The MHL Consortium has today announced the updated version of the MHL connectivity spec. This new MHL 3.0 specification shown here in Barcelona is an update to MHL 2.0, which is found in millions and millions of smartphones and tablets around the world. MHL’s technology is what enables people to be able to connect their phone to their TV using a simple USB cable. With MHL 2.0, people could do 1080P video from their phones to their TVs, but 4K capable smartphones such as the Galaxy Note 3 were completely unable to display their 4K video content. Now, with the MHL 3.0 spec, there is the ability to connect a smartphone directly to a 4K TV using a USB cable and streaming 4K content straight to the TV without any lag or issues.
We actually had an opportunity to meet with the people from MHL and get a chance to see the demo firsthand right after the announcement went public. Their demonstration was with a Sony Z1 smartphone and a Sony 4K TV working together to stream 4K video content from the phone straight to the TV without any lag or issues. The beauty of MHL is that it allows the user to not only connect their device to the TV via one cable, but it also allows for the charging of that device while it plays back through that very same cable. By enabling charging through the USB cable, MHL is giving users the use case scenarios that they would expect to get with a new smartphone and TV.
With the Sony solution (shown above), MHL is showing us what’s really going to be possible in the next year or two when it comes to users being able to play back their own 4K content on their 4K TVs. Until today, users were forced to upload their 4K content to YouTube or their computer and then play it back over the network or through the internet. Either way, not a solution that someone who has a 4K capable phone and a 4K TV wants to experience. In addition to that, the MHL 3.0 solution is capable of charging a device that runs on 5V up to 2000 mA, which translates to a 10W charging capability which means that tablets and smartphones alike will get quick and solid charging.
I personally ran into the issues that existed prior to the release of MHL 3.0 as I could not test the Galaxy Note 3’s 4K playback capabilities because all of the MHL connectors were MHL 2.0. Because of that, I would not be able to play back the 4K content in 4K on a 4K TV. I would be forced to downscale the content down to 1080P, which was unacceptable for the test I was trying to do. The good thing is that since these 4K capable phones have come out it has only been a few months and there aren’t very many people that have run into the problem that I did. After all, there aren’t many people out there with both 4K TVs and phones capable of 4K recording and playback.
In addition to the MHL 3.0 announcement, they also announced that the MHL consortium has shipped worldwide, since its inception over 500 million devices with MHL. This includes devices like smartphones, tablets and TVs among many other devices currently in the works or just being released now like Android PCs, automotive infotainment systems, media sticks, docking stations, wearable displays and more. I believe that MHL’s solution is simple and elegant and will eventually be replaced by wireless 60 Ghz short-range line of sight signaling. But until then, MHL 3.0 proves to be the perfect solution for connecting your 4K smartphone or 4K tablet to your 4K TV.