Last year we reviewed the Eton Soulra, a solar-powered portable iPod/iPhone speaker. Well, the company is now offering up the Soulra's big brother, the Soulra XL.
Featuring an extra-large, retractable 72-square-inch "enhanced" monocrystal solar panel, the 7-pound Soulra XL has a built-in 2000mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery. The company says it will run for 5 hours of continuous play (as long as it has some sun to soak up) and has eight speaker drivers (two tweeters, two woofers, and four passive radiators), and a 22W output, which will fill a decent-size room or patio space with sound.
This model's sleeker looking than the smaller Soulra, but isn't as rugged, and doesn't offer the splash-proof design with speakers that are sealed on the inside to provide "protection from sand, water, and other outdoor elements." Still, the unit appears solidly built and has an integrated carrying handle, as well as a removable padded strap for carrying the Soulra XL over your shoulder.
The best thing to do is charge the battery fully using the included AC adapter before you take it outside. Fully charged, you should get about 5 hours of battery life from the system as your iPod or iPhone is charged in the cradle. But that number will rise to as much as 8 hours if you flip up the solar panel and expose it to direct sunlight (obviously, how much sunlight you get will affect battery life).
The unit doesn't recharge as quickly via the solar panel as it does using the AC adapter. It takes about 5 hours to fully charge the unit in direct sun versus about 2 hours with the AC adapter (note: solar charging will not work through a window). But so long as you've started with a good charge, you should be able to leave the unit outside playing for a good portion of the day.