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Rukus Solar Bluetooth Sound System review

- August 1st, 2013

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The Rukus Solar Bluetooth Sound System came into my life in the fall–the worst time on the West coast to test a solar powered anything. But I’d been looking for an amplified Bluetooth speaker for streaming music from my iPhone, and was excited when the review unit arrived.

My streaming needs are basic—Using mp3s on my mobile device, provide music for a patio or campfire or picnic blanket. Several appropriate devices are currently on the market.

However the Rukus Solar is the only one with a solar panel and the idea that I could pump tunes while simultaneously charging my cellphone using sunlight appealed to me on both a practical and a tech-nerd basis.

Fast forward a few months. I attend a weekly kickball game in the warm months—picnic blankets, coolers, enthusiastic people receptive to music—and it seemed the perfect scenario to bust out the Rukus.

Eton, who makes the Rukus, doesn’t specify wattage or much detail in their spec sheet, but I was glad to discover the Rukus paired with my phone quickly and easily, and is plenty loud for a small listening environment, and it’s nice and clear, pumping out undistorted audio from its two small drivers. Sound quality isn’t the best I’ve heard from a Bluetooth speaker, but better than most devices its size or smaller.

It’s convenient to carry around, easily fitting into a backpack and equipped with a lunchbox-style handle. An elastic sleeve on the underside holds your smartphone (though of course it’s Bluetooth, so you can play tunes through the Rukus with your phone in your pocket). The solar panel covers most of the top of the unit.

Now about that solar panel…

It works! Eton says it fully charges in direct sunlight in about 6 hours, and that sounds about right, given my experience. It also draws sun juice while playing back (albeit more slowly) and best of all,  it can charge a dying cellphone while playing music.

In the configuration which I assume is typical—Rukus playing music from phone via Bluetooth at max volume, while simultaneously charging phone plugged into its USB port, solar panel exposed to direct sunlight—the charge doesn’t quite keep up with the drain. However the Rukus is always charging as long as it’s in the sun. Turn the music off for a a bit, and the solar panel draws enough juice to both recharge the unit and keep your phone battery full.

If you’re looking for a wireless speaker for outdoor use to pair with your tablet or smartphone there are several options out there, but the addition of the solar panel on the Rukus unit strengthens its appeal substantially and justifies its $149 price tag, given just how frequently there’s a dying cellphone at hand, alongside a communal desire for untethered tuneage.

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ButNoSeriously

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1 comment

  1. Greg Gazin | August 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Looks pretty funky, almost Johnny 5 ish.

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