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Customer Review

349 of 358 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect compromise and must have worry-free solar battery, February 8, 2012
This review is from: Solar Components, LLC JOOS Orange Portable Solar Charger (Sports)
When it comes to devices that charge your gadgets on the go, there are tons of external battery options out there, tons of portable solar panels and transportable solar panels out there, and finally, many crossover devices that are portable solar panels with built in external batteries.

Of all the choices out there today, one of the seemingly clunkiest has got to be the Joos Orange.

At 1.5 lbs, it's certainly not light, and at 5400mAh, it's weight to battery capacity ratio is far far below average. A 5400mAh battery can charge an iPhone 2.5 times. At that capacity, external batteries that have no solar panel or ruggedness are far far smaller. In fact, batteries of roughly 1.5lbs typically hold over 11,000mAh or more, more than double the capacity of the Joos Orange.

And solar panels, no matter how incredibly efficient, are still not very efficient at all.

So, why do I LOVE this solar panel battery so much?

Three main reasons and one small reason:

- FIRST, it's got the most efficient solar panel I've seen yet. Keeping in mind that I can't really tell the efficiency difference between a 3" solar panel, a folding textile based solar panel, and the Joos Orange panel, the only factor I can really use is how fast it charges. The Joos can charge its internal battery via the sun about 5% every hour, requiring 18-22 hours to fully charge. That would typically mean about 3 days of charging by sun to get one full charge of the 5400mAh built in battery. But since a fully charged Joos Orange battery charges an iPhone to 100% 2.5 times, the Joos battery really only needs about a 35-40% charge on itself in order to get an iPhone from 0-100%. Basically, that means just over 1 day of solar charging = 1 full iPhone charge. Put another way, in a pinch, roughly 1 hour of charging the Joos battery in direct sunlight charges an iPhone enough for 2 hours of talk time.

And that's damn efficient compared to other portable solar panel chargers I've seen to date. You might argue that It's less effective than a trans-portable solar sheet, but it's way more effective than any portable solar device I've ever seen. It's likely more efficient per square inch than a transportable solar sheet, and of course, you can't really charge a transportable solar sheet while walking around, as you have to set it up on a stand.

NOTE: Two other solar chargers I own are much less efficient as they get about 10-20 minutes talk time with a 60 minute charge and have only a 1000-1500mAh battery built in. Better than nothing, for sure, but a far cry from the Joos Orange and really only good in the most desperate of conditions.

- SECOND, Toughness. There are two major thieves of the weight to battery capacity ratio. First, the solar panel itself adds a lot of weight to the battery (and forces the larger size too) when compared to pure external batteries. Second, and just as big a thief of the weight to battery capacity ratio is all that ruggedness built in. And I truly, deeply thank Joos for that toughness. This little gadget is so tough you can drop it in a stream, pick it up, and it'll keep on working. You can have it out by the pool and if it gets splashed on or if it accidentally falls into the pool, no problem. You can wash it under the faucet or in a stream if it gets dirty....This baby isn't just water resistant, it's completely water proof, and submersible. In addition to that, it's also shock proof and dust proof. That's not just worry mitigation, that's worry proof. In an emergency situation or out camping/hiking/boating, it's one device you can count on for years and years of use and storage.

For that kind of maintenance free and worry free toughness and dependability, I'll happily deal with the reduced weight to battery capacity ratio.

NOTE: There are plenty of folding transportable solar chargers out there that are water proof, but the very nature of a product made of textile material in these large and cumbersome folding solar panels means that these chargers need regular care and maintenance and have higher risk factors for damage over years of use and non-use (long term storage can dry and damage textile materials without proper maintenance and care). The simple, solid materials of the Joos Orange means that it will not suffer the wear and tear prone to textile materials.

- THIRD: Light range. One of the biggest problems with most portable solar panel chargers is that they just don't work under cloudy conditions. The other ones I have don't charge at all even on a sunny day unless aimed directly at the sun. The Joos Orange may not be a sci-fi level super fast charger, but even under cloudy conditions, it charges. It actually, really, charges. This alone is an unbelievable value in my eyes.

This makes the Joos Orange the only useful portable solar charger I've ever owned.

NOTE: With transportable textile folding chargers, you have to set it up at a camp site and ideally adjust the angle once in a while to aim at the sun. If you sit at a camp site all day, no problem. But if you spend much of the day away from a camp site, or set up at a different location every day, you only get a few hours of sunlight each day to set up and charge, especially if you worry about animals getting to the site while you're away, wind knocking it down, or even have a few trust issues with other campers. With the Joos, you can strap it to a backpack or waist pack, keeping it with you, and charging all day long while walking, boating, or doing other activities. No setup, just make sure the panel faces outward and you're charging. And unlike other portable chargers, you don't have to constantly monitor the angle of your device to charge. Just strap it and go. Speaking of which, this is why i think an open faced case with more strapping options would be ideal.

