I recently had the distinct pleasure to review a couple of Etón's solar products, the Rugged Rukus – Green and the BoostSolar-Green. Etón (http://www.shopetoncorp.com) carries products under the Etón brand as well as those under Grundig and American Red Cross. Under Etón brand, you'll find the solar bluetooth speakers and rechargeable batteries (among other things) which is what first drove my interest in the company.
First up, I'll comment on the Rugged Rukus. It's a light weight bluetooth speaker that features a solar panel for charging the battery and USB charging output for charging up phones or other electronic devices. It's also splashproof with an IPX-4 rating. According to wikipedia and a few marine related sources that means (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code) it can be splashed without harmful effect. However, you can't dunk it in the pool. Seems like common sense but it is nice to know that it's safe to have near the pool when the kids are splashing around.
Main Features –
Bluetooth – connect to your phone and beam the tunes.
Splash “Proof” – less worry near liquid
Solar charging – with this you have almost unlimited playtime from your phone. The music plays. The phone charges. It's wonderful. The only issue is if your phone overheats when sitting in the sun. Happened to me more than once and had to set my phone on a cold soda under a t shirt. I'm not recommending this though. Keep the phone cool as you normally would.
- Fully charges in < 5 hours in direct sunlight
- Battery plays music for 8 hours
- Also charges via usb – 2.5 hrs
- Aux in for non-Bluetooth connection
- Weighs 1.2 lbs
- Dimensions 6.5×5.9×1.8 inches
- Loops for attaching to backpack
I really like this device. It is easy to use and it works as advertised. I use an iPhone 4S as my main device and the Rugged Rukus charges it while in use.This is WAY better than the Nomad 7 solar charger I reviewed a few weeks back. The solar charging works easily and did not seem finicky. Any time I was outside during the day, it charged. That's what you want from your electronics. The just need to work so you don't have to think about it. The Rugged Rukus delivered.
The sound is decent. This is no BIG Jambox in terms of volume but I'd say it's on par with the original Jambox or any number of smaller portable speakers. This device would be enough to fill a quiet room or provide music right next to you when outdoors but not enough to DJ a party. From a device this size, this is what I would expect.
The controls are easy to use. I only had to reference the manual once and that was to figure out how to connect the Bluetooth. Everything else was obvious and simple. Power, volume, battery check were all clearly marked and easy to recognize.
The main knock I would have is that it's not all that loud. I realize that's a little unfair since I've already stated I don't expect it to be much louder given the size.
Etón charges $99.99 http://www.shopetoncorp.com/detail/ETO+NRKS200GR – (No affiliate link) I think the price is very reasonable given the features.
After the amazing experience with the Rugged Rukus, I had very high expectations for this device. I was let down when I found the charging to be unstable and a little buggy. That being said, I've received assurances that the manufacturer has corrected a firmware bug that caused the unit to shut down under certain conditions. As described, these were the EXACT same behaviors that I saw and I trust that the current firmware versions have done away with the issue. I've not tested it “hands on” but again, without prompting the issue was described to me to a “T” and based on that it seems like the information was accurate.
- IPX-4 water resistant
- Charges mobile devices and tablets
- Rugged rubberized exterior (documentation indicates it can be dropped from approx 3.3ft)
- 5V – 2.1A USB out
- 5000 mAh battery
- Can purchase > 1 battery pack
- 16 hours to fully charge battery using solar
- weighs 11.7 oz
When it works it's a nice backup for your USB powered devices. I love that you can use the power of the sun to charge up devices and like with the Rugged Rukus, when this device was working it charged while the electronic device was in use. Also, it puts out enough power to charge tablets (e.g. iPads). That's a good amount of juice and means that phones charge slightly faster. With 5000 mAh I've found I can charge my iPhone basically 2.5 times. I also like that you can remove the battery from the solar panel housing. It's much easier to carry around like that and of course, it's lighter.
The only complaint is the firmware bug and maybe the price. However, the bug is fixed and when comparing to the Nomad 7 that costs $79.99 and does NOT have a removable battery pack. The 99 dollars actually seems like a great deal.
Etón sells the BoostSolar for $99.99 http://www.shopetoncorp.com/detail/ETO+NBOSO5000GR
Overall – if you're in the market for either a solar charger or a solar charging Bluetooth speaker – I would highly recommend you check out the offerings from Etón. They look great and at least the Rugged Rukus totally worked well. The BoostSolar had it's issues but worked quickly when in a cool place. Plus, we've been assured that the firmware issue is fixed.
Fine print: Both products were provided for temporary review and returned. Not a paid review or advertisement.