Amazon's new India-exclusive Echo Input Portable is pretty much like any other Echo device you may be familiar with — except for one huge, fundamental difference: It has a built-in 4,800-mAh battery, which means it doesn't have to be constantly plugged into a wall.
The Echo Input Portable, therefore, offers what no other first-party smart speaker allows: the freedom and comfort of portability. You can unplug it without any interruptions, carry it around your house to any room or throw it in a backpack and take it outside as a Bluetooth speaker.
This is not Amazon's first stab at a portable smart speaker, though. In 2017, the e-commerce giant introduced the Amazon Tap. But it was discontinued shortly after it launched, likely because the smart home market wasn't as mature as it is today and, more importantly, Amazon's Echo ecosystem was still in its developing stages.
Three years and several Echo devices later, does the Echo Input Portable make its peers seem obsolete?
Amazon Echo Input Portable design
From the outside, you'd be hard-pressed to tell whether the Echo Input Portable is one of Amazon's latest speakers. It features an uninspiring design that looks as if someone fused the Echo Input and the Echo Dot. It has a compact, cylindrical exterior that's covered with the same fabric material you'll find on most Echo speakers.
Capping it all off is a plastic top that houses a handful of essential switches for muting the microphones and manually invoking Alexa, as well as an LED that lets you know whether it's listening. On the side, you'll come across the two key additions Amazon has made specifically for this speaker: a set of four LEDs for checking the battery level and a power switch. You won't find either of those on other Echo devices..
However, the first thing you'll probably notice about the Echo Input Portable is its weight. At 15.8 ounces (448 grams), the Echo Input Portable is considerably heavier than the Echo Dot (10.5 ounces, or 300 grams), thanks to the 4,800-mAh battery — and you do feel that extra weight when you pick it up.
The Echo Input Portable looks like a device that's meant to be tucked away and forgotten about, instead of one that's supposed to be mobile. Plus, it's available in only one color (black) for now. And unlike many affordable JBL Bluetooth speakers, the Echo Input Portable is not waterproof.
Amazon Echo Input Portable sound quality
Fortunately, Amazon has made up for that extra weight with a pair of excellent speakers. In spite of being only a couple of dollars more expensive than the Echo Dot, the Echo Input Portable has remarkably better sound output, and that's likely because Amazon was able to fit more into this larger device.
The Echo Input Portable is much louder than the 3rd gen Echo Dot and even emits a bit of that thumping bass usually reserved for premium audio products. In addition, the music doesn't distort or lose quality on the highest volume levels, which is especially impressive considering the Echo Input Portable is half the size of the third-gen Echo.
Amazon may have ensured that the Echo Input Portable could go toe-to-toe with higher-end audio devices because this device is also competing with regular Bluetooth speakers from companies such as JBL and Logitech. And, for the most part, the Echo Input Portable has succeeded in delivering that high audio quality; you won't have to trade off rich sound performance for voice assistance.
Amazon Echo Input Portable battery life and wireless capability
The Echo Input Portable's headline feature, though, is its 4,800-mAh battery. Amazon claims the battery can last up to 10 hours on a charge. But in my use, that number stood at about 8 hours at 70% volume and 2 to 3 hours of constant music playback.
Unlike most competing devices, the Echo Input Portable charges over a standard microUSB port instead of a proprietary one. This means you can easily top off the battery using a powerbank. What is lacking, however, is a 3.5mm audio jack, so the only way to expand the audio coverage is by connecting more Echo speakers wirelessly.
One of the gripes I have with the Echo Input Portable is how cumbersome it is to switch Wi-Fi networks, which you will find yourself doing often if you plan to take the speaker outside on a mobile hotspot. Bluetooth pairing, on the other hand, is very straightforward; you can do it through Alexa.
What's more, the Echo Input Portable is equipped with four far-field microphones that you can use to wake it up from across the room. But because the speaker wasn't restricted to a single point in my home, I rarely had to shout to command Alexa or ask it to skip the current track. I could easily place the speaker wherever I wanted, like in the kitchen when I was cooking or in the bathroom when I was taking a shower.
As I don't prefer keeping a smart speaker in every corner of my home, I was also reaching out for the Echo Input Portable more than I did with other smart speakers. For example, I would call for my Google Home when I was in my study, which is where I always kept that device. That wasn't the case with the Echo Input Portable. But if you employ a smart speaker as a central dashboard to your home, you can clamp it down to a socket through the long-enough microUSB cable bundled in the box.
Speaking of smart home capabilities, the Echo Input Portable offers the standard Alexa functionality, letting you control smart appliances, set reminders, create shopping lists, listen to audiobooks and more.
Surprisingly, the Echo Input Portable's battery has made all the difference in my smart speaker experience. At about $80, it's also drastically cheaper than other third-party battery-powered smart speakers from Bose and Sonos.
Oddly, smart speakers from companies like Amazon and Google have avoided going wireless all these years, and I'm glad that one such device, at long last, has addressed that glaring portability omission.
Hopefully, in the next year, we'll see more devices from both Amazon and Google that overcome the Echo Input Portable's shortcomings. While Amazon hasn't shared any specifics, it has said the Echo Input Portable will eventually make its way to more countries.
If you do live in India or are considering buying it from there, the Echo Input Portable won't let you down and offers a better experience than the Echo Dot. Apart from the clumsy network-switching options and the bland design, I do not have any major complaints about it.