Solar chargers used to be miraculous but are quickly becoming commonplace. Here at EarthTechling, we’ve featured or reviewed dozens over the years. Each has their pros and cons, depending on your gadgets and lifestyle.
Recently, I had the chance to take the JOOS Orange solar charger for a spin, and lemme tell ya: if you’re looking for a go-everywhere, charge-everything device that you won’t have to coddle, this is it.
The JOOS Orange is a portable solar charger billed as the best on the market. “Best” is always a subjective term, and depends entirely upon personal style and needs, but it’s safe to say that the JOOS Orange tries to be as many things for as many people as possible. Seriously, it can charge everything from a tablet to a mini-fridge.
Upon arrival, I noted minimal cardboard packaging, always a plus for a green gadget. There are very few moving parts on the JOOS, basically it’s just one solidly built photovoltaic panel with some adapter cords.
Upon removing the JOOS solar from the box, I noted that there were some handy tripod legs built into the back panel. Trying to deploy them was more difficult than I’d like, as they were very stiff, and I almost thought I would break them off I was tugging so hard. They finally sprang open, and each time since the first has been easier.
Then, I put the JOOS in the sun to see what would happen. After a few seconds on a sunny window sill, the red LED light that indicates active charging started to blink.
The red and green indicator lights are the focus of one of my slight gripes with the JOOS Orange. You’ve got to read the instruction manual to figure out the difference between the red and green LED lights, and what they mean if they’re blinking (or not) in a certain way. No blinking can either mean that the battery is full, or that there isn’t enough light for charging. The green LED repeats its series of blinks when the JOOS is charging from the sun under normal conditions, but if it’s charging in low light, the green LED won’t come on at all. JOOS says this is done to save energy in low light conditions, which I appreciate, but it’s a little confusing.
This is all compounded by the fact that unlike the Waka Waka Power, the JOOS Orange doesn’t have a button you can push to test power levels. In order to see battery status, you’ve got to plug in one of the charging cables. Annoying.
Other than those two design quirks, however, the JOOS delivers big time. It charges quickly, gathering enough power for about 2 hours of cell phone talk time after just 1 hour in the direct sun (direct being the operative word).
It’s also extremely rugged, something I can’t say for many of the other solar charging devices I’ve tested in the past. Most need to be handled with care, but the JOOS can easily withstand being left outside in any weather, and doesn’t require special equipment to clean the solar panel. Just wipe it with a towel, and mild soap and water.
A free Solar JOOS was provided by Real Goods for the purposes of this review. The author was not told what to write or compensated by the company in any other way.