Etón is one of the few Apple accessory manufacturers that seems to be embracing photovoltaic (solar) technology to power its products.
Earlier this year I reviewed Etón’s Mobius case for the iPhone 4 and 4S, which features an 1800 mAh battery coupled with a solar charging panel to keep your device topped off with power whenever it is illuminated with the sun or indoor lights.
Now the company has introduced the Rukus Solar Bluetooth Sound System (US$150.00 MSRP) to give your tunes a boost without the need for a power outlet.
The Rukus Solar has an unusual design that I found myself liking more and more as I used the device. As the amount of electricity generated by the photovoltaic panel is largely dependent on the area of that panel, Etón chose to separate the Rukus’s two cylindrical speaker tubes by about 8.5 inches. The panel covers a little over 39 square inches on the top of the Rukus Solar. Etón does include an AC adapter for cloudy days and indoor use, although I never had to use it.
In front of the panel are a number of buttons surrounding a small e-ink display. The display is used to show battery charge level, Bluetooth connectivity, whether or not you’re charging an external USB device, and if the speakers are receiving a signal from the AUX port instead of over Bluetooth. The display is, as one would expect, extremely readable in bright sunlight.
Two more small but welcome design features — there’s a mesh pocket that will hold your iPhone or other device for charging, and a surprisingly comfortable handle built in that works well for transporting the 3 lb., 8 oz. (1.6 kg) speakers.
One of the first questions I had was how long it takes to fully charge the Rukus Solar in the sun. The company said six hours in direct sunlight, so I decided to test that. Going from empty to fully charged took me about five hours, but I live in a place with pretty intense sunlight. That charge lasted for about 7 hours and 45 minutes of usage.
Waiting for the battery to run out of juice, I was able to listen to a lot of tunes. The sound quality of the Rukus is great — the volume is impressive, there’s good separation of stereo channels thanks to the design, and the Rukus not only hits the highs beautifully but also kicks bass. If you feel like the bass is a bit overwhelming, there’s a button on the control that you can use to tame it a bit.
If you want to use the Rukus Solar to charge another device, you need to take into account that the USB port only puts out 500 milliamps of current. Although the iPhone 4S apparently needs about 1 Amp for charging, the Rukus Solar dutifully charged the device when connected. Surprisingly, when I plugged in a third-generation iPad, it showed that it was being charged by the Rukus Solar. That surprised me since that model requires 2.1 Amps to charge. I did notice that charging the iPad sucked down the battery of the Rukus Solar a bit faster.
The Etón Rukus Solar Bluetooth Sound System has a lot going for it — modernistic design, photovoltaic power, good sound, and the ability to charge other devices. Frankly, I think this is one of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers I’ve used.
- Doesn’t require an external power source thanks to built-in photovoltaic panel
- Can be used to charge other devices
- Impressive volume and sound quality
- Easy-to-read e-Ink display
- Logical button layout
None to speak of. This is a high-quality product that I’d be happy to spend $150 of my own money on!
Who is it for?
Outdoorsy types who want to get away from power outlets and still enjoy their music. Couple this with Etón’s Mobius solar powered charger for iPhone, and you have a way to spend weeks away from civilization and keep your goodies fully powered up.