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