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QUICKVIEW: Hands-on with the iBolt MHL Streamer XL Dock for Android Smartphones [UPDATE]
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 27.05.13 - 17:43:02 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 20269x
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Ever, since I've used MHL the first time back in 2011 (when I did a project in Angola), I was fascinated from the easiness and usefulness of this new standard, which connects compatible smartphones (at the moment, Android only) with flat screens via HDMI. As a matter of fact, this allows to mirror the smartphone screen in high-definition, up to 1080p, plus Dolby 7.1 audio output. The fastest, and the easiest way to connect a smartphone to a HDMI equipped flat screen is a simple MHL-HDMI adapter with connected HDMI cable. However, docking stations are always nicer, especially in living rooms and such a docking station comes from iBolt: the MHL Streamer XL Dock.

Like any other MHL solution, it allows to watch taken photos and videos on any flat screen TV with an HDMI input. With the phone placed in the HDMI Dock, it's even possible to stream movies from apps like Netflix, YouTube, Google Play or other video on demand services, including Slingbox. Furthermore, since the Streamer XL Dock is fully MHL compliant, it allows to listen to locally stored music in digital clarity (Dolby 7.1 output support) or listen to apps like Pandora Spotify, etc. Thanks to the flexibility of Android, it's even possible to connect a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to surf the web big screen or to play mobile games with a connected game pad.

The MHL Streamer XL Dock is pleasant heavy and therefore it suits perfectly on a desk or rack. The cut-out is large enough to even accept bigger phones like an HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4. After the device is put into the cradle, it needs to be connected with the attached micro USB cable (a Samsung Galaxy S3 compatible adapter is also included). On the back, the cradle is connected with a standard HDMI cable to a flat screen as well as with a standard micro USB cable to a power source. A second micro USB port allows to connect the dock with a PC for synchronizing. After the TV is switched to the proper HDMI input, it shows the mirrored smartphone screen and outputs the sound from the phone as well - all through the single HDMI cable. And while the smartphone is connected, it's even charged using "USB profile" trickle charge (device charging is part of the MHL standard).

Final Conclusion

Since most smartphones come without cradles nowadays (unlike in the early days of PDAs), a separate docking can make a lot of sense, especially if it contributes more than just charging. Some docking stations act as a hands-free phone system, the iBolt MHL Streamer XL Dock acts as a media hub which connects a smartphone with a flat screen. At the end of the day, it's not doing any different than a MHL adapter but in living rooms, a docking station looks much nicer than just a cable. Furthermore it's a great place to put the device for charging overnight.

Quality-wise, the dock feels rocking solid and it's heavy enough that it's not falling over if the smartphone screen is tapped. The ability to also connect it to a PC for synchronizing the phone with the connected PC is nice but pretty useless nowadays since most Android phones are synced via the cloud anyway. But local synchronization has still its fans and it's supported.

In terms of MHL compatibility the dock can't do anything wrong. MHL is standardized and even an "exotic" MHL implementation like Samsung's Galaxy S3 MHL features is supported through a little micro USB adapter (HTC devices don't need this adapter at all).

All together, the iBolt MHL Streamer XL Dock is recommended for everybody using Android phones in combination with home TVs or HDMI compatible office monitors. It retails, for instance from Amazon, for around 40 Euro.

UPDATE: I finally had the chance to test the brand new Samsung Galaxy S4 with the included micro USB adapter and indeed, that adapter converts Samsung's somehow propriety MHL implementation and allows to also use a Galaxy S4 with the dock!

Cheers ~ Arne

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