Con­nect an An­droid de­vice to a TV

CHRIS MARTIN re­veals how to show off pho­tos, videos and con­tent from your An­droid phone on your TV

Android Advisor - - Contents -

To con­nect an An­droid phone or tablet to a TV, you can use an MHL/SlimPort (via Mi­cro-USB) or Mi­cro-HDMI cable if sup­ported, or wire­lessly cast your screen us­ing Mira­cast or Chrome­cast. Here we look at your op­tions for view­ing your phone or tablet’s screen on the TV.

Wire­lessly con­nect An­droid to TV

There’s lit­tle to beat the wow fac­tor as­so­ci­ated with beam­ing video straight from a tablet to your TV. The good thing about An­droid is that there’s more than one way to do it. Mira­cast is a wire­less stan­dard that cre­ates an ad-hoc net­work be­tween two de­vices, typ­i­cally your tablet and a set-top box that sup­ports Mira­cast.

An in­creas­ing num­ber of TVs sup­port Mira­cast with­out the need for ex­tra hard­ware. Mira­cast uses H.264 for video trans­mis­sion, which means ef­fi­cient com­pres­sion and de­cent, full HD pic­ture qual­ity.

Bet­ter yet, Mira­cast sup­ports Dig­i­tal Rights Man­age­ment (DRM), which means ser­vices such as iPlayer and YouTube can be streamed to a TV. Not all ser­vices work, though.

An al­ter­na­tive (and most user-friendly) is Google’s Chrome­cast. This in­ex­pen­sive £30 ‘don­gle’ plugs into

a spare HDMI port on your TV and con­nects to your wire­less net­work. Chrome­cast sup­port is bur­geon­ing, which means con­tent from ser­vices such as iPlayer, Net­flix, BT Sport and oth­ers can be played with the Chrome­cast don­gle do­ing all the leg­work in­stead of your tablet, and that’s good news for bat­tery life.

It’s pos­si­ble to use Chrome­cast to mir­ror the dis­play on your An­droid de­vice, al­low­ing you to hit play on a tablet and have (non DRM-pro­tected) video start play­ing on your TV. The same goes for any­thing the screen can dis­play, in­clud­ing apps, games and pho­tos. You can also pick up the pricier Chrome­cast Ul­tra to stream 4K con­tent, too.

HDMI

HDMI (High Def­i­ni­tion Mul­ti­me­dia In­ter­face) is the in­ter­face stan­dard du jour. If your TV was bought in the past decade it has an HDMI port, as does al­most ev­ery set-top box, games con­sole and a de­cent num­ber of still and video cam­eras.

The ben­e­fit to HDMI, apart from its ubiq­uity (which means it’s cheap), is that it ac­com­mo­dates HD video and au­dio si­mul­ta­ne­ously, al­low­ing you to con­nect de­vices with­out wor­ry­ing about watch­ing a film in full HD but hav­ing to make do with your tablet’s tinny speak­ers. An HDMI out­put is an ad­van­tage that many An­droid tablets have over Ap­ple’s iPad.

HDMI plugs come in three sizes. Reg­u­lar HDMI (or Type A, left) are the full-size ports you’ll find on de­vices where space isn’t an is­sue: think TVs, lap­tops and games con­soles. The sock­ets you’re likely to find on tablets and phones will be ei­ther Type C (also

known as Mini HDMI, mid­dle) or Type D (Mi­cro HDMI, right). Of these, Mi­cro HDMI, or Type D, is the small­est.

Whichever type of port your tablet has, con­nect­ing it to an HDMI socket isn’t go­ing to cost you the Earth: ex­pect to pay un­der £10 (un­der £5 in some cases) for an HDMI to Mini- or Mi­cro-HDMI cable.

A range of tablets have ei­ther HDMI or its minia­tur­ized vari­ants. It’s the sim­plest ap­proach.

MHL and SlimPort

HDMI is easy to un­der­stand: it’s a port that only does one thing. The draw­back is that not all tablets have an HDMI out­put, and very few phones do. The good news is that a pair of widely-sup­ported stan­dards have emerged that al­low An­droid own­ers to con­nect to ex­ter­nal dis­plays us­ing their Mi­cro-USB port.

The stan­dards in ques­tion are MHL (Mo­bile High Def­i­ni­tion Link) and the newer SlimPort. Both look the same, which is stat­ing the ob­vi­ous as they sim­ply use the Mi­cro-USB port on an An­droid de­vice to de­liver video.

Like HDMI, SlimPort and MHL sup­port both video and au­dio, with up to eight chan­nels of sur­round sound avail­able. Both nor­mally re­quire break­out boxes: a small don­gle be­tween your de­vice and TV that con­verts the sig­nal from your phone to one com­pat­i­ble with HDMI.

Ex­pect to pay be­tween £5 and £25 for ei­ther a SlimPort or MHL sig­nal con­verter. That makes things a lit­tle more ex­pen­sive than us­ing a tablet with an HDMI port, but MHL in par­tic­u­lar is sup­ported by a wide range of phone and tablet mak­ers.

MHL has un­der­gone var­i­ous ver­sions: we’re cur­rently on ver­sion three, which im­proves the max­i­mum res­o­lu­tion to 4K, though costs slightly more. This is the same as SlimPort, and means both stan­dards of­fer pretty sim­i­lar tech­ni­cal specs.

One ad­van­tage that MHL has is sup­port from var­i­ous TV man­u­fac­tur­ers: look on the back of your TV, and if the HDMI port has an MHL logo above it, you can use an HDMI to Mi­cro-USB cable to con­nect the two – the HDMI cable will pass power to your tablet or phone, mean­ing no need for ex­tra adap­tors or ca­bles. Bonus.

If your TV doesn’t sup­port MHL, or you have a SlimPort de­vice, you’ll need an adap­tor. SlimPort users should ex­pect to pay around £15, while MHL users may spend slightly less. If you’re us­ing MHL it’s likely you’ll need an ex­ter­nal power source: MHL 3 can draw up to 10 watts from its host de­vice.

With SlimPort no ex­ter­nal power sup­ply is needed (it draws a small amount of power from your de­vice), mak­ing setup less clut­tered. Both de­vices need a tablet’s screen to be on, though, so break­out boxes nor­mally come with a Mi­cro-USB port so a charger can be con­nected.

Sup­port for MHL and SlimPort varies enor­mously. With three dif­fer­ent ver­sions of MHL avail­able plus SlimPort, you’ll need to check the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of your de­vice be­fore buy­ing an adap­tor.

Google Chrome­cast

SlimPort

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