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Your Amazon Fire TV Stick is a great device, isn’t it? Ideal for watching Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, or installing Kodi! Then there’s apps like Plex for streaming video from a PC to your TV.
But this HDMI TV stick isn’t so good for other things. For instance, you’re limited only to wireless networking. Also, there is no way to connect a USB drive and view your own video files. Contrast this with the more expensive Amazon Fire TV, and you’ll see you’re missing more than just the 4K video streaming.
Fortunately, there’s an answer. With a few cables you might have laying around, and a suitable case, you can easily turn your Amazon Fire TV Stick into a Fire TV box. Here’s how!
What You’ll Need
To turn your Amazon Fire TV Stick into a Fire TV, you’ll need to find (or buy) a few cables and adaptors. This is what you need:
- OTG cable M/F: $7 (make sure it is capable of supplying power and data)
- Non-powered 4-port USB hub: $13 (powered is fine, but they tend to be bulkier, and need an extra cable)
- USB SD card reader: $7
- USB-to-Ethernet adapter: $14 (optional, if you need Ethernet)
- M-to-F HDMI cable: $7
You’ll also need a case: several different, suitable cases in the TV box form factor are available. Our own choice was a Western Digital case from wdlabs.wd.com, which is designed to house a Raspberry Pi and a 3.5 inch HDD. When available (stocks are low), this costs under $10. It just so happens to be ideal for housing a USB hub and Amazon Fire Stick!
That’s a total of $48, and you might even be able to get it all for under $40. Compare that to the price of an Amazon Fire TV and you’re on to a real winner.
Even if you don’t already own an Amazon Fire TV Stick, you’ll be able to get one for under $40. Get your timing right, and it might even be less! This build is therefore cheaper than the Amazon Fire TV. All you’re missing out on is 4K. Obviously if that’s a deal breaker for you, you’ll already be prepared to spend the extra.
Your First Generation Amazon Fire Stick Won’t Work
It’s worth noting at this stage that not all Amazon Fire TV Sticks are suitable for this. Specifically, if you have a first generation stick, you’ll be unable to enjoy the benefits of the USB hub.
First-gen Amazon Fire TV Sticks don’t have USB OTG. The USB connector is purely for powering the device. I have taken the time to confirm this, using my OTG cable, a known-to-work USB memory stick, and the Amazon Fire version of VLC Player.
Fortunately, this shortcoming has been dealt with in the subsequent models. As such, I’m building this Fire TV box using the latest Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Get Started: Hook It Up and Test
We’re assuming you’ve already set up your Amazon Fire TV Stick and have it connected to your network. You’ll need to unplug it from your TV and the mains to begin this project, and hook it up to the cables and adaptors you’ve bought.
Begin with the OTG cable, connecting it to the power input on your Fire Stick. Next, attach the USB hub to the OTG cable, then a USB storage device or the card reader, with a card inserted. You should then connect the HDMI cable between the Fire Stick and the back of your TV. Finally, connect the power cable to the female connector on the OTG cable.
Your Amazon Fire Stick should boot up as normal, but now you’ll be able to browse the additional storage! With everything correctly connected, your device has essentially been upgraded to a Fire TV box.
Now it’s time to fit it all together.
Squeeze It Into Your Case
Leaving everything behind your TV like this will look really untidy, not to mention confusing. It is for this reason that we suggest some sort of case for the project. It only needs to be big enough to store a Fire Stick and your chosen USB hub, plus a couple of cables. Everything else you’ve bought will be plugged in as needed.
Various cases could be employed, from an unwanted Apple TV to a standard project box. As noted, I’ve selected a Raspberry Pi case from Western Digital’s WDLabs, which is big enough to also store a 3.5-inch HDD. This gives me the option to add a HDD later on. Your own project box might be much smaller.
Need Some Gaps? Use a File or Dremel
It’s unlikely that you’ll find a box that is designed for the purpose, unless you manufactured one with your own 3D printer model. As such, you’ll probably need some holes.
Employing some basic tools will come in handy here. A drill and a file can help if you need to make a hole for a cable, for instance. On the other hand, you might need to remove a section of the case to access the USB ports. I ran into this problem, and solved it by employing my Dremel. After a portion from the front of the case was removed, I glued the USB hub into place.
Holding It All in Place
How you arrange the components in your case is your own choice. If there are no useful compartments to hold the Fire Stick and USB hub in place, I would recommend a hot glue gun. If you don’t want to glue your Fire Stick, find some suitable material to hold it in place (perhaps Sugru), and glue that instead if it isn’t already adhesive.
For my own project, I opted to dab glue around the Amazon Fire TV Stick. This was mainly to keep it in place while I organized the cabling, rather than to secure it long term. Need to remove hot glue? Use a sharp knife! It’s tricky to remove by hand, but a small blade will make light work of it.
Keep Your DIY Amazon Fire TV Box Where You Can See It
My own Amazon Fire TV Stick is now secured in a box, sitting below my living room TV. I’ve installed Kodi, a few useful apps, and a couple of games.
Meanwhile, I have set up a VPN and Kodi is also installed (with legal add-ons), along with Plex, and VLC. Capable of playing back videos from locations on our home network. With access to YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and all of the other packaged services, along with the various legal add-ons in Kodi — not to mention audio content — this Amazon Fire TV Stick is now a superb media box!
Although I’ve yet to connect a HDD, I have a high capacity USB stick connected, and use a wired data connection via the USB to Ethernet adaptor. Everything is fast, and if I need to enter text, rather than use the Fire Stick’s remote control, I can either use the dedicated mobile app or a Bluetooth keyboard. Or just plug in a USB keyboard.
The end result is a Fire TV box, made by my own hand! Seriously, this was ridiculously simple, with the toughest stage being cutting the section from the case. Thanks to USB OTG, everything else works effortlessly!
If you have yet to make a purchase and find the DIY aspect a little too overwhelming, check out this comparison of Android TV and Amazon Fire Stick to figure out which one is right for you.
Do you have a Fire TV Stick? Want the benefits of a set-top box, or would you rather buy one? Tell us what you think below.