When we first acquired a set of iPads for use in our program, we re-purposed a laptop cart to hold and charge the iPads. The cart was quite large and heavy. There were two built-in power bars, and a total of 28 outlets. Unfortunately, we had 30 iPads. To make matters worse, the iPads had to be individually unplugged and connected to a computer for syncing, then plugged back into a power bar for charging. I also had to make sure I unplugged or plugged in both power bar cords whenever I moved the cart. Charging and managing the iPads was very time consuming and needed to be done regularly.
I discovered Ergotron at a conference where they were demonstrating their tablet management cart. They described that the cart integrated a USB hub and could be used for charging and syncing.
We decided to order a 2-cabinet "ISI" model of the cart. There are a few different models of the cart. There are carts with either 2 or 3 cabinets, and each cabinet holds up to 16 tablets. The ISI models have individual status indicators; LEDs that show the status of each tablet. There is one LED per slot. The LED will be off if no tablet is plugged in, orange if the tablet is connected and charging, and green if the device is charged. This simple feature is very useful for making sure all tablets are charged and ready for the school day.
The cart is very compact considering the number of tablets it can hold. There is a shelf on the bottom (only on the 2-cabinet model), and the top is well suited for placing a laptop on. We secured a Macbook to the top that is both for syncing the iPads and for general classroom use. We use a rubber tub on the bottom for holding cables and other accessories like the hand straps for our iPad cases.
The slots that hold the iPads are large enough to accommodate the iPads in their cases, but not with the hand straps attached (we use the Sleeve360 iPad cases). The design is clearly meant for tablets, and will not hold larger devices like Chromebooks.
Prior to use, the cart needs to be "cabled up" with the syncing cables. This process was a bit of a hassle, but not difficult. Two screws secure each USB hub (one hub per cabinet) to the cabinet. You then pull the hub forward until you can disconnect the data and power plug from the back. The back of the hub has standard USB ports for the sync cables, and brackets for wrapping extra cord length around. There is a model that is pre-cabled with Lightning connectors that costs $400 extra. If you can use the cables that came with your iPads, save yourself the $400 and do the cabling yourself. If you need spare cables, $400 is actually a pretty good deal.
The USB hubs integrated in the cart provide enough power to charge all connected tablets. What is more impressive is that when the USB plug from the cart is connected to a computer, the hubs switch to sync mode allowing all connected iPads to sync with iTunes or Apple Configurator. The hubs work in tandem, so there is just a single USB plug from the cart to the the computer. This feature is what makes this a "management cart" rather than just a storage cart. It has made it significantly easier to manage the iPads, and has saved me a considerable amount of time.
There is no question that you will need something to store and transport your tablets in. If you have 10 or fewer tablets, it is worth looking at something like the Copernicus Tech Tub. If you are using a full class set of tablets, the Ergotron cart is a much better solution. The purchase price might initially seem high, but the cost per device is as low as $75 for the 32 tablet cart with ISI. When considering the value of the time the cart will save in deploying and managing iPads, the decision should be fairly easy to make. We purchased another Ergotron 32 tablet management cart to have one at both of our campuses.