We have to admit, we're suckers for a good charging accessory, and the iHome iB969 fits the bill as a multifaceted charging station for iPods, iPads, iPhones, and other devices you charge via USB.
While the mostly plastic iB969 doesn't exactly ooze sleekness or high-end build quality (pick it up and it feels pretty light), it looks attractive enough and has dual docks for the iPhone or iPod as well as an integrated stand for iPads. To demonstrate its capabilities, iHome on the package depicts an iPad with an iPhone, iPod Nano, and Sony Reader. A look under the unit reveals three USB ports, though only two are for charging; the other is for connecting the charging station to a computer so you can sync the device with your PC (in most cases, with iTunes).
The unit comes with three standard USB cables, but you'll have to bring your own for devices that have Mini-USB or Micro-USB connectors, and a separate Apple cable for charging your iPad (there is no iPad dock, just a stand that props up your iPad while charging).
To charge the iPad, you need a stronger power source than you'd typically use to charge a cell phone or MP3 player, and the iB969 ships with a 5V, 4AMP AC adapter. What's nice is that you can apply that power to your iPhone or iPod in a special quick-charge setting, which basically charges the device at double speed. The only issue is that the charging station has a couple of switches on it marked A/B that are a little confusing to deal with.
Those switches basically distribute the power to either the quick-charge dock or standard-charge dock. There are instructions on the bottom of the unit for setting the switches based on the types of devices you're charging, and it takes some thinking to sort it all out.
Along with the two A/B switches on the bottom of the unit, there's also a switch on the top that enables computer syncing. In other words, when you connect to your PC with yet another USB cable, you can have your iPad or iPhone sync with iTunes by flipping the syncing switch to the on position.
The final thing worth noting is that the unit can expand or collapse to provide a little more room to lay your devices down. When the charging station is collapsed into its more compact mode, it's a little wider than a BlackBerry. Expand the bed and it's more like the width of a Kindle or Nook.
All in all, though it does have its quirks, this is a pretty versatile charging unit for people who have several devices they want to keep juiced up and like the idea of a less cluttered charging environment (the unit does offer some cable management features). We can't say it's a steal at $49.99, but it's not outrageously priced.
For those who don't need to charge an iPad, you can step down to the $29.99 iHome iB967, which looks very similar but doesn't offer the iPad-charging capabilities. However, we recommend spending the extra $10 in case you do opt for an iPad or other form of tablet that requires a higher wattage for charging.