The venerable Will Smith said it best, “Summer, summer, summertime. Time to sit back and unwind.” The sun is out and the tunes should be blaring. That’s where the Eton Rukus Solar comes in. This speaker system streams music from your phone via Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable while keeping its battery charged with a massive solar panel array. What’s more, a USB port allows the Rukus Solar to charge your phone, too.
The Rukus Solar is a fantastic outdoor audio system. Well, that is, aside from two curious design decisions.
Like most Eton products, the Rukus Solar feels like it’s built to last. It’s constructed out of hard plastic and the front-side buttons are very sturdy. The speakers are protected by solid grills, and there are bits of rubber placed strategically around the system so the plastic shouldn’t get scuffed up.
The front display is of the e-ink variety. As such the screen can be viewed in direct sunlight, and when in use, doesn’t consume as much energy as a traditional LCD screen.
The solar array takes up the majority of the top panel. It’s huge. Eton claims that the solar panel can recharge the device in 6 hours. However, unless there isn’t a cloud in the sky, I found that the panel is best used to keep the Rukus Solar charged during use. It was much easier and quicker to give the speaker a charge with the included AC plug, and then take the unit outside and let the sun maintain the charge. As previously mentioned, a USB port allows the Rukus Solar to recharge a phone, too.
Audio is streamed to the Rukus Solar through Bluetooth. The audio quality is sufficient for the $150 price point, but not extremely impressive overall. The sound is full and sports a bit of bass. The treble is a tad sharp while the mid-range is about right. It falls squarely in the “good enough” category.
Don’t expect the Rukus Solar to pound. It tends to cut out at high volume although I must admit that the speaker system can hold its own against sound docks in the same price range. It’s not a party speaker but is more than adequate for a few tunes while enjoying some sun.
Two curious flaws
The Rukus Solar features a built-in cell phone holder. But it’s on the bottom of the device. And it’s just a piece of elastic. I don’t trust it.
Of course thanks to Bluetooth’s range, owners do not need to use this holder. The connected phone could be safely stashed away in a bag or pocket and the Rukus Solar would still playback the music. But it would be nice if the speaker system had a more secure, beach-friendly holder. A simple tray or drawer would be sufficient, provide more protection and allow the Rukus Solar to live up to its full potential as an outdoor device ready for some ruckus.
The Rukus Solar lacks an FM radio, which as I’ve concluded after reviewing over a dozen audio docks, is a unfortunate sign of the times. FM/AM radio still appeals to me. When you just need some random music, it’s so much easier to simply turn on a radio than finding your phone, loading the app and then finding an album/streaming station.
There was a time when nearly every household object included a radio tuner. You could nearly walk into the kitchen and tune to AM 760 from the toaster. Now, with the Rukus Solar and its thousands of counterparts, audio is only provided by a cell phone or Bluetooth-equipped media player.
In my mind the Rukus Solar is a near-perfect outdoor device. It’s built to last and makes it easy to bring music outside. Even with the two curious oversights it’s a great device and well worth the $150 MSRP (Amazon sells it for $130). The device comes in black, green and white.