The SX-AX15E is the 15-amp offering at the top of SurgeX’s Axess line of web-enabled power conditioners and energy management systems. I’ve always had the weirdest luck with SurgeX reviews. The first such review, no joke, was accompanied by my first and only major surge event, which positively destroyed another so-called surge protector in the home, yet didn’t faze the home theater system connected to the SurgeX XC18 Space Saver Surge Eliminator.
The second was a little less traumatic, but involved more bodily harm when a cheap surge protector in the bedroom, which I was replacing with SurgeX’s XR115 Surge Eliminator/Power Conditioner, literally exploded in my hand as I was powering it down to disconnect it.
So when SurgeX offered to send its SX-AX15E Axess Elite web enabled power conditioner and energy management system for review, I started to sweat. Not that I expected anything to be wrong with the unit itself, mind you–none of my problems have every stemmed from the setup and operation of the actual SurgeX gear–but again, when SurgeX gear arrives in my home, strange coincidental electrical voodoo always seems to accompany it.
I’m pleased to say, though, that in the month or so since I installed the SX-AX15E, I’ve suffered no coincidental catastrophes. As such, I can’t speak directly to the Axess Elite’s surge elimination capabilities from experience, but given that it’s the same power protection built into all of SurgeX’s units, and given that it’s the only surge elimination technology that has never let me down, it’s safe to say that I’m covered in that department.
The good news is that even with no surges to stop, the SX-AX15E has been one of the most fascinating, sophisticated, and flexible pieces of gear I’ve reviewed in quite some time. This particular model is the 15-amp offering at the top of the Axess line (the SX-AX20E is also available for all of your 20-amp needs). If you’re not familiar with the Axess line, it starts with Axess Ready, which consists of smaller form factor IP-enabled units that deliver outlet switching, but whose outlets all power on and off together. While they do work as standalone units, you’re much more likely to use the Axess Ready products as part of a larger power management system.
Step up to the products labeled simply “Axess,” and you get the same functionality as SurgeX’s initial IP offerings, which went by the name iControl for the residential market and XW715 for the commercial market. Axess gives you individual outlet control, energy metrics for all outlets combined, and your choice of IP or RS-232 control.
At the top of the SurgeX IP mountain, the SX-AX15E and SX-AX20E fall within the Axess Elite range, and were developed as a result of dealer feedback, adding even niftier features like individual energy metrics on an outlet by outlet basis, an included temperature probe, and contact closure inputs and outputs, which can be used to setup all sorts of automated magic.
The Axess Elite products are also easier to configure, given that they don’t require special setup software, as do the vanilla Axess units. The SX-AX15E is completely programmable via any web browser, although it does require that your computer be on the same subnet as the unit’s default IP address. So I did have to change the IP address of my laptop to log into the SX-AX15E and assign it a new IP address, but after a quick reboot, I was able to access it from any computer in the house.
From there, configuration is incredibly intuitive, and I doubt you’ll ever need to glance at an instruction manual to get it. But I hesitate to call the configuration process “simple,” if only for the fact that there’s just so much you can do with Axess Elite.
A little daunted by all the possibilities, I called Charlie Jones, southeast regional sales manager at SurgeX, to walk me through some of the unit’s capabilities. He relayed the story of one dealer, for example, that has a global rack-mounted reset button attached to a contact closure input of an Axess Elite unit. This button intelligently reboots a particular client’s router, cable box, etc., in a very specific sequence, to avoid a truck roll if a simple power cycle would fix the problem. At the end of that reboot sequence, the unit also sends him an email, just to keep him apprised of how often the system needs rebooting.
You can also attach a motion sensor to the contact closure input, and use the contact closure output to open or close drapes, or even create custom scheduled events that rely on the SXAX15E’s internal clock.
Confident that I had a handle on the unit’s capabilities, I set about to program a few of my own routines, starting with the SX-AX15E’s included temperature sensor, which connects via a Phoenix connector. Of course, with the combination of temperature sensing and contact closures, you could do all sorts of things–close motorized shades if the room gets too toasty, for example–but I went the more obvious route, connected the fan in my OmniMount RE27 rack system to outlet eight, and then told the system to turn on outlet eight if the inside of my rack rose above 85 degrees. Below 82 degrees, the outlet turns off again. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I actually use my rack fan now, which I rarely did before.
I also plugged my 8-port network switch in the home theater into outlet seven, and set up what’s called a NetTest, which pings a specific IP address (I used Google). I programmed the unit to reboot outlet seven if the ping fails three times, which is a pretty good indication that the network switch isn’t able to access the internet. So far, that’s only happened once, but that’s one less time I had to climb behind my rack to reboot that switch.
Perhaps most amazing of all is the fact that all of this advanced programming is handled via very straightforward drop-down menus. It’s seriously easier than programming a Harmony remote.
Speaking of remotes, the SurgeX Axess line also boasts interoperability with a number of home automation systems, and offers two-way IP modules on its website for Crestron and AMX, with others on the way. Control4 also offers a certified driver, although unfortunately it seems to only offer RS-232 connectivity, and I don’t have any free 232 ports on my Control4 controller. Hopefully an IP-enabled driver is on the horizon for Control4.
Truthfully, though, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much other than that, except maybe for the fact that you can also use the Axess Elite as a home automation IO extender, adding a couple of extra contact closures to the system at large. In and of itself, though, the Axess Elite SXAX15E is an amazingly rich and robust home automation product that not only provides in-depth power management, but also world-class power protection.
An incredibly robust IP-enabled power management system with intuitive setup, oodles of features, built-in temperature sensing, contact closures, and the only truly reliable surge protection technology this reviewer has ever had the misfortune to put to the test.
The front-panel LED status lights, which don’t seem to be dimmable, are the exact brightness of the sun at noon on the summer solstice as viewed from the middle of the Sahara.
• Load Rating: 15/20 Amps at 120 Volts (SX-AX15E / SX-AX20E)
• Power Requirement (no load): 5 Watts
• Surge Let-through Voltage (6,000 Volt Surge): 0 Volts
• Maximum Applied Surge Voltage: 6,000 Volts (1.2 x 50 microsecond industry standard combination wave surge as per IEEE C62.41)
• Maximum Applied Surge Current: Unlimited (due to current limiting)
• Maximum Applied Surge Energy: Unlimited (due to current limiting)
• Under-Voltage Auto Shutdown: Adjustable from 80V to 110V, or disabled.