A Review By: Alphonso Soosay
Since the introduction of “HDMI” as the default wired audio/video connection development for Home Theater components, creative ways to take advantage of its proficiencies are always being scrutinised by design electronics engineers.
Originally, “HDMI” was a way to combine both high-resolution digital video (which now includes 4K and 3D) and audio (up 8 channels) into single connection, reducing the amount of cable clutter that can take place within analog connection requirements.
Succeeding that came the idea of using HDMI as a way to send control signals between connected devices, without having to utilize a separate control system. This has been mentioned by several brand names depending on the manufacturer (Sony Bravia Link, Panasonic Viera Link, Sharp Aquos Link, Samsung Anynet+), but its world-wide name is known as HDMI-CEC.
Another smart idea that is now being implemented successfully is Audio Return Channel, which enables a single HDMI cable to transfer audio signals in both directions, between a compatible TV and Home Theater Receiver, eliminating the need to make a separate audio connection from the TV to a Home Theater receiver.
Moving into “MHL”
A new emphasise that has been added to HDMI that extends it capabilities further is MHL or Mobile High Definition Link.
To enlighten it in simple terms, MHL allows a new generation of portable devices, such as smartphones and tablets to connect to your TV or Home Theater receiver, via HDMI, it allow users to transfer up to 1080p high-definition video and 7.1 channel surround audio from the compatible portable device to a Digital TV or Home Theater receiver, via a mini-HDMI connector on the portable device and a full size HDMI connector on the Home Theater device that is MHL supported.
The MHL supported HDMI port also supplies power to your portable device so you don’t have to worry about using up battery power to watch a movie or listen to music. Also, when not using the MHL/HDMI port for connecting portable devices, you can still use it a regular HDMI connection for your other Home Theater components, such as a Blu-ray Disc player.
MHL and Smart Digital TV
In spite of all this, it doesn’t end there. There are also implications for Smart TV capabilities. For example, when you buy a Smart TV, it comes with certain level of media streaming and/or network functionality, and, although new services and features can be added, there is a limitation as to how much upgrading can be accomplished without having to buy a new Digital TV to get more capabilities. Of course, you could connect a bonus network media player or streamer, but that means another added unit connected to your TV and with more connection cables. I don’t think you would like to go that way.
To solve that problem, “Roku” has taken its media streamer platform, reduced it down to about the size of the USB Flash Drive, but instead of USB, it has incorporated an MHL supported HDMI connector that can plug into any TV that has an MHL supported HDMI port, you now have a media-streaming capable TV, without that capability even having to be built-into the TV in the first place.
This technology is moving fast and “Streaming Stick”, as “Roku”, refers to it, even comes with its own built-in Wi-Fi connection interface, so you don’t need one on the TV to connect your Home Theater network and the internet to access TV and movie streaming content and you don’t even need a separate box and more cables either. Find out more about this new “Roku” Streaming Stick.
MHL Compatibility Concerns
Of course, for MHL to work, the HDMI connection on your TV, Home Theater receiver, or Blu-ray Disc player needs to be MHL supported, and, although there are not many as of the take-off of 2013, as far as I can tell that number is expected to increase greatly in the next year or so. In fact, a larger number of Home Theater receivers being introduced during 2013 are incorporating this MHL supported feature, and there will also be an increasing number of Digital TVs using these MHL supported features.
On the other hand, even if your TV does not have an MHL supported HDMI port, that will not be a problem at all because if your Home Theater receiver, Blu-ray Disc player, Set-Top-Box or even your TV antenna has its own MHL HDMI port, then it will be able to access the content and pass it along to a non MHL supported TV. Enjoy your new Mobile High Definition Link with your Home Theatre.