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Setup and Initial use

Setting up the Fire was completely hassle-free with no computer needed. The Fire comes with a small card describing how to charge, start, and unlock it. When you turn it on, you simply follow the on-screen instructions. The Fire immediately searches for Wi-Fi networks and connects to the one of your choosing. If you purchased your Fire from your Kindle account, it is automatically registered. Therefore, it also automatically downloads the latest Kindle software. Although you are told to plug in the unit before using it, it did come with enough juice to complete the short setup procedure.

The setup screens also walk you through how to use the Fire. One example of this is shown in Figure 8. There is also a Kindle Fire User’s Guide pre-installed on the device.

Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet ReviewFigure 8: The Fire setup screen

If you are not already an Amazon Prime subscriber, you get a 30-day free trial with your Fire. For USD 80 yearly, Amazon Prime gives you free two-day shipping on Amazon purchases, use of the Amazon Kindle Owner’s Library for free book rentals, and access to many movies that can be streamed directly to your Fire, computer, or television.

Once you have an Amazon Prime account, it is very easy to access Amazon’s Instant Videos that you can stream to the Fire. Amazon has thousands of movies and television shows that you can view for free, rent, or buy.

You don’t have to join Amazon Prime to use the Kindle Fire. You don’t have to use Amazon to stream videos. You can easily add free apps for Netflix and/or Hulu.

You can also purchase Amazon content, including books, movies and TV shows, even if you are not a Prime member. The Amazon music store has a selection that rivals the iTunes store and in general, we find most things at Amazon a bit cheaper than at Apple. The Amazon book store and their video store both have large selections and competitive prices. Amazon’s new Newsstand already offers over 400 full-color magazines and newspapers.

You will also want to set up an Amazon Cloud Drive account either on your Fire or on your computer that you can do through Amazon’s website. Amazon gives you 5 GB of free storage. Songs purchased from Amazon music don’t count toward your storage limit. You can get 20 GB of storage for USD 20 yearly, which includes unlimited space for music storage at no extra charge. Not only can you store music on your Cloud Drive; you can also store any of your own documents, pictures and videos.

Amazon makes it very easy to access your Cloud Drive content on the Fire. When you are in certain areas (such as the Music area), you will see two buttons neighboring buttons marked “Cloud” and “Device,” as shown in Figure 9. Press on Cloud to see the music you have in the Cloud drive. Click on Device to see the music you have on the Fire.

Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet ReviewFigure 9: The Cloud/Device choice

Although the Fire has only 8 GB of internal storage (approximately 6 GB available for user content) and no memory card slot, the ability to store data in the cloud and access it from there allows the Fire to work well with an amount of memory that would otherwise seem very limited.

Amazon says that the 6 GB of available storage is enough for 80 apps, plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books. With easy access to your cloud data, you don’t need as much storage space as you would otherwise. Music plays right from the cloud, so you only need to download it when you will be away from a wireless network. All of your Amazon books and apps are stored in the cloud; you only need to download one when you are reading it. Assuming that the average user will only be reading two or three books at a time and watching about the same number of movies, the storage on the Fire, although limited, will serve the average user quite well.

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Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.