When you mention the company Etón most people do not think of entertainment devices, they think Red Cross, emergency, or survival electronics. It's a fair assessment since a majority of what they make is solar or hand cranked radios, shortwave radios, flashlights, or combinations of those devices. Given the broad range of electronics they make it should be a surprise that they do have entertainment devices like the Etón Rukus Solar.
The Etón Rukus Solar is one of Etón's entries in the portable speaker market. Right off the bat it is noticeably larger than most at 12 inches wide, 8.125 inches high, 3.25 inches deep, and about 4 pounds. That's about double size of most of its competition. The reason for that size is its solar panel, something the competition does not have. In direct sunlight the solar panel will keep the Rukus Solar's internal battery charged. For times when there is no sun there is an AC adapter (which is included). On a full charge Etón states the Rukus Solar will give you about eight hours of play time. That is about what I got. Seattle has been very rainy and cloudy of late so I have not had a chance to take it outside and really test out its solar capabilities or longevity, but I did put it in the window to get what sun I could. With the power on, when the sun did peek out, the charging indicator did come on. On a bright sunny summer day though it should be good for playback all day and well into the dark. If the battery is dead Etón lists the solar charging time at 6 hours, but it's quicker to charge it with the AC adapter at 4 hours and of course with the AC adapter you get as much playback time as you want.
The solar panel and internal battery on the Etón Rukus Solar can pull double duty. Not only can they power the speakers, but with the handy USB port you can recharge your phone or portable media player. The USB port only puts out 5V so it's not enough to recharge an iPad.
Connecting the Etón Rukus Solar with your device is a simple process. The Bluetooth easily pairs with your device at the press of a button. If your device does not have Bluetooth there is an auxiliary mini-jack where you can plug in a hard-wired device for playback. If your player is small like a phone or classic iPod there is a "storage net" on the backside that will hold it securely.
"That's all nice and fine, but how does it sound?" I can hear you asking. "Good," is the best way to describe the sound of the Rukus Solar. It's not the best I've heard, but for what it's built for (the backyard party, fun at the beach, or out camping) it is certainly quite capable of providing good audio. At the high end the treble it can be a little tinny sounding, while the bass in normal mode is adequate. There is a bass enhance button which boosts the bass to a respectable level. Using the bass enhancement I played some techno ("State of Art" by Ken Ishii), sludge metal ("Jonny's Last Race" by Drag Pack) and classic pop/rock ("Drive My Car" by The Beatles), while each song handles it different they each have given a significant bass element, some more than others. I found with my personal taste the bass enhancement was just enough to give these songs their proper low end. The only problem with the bass enhancement is there is no indicator on the display to show that it is on. Granted you can hear the difference, but it would have been nice to have a visual indicator. A quick side note on the display, it is done with "E Ink" (the same stuff used for e-readers) which makes it clear to see in most light from any angle.
While you can control the volume on the speakers, it does have its limit, not that it's quiet. I found just turning the Etón Rukus Solar all the way up and then controlling the volume with my playback device the best way to go. The sounds were crisp and clean even at the highest volume. Though I did find static in the playback of devices hard-wired through the auxiliary jack and plugged into the USB port at the same time, but that only became noticeable at low quiet volumes.
The Etón Rukus Solar's construction is solid with a thick plastic feel; there is nothing flimsy about it. In fact I had it briefly placed on a stack of precariously balanced empty boxes when my cat decided to investigate it. I'd say it took a good four foot tumble with nary a scratch. It has rubber feet if you want to lay it down or a full rubber base if you want to stand it up. Either way it isn't going to easily slide off of whatever you've placed it on if it gets accidentally bumped.
Overall I liked the Etón Rukus Solar. It has good audio playback with a sufficient bass rumble. What sunlight I was able to test it with makes me feel that this would be a perfect device for a backyard barbeque or any other gathering. It's size might be too big for some people, but the solar panel power makes up for that. Maybe it's time to think entertainment when you hear the name Etón .