MHL, Slimport, Miracast and Chromecast. What’s the best way to get from phone to TV?

Wired or wireless? We look at the best ways to get your phone display on your big screen.

Google-ChromecastOne of the most frequent questions we hear at Clove is “how can I get my x‘s screen to show on my TV?”. It’s a very widespread issue and one that rarely has a simple answer. This is in part due to how much technology in both the mobile and home entertainment industries has advanced and merged in recent years. It’s also not helped by there being a number of different solutions, many of them incompatible with each other or particular devices.

A few years ago wireless wasn’t really a viable option and only the most expensive devices were compatible for video out. There are now more options than ever, however we understand the tech can be complicated if you don’t follow it regularly. In this post we’ll be looking at all the mainstream options available to get content off your phone and onto your telly.

Cables or wireless

belkin-routerOne of the first questions you should ask yourself is do you want to be wired or wireless? Now most of you will probably all chirp in with “Wireless!” as the answer and with good reason. Less wires means less hassle, plus you have the freedom to browse your phone for content away from the TV, rather than choosing something and leaving it there. It’s also much more useful if your TV is wall-mounted without anywhere close by to leave the phone.

Wireless tech however does bring up a couple of issues. One is cost and the other is compatibility, although these are both now becoming less of a factor now than they were even just a year ago. When choosing wireless, you have to ensure that both sending and receiving devices can speak to each other. Usually they can’t, which means buying something to sit in the middle and translate. Traditionally this was significantly more expensive than a wired option, however costs have fallen.

The last issue is your home network. If the tech you choose uses your home wireless network (as most of them do), rather than a direct connection , then sending your content over it will take up bandwidth. Now modern routers can handle a lot of traffic, however if you live in a property with a lot of open connections at once (I’m looking at you students), then running a real time 1080p video from your phone to a receiver could be slowing everyone else down. Also double that if you happen to first be streaming on your phone from an online service such as Netflix before sending it to the TV. If you bought or were provided with your wireless router several years ago then it might be worth double checking its capabilities if many people use it at once.

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Will Chromecast kill off MHL & SlimPort?

Will we still need cables or will Chromecast negate this need?

Google_ChromecastJust over 12 months ago, Google released Chromecast.

What is Chromecast I hear you ask?

Google describe it as “a thumb-sized media streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV. Set it up with a simple mobile app, then send your favourite online shows, movies, music and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet or laptop.”

So what it essentially allows you to do is make your HDMI enabled monitor or TV a little smarter.

An app on your smartphone communicates via WiFi with the Chromecast and thanks to apps on the Chromecast you could get added functionality on your big screen.

Google_Chromecast1So for example;  the YouTube video or Netflix rental you used to watch on the smartphone can now be watched on the big screen.  Your smartphone could then be used as aremote control for that content where applicable and you could also do other things on your phone whilst the content was still being streamed on the big screen.  This is particularly helpful if you are watching a movie but not paying too much attention as you complete emails and text message replies on your phone.

How this actually works is the Chromecast acts independently, thanks to the software wizardry.  Essentially when you tell your device to ‘cast’ the content to the Chromecast, it goes off online and pulls the content from the location itself, thus the phone is not needed for the most part and you can then multi-task.

Google_Chromecast_Apps

Over the last 12 months, the number of apps and functionality has increased.

The most recent update is the ability on selected devices to now cast your device screen to the TV.  Where once you could only play select content back, you can now play back anything on your mobile device screen.

Whilst this is limited at the time of writing to select devices, this will grow as updates roll out to other handsets.

What this means now is that all content on your smartphone appears on the TV once you have asked it to be cast.

So, imagine you are sat on the sofa.  You are looking at some photos on your phone.  You go into the Chromecast app on the phone, select to cast your screen and now everything you see on the phone display is mirrored on the TV.  Others in the phone can see those photos.

Google_Chromecast_TV

This is just one such example, but there are many others, including using it for a business presentation, an app demonstration and more.

All sounds great and all this from a little adapter that plugs into the back of your HDMI enabled screen for just £30.

SlimPort_External_Display_E

However many smartphones do also have MHL or SlimPort capabilities built into them and I can not help but think such functionality of the Chromecast will reduce the need or reliance on MHL and SlimPort technology.

what do I need to use MHL

Both have the potential to be more reliable because they require cable connections and can support up to 4K video, whereas Chromecast relies on wireless and outputs currently at a maximum of 1080p.

That said, the cables cost money and the price of the Chromecast is similar.  The setup time of each is similar too.

The downside to Chromecast is that it is currently limited to 1080p, (it is going to be some time before 4K becomes mainstream) and that it uses the 2.4GHz wireless frequency rather than offering an option for 5GHz.

Whilst I am sold into the Google ecosystem, the Chromecast does rely on you having an Android smartphone and wishing to purchase the Chromecast.

SlimPort and MHL whilst primarily seen in Android devices is capable of being integrated into other hardware so it is potentially more versatile.

