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If you have a desktop computer, a home theater, a laptop, wireless earbuds, or any other number of gadgets gathered in one spot for use or for charging, you probably have them plugged into a power strip. But not all multi-outlet strips are created equal, and if you haven’t attended to it in a while, there’s a chance yours is ripe for a replacement. I’ve always tended toward the practical and, after lots of research and years of using many power strips and surge protectors to power my copious amounts of gear, I’ve learned which features matter most and which protectors make for the best protection. If you want to kick up your own surge protection at home, here are some of my top picks in different price points and for different uses.
In this article
- Best standard surge protector
- Best surge protector with USB ports
- Best travel surge protector
- Best surge protector for wrangling cables and power bricks
- Best surge protector with battery backup to protect from data loss
The best power strips and surge protectors in 2020
Did you know there’s a difference between power strips and surge protectors? Power strips allow you to plug more than one device into a single wall outlet. Surge protectors — which often double up as power strips — actually prevent surges in voltage from damaging the devices plugged into them. And surge protectors actually lose that ability over time, and need to be replaced. There’s a chance that the power strip you’ve been using for the past 10 years is no longer protecting you like it used to — and it might be time to replace it with one of these high-quality units. Powering and protecting your electronics is not the best thing to cut corners on.
Best standard surge protector: Tripp Lite
Tripp Lite may not be a household name, but they’ve been making quality power devices for decades. Their surge protectors are some of the best for the price you pay. Their 8-outlet surge protector is a bit bigger than most standard power strips, but it has enough space to fit a couple larger power bricks without covering up the other outlets — which can be a big plus if you’ve got multiple laptop blocks connected to it. It also contains an automatic shutoff mechanism that stops delivering power once its surge protection has worn out, so you know when it’s time to buy a new one. Some will find this invaluable, while others may find it annoying (in which case you should check out one of the other picks below). There’s also a larger 12-outlet version if you need more protection.
Best surge protector with USB ports: Tripp Lite
While most surge protectors get stuffed behind a desk or entertainment center, sometimes you want to keep one easily accessible to charge your never-ending parade of battery-powered gadgets — and allow for guests to do the same. Tripp Lite makes a clamp mount surge protector that works perfectly for this: Mount it to the side of your desk, end table, or nightstand, and you’ll have easy access for whatever you need to plug in. It even has two USB ports for charging your phones and tablets without an AC adapter, plus the same auto-shutoff mechanism as other Tripp Lite protectors.
Best travel surge protector: Belkin
I don’t know about you, but I run my battery down most often when I’m traveling — which is ironic, because that’s when outlets are at their rarest. A good battery pack will help get you by, but I also travel with a portable surge protector everywhere I go. Even if the outlets at my gate are used up, I can swoop in with a multi-port unit like this Belkin model and let everyone juice up at the same time. With three outlets and two USB ports, I’m usually the hero of the airport.
Best surge protector for wrangling cables and power bricks: Belkin
If no other surge protector seems to have room for your giant power bricks, you’ll want the Belkin Pivot Plug. It’s a bit bulkier than most other surge protectors, but eight of the 12 outlets on this monster pivot 90 degrees. That means you can plug everything in without losing precious ports. Note that unlike the Tripp Lite models, it won’t automatically shut off when it’s worn down. However, a “Protected” light will stay on as long as it’s, well, protected — and you’ll know it’s time to replace the unit once that light goes out.
Best surge protector with battery backup to protect from data loss: CyberPower
While surge protectors will protect your devices from power surges — during a blackout, for example — you could still lose important data if your computer loses power in the middle of your ongoing and unsaved work. An uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, acts as a battery backup in these scenarios. When the power goes out, your computer and other equipment run off the unit’s battery for a few minutes, giving you enough time to save your work and shut down safely. This CyberPower model can handle up to 450 watts of gear, and has a handy LCD to let you know how much power it’s currently drawing. Just remember to replace the battery every couple of years, or they won’t hold enough of a charge when you need them (and they’ll start to swell). You can buy new batteries directly from the manufacturer for $40 or so.