At the recent Mobile World Congress, HTC announced - together with its new One-series of Android smartphones - the HTC Media Link HD. And while the idea of a Media Link is nothing new, HTC announced its first HTC Media Link back in 2010, this time the Media Link HD goes a slightly different way than the first one. While the Media Link was a wireless DLNA adapter for HDMI TVs, the new HTC Media Link HD is way more a companion to fully mirror the HTC One S and One X content on HDMI enabled TVs while at the same time also offering full multitasking capabilities. It allows to watch HD movies from HTC Watch, videos and photos and listening to music, stored on the One S and One X.
But it also allows to watch YouTube videos and more from the internet as well as projecting whatever the display of the One S and One X shows, including web sites, games like Angry Birds or just E-Mails; wherever a high definition display is available. Simple and intuitive, Media Link HD is easy to set up- and, at a size of 84.0 x 52.0 x 12.2 mm, portable enough to take on the go.
It comes with the media receiver, which supports WiFi a/b/g/n, a HDMI cable, a USB to micro USB cable, a power adaptor and a user guide.
On the back, the Media Link features a HDMI connector which connects to a TV set as well as a micro USB connector which connects to a power socket. If the TV features a USB port, in most cases this port can be used to power the Media Link HD. On the front is a small button which is used to pair the Media Link HD with a supported One-series smartphone and on the top sits a bi-color LED which shows the state of the Media Link HD.
The Media Link HD takes only minutes to set up but unlike HTC's first Media Link adapter, the Media Link HD isn't supporting DLNA anymore. This means it's only working with the HTC One S and One X but not with other DLNA enabled smartphones or PCs. Nevertheless, while this looks like a dramatic restriction, the Media Link HD can do far more than just a simple DLNA adapter.
It allows to wirelessly stream content from a supported One-series smartphones onto any high definition display. Media Link HD offers different ways to share content that make it a convenient, multi purpose device by streaming HD movies and more, and still have full use of your phone for true multitasking. Furthermore it allows to display everything from a One S or One X to the big screen.
At the moment, it supports following video files to be directly streamed to a TV: AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MKV and H.264 BP/MP/HP. In terms of audio, it supports: MP3, WAV, WMA and AAC as well as the following image formats: JPG, BMP, PNG.
The Media Link HD either allows to connect to a One-series smartphone by creating an ad-hoc network between the media receiver and the smartphone. However, if the smartphone is connected to a WiFi network, the Media Link will hook into this WiFi network automatically and becoming a part of the (W)LAN.
As soon as the Media Link HD is turned on, it notifies the One smartphone that it's available and allows to be paired with it. In general, this process is fully automated and doesn't require to enter any passwords or anything else. If the pairing was successful, which normally takes less than a minute, the device's display is mirrored on the TV.
In general, the overall idea isn't too different from connecting a smartphone via MHL-HDMI to a TV except one important differentiation: MHL-HDMI only allows to mirror the smartphone display while the Media Link HD goes even further. A couple of HTC's own One-series apps, like the video and audio player as well as the images gallery allow to be watched and listen on the TV while the smartphone itself can be used for something different. This, for instance, allows to stream a video or music to the TV, while an E-Mail is written the same time.
HTC is offering dedicated APIs for this, which it made available through htcdev.com and allows other developers to use this enhancement too. For instance, Spotify could take benefit from it, allowing to stream music to the TV, instead of mirroring the Spotify app on the TV.
With its second Media Link, HTC goes even further than just bringing another wireless DLNA adapter to the market and mirroring the display as well as streaming dedicated media to flat TV makes a lot of sense. I always liked the first Media Link but it was pretty much locked down to supported DLNA apps and codecs. The Media Link HD goes beyond this limitation while unwiring the smartphone from the TV. It allows to play Angry Birds or surfing the web on your living room TV, it allows to watch Slingbox home TV while in a hotel and it allows to play movies or listen to music while at the same time you can read your E-Mail or surf the web on your device. The ways to use the Media Link HD are endless. Sure, I wish it would also support pure DLNA, which would allow me to to also connect my PC to the Media Link HD but this is the price for the freedom and flexibility beyond any standards. But who knows, maybe HTC is offering sooner or later a Windows and/or Mac client, which could fill the gap.
Anyway, the whole Media Link HD idea is well implemented and works pretty much out of the box. There is no real need for a manual, as a matter of fact, my test sample came without it and both, the Media Link HD as well as the One S and One X guided me through the setup process. After that, the rest was also pretty much self-explaining.
Since I travel a lot, I always carry a MHL-HDMI adapter with me, to connect my smartphones to hotel TVs, to listen my music, to watch photos of my recent trips or to simply watch some home TV via my Slingbox and all this can be done even more convenient with the Media Link HD. But also surfing the web on a flat-screen has its benefits, for instance if you read full size web sites and not just the mobile versions. Last but not least, it's really fun to play some games on large TVs instead of a four-point-something display.
Doesn't matter if you plan to use the Media Link HD at home, while travelling or for both, it's definitely a pretty recommended accessory if HTC One S and One X is for you more than just mobile phone. Unfortunately, the One V isn't supported. Nevertheless, for me the HTC Media Link HD falls into the category "must have accessory".
The HTC Media Link HD is expected to be launched anytime next month and it's expected to retail for something around US$ 100.
Cheers ~ Arne