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Best surge protector in 2021

Best surge protector
(Image credit: Imad Khan)

It can be hard hunting down the best surge protector or best power strip. The appliance has become such a ubiquitous part of media setups and home offices that many don’t consider about energy ratings or IEEE certifications. But it’s good to take surge protection seriously, as a major electrical event could leave your electronics damaged and out of commission.

Unfortunately, just about every big-box retailer has a surge protector on sale. It can therefore be hard to parse good quality surge protectors from bad ones. We’ve reached out to some of the biggest and best companies in electrical devices to send us some top-performing units for testing. We can say, without hesitation, that all companies make good-to-high quality products. Differentiating between the best really comes down to design, componentry, ease-of-use and certifications.

If you’re the type to already have all your electronics plugged into a surge protector or power strip, it might still be worth replacing with one of the units listed below. That’s because a surge protector, like any other piece of electronic equipment, does not last forever. The components inside degrade over time, and likely if there was a major power surge, it can wear away at the internal parts. And fires have been caused by failed or faulty surge protectors in the past. 

The way most surge protectors work is by using Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs), which reroute energy back to the electrical source. Think of it as an automated levee or dam that can push a massive surge of water back towards a river to help keep your home safe. While MOVs are an efficient and cost-effective way for manufacturers to design surge protectors, they're not an absolute fail-safe. Every time there's a major surge, the MOVs degrade and are sacrificed to ensure your electronics stay protected. That means surge protectors don't last forever. 

Also, it's during a high current surge that can really damages electronics. Some surges may have a higher current than voltage, meaning the voltage threshold might not be met to trip the MOV. Other "non-sacrificial" methods do exist, such as from Zero Surge. But a simple two-outlet Zero Surge model costs more than $200, exceeding every item on this list by a wide margin. But if your budget allows for it, then Zero Surge might be the way to go.

Most quality surge protectors and power strips have a built-in kill switch which will make the surge protector inoperable if it can’t provide protection any longer. Others might continue to work without protection. All of the units on our list have the added security of turning off or notifying the user once components inside have degraded to a point of inadequate protection. 

And note, not all power strips offer surge protection. Some act as nothing more than an extension of an existing wall outlet. Some might add a layer of minimal surge protection. So, regardless of shape or size, all units on this list will give strong levels of protection. 

Below, you’ll also notice that the surge protectors we recommend have high joule protection ratings. A joule is a measure of energy. The average lightning strike releases about one billion joules of energy in less than a second! The higher the joule rating, the more protection it offers. A higher joule rating also means a surge protector can absorb more energy before it fails. Generally, for most electronics and video game consoles — including the elusive PS5 and Xbox Series X — 2,000 joules and above will be more than adequate in keeping your devices safe. 

Regardless, below you’ll find our top recommendations for the best surge protectors for every use case and budget.

The best surge protector you can buy today

Best surge protector: APC Performance SurgeArrest 12

(Image credit: Imad Khan)

1. APC Performance SurgeArrest 12

The best surge protector overall

Specifications
Outlets: 12
USB: 2
Surge energy rating: 4,320 joules
Cord: 6'
Plug: Straight
Warranty: Lifetime
Equipment protection: Lifetime up to $300,000
Reasons to buy
+Fail Safe mode+IEEE testing and certification+Generous warranty
Reasons to avoid
-Green light might be too bright-More expensive than competition

The best surge protector or best power strip in our opinion is the APC Performance SurgeArrest 12, model P12U2. The unit offers 4,320 joules of protection, along with 12 electrical plugs and two USB ports. The surge protector is relatively slim and compact, making it an easy-fit behind media consoles or televisions. Not only that, according to the APC product page, the SurgeArrest 12 undergoes testing by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE. We’ve shot over a few questions to Schneider Electric, the parent company of APC, regarding the IEEE testing and certification, and are waiting to hear back. This guide will be updated upon reply.  

The SurgeArrest 12 also has a built-in fail safe mode, cutting off power once the internal components have been compromised. This will ensure your electronics stay safe, even if it means having to go pick up another unit. APC also offers a lifetime warranty and states on its website that if circuitry is damaged by heavy strike of power line surge and is unable to offer 100% protection, it will “replace your damaged SurgeArrest free of charge.”

