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Amazon Kindle Fire: Is 8GB enough?

Does the Kindle Fire have the space to store enough media for an eight-hour trip?

Here's how much space my videos, music, apps, and books took up in preparation for an imaginary 8-hour trip. Eric Franklin/CNET

First off, let's be clear. When you get your brand-new Kindle Fire, you're not getting 8GB of free storage.

Not even 8GB?!
Thanks to OS bloat, the Kindle Fire actually offers only 6.54GB of free storage, with an additional 143MB taken up by a few apps, books, and docs that come installed on the device. That leaves about 6.41GB of space to have your way with.

This kind of memory bait and switch isn't exclusive to the Fire, however. A brand-new 16GB iPad 2 has only 13.6GB of free space to suit your needs.

Some users may experience a bit of trepidation when purchasing the Kindle Fire, as most tablets, including the Nook Tablet, offer at least "16GB" of storage. Others, like the BlackBerry PlayBook, get up to 64GB in their advertised memory sizes, so I really can't blame potential Kindle Fire purchasers for at least wondering if 8GB will be enough for them.

What do I need storage space for? Doesn't this thing stream everything?
The Kindle Fire can stream both video and music from Amazon.com's cloud servers. Access to hours of content at a moment's notice (as long as there's a Wi-Fi connection) is one of the reasons why the tablet appeals so strongly to buyers (well, that and the price).

Given constant Wi-Fi access, the question posed in the title of this blog can be answered with an unequivocal yes. You'd likely stream most movies and music to your device and your storage would only be taken up by apps, books, e-mail, docs, and any images you receive over the Internet.

Apps would take up the most space, the very heaviest of which (usually games) seem to top out at around 60MB, with most averaging 10-20MB.

However, since there's no cellular support for 3G or 4G on the Fire, you won't be streaming anything without a Wi-Fi network. And without Wi-Fi access, you'll have to make use of your onboard storage to feed your media-consuming demons.

Different needs
Not all Kindle Fire owners will use even a small fraction of their device's storage space. They'll stream everything and not notice or care about the extra 6.5GB they have access to.

I won't attempt to predict how each user will take advantage of his or her tablet, but will instead offer a scenario of my own creation: Does the Kindle Fire have enough storage to adequately distract the average user from real life for about 8 hours without access to Wi-Fi? Say if you're on a plane without Wi-Fi access.

This doesn't take into account the battery, which we've yet to officially test, but Amazon claims up to 7.5 hours of battery life with continuous video playback. In my scenario, however, I won't only be watching videos, but also playing games, listening to music, and doing some reading as well.

The media
Here's the breakdown:

Video Music Books Games Apps
7.25 hours of TV shows (2GB)   13.5 hours (3.1GB)   2 books   8 games   10 apps  

All videos were purchased and downloaded from Amazon's video catalog. This total still leaves 1.29GB of available storage on the hard drive.

Given my short attention span, I'd likely not watch through every hour of the TV shows. I estimate doing about 5 hours of TV watching, interspersed with maybe an hour or two of game playing (while listening to music), and capping things off with another hour's worth of reading.

The verdict
While I definitely had more than enough content to fill 8 hours, the problem is in a perfect world I'd want access to every piece of media I own, from books, to movies, to music, at all times. With only 6.5GB available for storage, you're forced to at least think about how much storage you're using and can't just download content willy-nilly.

That said, storage limitations are a part of every consumer electronics device, and not matter how much you have, you'll eventually run out of space. I'd love to have every episode of "The Wire" on my phone at all times, but it's just not realistic if I also want access to as many games as I have.

Which brings me to my next point: right now I have more than 25 games on my iPhone that I haven't touched in over a year. I keep them on there because, one, I have the space ("32GB") and two, I never know when I'll actually want to dive deeply into a N.O.V.A 2 session. Meanwhile it's currently wasting a gig of my storage.

If you're a frequent traveler, you'll just need to be more aware of what's on your Kindle Fire's drive at any given time and be more considered and conscientious about what you put on it. Not the worst thing to practice.

While an extra 8 or 24GB of storage provides a bit more breathing room, this being a physical realm we live in, you'll eventually run into limitations there as well.

So, without Wi-Fi access, does the Kindle Fire have enough storage space to keep you entertained? Yes, it does, just be prepared to plan your list of entertainment media in advance of an Internet blackout.