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.
Measuring 8.1x15.1x5.3 inches (HWD), the Soulra XL is about twice the size of the original Soulra--and weighs twice as much at 7 pounds--but it's easy enough to carry around. Eton has also improved the design of the translucent shield that covers your iPod or iPhone when docked and helps keep your device dry in the event of a water splash or sand. Now the shield is better integrated into the unit and is on a hinge that opens and closes. There's also an auxiliary input for connecting other audio devices.
Overall, as we said, we really liked the design, including the rubberized buttons on the unit itself, and appreciated that Eton included a remote--it, too, has a durable look and feel. As with the original Soulra, if we had some quibbles, they concerned the lack of an FM tuner and the sound quality, which is certainly an improvement over the original but still leaves something to be desired in the bass department, even with the bass button engaged.
This model can play significantly louder than the original, but you probably won't want to really crank it--especially with bass-heavy material--because it has a tendency to sound a bit crunchy at high volumes. In other words, the Soulra XL sounds decent enough for casual listening, but don't expect the big, rich, more detailed sound that you get from a larger unit such as the(Altec's boom box has a battery option but doesn't have a built-in rechargeable battery or the solar charging option).
We put the Soulra XL up against the more affordable and compact, our Editors' Choice pick in the portable iPod speaker category, and the S715i sounded better; it wasn't a huge difference, but there was definitely a difference. That said, the Soulra XL seems better built and better suited to outdoor use. Also, the S715i doesn't feature the built-in solar panel, which adds potential value.
You can get the Soulra XL for $250 online. As we said, you can find better-sounding units for the money, but the Soulra XL gets high marks for its design. When all is said and done, the Soulra XL makes a good outdoor portable sound system for your iPod or iPhone. It does fine indoors, too, but you should really only get this if you plan on using it primarily outdoors.