- Finally, and this is a small thing, the device is designed with a rather large hole at one end making it easy to strap to a backpack using string or a large carabiner. That means keeping it attached to your backpack and sun charging while you're hiking or moving around, something you can't do with transportable textile based folded/rolled solar charger, and as long as the panel is facing outwards, you don't need to worry about direct sunlight like you do with other portable solar chargers, and even better, even if it's raining, you can keep it attached to your backpack and know that it'll keep charging and won't get water damage.

That's a huge benefit compared to transportable textile based solar chargers which have to be set up at a camp site, and portable solar chargers which, while also able to attach to backpacks, only charge when pointed directly at the sun.

CONCLUSION:

All in all, the Joos Orange chose all the right compromises and combination of features. More battery capacity and more effective in low light conditions than other portable solar chargers, more "charge on the go" utilitarian and long term toughness than transportable textile based solar chargers, and a truly maintenance free and worry free portable solar panel.

When broken down into scenarios, I'd say that it may only be reasonably useful on business trips as the feature gains reducing weight to battery capacity ratio aren't as highly valued, but, it's extremely useful on camping trips and boating trips where those those feature gains are not only valuable but critical.

One more thing, in this era where smart phones have become not only a critical voice communication tool, but also the be all and end all triage device for all things communication, internet, and GPS, the worry-free toughness, solar efficiency, reasonable battery capacity, and portability of the Joos Orange is not a nice-to-have in an emergency 3 day kit, but an absolutely must have.

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Addendum notes:

NOTE: Incidentally, if you're worried about the battery losing efficiency over time, as batteries tend to do over years of use, note that the back panel opens up and the battery is replaceable. I imagine that there is at least one o-ring, possibly more to ensure a water-tight fit, and they don't sell the spare batteries today. But it will hopefully be an option in the future.

NOTE2: I hope they create a case (denier fabric or strap weave or skeletal frame) with attachment options (e.g. 4 corner carabiner rivets or something along those lines) to give more flexibility to attach it to backpacks, tents, car windows, or even a car roof, etc. while still leaving the solar panel fully exposed to making charging in a variety of scenarios much easier. The single large hole is useful, but hard to stabilize.

NOTE3: I'm not sure, but I believe the front bezel is white to try and partially mitigate having the device get over-heated when out in the sun all day.

NOTE4: The only bummer with this device is the cabling. It's a female micro-USB. That's okay, but the port is shaped a little funny, more rectangular than a typical micro-usb female plug. some of my other micro-USB cables didn't work, some did. I ended-up spending $45 with SolarJoos in additional cabling so I can have spares in case I ever lose one.

NOTE5: I have heard from customer support that charging via USB only gets the internal battery to about 90% (with considerable slow down around the 85% mark). So it may be best to charge the internal battery via sun for the last bit to get it to 100%.

NOTE6: The one feature available on other solar portable chargers that I wish the Joos Orange had is some method (e.g. a button) to be able to see the blinks to know, whenever I want, what the charge level is).
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Showing 1-10 of 36 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 19, 2012 4:20:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 19, 2012 4:22:41 PM PDT
Hey, Tetsuo--Another very informative review. I'm very impressed by the waterproof ruggedness of the Joos, and the replaceable battery! Had I been aware of it when I was shopping, I may very well have bought it for its specs alone. As it is, I've got the SunTactics sCharger-5 (8.6 oz) portable solar charger paired with an incredi-Charge 11,000 mAh USB lithium-ion battery (10.5 oz). The solar panel is a rigid, hinged high-efficiency unit that does not include a battery, but charges almost as rapidly as a USB wall charger in full sunlight (and somewhat less well in partial, shaded or overcast conditions). The battery pack has an LED charge readout, but is not the least bit weather-proof... Still, I prefer separate units as this allows me the option of using them together or separately.

Posted on May 3, 2012 1:47:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2012 1:48:32 PM PDT
Firemonkey says:
Nice informative review. I just picked up a Joos Orange as well, and it is certainly built to outlast the technology. I am still experimenting with the charging efficiency, to see how quickly it will charge from the sun, and drain when charging my devices. It is currently sitting in my back yard generating 1.6 watts of power. I bought it for use while hiking, bike touring, or kayak camping, and while the weight was a definite concern, its ruggedness, and the fact that it is absolutely waterproof were more important. Besides, I have more than 1.5 pounds of extra weight on my belly that I could shed if weight was really an issue.

