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 TV. So which one is the most suitable phone to PC tool?
Cables or wireless
One 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.
HDMI cables and micro USB ports
Unlike laptops or computers it’s been quite a while since a smartphone or tablet shipped with an HDMI port. For a good while now, the only two proper ports on a non Apple phone will be a headphone jack and the microUSB. Whether you can get wired video out from your phone depends on whether the manufacturer has made the USB port video compatible.
Now this isn’t just based on the manufacturer; for instance some Samsung phones have the capability and some don’t. The best thing to do if you don’t know or can’t find the information is to use the manufacturer’s support pages or contact your retailer for extra details.
In order to make the USB port capable of sending out video, it has to have one of 2 technologies included: MHL or Slimport. We’ve written some explanatory posts about these technologies in the past. Effectively they have the same outcome, allowing you to get content out of your phone’s USB port, over a cable and into an HDMI port on your TV.
In Android phones, Slimport is reserved almost exclusively for LG flagship devices such as the G3, G2, Flex and also the Nexus 4 & 5 manufactured by them. There are some others devices as well, check out the full list here. One of the key selling ports with Slimport was that as well as being compatible with HDMI standards, it would work seamlessly with the DisplayPort technology being steadily adopted in computer monitors, as well as a variety of other connectors including VGA and DVI.
The idea was to make Slimport a standard that could be used not just in new multimedia and home entertainment scenarios, but also in offices, teaching spaces and other places where older screen technologies may be installed. Another advantage of Slimport over its direct competitor MHL is that it never required external power to be attached.
Unfortunately Slimport got to the smartphone party a little bit late. MHL was taken up by many more manufacturers which makes it the wired video out option of choice.
If you happen to have a Slimport enabled device, then adaptors are still available from some outlets, although you may find now that a wireless option is the better choice to get content to your television. Bear in mind though that the tech does give you the option to output to more than just HDMI should you be able to locate the correct adapters.
First seeing mainstream adoption in the Galaxy S2 (yes that long ago), MHL was advertised as a simple method to get HDMI output from your microUSB port. Since this first release, most other big name manufacturers have added the tech including HTC and Sony.
You do need to check if your phone is compatible first though, as not every handset in these manufacturer’s ranges will have MHL. It costs to make the USB port MHL ready and there are licenses to be paid, so often the cheaper phones in a range will not have MHL abilities.
If your phone is MHL compatible then you will need to get an adapter for the micro USB port. After this you can attach an HDMI cable. Older phones will also need power attached to the adapter, although those with the MHL 2.0 specification do not require this. If you have an MHL compatible Samsung Galaxy from the S3 era or later, you will also have to use an official Samsung adaptor as they do not support 3rd party products.
It does sound like a fair bit of work to figure out which products you need, however once you get up and running then MHL is flawless: sound and image quality are very high.
If you want to play newer games on your big screen then MHL may also be the best choice for responsiveness. Wireless tech may occasionally lag or buffer which can be hugely frustrating when you’re in the zone. Sacrificing some freedom of movement for a continuous connection is an age old trade off for gamers!