops supplying power to its outlets once it can no long protect connected devices from power surges.

Best all-purpose surge protector: Belkin PivotPlug

If you don’t care about power being cut off and want a low-clamping voltage (330V on all legs), our top pick is the very flexible and adaptable Belkin 12-Outlet PivotPlug Surge Protector (BP112230-08), which has an eight-foot cord and both protection and ground-vault indicators.

Best at powering-off when it can no longer provide protection: Tripp Lite TLP1008TEL

The best surge protector that automatically cuts power when protection fails is the very affordably price Tripp Lite TLP1008TL. It’s a 10-outlet model that lacks fancy features such as pivoting plugs, and it won’t accommodate as many wall warts as some other protectors we’ve reviewed, but it has the right clamping specs and it costs just $25.

Runner-up surge protector: APC SurgeArrest

APC’s SurgeArrest is only slightly less flexible than Belkin’s offering, and it won’t cut off power to your devices unless its main line-neutral protection fails. It has one fewer outlet than the PivotPlug,and it doesn’t have those fancy rotating outlets, but it is well made and its receptacles are widely spaced to accommodate lots of wall warts.

Factors we considered

We considered several common factors for three scenarios: a home-entertainment system, such as a TV, disc player, streaming media box, and receiver system; a home office or cubicle with a desktop computer and peripherals, including monitors and hard drives; and an on-the-go option, if you want to travel with a multi-outlet strip that also gives you piece of mind, especially in hotels and conference rooms, where you don’t know what kind of power will be provided.

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