While the company has been around since 1995, my first real experience with SurgeX was at this past year’s CEDIA EXPO in Atlanta. I was walking by the company’s booth when I was stopped by a sudden, jarring loud WHAAAP! This unexpected noise was followed by an unmistakable aroma; it was either the heavily, over-peated smell of an Islay scotch, or the tell-tale last breath of a piece of electronics gone to its final reward. And since the only liquor generally found on the show floor is late afternoon beer, I knew it was the latter. This, of course, demanded further investigation.
SurgeX’s XN120 is designed to protect components at the circuit level.
I stuck my head into the booth and watched in equal parts voyeuristic horror, fascination, and sadistic pleasure as the SurgeX team blasted components over and over with 6,000 volts. A large transformer slowly built up a charge, creating a tension that was palpable and delicious, and then when it reached 6,000, WHAAAP! A bright spark and another violent burst of electricity would go forth to wreak its havoc on an unsuspecting component. Expecting to see the monitor plugged into the SurgeX piece to flicker or flinch, but instead, it ignored the massive voltage like it was a telemarketer inquiring about healthcare coverage. What was behind this strange alchemy?
After watching several charge-WHAAAP!- discharge cycles where nothing happened, the SurgeX rep asked if I’d like to see how competing products fared under the same bombardment. Sensing the veiled promise of mass destruction, I, of course, said yes; my innersadist grinning wickedly and hoping for some kind of AV torture porn. The other devices didn’t disappoint either. After just a single blast, their displays showed things like “Fault Condition. Transfer Relay Weld” or just went black with a wimpy Pop! followed by wisps of grey-black smoke roiling out of their backs.
So, this was going through my mind when SurgeX offered to let me test their new XN120. This device differs from traditional surge components in a couple of ways. First it utilizes SurgeX’s unique “Advanced Series Mode Surge Elimination Technology.” Instead of using sacrificial MOV technology (Metal Oxide Varistor, used in suppression and protection circuits since the ‘70s) or shunting excess voltage to ground or common, the SurgeX units just completely block and absorb the surge with zero voltage let through. (The energy is stored up and slowly and safely released to the neutral wire, according to the company.) Beyond surge protection, SurgeX claims that other devices shunting voltage to ground can be the cause of issues like component lock-ups, specifically on cable boxes. The SurgeX folks described their technology as “accident avoidance.” Instead of getting into an accident and then hoping that the airbag protects you, they describe their technology as helping you to avoid the wreck all together.
Secondly, the XN120 is designed to protect components at the circuit level. It is a magnetically shielded NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) enclosure designed to be installed by a licensed electrician near a home’s electrical panel, and it protects up to four 20-amp circuits, 80 amps total. This means that once it is wired in, everything plugged into an outlet on that circuit is fully protected. Need more outlets? Just connect a cheapy strip outlet and rest assured and you’re getting full protection upstream. (Or add other SurgeX devices that can add additional protection like battery backup or over/under voltage protection.) This also eliminates additional components in the equipment stack.
While the XN120’s price might initially seem a bit steep at $2,199, when you figure that it is actually providing full-time protection at four separate locations, it becomes far more compelling. And at $550 per location, it is in line with typical surge protection costs. Also, if you were able to coordinate with the electrician during pre-wire, having all TV locations in the home wired on the same circuit would simultaneously protect every TV while also eliminating any potential ground hum or loop issues, which provides additional value.
Because we’re talking about panel-level electrical work, this requires a licensed electrician for install and should take around an hour. The electrical service from the load side of the circuit breaker connects to the upper terminal block on the XN120 and then the equipment circuit, or load, is connected to the lower terminal block. A green indicator light for each circuit indicates that power is being received correctly and that the unit is fully functional. And, well, that’s pretty much it.
So, my opening experience is important because, well, testing a surge protector in the real world (ie: my home) can be difficult if not impossible. Even living near the ocean in Myrtle Beach, I can’t just summon a lightning storm and then ask it to strike my home. I can’t request a giant spike from my electrical company, and I don’t have a 6,000-volt generator. So during my time with the SurgeX panel, I can say that I didn’t experience any surge events, nor did I need to reboot my cable box. Coincidence? Maybe. Peace of mind knowing that SurgeX is protecting my system? Absolutely. Something worth considering for future customers? Definitely.
Kills surges at the circuit level, protecting everything connected to that circuit; eliminates components in the rack
Requires electrician for install; doesn’t include any connected equipment warranty or offer over/ under voltage protection
■ Protects four 20-amp circuits (80 amps total)
■ Magnetically shielded NEMA enclosure
■ Eliminates surges up to 6,000 volts with zero letthrough
■ EMI and RFI line filtering
■ 11-year product warranty
■ Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 4 inches; 30 pounds