MHL_Slimport

With many Android devices, as standard home and app tray screen do not orient in landscape which is the natural orientation for a larger display such as a TV.  Apps like Apex launcher and others help, but Google needs to add this functionality to make the screen casting really useful.

Only time will tell whether Chromecast will become the thing to own rather than MHL or SlimPort, but I know from owning and using it personally it is a very powerful product that has a real potential and it is exciting to see how this will develop over time.  I imagine version 2 will be even better.

What do you think about this? Which one is best and will win long term?

LG G3 – HDMI SlimPort

LG_G3_Slimport_TV

At 5.5″ the display on the LG G3 is big enough for you to complete most tasks on the move and even enjoy plenty of media.

However there are times when a bigger screen has a real advantage.  You might want to show off your holiday snaps or share a presentation with others.  So rather than huddling around the G3, connecting it to a larger display such as a TV in your lounge or office boardroom would be much more practical.

There was a time when this was not possible, but the G3 can do this with an without wires.

If the TV has Miracast built in (few currently do) you can share the screen on the G3 to the HD display without wires.  Any action on the G3 screen is then replicated on the larger display.

HSlimPort_VGAcowever another solution is to use a SlimPort adapter.  The adapter connects into the microUSB port on the bottom of the G3 and then into an HDMI cable which is in turn connected to the display.

Unless your battery is running low, you do not need to even connect power to the device like you do with many MHL connections. (MHL is an alternative to SlimPort)

With video playback on the G3, you can even do something else on the handset itself whilst the video is played on the big screen.

Not something you may need everyday but something that is very useful. How impressive would it look when giving a presentation to just connect your phone to the TV, especially to your boss or new client!

Built into the G3 all you need is the SlimPort adapter and TV to be able to achieve this.

If you wish to know more about SlimPort we have a detailed post here that explains it all.

 

LG G2 SlimPort demonstration

The LG G2 has the ability to share the contents of it’s screen with HD displays in 2 ways.  The first is via the microUSB port on the bottom of the device and the other is using Miracast technology that shares the display wirelessly.

In the following video we show the G2 connected to a HD display using a SlimPort adapter. The SlimPort adapter is similar to an MHL cable, but different.

It connects to the microUSB port on the device and then you plug an HDMI cable into it.  It is also advisable to connect a microUSB mains power supply to keep the device powered, although it is not essential.

Check out the video to see it in action.

MHL v SlimPort – What is the difference?

What are the differences between Mobile High Definition Link & SlimPort?

These are two technologies that you may have heard of, but do not understand the differences between.  In this post, we look to explain the differences.

What do they do?

Mobile High Definition (MHL) and SlimPort are technologies whereby video and audio can be extracted from the microUSB port on a mobile device and viewed on an external display, with the use of an appropriate cable or adapter.

Both essentially achieve the same thing, but there are some key differences.

What is the main difference?

The key difference is that MHL outputs through the HDMI standard, whilst SlimPort uses the VESA standard meaning it can output to HDMI as well as VGA, DVI and DisplayPort.

For a more detailed explanation of the differences, read on.

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Google Nexus 5 SlimPort demonstration with HDTV

Connect the Google Nexus 5 to a HD display.

Many phones have the ability to connect to an HD display and the Google Nexus 5 is no exception.

The only difference here is that to connect it, you need a SlimPort adapter rather than the more common MHL adapters that the likes of Samsung, Sony and HTC use.

None the less it does the same job

In the following video we show the Nexus 5 connected to a HD display using a SlimPort adapter. It connects to the microUSB port on the device and then you plug an HDMI cable into it. It is also advisable to connect a microUSB mains power supply to keep the device powered, although it is not essential.

Check out the video to see it in action.

What is SlimPort?

Connect your mobile device to an external display.

SlimPort is a technology which so far hasn’t received widespread attention, but this is changing with the inclusion of the standard in the Google Nexus 4 & 5 and Nexus 6, as well as other devices like the LG G2.

Read on for the written explanation or sit back and what the following video that explains it all.

SlimPort uses a single cable to deliver high-definition audio and video from your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device, to a wide range of external displays, including projectors, PC monitors and HDTV’s.

What this means really is that you can connect your mobile device to a display and see the exact same content on that display as you can on your mobile device.

There are many scenarios in which this could be useful, including giving a presentation, sharing photos and videos with friends and family or playing games.

Developed by Analogix to provide easy and convenient connection of devices equipped with micoUSB sockets to external displays, SlimPort is based on the VESA DisplayPort standard.

However Analogix has cleverly combined functionality which would have traditionally used several cables into one which they call C-Wire.  This enables manufacturers to incorporate SlimPort into existing microUSB connectors.  With the result that display output, data and charging can be dealt with by one single connector.

SlimPort has been designed to use virtually zero power, meaning that it will drain little power from your portable device; so you can view content on a large screen with the reassurance that you are not using any additional battery power, compared to normal viewing.

