Kinivo BTC450 review: Add hands-free calling, wireless music to cars

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The Good The Kinivo BTC450 automatically reconnects to previously paired phones. It streams music wirelessly and supports hands-free phone calls.

The Bad With no internal battery, the Kinivo BTC450 only works when plugged into a car's 12-volt power point. It lacks a display or any internal voice command functions.

The Bottom Line The Kinivo BTC450 is a good and inexpensive choice for adding Bluetooth to cars with an auxiliary input, but it is short on features.

6.7 Overall

The advent of Bluetooth systems in cars became a boon for drivers, enabling hands-free phone calls and wirelessly streaming music from a smartphone. But if your car is more than five years old, it likely does not feature this technology. The Kinivo BTC450 makes for an easy and inexpensive way of adding Bluetooth to an older car.

The Kinivo BTC450 is a Bluetooth adapter. Lacking its own speaker, it is designed to plug into a car stereo's auxiliary input.

And therein lies its biggest limitation.

The majority of cars equipped with an auxiliary input but no Bluetooth system were made between about 2004 and 2010, so the Kinivo BTC450 is not likely to work with even older cars. However, there are ways of adding an auxiliary input to cars that don't have them, but that means adding more cost and complexity to this solution. In most instances, replacing the entire car stereo will be a cheaper and better option.

The little disc
The main component of the Kinivo BTC450 looks like a thick disc. Small enough to attach surreptitiously to a car's dashboard or console with the included Velcro pads, the device features a large button on top, and two smaller buttons on one side. Blue and red LEDs, shining through the surface of the main button, serve as indicator lights for pairing and other functions.

The disc end of the Kinivo BTC450 includes Bluetooth electronics and a microphone for making hands-free phone calls.

Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth car kit
Two buttons on the end of the Kinivo BTC450 skip songs during audio streaming. Josh Miller/CNET

A permanently attached wire comes off the device and splits into two, one end terminating in a 1/8-inch audio plug and the other in an adapter for a car's 12-volt power point. That 12-volt adapter conveniently holds a USB port for charging phones or other electronics.

Unlike the GoGroove SmartMini Aux, which performs the same functions, the Kinivo BTC450 lacks a battery, so it must be plugged into a power point to work. That can present a problem for cars that keep power running to their 12 volt power points when the engine is off. Leaving the Kinivo BTC450 plugged into a car that sits parked for an extended period of time may end up draining the car's battery.

The main button on the Kinivo BTC450 serves a number of functions. It initiates phone pairing, works as a Pause and Play button for streaming music, and also answers or hangs up phone calls. It also activates voice command, such as Siri or Google Voice, for phones with that capability.

The two smaller buttons on the side let you skip forward or back a song when streaming music.

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