Built for Rugged Outdoor Conditions
Among the range of portable solar chargers on the market, the JOOS Orange can be categorized as fast and highly efficient (large, effective solar panel - more on that later), extremely rugged, and waterproof. The JOOS orange measures 8.6 x 5.8 inches and is 0.8 inches thick. It weighs 24 ounces, which is fine for many outdoor applications but could be on the heavy side for someone carrying the JOOS on a backpack or bike. The weight tradeoff may be worth it, depending on your needs.
The JOOS Orange has large (0.7-inch) hole that runs all the way through its steel and polymer case for serious security lockup. The hole is also large enough to accommodate a carabiner for those wish to attach it that way. The JOOS also has four hard-point threaded screw-holes in its side panels for very secure mounting on a boat or cabin, for example.
The top and back of the JOOS Orange are made of made of thick, UV-resistant polycarbonite material. Its chassis is made of stainless steel. A pair of built-in, adjustable legs can be popped into position for the best sun angle. It's obviously sturdy enough to drop and abuse without worry. The people at JOOS even shot five bullet holes into it, and the charger kept working.
The JOOS Orange is not only waterproof, it will continue charging when immersed in water (I tested this), as long as sunlight keeps hitting it. Regarding water, JOOS recommends only that you keep the unit's micro-USB port covered in wet conditions, and that you swab out the USB with alcohol after immersion to keep it from corroding. Readers have informed me that the JOOS corrodes in salt water, so best to keep saltwater exposure limited, and clean the unit throughly after exposure.
Charging in Low Light & Charging Speed
Besides its ruggedness, the JOOS Orange's ability to work in low-light conditions, and its charging speed set it apart. Unlike many solar chargers, which are fussy about angle to the sun, and light levels, the JOOS works with whatever light may be hitting it, including during cloudy and rainy weather.
Regarding speed, the latest (version 2.0) model I tested converts one hour in direct sun into the equivalent of two hours of 3G talk time (talk time uses more energy than the typical range of phone functions). JOOS also increased battery capacity in its latest model, with the large, replaceable, lithium-ion battery pack holding enough juice to charge an iPhone 2.5 times and to significantly recharge an iPad. The JOOS Orange fully recharges in 12 hours of full sun, and will charge in 8 hours when connected to an electrical power supply via its included UBS cable.
The JOOS Orange recharges in low-light conditions because of the efficiency of its solar cells, which are connected in parallel, and because it has low-light power circuitry, and a custom 8-bit microprocessor to manage all of its functions. The unit is also ventilated and its chassis serves as a heat-sink to minimize heat-induced efficiency reduction.
An optional Power Boost reflector kit (see photo) increases solar energy hitting the panel by 50 percent.
Accessories & Indicators
The JOOS Orange has a micro-USB port and its own cable, which has a jack that can accept a wide range of tips for many devices. The stock unit comes with five different types, including micro-USB, mini-USB, standard USB, and an Apple 30-pin. More than a dozen additional tips are available via the company's website, to fit everything from Motorola and Samsung phones, to Sony and Nintendo devices. The jack system is nice, because you don't need a complete cable, just the adapter tip.
Additional accessories include the reflector boost kit ($24.95), and a neoprene case ($29.95).
The JOOS Orange charge and discharge status is conveyed by a pair of tiny blinking LED lights. You'll want to keep the user guide handy for the first few times you use the device to understand what the lights mean. While not ideal, this minimalist approach is very damage-resistant and light on energy use compared to some type of graphical display. You may also download a simple dashboard application that will show you more detail when the JOOS is connected to a computer. Ideally, I'd like to see JOOS offer a much more full-featured app for device status and management.
Overall, I appreciate all of the thought and engineering that went into this product, with outdoors people in mind, and I regard it as best-in-class for its purpose.
Selected Tech Specs
- Low-light circuit (special circuit charges during low-light input).
- External connect: female micro-USB.
- Maximum solar cell wattage: 18W.
- Maximum charging voltage: 5V
- Maximum output current: 1.0A
- Accepts charge from a USB source.
- Battery: Lithium-ion polymer.
- Battery capacity: 20Wh – 5,400 mAh.
- Weight: 24 ounces.
- Enclosure rating: NEMA 6P (waterpoof), high transmissivity, automotive grade urethane used to encapsulate the solar cell. Electronics are potted with RTV Silicone.
- Operating temperature: Minimum, -4 degrees F; Maximum, 140 degrees F.