Does the Orion Online Pro Series UPS System Pass the Test?

SSI’s Bob Grossman puts the UPS to the test and found mixed results from feature to feature.

(This is the Part 1 of this month’s Bench Test. The Orion Office Pro Series was later reviewed for Part 2.)

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ORION Power Systems (Orion) is a Florida-based manufacturer of powerline conditioning and protection systems, including several lines of uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems. The company prides itself on customer service and support, and limits distribution to prevent conflicts – you won’t find Orion systems at your local (or online) big-box retailer, which should preserve some profit margins for dealers and integrators. According to the company, its products sell for 25%-40% less than the “big brands.” High quality, limited distribution and competitive pricing – what’s not to like?

On our projects — and we suspect most of yours — two different sizes of UPSs are used. There are smaller units that are used for IDF locations, desktop computers and accessory devices, and larger for servers and other head-end equipment. The smaller units are typically 800-1,500VA while the larger units tend to be in the 2,000-3,000 (2kVA-3kVA) range.

Online Pro Series UPS
Available in power capacities ranging from 1kVA-3kVA, the Online Series is the higher end unit you’d expect to see in a headend rack or MDF. Extended battery modules are available, and the unit can be rack mounted (rack ears are included) or stood on its side using the included feet. It has an excellent and informative display that is viewable from a wide range of angles and may be physically rotated so that it can be read in either orientation. We tested the 1kVA unit without an extended battery module, simply because of the weight – these are hefty units, and the 3kVA weighs 66 pounds! As the only substantive difference is the number of batteries and type of outlet required (the 3kVA requires a L5- 30R 30A twist lock receptacle), we felt the 1kVA was a representative sample. This is an online UPS, as the name suggests.

Construction
The Online Pro is a solidly built UPS, with well-designed internals and an excellent cooling path. The inside is easily accessible with a standard Philips head screwdriver and looks to be fairly easy to service. Batteries were relatively easy to change, although the battery pack is fairly flimsy plastic, taped together, as opposed to the metal battery trays we’ve seen in comparable units. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it reduces the weight somewhat, but there’s always the chance these will become dry and brittle with age. Handle with care when changing the battery, and, whatever you do, don’t follow the instructions!


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That brings us to what will become a recurring theme here; the instruction manual that comes with this unit is abysmal. Sure, many people don’t bother reading the instructions, and in the case of changing the batteries, that may actually save you some headaches down the road. The instructions tell you to disconnect the battery wires (a two-conductor plug) and remove the two screws on the plate that holds the battery in place. We discovered there are four screws, took them all out and removed the plate. You then remove the battery pack, presumably replace the batteries and reinstall the battery pack. You put the plate back in place, screw in all four of the two screws and, according to the manual, plug the pack back in. Doing that will push the female end of the battery pack into the chassis of the unit and it will feel like it is seated but it won’t be. So the UPS will not have a battery connected and will not work. Further, there’s no alarm that sounds if the battery is disconnected (or if there is, we never heard it), so it’s probably a good idea to test the UPS after changing the battery.

The Online Pro Series UPS’ batteries were relatively easy to change, although the battery pack is fairly flimsy plastic, taped together, as opposed to the metal battery trays we’ve seen in comparable units.

When I asked Orion about this, their representative was puzzled. Common sense, he told me, would have you connect the battery before you put the plate back on, and that’s how he always did it. I agreed, and if it hadn’t been for the manual I wouldn’t have had an issue. Except that the UPS ships with the battery disconnected (for your safety, according to the manual) and you need to plug it in in order for the unit to work. And the only way you’d know that you had to connect the battery is by — you guessed it — reading the manual. No sticker or other notice, and the unplugged connection is behind a bezel that is shipped closed.

This is also a noisy UPS. The online design necessitates a fan running all of the time, even when there’s no load on the UPS. This shouldn’t be an issue as it will generally be in a rack with an equally noisy computer, although this UPS is noisier than any modern server I’ve seen. There’s also no filter media in the air intake panel, so expect the unit to get pretty cruddy over time.

It should be noted that this UPS is made in China. This is not in any way a detriment to the quality of the unit, but it’s likely a large contributor to the poor documentation. In fact, there’s a sticker on the top of the chassis that reads CAUTION!! The left front panel could be easily apart from the unit due to improper transportation. To avoid any personal injury, please do carry the unit carefully. Clearly the folks at Orion do not proof the material provided by their OEM manufacturer. More on that later.

Head to the next page for the complete report card…

About the Author

Contact:

Bob Grossman has held positions in all areas of the security industry — giving him plenty of opportunity to learn from his mistakes! Bob has authored articles for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION and other publications and has spoken at numerous industry events both internationally and in the United States. Currently the founder and president of R. Grossman and Associates, a consulting firm, he divides his time between project-based work for large integrated systems and product consulting for a variety of cutting-edge manufacturers. For more information, visit www.tech-answers.com.

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