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QUICKVIEW: MHL - the "Missing HD Link" or correctly the "Mobile High-Definition Link"
Posted by Arne Hess - on Wednesday, 03.04.13 - 16:56:58 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 10446x
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Ever thought about connecting your phone to your TV or office monitor to show your family or colleagues some photos or videos? Think no longer but just do it because if you own one of the newer Android smartphones, chances are high that it features "MHL" which is the acronym for "Mobile High Definition Link". Founded as the MHL Consortium in April 2010 by Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony and Toshiba, MHL is an industry standard for a mobile audio/video interface which allows to connect mobile phones and tablets to high-definition televisions and audio receivers. The standard supports up to 1080p/60 HD video and 7.1 surround sound audio output while simultaneously charging the connected device and even allowing to remote control it through a single Remote Control unit.

However, the above mentioned features are the best case scenario if, for instance, a smartphone is connected to a MHL enabled HDTV screen. While smartphones, featuring and supporting MHL, are all supporting the above features, there are only "a few" MHL enabled HDTVs and monitors available on the market today.

Nevertheless, even in this case, if your HDTV or monitor is supporting MHL, it's the easiest solution to bring the smartphone screen and sound to a TV. There are so called passive MHL adapters available which connect the MHL compatible smartphone with the TV's HDMI port. In this case, up to 1080p/60 HD video and 7.1 surround sound audio is supported but the device is only charged from the adapter which needs to be connected to either the TV's USB port or wall outlet and these adapters don't allow to remote control the smartphone from the TV's RC.

Nevertheless, this setup is a pretty inexpensive and easy to install and the best way to get a smartphone screen mirrored to a flat screen.


Above, a typical passive MHL HDMI to micro USB adapter which are available in different sizes and shapes.

While remote controlling the smartphone or tablet isn't possible, this basic setup allows to play videos and photos, as well as audio (doesn't matter if locally stored on the phone or streamed from VoD services like Google Play Video or audio services like Spotify) on large screen HDTVs.

However, in the futures MHL goes even further. Similar to the "Car Connectivity Consortium's" idea to connect mobile phones with the in-car entertainment system, MHL follows the same idea which allows to connect any compatible device with a car's entertainment or navigation system. In this case, and because smartphones can be controlled through MHL, it will be even possible to control, launch and close apps from the steering wheel.

While this is something for the future which needs to be established first, something different is already possible. Using the smartphone as an inexpensive gaming console, which is connected to the large screen living room TV and controlled from Bluetooth game pads. The MHL Consortium has closely worked with the gaming industry and the first 3rd party Bluetooth game pads, like the Moga Pocket or Moga Pro, are already available which can be used to play high-end Android games on HDTVs.


Above the Mogo Pocket Bluetooth controller which can be either used to play games on the smartphone itself or on flat screens if connected via MHL.

Final Conclusion

All the described scenarios above are possible with MHL, and in most cases, if the flat screen or monitor isn't MHL enabled, via a passive MHL adapter and a simple HDMI cable. Audio, video, photos and gaming, everything on a large screen TV, a home theater receiver and soon in-car entertainment systems. There's only one major drawback: MHL is only available on Android smartphones and tablets. Neither Apple supports it for its iPhone and iPad, nor is Microsoft supporting it for Windows Phone. The only hope Windows Phone users can have is that Nokia will force Microsoft to bring MHL to the Windows Phone platform, since Nokia was one of the founding members of the MHL Consortium.

However, if you have an Android device, chances are really high that it supports MHL (and if you consider to purchase a new one anytime soon, you should verify that your new phone or tablet is supporting MHL) since the use cases are countless. Since the adapter is pretty small, a MHL adapter and HDMI cable is always with me in my gadget bag - most often used while travelling. It allows me to watch videos and listen to music from my smartphone and back in 2011, when I was in Angola, I even used it with my Samsung Galaxy S II to mirror my Slingplayer Mobile to a flat screen, which allowed me to watch live TV, far away from home - on a real TV, not just on a tiny smartphone display. Other than that, the combination of a Bluetooth game pad and MHL makes the smartphone or tablet a pretty inexpensive but highly portable gaming console which allows you to play the same games on the run and at home.

Cheers ~ Arne


 
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Comments
Posted by TangS on 03.04.13 - 17:36:25

Because I see the HTC One in your photos, does it work without a special MHL adapter like the S3 used to need it? I just ask because I have one for my S2 and don't want to buy a new one. At the moment I'm not sure to which phone I should upgrade to?

Posted by Arne Hess on 03.04.13 - 17:40:53

Yep, no need to worry! I've used several of the cheap MHL adapters with the HTC One, these were the same adapters I also used with the Galaxy S II, HTC One X and HTC One S.

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