Best surge protector for cable management: Belkin 12 Outlet Surge Protector

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2. Belkin 12 Outlet Surge Protector

Best surge protector for cable management

Specifications
Outlets: 12
USB: 2
Surge energy rating: 3,996
Cord: 6'
Plug: Flat
Warranty: Lifetime
Equipment protection: $250,000
Reasons to buy
+Efficient design+Power safety shut down+Cable management
Reasons to avoid
-Lesser equipment protection compared to competition

Belkin’s 12 Outlet Surge Protector, model BV12234-08, is an excellent unit that provides plenty of protection, which is why it’s one of the best surge protectors and best power strips on the market. With 12 outlets and two USB charge ports, it matches the APC Performance SurgeArrest 12. It has a lower energy rating at 3,996Joules, but is still more than enough for most. It’s also available in white. In terms of footprint, it’s relatively compact, and can easily sit below a home theater setup. It also has a clip towards the bottom for cable management. The BV12234-08 also has room for large adapters, a recessed power button to prevent accidental shutoffs and mounting holes to secure to walls, baseboard or furniture. 

The BV12234-08 is also backed by an Underwriters Laboratories listing. UL Listed, as you may have seen on some other electronic devices, means that it has been independently tested by Underwriter Laboratories to meet industry safety standards.

The Belkin 12 Outlet Surge Protector has power safety shut down. It’s uncertain what kind of indication it would give to the user that it’s time to change it out for a new unit. We reached out to Belkin and will update this article upon reply. 

As for assurance, the packaging says it’s a two-year limited warranty, although the internal documentation says Belkin “warrants to original purchaser of any Belkin Surge Protector for the life of the product.” Upon reaching out, a Belkin representative did confirm that the warranty of this unit is limited to two years. We assume that the two-year limited warranty then applies to electronics that may have been damaged while plugged into the 12 Outlet Surge Protector. Just make sure not to plug in a heater, generator, medical device, car, or any other major electrical device, as that will voice any warranty protection.

Best surge protector with USB: Anker PowerPort Strip 12

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3. Anker PowerPort Strip 12

Best surge protector with USB

Specifications
Outlets: 12
USB: 3
Surge energy rating: 4.000 joules
Cord: 6'; 8'; 10'
Plug: Flat
Warranty: 18-month
Equipment protection: $300,000
Reasons to buy
+Clean design+fast-charging USB ports+High energy rating
Reasons to avoid
-Limited  warranty

Anker is a brand more often found at online retailers like Amazon than at Best Buy. But the company has made a name for itself with its clean white aesthetic, value and quality. The Anker PowerPort Strip 12 is no exception. 

As of publishing, the 6’ version can be found for between $26-27. That undercuts the competition by around $10. Not only that, it has the surge energy rating and equipment protection to match. Although, the warranty on the surge protector itself only lasts for 18 months. This surge protector is also UL listed.

As for protection, it has an overload protection feature that will flip the surge protector off during a major surge. We’ve reached out to Anker to ask if the PowerPort Strip 12 would continue to supply power if internal protection components are damaged, and will update this guide upon reply. The PowerPort Strip 12 is also UL Listed. 

Best surge protector for maximum protection: Anker PowerExtend 12 Strip

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4. Anker PowerExtend 12 Strip

Best surge protector for maximum protection

Specifications
Outlets: 12
USB: None
Surge energy rating: 4,000 joules (2X)
Cord: 6'; 8'; 10'
Plug: Flat
Warranty: 18-month
Equipment protection: $300,000
Reasons to buy
+Dual surge protection+Clean and compact design+Good price
Reasons to avoid
-No USB ports-Lesser warranty when compared to competition

Best surge protector for phones: CyberPower Desktop Power Charger

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5. CyberPower Desktop Power Charger

Best surge protector for phones

Specifications
Outlets: 2
USB: 2
Surge energy rating: 1,500 joules
Cord: 5'
Plug: Flat
Warranty: One year limited
Equipment protection: $100,000
Reasons to buy
+Compact+Qi wireless charging+Rigged sleeved power cable
Reasons to avoid
-Lower surge energy rating-Fewer ports-Slower 10W wireless charging

The CyberPower Desktop Power Charger is the second weakest surge protector on this list, but we had to include it. As you can tell, it’s not meant for powering three video game consoles, a TV and a coffee maker. Instead, it’s meant for a desk, to plug in accessories or charge phones. Not only that, it includes a 10W Qi wireless charger. 

