All the way back in the ancient times of 2014, Amazon invited some lucky Prime members to buy a new product it had created called the "Amazon Echo." We weren't sure what to make of the unusual speaker when it debuted, but just a few short years later, it served as the catalyst of one of the most popular virtual assistant platforms in the world.

Amazon Alexa was at the heart of the original Echo and continues to power all of Amazon's smart devices to this very day. Need a refresher on everything going on with it? We don't blame you.

Here's everything you need to know!

Our pick

Amazon Echo Dot

The best value Echo you can buy.

No matter if you're just getting started with Alexa or want to add more speakers to your home, you can't go wrong with the Amazon Echo Dot. Not only is it incredibly affordable, but it also has a wonderful design and sounds far better than you'd expect for its compact size.

Amazon Echo Plus ($150 at Amazon)

For $100 more than the Dot, the Echo Plus offers vastly better sound quality and a built-in Zigbee smart home hub. It's a nice upgrade for people looking for something more powerful.

Amazon Echo Show ($230 at Amazon)

The Echo Show offers everything great about Alexa and then slaps a screen on it. This allows you to see weather forecasts, watch TV shows, make video calls, and much more.

Let's break down the difference between Alexa and Echo speakers

First thing's first, let's clear up the biggest point of confusion for a lot of people. Alexa and Echo are two different things. Here's a simple explanation of the two:

Alexa

This is Amazon's virtual assistant that powers the company's first-party Echo speakers and other ones from different companies. Similar to something like the Google Assistant, Alexa is able to tell you about the local weather, check calendar appointments, control smart home devices, and so much more.

Smart speakers are the most common form factor you'll find Alexa on, but the AI has also made its way to smartphones, headphones, and even some smartwatches — one example being the Amazfit Verge.

Amazon updates Alexa all the time to make it smarter than the day before, meaning that it's constantly changing and evolving.

Echo

On the other hand, Echo is the brand Amazon uses to market and sell its own smart speakers and devices that are powered by Alexa.

There are generic speakers such as the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus, in addition to speakers that also have displays — like the Echo Show and Echo Spot.

Amazon's Echo speakers aren't the only ones you can buy that have Alexa, but they do offer the best overall experience. Alexa works mostly the same on Echo speakers as it does on third-party ones, but some things like Alexa Guard only work with Echo devices.

Which Echo is right for you?

There are plenty of third-party Alexa speakers out there, but if you want the best possible experience, we recommend getting an Echo one. While that does help to narrow things down a bit, there's still a lot you need to consider before throwing your money down for one.

A lot of people might be inclined to go with the regular Echo, but if you want to save some cash, the Echo Dot offers a virtually identical experience in a smaller form factor for less money. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Echo Plus raises the price, sound quality, and features with a built-in Zigbee smart home hub.

Then again, if you already own speaker equipment that you don't necessarily want to replace, the Echo Input brings the power of Alexa to your existing devices.

If you're already getting a little overwhelmed, check out our guide below where we help find the perfect Echo for your wants and needs.

Amazon Echo vs. Dot vs. Show vs. Plus: Which should you buy?

Here are the best and latest Echo deals

Buying an Echo speaker can be really exciting, but spending gobs of money to build up your collection isn't. Thankfully, we're always on the hunt for the best deals on Echo equipment to help you save as much money as possible.

We're constantly updating the link below with the latest deals as we find them, so be sure to check it out regularly to ensure you're getting the best price on your new tech.

Best Echo Deals: Echo Dot, Echo Spot, & more

Skills supercharge the Alexa experience

Alexa can do a lot out of the box, but if you want to really supercharge your experience, you'll want to check out Alexa Skills.

Skills are essentially add-ons for Alexa that enable new functionality for specific things. For example, the iRobot skill allows Alexa to talk to Roomba vacuums whereas the Relax My Dog skill plays special music that's designed to keep your good boy calm and less anxious.

There's a skill for just about anything you can imagine, and this is easily one of Alexa's greatest strengths.

Here are a few tips for getting started

Amazon does a fairly good job at helping you get started with an Alexa speaker, but there are some features here and there that can be tricky to find/enable if you don't know where to look. Thankfully, we've got you covered.

There's so much Alexa can do, and to make sure you're getting the most out of it, we've put together a few how-to guides for some of the AI's most popular and powerful tools.

Did you know Alexa works with Sonos?

Sonos has gained a lot of popularity over the years for being one of the easiest home audio solutions you can buy. Not only do the company's speakers seamlessly pair with one another for simultaneous music playback throughout your house, but they also work with Alexa!

If you have a Sonos One or Sonos Beam, you can actually talk to them as if they were Echo speakers. Just say "Alexa", whatever you want to ask/say, and it'll respond.

The One and Beam were also recently updated to also support the Google Assistant, meaning you have your choice of two assistants in one speaker.

How to set up Alexa on a Sonos system

A lot of smart home gadgets support it

Smart home devices like smart bulbs, plugs, and thermostats can make life a lot easier, especially when paired with Alexa.

Most major smart home devices work with Alexa just fine, allowing you to control light bulbs or turn on the heat by just using your voice. There are a lot out there to choose from, so be sure to check out our roundups for some advice on the tech we recommend the most.

Our pick

Amazon Echo Dot

The best value Echo you can buy.

No matter if you're just getting started with Alexa or want to add more speakers to your home, you can't go wrong with the Amazon Echo Dot. Not only is it incredibly affordable, but it also has a wonderful design and sounds far better than you'd expect for its compact size.

Amazon Echo Plus ($150 at Amazon)

For $100 more than the Dot, the Echo Plus offers vastly better sound quality and a built-in Zigbee smart home hub. It's a nice upgrade for people looking for something more powerful.

Amazon Echo Show ($230 at Amazon)

The Echo Show offers everything great about Alexa and then slaps a screen on it. This allows you to see weather forecasts, watch TV shows, make video calls, and much more.

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