We’ve all got lots of electronics we want to plug in, with power strips upon power strips branching out like stubby snakes from every outlet. OK, maybe it’s not that bad in your own house, but even beyond the convenience of extra plugs, the best surge protectors can actually prolong the life of your gear. They can, as its name suggests, protect electronics from the power surges that can slowly wear down the delicate hardware inside all modern electronics.
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a big difference between power strips and surge protectors. A power strip is essentially just a wired, multiplug extension of a power outlet. A surge protector adds in circuitry which is designed to prevent damaging power spikes from making their way to your TV, soundbar or really anything that’s plugged in.
One of the easiest ways to tell if the product you’re considering is a basic strip or an actual surge protector is checking if it has a joule rating. All surge protectors will have one. It’s essentially how much the protector can protect before it no longer offers protection. These devices do wear down over time, and while there’s no easy way to tell how much this has been reduced, some strips do offer a dedicated “protected” LED. Most manufacturers recommend replacing a surge protector every few years. For more about how they work, check out these 10 shocking facts about power strips.
I checked out 16 of the top surge protectors under $100. Whether you’re looking for a surge protector for your home theater, TV or computer, these are the best.
Best surge protectors
How I tested surge protectors
When I tested these surge protectors there were three things I looked for: well-spaced sockets, a high joule rating (preferably 1,000 or more), and whether it came with a “connected device” warranty. Firstly, one of the most important things was having enough outlets to fit the wall wart power adapters that come with most products. These bulky connectors usually take up two or more spaces on normal outlets and power strips. So I physically checked each power strip to see if its outlets were sufficiently spaced to fit multiple warts.
Secondly, a joule rating was required, and all my picks had joule ratings comparable to or higher than their competitors. It’d be great to have a minimum or recommended joule rating, but such a thing doesn’t exist for these kinds of products.
I also gave preference to products that come with a guarantee in case your gear gets destroyed by a power surge. Nearly all of my picks have this kind of warranty, often in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Are you likely to get your money back if your gear gets zapped? Hard to say. Insurance like this is hard to collect on, as some companies will only replace connected gear “at their option.” Having this sort of guarantee does give you some peace of mind, however, more than you have without it, and perhaps it will cover you in a way your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance doesn’t.
With all of this in mind, I compiled a list of nearly 50 surge protectors and then chose the top 16 to test out. My last bit of testing was hands-on. Specs can tell you a lot, but very quickly I found some of these to be better than others. Some had features that seemed useful, but weren’t. Others were larger or smaller than they seemed in pictures, which in some cases was a good thing or in the case of the travel surge protectors, not so much. Our top picks were the ones that had the best combination of features, specs, and felt the most practical in normal use.
Read More: 10 Shocking Facts About Power Strips
Other good surge protectors
The APC P6WU2 is a chunky wall-mount design with six side-mounted outlets and two USBs on the front. Depending on what you’re plugging into it, they might bunch up or not fit against the wall. The Amazon S9P658O300A00 can fit more plugs for a somewhat-similar footprint. However, the APC has a connected device warranty ($50,000), while the Amazon doesn’t. For something similar but smaller, check out the Belkin BSV300ttCW mentioned below.
The Belkin BE112230 shares the flat design of the switched Belkin F7C01008q, just without the switch. It has six wide-spaced outlets, a claimed 3,940 joules of protection and a connected equipment warranty.
The Belkin BST300bg is a decent travel alternative to the Accell. It has three outlets on the front and two USBs on the top. The plug swivels so you can orient it multiple ways. The Accell is a little smaller, but this is a good runner-up.
The wall-mounted Belkin BSV300ttCW has three outlets and two USBs, all on the front. Its most interesting design feature is a lipped top surface where you can lean your phone while it’s charging.
The cube-shaped Belkin SRA006p3tt5 is similar to the Anker, in that it’s a small protector at the end of a long cord. The Anker’s smaller size and dedicated USB-C connection are more convenient, but if you’re connecting larger wall warts they’ll likely fit better on this.
Frequently asked questions about surge protectors