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Amazon Echo Input Review

It's an Echo for people who can't put up with the quality of the usual built-in speakers and want to use Alexa to listen to music on their own speakers. Here's our Echo Input review.

Should I Buy The Amazon Echo Input?
It's an Echo Dot without the built-in speaker and is great if you want to add Alexa to your own speakers. But you can do the same with an Echo Dot, which can often be found for less money.

Price When Reviewed
  • $34.99
The range of Echo Devices is ever expanding, and one of the latest is the Echo Input. It's designed to plug into your existing speaker(s), be that an old hi-fi, a surround-sound home cinema receiver or any amplified speaker.

You connect it via its 3.5mm output or over Bluetooth, so long as your Bluetooth speaker doesn't require you to enter a PIN code to pair. There are a couple of disadvantages to using Bluetooth, which we'll explain below.

Ultimately, if you want to use Alexa through your own great-sounding speakers, the Input is a good way to go.

Price & Availability
The Input costs £34.99 from Amazon or $34.99 from Amazon US. That's a £15 / $15 saving compared to the third-gen Echo Dot, but at the time of writing Amazon was selling the Input for a mere £19.99 in the UK which is a bargain.

As of yet, Google doesn't offer an equivalent product with the Google Assistant.

Features & Design
Roughly the size of a coaster and only 14mm thick, this little puck can be placed unobtrusively near your speaker. It's inadvisable to place the Input directly onto a speaker or on top of a home cinema receiver as you may well get interference noise, as we did when we tried putting it on top of a Fostex reference speaker. Placing it slightly away from the internal electronics removed the faint clicking sound.

Amazon supplies a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable in the box, but if your speakers have an RCA input - or something else - you'll need to supply your own connecting cable.

There's also a microUSB cable and USB mains adapter in the box which you'll need to power the Input. However, as with the second-gen Echo Dot, you can also power it from a USB power bank which makes the Input even more versatile.
You could use it outdoors with a compatible battery-powered Bluetooth speaker or even in your car, so long as your car stereo has PIN-free Bluetooth pairing or a 3.5mm input. And you could power the Input from a USB charging port in your car, or by using a charger that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter socket. This is somewhat moot in the US where Amazon sells - by invitation only - the Echo Auto.
Getting back to the Input, it has four far-field microphones and two buttons. One is for muting the mics, and the other is a multi-purpose button for manually invoking Alexa, acknowledging timers or alarms and more.

What's missing are volume buttons, but you can say "Alexa, volume 7" or "Alexa, turn it down" as well as adjusting volume on whichever speaker you've connected the Input to.

If you do want to use the Input with a Bluetooth speaker, it's a good idea to browse Amazon's list of compatible speakers to make sure yours is one of them. Amazon also sells the Input in various bundles with compatible speakers.

Instead of the traditional LED ring, the input simply has a single LED in the centre which lights up blue when Alexa is working and other colours - the same as other Echo devices - to show you have a message waiting, or it's ready to set up.

As the Input relies on your speaker to give Alexa a voice, it will send you an alert via the Alexa app if the speaker goes into sleep mode or the cable is disconnected. Amazon recommends you plug any Bluetooth speaker into the mains if you can and disable and power-saving mode to stop it from going into standby. And this is really the only issue with the Input: you need to leave your speaker turned on for Alexa to work.

So it's best suited to those who really want to use Alexa to listen to music, as it's more convenient to have a built-in speaker for general use unless you're happy to have those external speakers turned on permanently. Either that or you accept you have to power them on before you speak to Alexa.

Bluetooth
As with the Echo Dot (and other Echo speakers) Bluetooth on the Input works both ways. It means you can use a Bluetooth speaker as the output, but you can also use Bluetooth to stream audio from your phone, tablet, laptop or any other Bluetooth source to the Input.

Note that you can't use a Bluetooth speaker and stream music from your phone. The Input can only connect to one Bluetooth device at once, so it would have to be connected to a speaker using a cable if you want to stream music to it from your phone.

And if you want to use your Echo Input for multi-room audio and play music in sync with other Echos, you must use a wired connection as Bluetooth isn't supported for multi-room.

Alexa
It should go without saying now that Alexa's capabilities are exactly the same as on the Echo Dot or any other screen-less Echo speaker. You can ask her to set a timer, tell you a joke or give you a 'flash briefing' which combines news, weather and podcasts and is configurable via the Alexa app.

Thanks to Skills, you can enable thousands of other features. Some of these require you to have hardware such as compatible smart bulbs, thermostats or other smart home kit. Others may require a subscription, such as streaming Spotify Premium, while others still might hook into a free service such as the UK National Rail Enquiries which can tell you if your train is running on time or - more likely - not.

For more, see our guide which explains more fully how to use Alexa.

Verdict
The Echo Input isn't hugely cheaper than an Echo Dot 3 and, currently, it's reasonably easy to find an Echo Dot (including the second-gen model) discounted so it actually costs less than the Input.

The Echo Dot can be connected to external speakers via a cable or Bluetooth just like the Input, so unless you really want a smaller device, it's sensible to buy an Echo Dot and hook up your own speakers as and when you need to and use the Dot's built-in speaker for the rest of the time.

With that said, if you do see the Input discounted to £19.99 / US$19.99 or less, it's well worth snapping up.

Specs
  • Dimensions: 80 x 14 mm
  • Weight: 79g
  • Wireless: 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth A2DP and AVRCP
  • Audio: no internal speaker. Connects via 3.5mm minijack cable or Bluetooth
  • Warranty: 1 year



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