I plan to add a couple of these on the back of the unit, so I have a few points where I can attach some paracord to keep it properly secured on the back of a pack, bike trailer, kayak, etc.

Zip Tie Mount, 1/2 X 1/2, 25 Pack

These are also readily available at hardware stores, and big box home improvement stores too. It is worth noting that they just use double adhesive foam tape on the back side, which will break down over time. I plan to remove the foam tape and attach mine with some epoxy.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 10:31:37 AM PDT
Good idea on the zip tie! Thanks for the info.
It really would be great if Solar Joos came out with a skeletal frame to make various attachment options available would be ideal, but in the meantime, the zip ties are a great idea. Right now, I use cheap wiring and run it through the mesh sides to have additional attachment points. That large hole at the top is better than nothing, but allows the Joos Orange to swing around too much when tied to my backpack.
And yes, I agree that it makes sense to have a few of these.

Posted on Jun 25, 2012 1:11:56 PM PDT
Peter Bell says:
good review! I use mine on both my touring bike and my kayak. I drilled a hole the width of this http://www.princessauto.com/pal/product/8290371/Security-Locks/Class-III/IV-5/8-in.-Dogbone-Deadbolt-Hitch-Pin so that I can leave it locked to my bike when my bike is locked.

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 10:58:33 AM PDT
ZAM_91 says:
Hey I am looking to buy this product since I will be serving in the Peace Corps next year and electricity may be limited or not available. I am looking to charge a Kindle and a nokia cell phone. I am just curious about the length of the batteries life? I noticed they don't sell extra batteries online, so I was curious if you have any information on the life of the battery?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 17, 2012 5:27:06 PM PDT
Hi, I'm not really sure because I haven't owned this long enough to test it over years. But so far, with fairly extensive use, it's holding up really well.

The key thing to remember is that it charges, with reasonably good sunlight, about 25-35% of the full battery charge on any given day. And more importantly, when completely empty, it takes a while to get to a good charge. So as a general rule, you want to keep it at 3 blinks or higher. (5 blinks is 80%-100% charge). and try to avoid getting to 1 blink.

that's contrary to the life expectancy of the battery since clearing the battery once in a while is supposedly good for battery life, but in this case, since it takes a while to be usable, and you want to keep this usable, I'd recommend keeping the charge relatively high, and avoid charging things when you're down to 1 blink.

Does this make sense?

Posted on Aug 31, 2012 10:26:41 AM PDT
Cerealbox says:
Your math doesn't add up. If it gets 5% charge per hour in the sun then it should charge in about 20 hours (3 days) which is right. But if it takes 20 hours of solar charging to do 2.5 charges on an iPhone, then that's 8 hours for one full charge for an iPhone. So 1 hour gets you 12.5% of your battery. I've been around solar chargers for over a year and have learned that they never function at 100% rated efficiency. You can expect 80% at best when out in the real world and not a lab.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 31, 2012 11:11:03 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 31, 2012 12:33:56 PM PDT
You're right, my math is a little off and rough, and the spec isn't perfect. and the related problem in the real world is that there's no way to guarantee that the charge is operating at maximum efficiency throughout an 8 hour period. Plus, over time, the glass over the solar panel gets scratched up, which decreases the efficiency of the panel underneath.

I have similar experiences with you, solar charges (and external batteries, for that matter) rarely work at the the efficiencies that are stated on the spec, and over time, performance degrades fairly rapidly.

But in my two camping tests (doing another test labor day weekend), this charger was the only one that charged the iPhone fairly well throughout the entire trip, and as long as I was reasonable with iPhone usage (turning GPS on only when I needed it, and limited data usage, dimming the phone in the evening, and turning off wifi and 3G when it wasn't needed), basically I was able to keep the iPhone near 100% every evening without the solar joos battery draining below 50%.

Compared to every other solar charger I have (I've bought two more since this review), those numbers, even considering their real world inefficiency compared to specs, is still the best and most useful one that I have. it's the only one that allows me to use the iPhone every day, throughout the day, with some reasonable compromises to improve battery efficiency over extended periods without other sources of power. All my other solar chargers take multitudes longer to charge and have dinkier batteries.

Thanks for the feedback (^-^)

Posted on Aug 31, 2012 11:14:11 AM PDT
(;_;) a little bummed I have 2 not helpfuls after working so hard on this review....oh well...guess there's no way to please everyone....

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2012 6:29:30 AM PDT
They were probably accidental clicks! ;)
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