Amazon Alexa: Everything you need to know about the heart of the Echo

by Joseph K. Clark

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 has served as the catalyst for one of the world’s most popular virtual assistant platforms.

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.

Amazon Alexa

There are plenty of third-party Alexa speakers out there, but if you want the best possible experience, we recommend getting an official Amazon Echo device. 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 (4th Gen). Still, if you want to save some cash, the Echo Dot (4th Gen) or Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen) offer a virtually identical experience in a smaller form factor and for less money. If you need easy Alexa access in a tight space like a washroom, hallway, or garage, the Echo Flex puts an Echo device wherever there is an outlet. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Echo Studio and Echo Show 10 raise the price, sound quality, and features and include extras like a built-in Zigbee smart home hub.

If you’re already getting a little overwhelmed, check out our guide to the best Alexa speakers, where we help find the perfect Echo for your wants and needs.

Skills supercharge the Alexa experience.

Alexa can do a lot out of the box, but if you want to 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.

It’s easy to find, enable, and disable Alexa Skills at will through the Alexa app or on Amazon’s website. There are many great options, but some of our favorite Alexa skills include Animal Workout, Food Network Kitchen, and Cleaning Buddy.

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