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Valentine's Day 2007 Buyer's Guide

Watts Up Pro Power Meter

Vendor Electronic Educational Devices makes the Watts Up Pro, a device that monitors power consumption and the cost of power, among lots of other measurements, for any electrical equipment you plug into its 3-prong, 120 V outlet. The Watts Up Pro also includes internal storage for up to 2,000 readings (over 30,000 wattage measurements) as well as a USB interface, so you can log its measurements on a PC for longer term storage and analysis.

The Watts Up Pro can display true power consumption, shows cumulative power in kilowatt-hours (kWh), provides time stamps, and shows various RMS voltage and current readings (including minimum, maximum and instantaneous values). It can also calculate average monthly cost, kWh, and duty cycle information, as well as power cycles, apparent power, power factor, and actual A/C frequency. The unit can even capture information about power interruptions, and includes a payback calculator tool that lets users calculate the time necessary for an energy-efficient appliance to pay for itself.

Though the Watts Up Pro is handy in its own right, its ability to log data to a PC and its collection of added software tools and utilities are really nice.

Real PC geeks will find a lot to like about the Watts Up Pro, because it provides detailed information about how much power any plug-in device actually uses, and how much that power costs. This can be especially helpful when trying to determine if your current power supply is really up to its present task - or, if you've oversupplied your PC with power it will never use. Likewise, the Watts Up Pro's ability to log power consumption over time can also tell you how much it costs to operate your equipment 24/7, and help you distinguish between the cost of idle time versus productive time. This may finally help resolve the age-old question of whether you should power off your computers when they're not in use, or leave them running all the time.

At prices from $120 (ThinkGeek.com) to $131 (online vendor store), the Watts Up Pro isn't exactly cheap. But it will measure any and all standard electrical appliances and devices, and is probably one of the few Valentine's Day gifts we can think of that may actually be able to pay for itself!