What does this mean for the future of portable devices?

  • As a consumer you will be able to connect your portable device to large screens and enjoy high definition full 1080p video with 3D graphics and audio.
  • Connecting your portable device to a large screen can be done without having to worry about unnecessary battery power drain.
  • There is the possibility of connecting to a variety of display standards.  Making it easy to connect to a TV, monitor or projector bring more opportunities for viewing media content or providing presentations.

There are already 3 types of SlimPort adapters being offered:

HDMI Adapter

A microUSB connection at one end, which connects to the mobile device, with a HDMI port at the other.  A HDMI cable is then connected to the SlimPort adapter and the HD display. There is too a microUSB power connector should you wish to connect power to the device at the same time.

SlimPort HDMI Adapter

VGA Adapter

A microUSB connection at one end, which connects to the mobile device, with a VGA port connector at the other. A VGA cable is then connected to the SlimPort adapter and the VGA display. There is too a microUSB power connector should you wish to connect power to the device at the same time.

HDMI/VGA Combo Adapter

As the name implies, it is a combination of the 2 other cables.  A microUSB connection at one end, which connects to the mobile device and a HDMI and VGA port at the other. A VGA or HDMI cable is then connected to the SlimPort adapter and the the external display. There is too a microUSB power connector should you wish to connect power to the device at the same time.

The following video shows you a few scenarios in which using SlimPort could be useful or beneficial to yourself.

 

If you want to find out more about SlimPort take a look at the Analogix website here or check out some FAQ’s below.

FAQs:

In what scenarios would I use SlimPort?

There are a variety of scenarios where the use of SlimPort may be beneficial or useful. Examples include:

  • Giving a presentation. The presentation is stored on your smartphone. You simply connect to a display to make for a better viewing experience for the viewers.
  • Sharing photos and videos. The photos and videos are stored on your mobile device. You simply connect to a display to make for a better viewing experience for the viewers.
  • Playing games. The games is on your mobile device, but you want to use a games controller and have a more comfortable setup. Connect the games controller to the mobile device via Bluetooth, connect the mobile device to a larger display.  Sit back comfortably and play the game without needing to hold the mobile device.

Does my device have SlimPort?

You will need to check your devices technical specifications.  Look at the manual, box or consult the manufacturer directly.

A list of the latest SlimPort enabled devices can be found here (http://www.slimportconnect.com/supported-devices/).  However this list may be out of date.

Can I upgrade my device to have SlimPort?

Your device either has the SlimPort technology built in or not.  It can not be added at a later date. If your device does have it, you simply need to connect the appropriate cables.

What cables do I need?

The cables required will depend on your setup.  You will need a SlimPort adapter, which connects into the mobile device.  These are currently available in 3 different options.  They are an HDMI only, VGA only or HDMI/VGA combo connector.

An HDMI adapter can be used to connect your mobile device to a HD display, which a VGA adapter will allow connection to a display via VGA.  The combo solution allows either.

You will then need a HDMI or VGA cable to connect between the adapter and the display.

It is not essential but you may want to also connect a microUSB mains power supply to the adapter to keep your device powered.  Without it, the adapter draws next to no power, but connecting a power adapter will keep your device charged.

Can I use the same cable with other devices?

You can use a SlimPort cable only with compatible SlimPort devices.  If you have more than one SlimPort enabled device you can use the same adapter.  However 1 adapter can only ever be connected to 1 mobile device at one time.

Do I need to connect a power adapter?

It is not essential but you may want to also connect a microUSB mains power supply to the adapter to keep your device powered. Without it, the adapter draws next to no power, but connecting a power adapter will keep your device charged.

What is the cost of SlimPort?

The cost of SlimPort is broken into two parts.  The first is the cost of the mobile device itself.  This will either have SlimPort built into it or not.  The cost of the device will of course depend on what it is, its features, time of purchase etc.

The adapter cable itself is relatively in-expensive, but perhaps more expansive than most other cables such as MicroUSB cables.  This is due to the technology built into the adapter and what it can do for you.

Prices vary for the different types of adapters and of course from which supplier you obtain it.

Where can I get the cable?

There are a variety of outlets that sell the SlimPort cables, although it is unlikely to be available at your local electronics store.  It should be available from specialist suppliers, primarily online.

Search the internet for the cable you require and appropriate suppliers will appear in the results.

Is SlimPort the same as MHL?

No, they are similar but different. They are two different standards that require different adapters to work with displays.

The technology is evolving continually but primarily SlimPort outputs at a higher resolution and does not require power to be connected. It does too allow for devices to be connected via HDMI or VGA cables.

MHL on the other hand outputs via HDMI only and normally requires power to be connected to work. MHL 2.0 standard does not require this, but draws considerably more power from the mobile device when power is not connected.

The following video explains the differences.

User-Manual-Pop-Up