The CyberPower Desktop Power Charger is built like a brick, and that’s a good thing. Even with its smaller size, it won’t slide around. It really is ideal for the kitchen counter where kids may need to plug in laptops to do schoolwork or charge devices. The power cord is braided and robust, meaning it should deal with a fair amount of abuse. 

All CyberPower products are UL and cUL (Canada) Listed, meaning it’s been tested and complies with Underwriters Laboratories, a third-party safety certification company. 

Again, while not a typical surge protector, we feel it sits within a specific niche and is worth considering. 

Sturdiest surge protector: Monoprice 12 Outlet Power Surge Protector with 2 Built-in USB Charger Ports

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6. Monoprice 12 Outlet Power Surge Protector with 2 Built-in USB Charger Ports

Sturdiest surge protector

Specifications
Outlets: 12
USB: 2
Surge energy rating: 4,320 joules
Cord: 6'
Plug: Straight
Warranty: 12 months
Equipment protection: None
Reasons to buy
+Sturdy construction+High surge energy rating
Reasons to avoid
-Limited warranty-No equipment protection

The Monoprice 12 Outlet Power Surge Protector with 2 Built-in USB charger Ports is a solid piece of kit. The transparent rails on the side that light up to indicate both grounding and surge protection look slick. And of all the units we tested, it was the sturdiest of the bunch, with a flat and wide base. 

In terms of design, there’s plenty of room to plug on oddly-shaped power pricks. And the cord feels solid. 

The Monoprice 12 also has lights that indicate if surge protection is working, and if protection fails following a major surge, the light will shut off. The device will auto-shut to prevent damage to electronics. It’s also UL Listed.

The reason why the Monoprice 12 doesn’t rank higher on our list is due to subpar warranty and no equipment protection. The one-year warranty, while not bad, falls below the competition. This could be excused if the Monoprice 12 was a value leader. Unfortunately, as of publishing, it sells for around $28, which is more than the Anker PowerPort Strip 12.

When asked why the Monoprice 12 doesn’t offer equipment protection, a representative told Tom’s Guide that, “We do not offer connected equipment protection, which in many instances tend to be a gimmick or marketing feature that is used to charge higher prices, but in reality tend to be very difficult to use with getting claims covered. We instead focus on matching or exceeding the important surge protection specs while keeping costs low.”

We reached out to other manufacturers to respond to this claim by Monoprice. A CyberPower representative responded to our inquiry and said, “I can’t/won’t speak to why another manufacturer might not want to do this, but it is intended to guarantee that the product will work, protect connected equipment and give our customers peace of mind.”

Best compact surge protector: Belkin 3-outlet Mini Surge Protector with USB Ports

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7. Belkin 3-outlet Mini Surge Protector with USB Ports

Best compact surge protector

Specifications
Outlets: 3
USB: 2
Surge energy rating: 918 joules
Cord: None
Warranty: Limited lifetime
Equipment protection: $75,000
Reasons to buy
+Compact+Versatile+Reasonably priced
Reasons to avoid
-Low joule rating-Only three plugs

The Belkin 3-outlet Mini Surge Protector with USB Ports is a bit of an oddball, but could come in handy for specific situations. Acting more like a wall tap, the 3-Outlet essentially gives buyers additional ports on their walls. It also swivels, meaning it can sit both horizontally and vertically. 

Obviously, compared to larger surge protectors, the 3-Outlet falls short. It doesn’t have nearly as high a Joule rating at only 918, nor does it offer the same amount of equipment protection. But it does have more surge protection than other barebones power strips. 

Best compact surge protector: Belkin 3-outlet Mini Surge Protector with USB Ports

(Image credit: Imad Khan)

As a device, it sits cleanly on a wall, and can work well next to a nightstand to plug in a lamp and some phone chargers. For travel and small spaces, the 3-Outlet Mini Surge Protector with USB ports can come in handy. Just use it mostly for smaller devices.  

Imad Khan

Imad Khan is news editor at Tom’s Guide, helping direct the day’s breaking coverage. Prior to working at the site, Imad was a full-time freelancer, with bylines at the New York Times, the Washington Post and ESPN. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.