What is MHL Technology and How Does it Work?


The term MHL Technology stands for Mobile High-Definition Link and it is an industry standard for the interface between Mobile audio/video that creates an interface and allows connection to HDTV’s audio receivers. MHL-enabled products to include AV receivers, Bluray players, Automotive accessories, media sticks, monitors, mobiles and other consumer electronics. MHL is a tie-up between major manufacturers including Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony, Toshiba, and others.

This technology was first showcased in CES (Consumer electronics show) in 2008 by Silicon image which was one of the founding companies of the HDMI (High definition multimedia interface) standard. The company never mass produced this technology in any form but it was the company responsible for the consortium. This group was first announced in September 2009 and the consortium was founded in April 2010 including major manufacturers like Nokia and Samsung among others. The first generation of MHL with spec 1.0 was announced in June 2010 and the first retail availability was in May 2011.

MHL standard supports High definition video and also up to 8 channels of audio thereby giving it the ability to stream 7.1CH content directly from the mobile devices. It contains only 5 cables compare to the 19 in HDMI, this was done to reduce the power consumption and also make the cable lighter.While HDMI uses the power line to provide 5V supply at 50mA current, MHL provides 900mA of current which translates to 4.5W power. This essentially means that a device connected to MHL doesn’t lose charge even on continuous usage. For the newer devices consuming more charge,  MHL 2.0 and MHL 3.0 provide a total of 10W output keeping the juice up.

The latest standards of MHL allow up to 120FPS on 8K resolution and for mobile devices, the support is up to 60FPS at the 4K resolution. The technology also supports all the major audio encoding like Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD among others. Coming to SuperMHL, it supports USB Type C and provides up to 40W power to keep the device always juiced up. With SuperMHL using USB 2.0 or USB 3.1 for data transfer, it allows for up to 8k content from the smartphones and tablets, and with the introduction of MHL Technology on USB Type C there’s no right or wrong way of plugging in the adaptor.

MHL Generation comparison

The first and second generation of MHL-supported up to 60FPS on FullHD(1080p) however the third generation added support for streaming 4K content at up to 30FPS. The latest standard of MHL which is SuperMHL totally changed the game by introducing 8K content support at up to 120FPS. The other major addition in Super MHL is the support for High Dynamic Range(HDR).

The third generation of MHL introduced support for Dolby TrueHD and as of now, SUperMHL is the only version of MHL which supports Dolby Atmos. The first generation charges the device with a power output rate at 2.5W while the second generation MHL bumped up this power output to 7.5W and the third generation to 10W. The SuperMHL technology forgot all bounds by providing support for up to 40W power output thus making sure that the device never runs out of power while streaming the content.

The latest generation of MHL supports HDCP2.2 for content protection and encryption. The first and second generation of MHL supports the only single display, while the third generation of MHL supports up to 4 displays to be simultaneously connected. The SuperMHL supports up to 8 displays to be connected at the same time and different content to be streamed to each of them at the same time. The  SuperMHL also has support for USB Type C, so you don’t have to worry about which way you’re connecting the adaptor. SuperMHL is said to provide a visually lossless content streaming experience.

MHL Connectors

Passive Cables

Passive cables are used to directly connect the device to the HDTV or any other display device. Apart from providing the reverse current to the device, there is no other USB or HDMI technology being involved in the transmission of the data. For this to work both the streaming and receiving devices should be MHL compatible.

Active Cables

Active cables are used to connect the MHL supported streaming device to be connected to any HDMI device and it is universally compatible. It works by converting the Output in a format supported by HDMI, these cables have an option for power supply as normal HDMI does not provide enough power as required to power up the streaming device.

Micro USB to HDMI

To provide better quality transmission, Samsung introduced in some of their smartphones a 11 pin connector as opposed to the 5 pin connection in other conventional micro USB connectors. These additional 6 pins are said to provide functional improvements.

USB Type C

This standard was introduced in 2014 and is backward compatible. It can be used with all the previous generations of MHL Technology including MHL 1,2,3 and even the latest SuperMHL. This supports the simultaneous transfer of data while the device is charging and streaming content at the same time. This also supports up to 40W of power output during streaming.


This is a 32pin connection supporting up to 8k content at 120 FPS, this standard supports up to 8 simultaneous connections at a time. This also has a reversible connector so that the consumers need not worry about which side to plug in the cable.

Possibilities with MHL Technology

MHL has the ability to transmit High Definition video and uncompressed 8 channel audio at the same time. Apart from the regular screen mirroring abilities, once your device is connected to the TV using MHL you can even use the TV remote to control the apps and content on your phone on the big screen. With MHL you’ve no lag whatsoever and you can experience a high bandwidth connection with the receiving device. You can even connect the device to your vehicle and get direct traffic updates on the car infotainment system.

What can you do with MHL Technology?

  • Tuning of music is possible to the HD TV through MHL Technology. Connect a speaker system to the TV and you are good to go, playing music at the level of audio you wanted to hear.
  • Viewing all the pictures, videos, and galleries on the larger screen, i.e. on TV screen rather than on your smartphone, by just connecting the phone to TV through this same MHL.
  • Add a keyboard or gaming controller, connect your phone to TV and you can play games at will on the larger screen and this takes away all the need for a gaming console.
  • App usage is also the same, with just the screen getting larger and giving you an easier view.

A lot more is possible on the practical side but we list some of the regular and frequent uses of MHL technology for normal users.


The cost of implementation of this technology is very low, in fact even if you don’t have an MHL-enabled TV, you can still buy a Micro USB to MHL adaptor which can be used to connect virtually any MHL compatible phone or portable device to the receiving display and mirror the content. These adaptors are available for as low as Rs300.

Devices that have MHL support

With an ecosystem of over 750 Million devices, there’s a wide range of options to choose from. From phones to tablets, TV’s to AV receivers and even car infotainment system’s are all compatible with MHL technology. For a full list of MHL compatible devices refer the list here.

Image source for featured image: MHLtech.org

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