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The Panamax MAX 8 Surge Protector


Surge suppressors are nothing new. We all have them protecting our most valuable electronic equipment, right? Right? If not, then we should, because you never know when disaster can strike. Merely think of what would happen if all you computer and audio/video gear was lost in a split second. Could you afford to replace it? Would priceless data be corrupted?

Most consumers and SOHO workers know of the typical suppressors, the models you can purchase for $19.99, but what do they really protect? Will they perform when needed and how can we tell? Panamax was not a manufacturer I was familiar with, rather I am used to products by Belkin and TrippLite (they market the ISOBar models). Let's scrutinize the Panamax MAX 8, their flagship SOHO surge protector. Thanks goes out to Panamax for providing the review sample.

Factory Specifications
Panamax MAX 8

  • Overvoltage Shutoff: 153V±8V
  • RJ-45 Protection: T1, LAN, LL, ISDN
  • Energy Dissipation: 1650 Joules
  • Peak Impulse Current 52,000 Amps
  • UL 1449 Suppression Rating: 330V
  • EMI/RFI Noise Filtration: 50dB (100KHz - 1MHz)
  • Warranty: $5 Million Equipment Replacement, Lifetime Product Replacement
  • List Price: $169.95 USD


8/10 Rating

Description & Specifications

When is a surge protector more than just a voltage squasher? When at some predetermined voltage, it actually shuts off. The MAX 8 has the unique feature that most UPS units don't possess: overvoltage shutoff.

The scenario is this: if your 110-120Vac line spikes to 330V or higher, then the surge protection metal oxide varistors (MOV's), kick in and save the day. What if the high voltage condition doesn't reach 300V? If a voltage between 121-329Vac is sustained, most suppressors have little to no effect at all. Not so with the MAX 8 as it contains a functional relay that physically disconnects the voltage until safe conditions are present once again. Frankly, this is one unbelievably cool feature.

Have a CAT3/CAT5 network? I manage a medium sized one (about 100 boxes) and network spikes produce hub lock-ups about once every two weeks. The MAX 8 has 6 pairs of RJ-45 connectors for various uses. One pair is labeled LAN, and the others are labeled TEL1 through TEL4 and lastly T1/LL for incoming ISP connections. The TEL connections fit either the small RJ-11 or RJ-45 connector. All connections are surge protected at different voltage levels.

The four leftmost AC plugs are "always on" for gear that never needs to be turned off, like severs and fax machines. The rightmost AC bank is "switched" via a button on the bottom right (that barely can be seen in the picture). Notice that all plugs are separated to ease the normally frustrating task of squeezing in large wall warts, such as those included with speakers, scanners and the like. At the very bottom, four LEDs indicate line faults, grounding problems, unsafe voltage conditions and general power status. Very informative and thorough I must say.

Objective Specs

Since I lack a VARIAC, I wasn't able to test all the Panamax claims the MAX 8 can do. BUT, I could open the unit and peer inside. Doing a little research and nosing around in my vast array of electronic parts catalogs like DigiKey, Mouser, Newark and the grand daddy of them all Allied, I found all the specs necessary to come to many conclusions.

The MOV's, a standard set of six Z131-20UL suppressors, provide the UL 330V spec although technically, clamping begins at 130Vac rms. Please remember that these models are "one time use" models. After a hit, if the protection OK light is dark, the entire MAX 8 must be replaced. The replacement is free.


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