Every time I see a shelf or table stacked with charging tablets surrounded by a tangle of extension cords and power strips, I want to scream. That’s because there’s a more organized and safer way to charge school slates that doesn’t involve using every outlet in the classroom.
While I really like Griffin’s PowerDock 5 that can charge and store five tablets or small notebooks, it’s just the first step. Tripp-Lite’s Charging Station takes this idea to a new level with the ability to safely store and charge anywhere from 16 to 48 devices so they’re always ready for class.
Rather than the open shelving concept of the PowerDock5, the 16-portt Charging Station is built around a sturdy steel box that measures 14.5- by 23.6- by 17.5-inches and weighs a hefty 30 pounds. It’s available in black and white and there are taller versions that can accommodate up to 32- and 48-systems.
Whichever one you get, the Charging Station can be mounted onto a wall, shelf or floor. It can be ordered with casters and a handle for wheeling from room to room. The side panels are removable and the system has a hinged front door that can be locked at night or between classes; it comes with two keys.
I nside, the base model that I looked at has room for 16 tablets or small notebooks, like HP’s 11-inch Chromebook. The shelf height and dividers are adjustable to accommodate a variety of gear, including external batteries, mobile hot spots and powered speakers. An unexpected bonus is that the shelves are Teflon coated to reduce scratches from clumsy kids.
In fact, it can work with anything that requires USB charging. Built around Tripp-Lite’s 16-port USB Charger, it is UL listed and can dole out up to 2.4 amps of current at 5-volts for a peak output of 12 watts. This allows just about any small USB-based system to charge quickly.
The power is delivered from a strip of 16 USB power outlets. You’ll need a USB cable for each system being charged and the extra length can be coiled up. On the other hand, it’ll be neater if you get Tripp-Lite’s 10-inch cables for iPads and 12-inch ones for Android systems.
The system has a single grounded electrical power cord that can be fed through access holes in the back of the case, but it lacks a surge suppressor. On the downside, it will not work with a device that doesn’t use USB power. In other words, notebooks with AC adapters are off limits, but Tripp-Lite sells laptop charging gear. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that has both AC and USB power for mixing and matching.
It does more than charge tablets, though. The system has a USB 2.0 plug as well for connecting the Charging Station to a computer. This allows you to synchronize the tablets and get the latest software downloads. It also has a mini USB port for updating the Charging Station’s firmware.
In daily use, the Charging Station did exactly what it was supposed to: charge up tablets and small notebooks overnight or between classes. I used it with everything from a couple of iPads, Android and Windows tablets to video cameras and rechargeable TI calculators.
While the system only sends power when it’s needed, the Charging Station’s fan runs continuously, even if nothing is connected. It comes with a two-year warranty for $650, money well spent if it saves one tablet from being stolen or broken while charging.
16-Port USB Tablet Charging Station
+ Holds, charges and synchronizes up to 16 devices
+ Works with tablets, small notebooks and accessories
+ Sturdy and lockable
+ Optional casters and handle
+ Adjustable shelving
+ Two-year warranty
+ Up to 48-unit versions
- No surge suppressor
- Lacks AC outlets
- Loud fan