Custom Search

MHL will unleash the power of your smartphone -- on a large screen

When buying your next TV or phone, it is time to ask:  Is it MHL-ready? 

Bangalore June 2 2014: With smart phones packing  more and more power, who needs a PC? The latest models  come with quad or even octal core chips  under the hood -- that's  more  processing power than many desktop PCs or laptops had last year!

Most phones launched in 2014 can handle and display   High Definition ( 1080p) video with  full featured Dolby audio. The Sony Xperia Z2 phone launched in India this week,  is the first to reach this country -- with the ability to shoot video in the Ultra High Definition 4K format -- that is four time sharper than  full HD. You would be hard put to find movie theatres with 4K  system even in the major metros. 

But let's face it, a 5 inch or even 6 inch phone screen is no way to enjoy these  superior video  content -- or for that matter  much of the  ultra realistic video games that are available today. Ironically, the Z2's camera  can capture 4k video, but its own display is not up to displaying 4k quality.  Aye, there's the rub -- no easy way  today, to smoothly  stream  video, or for that matter any data , from a phone  to a larger display like a TV or a  PC, without degrading the content.

Which is why   a consortium of  mobile and consumer electronics  including Nokia,Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony, and Toshiba have come together to create the technology   that allows consumers to connect mobile phones, tablets, and other  portable devices to high-definition televisions (HDTVs) and audio receivers -- without losing quality during the transport. The standard they have created is called Mobile High-definition Link (MHL) and  the latest -- version 3  --of MHL  supports up to 4K (Ultra HD) high-definition (HD) video and 7.1 surround-sound audio.

Last year, one in four  TVs,  computer monitors and smart phones, had quietly  added a chip created by  Silicon Image, a California based connectivity specialist,  and included  a tiny port -- it looks like the mini HDMI port --  that makes  the device MHL-ready. 

By end 2014, every other  display or smartphone from all the  leading makers including naturally    MHL's founding godfathers, will be MHL compliant, says  Vipin Sawhney, India Country Manager of Silicon Image.

In other words, all you need is an MHL cable --it has a micro USB connector at one end and a mini HDMi at the other -- and you can connect your MHL-enabled  phone to the largest display you have in the house. That will  effectively use the computing power of your phone to   drive a movie, a game or just a browser on a much larger screen. MHL also enables the TV remote control to be used to navigate the mobile device for a truly untethered experience.

There is an agni astra or secret weapon that comes bundled with MHL:  while streaming content from phone to TV or PC, it simultaneously charges  your phone!

Interestingly,  Hyderabad-based  Indian engineers of Silicon Image  worked in partnership with colleagues in the US Silicon Valley and Shanghai in China to create the MHL standard, Sawhney says.

 For so many of us, the phone is the centre of  our  universe. It had one downside -- small screen . Now with MHL it seems the power of a phone to entertainment and inform   has just grown -- to embrace the largest screen to be found in home, office or hotel room.

So what can the rest of us do?  For your next purchase of a TV or a phone,  show you're all cued up: ask  the sales person: 'Does it have MHL?'

And don't take  no for an answer! -- Anand Parthasarathy

For a few days, we have an explanatory  video in the Tech Video spot of the home page