PROS / The metal construction of the faceplate will protect the panel from most kinds of damage.
CONS / This is one of the heaviest solar phone chargers we tested.
VERDICT / The JOOS Orange features sturdy construction designed for outdoor use and is definitely capable of going most anywhere you want to take it.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The JOOS Orange is one of the best solar phone chargers. The Orange is rugged and durable. It is on the larger side, which means it's not quite a portable as others, but it’s no bigger than an iPad, so it will likely fit in any bag.
The Orange is made for daily use, and we definitely recommend it for anyone that might find themselves away from an available power outlet for any period of time, particularly outdoors and in the wilderness. The upper part of the frame is solid steel, which makes it one of the heaviest of the chargers we reviewed, but the security hole drilled into the face lets you securely lock it in place at unattended campsites or on your bike.
In our testing, this charger showed a 19-percent efficiency in creating electricity from sunlight, which is one of the better ratings among the solar chargers we looked at. However, you’re not powerless to charge the JOOS Orange after the sun goes down. The charger comes with several cords, any of which can be plugged into a computer or wall USB port for charging. Charging in this way is faster than charging in the sun, taking the overall time from 12 hours to just 5.5. You may be able to improve on this time by plugging it in to a USB 2.0 port, but the overall power output going to the charger depends entirely on the company that manufactured the computer or USB block you’re plugging in to.
The LiPo battery is exceptionally a powerful at 5,400 mAh, meaning it can charge your smartphone with room to spare. These types of batteries are not designed to maintain their charge in long-term storage, so you can expect at least a 3-percent power loss over the course of a month. Its capacity is slightly smaller than most tablet batteries, meaning it won’t fill them all the way, but you can also plug your device into Orange for pass-through charging to operate your device while Orange charges its own battery backup.
Like most solar phone chargers in this review, the discharge rate is on the lower end because of the 1-amp micro-USB port. This means some devices will take longer than others to charge. The Orange has enough power to fully charge an iPhone 6 in just over one hour and 48 minutes, an iPhone 6 Plus in just under three hours, and a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in three hours and 13 minutes.
Curiously, the Orange comes with two cables: a black one for plugging in and charging your mobile devices and a white one for charging the battery pack and communication with your computer. We understand this as a matter of hardwiring that may protect particular components from damage, but we did find this somewhat confusing when we first unboxed the device, and you'll need to keep careful track of the cables. There is a heavy-duty zippered storage bag for these cables that comes with the charger.
The solar panel turned out to be one of the best solar cell phone chargers we reviewed. We tested it side by side with the other devices under normal conditions that included clear and overcast skies. We even took them apart and tested the components directly to get the most accurate readings possible.
Solar Components LLC offers a bolt-on reflector for the Orange that promises better-than-normal charging. In normal light however, we got better readings than those that are in the manufacturer's documentation. In direct sunlight we recorded upwards of 6.2 volts directly off the panel. The internal circuitry before the battery appears to regulate power to the battery at a steady 5 volts. This is important because it means the charger’s battery is safe from overcharging.
While the design is great, it is not the best thing about the JOOS Orange. There is a dashboard application for the Orange that you can download from the Solar Components website. This dashboard allows you to check the status of the solar panel and the battery whenever you plug it into your computer. A simple interface tells you the exact percentage of the battery’s charge and even how many watts of power the cells are generating. While we weren’t able to confirm this, we suspect it means that the Orange is capable of charging from both the USB and the panel at the same time.
At 25 ounces, the JOOS Orange is one of the heaviest of the portable solar phone charger we reviewed. This weight comes from the steel face of the device that protects the solar cell from most kinds of damage. The rest of the device is made from lightweight, polycarbonate material. This portion is mostly the battery casing.
The housing is very durable and well put together. The micro-USB port has a rubber plug, the circuit board is encased in urethane and the battery compartment is sealed with gaskets. It’s probably going to be okay if it’s been submerged in water for a few minutes or exposed to heavy rain. If for some reason the charger has been submerged for an extended period of time however, be sure to dry it off thoroughly before opening the battery compartment to inspect it for signs of corrosion.
To be frank, there was an incident during our testing of the JOOS Orange that involved Solar Components LLC sending us a new battery. While ours may have been one of their more unusual requests, Solar Components responded better than we expected by contacting us the same day and expediting a replacement battery within a few days. They do not have contact telephone number, which is inconvenient, but representatives are responsive with their email.
Solar Components offers great service online too. The entire site is designed around the JOOS Orange, and it is filled with reference material, including specifications, add-on products, company news and blogs. This is particularly handy because the internal documentation that comes with the Orange is somewhat anemic, and much of the information we found on the device was only found online.
The JOOS Orange is made for serious outdoor use. We tested the panel and it scored better than any other with a 19-percent efficiency rating. It is heavier than others, but that weight mostly comes from its solid steel face that helps protect the panel while providing extra security should you decide to leave it chained up outside to charge. This solar battery charger features solid, watertight construction to keep it working in situations that would ruin the average charger.