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What is the Difference Between HDMI and MHL?


Understanding the difference between High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) is crucial if you’re trying to transfer content from a source to a display. The HDMI way of transferring content has become the standard for several display technologies worldwide. Whether you’re playing a game on a console, using your laptop, or watching a show on your TV, all of these devices use an HDMI cable one way or the other. 

On the other hand, MHL is a connection protocol developed by companies like Nokia and Sony in 2010. This technology uses the HDMI input to connect your smartphone to several tablets, TVs, and other smartphones. While they may sound similar, one may wonder: what is the difference between HDMI and MHL? 

Here’s an elaborate answer.

What is HDMI?

4K HDMI Cable 2 Pack 6ft
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Using the HDMI standard, you can transfer content of high quality between two digital media devices. This technology is used with a DVD player, HDTV, a Blu-ray player, gaming consoles, mobile phones, or projectors. 

Initially, the HDMI standard was developed by several companies such as Toshiba, Hitachi, Sony, and Phillips. Before HDMI cables, three composite cables were used to transmit video and audio signals. There are different kinds of HDMI cables (more on this ahead) and cables in varying lengths. 

What is MHL?

How to connect a MHL to HDMI Adapter
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As we mentioned earlier, MHL was created in 2010, and it takes content on your smartphone or tablet to the next level. When the MHL technology was first launched, different adapters were used to utilize the features of this technology. Now, however, several different cables can utilize MHL. For instance, Micro USB-to-HDMI cable.

You’ll have to plug the cable into the compatible device, which will display all of the phone’s contents. This could be:

  • Music on your TV
  • Applications
  • Videos
  • Photos

All of these will be in 4K!

Side by Side Comparisons: Breaking it Down

Use Cases

HDMI

First and foremost, even though an HDMI cable is used in different cases, the devices you connect  with must be   HDMI compatible .There are different connectors (A, B, C, D, and E) and different types of cables. 

Connecting a Laptop or PC to a Different Screen

This is perhaps one of the most popular uses of an HDMI cable. Several people are okay with just one screen, but software developers, video editors, or content producers may need two screens to feel more productive. They don’t have to switch between two tabs or minimize and maximize repeatedly with two screens. 

Connecting a Laptop or a Phone to a TV
USB C to HDMI Cable 4K, 10ft USB Type C to HDMI Cable Adapter
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This way, anyone can source content from their laptop, phone, tablet, or console and display it directly on their TV. Your TV doesn’t have to be a Smart TV to do this either. A TV gives better appeal in a bigger setting (especially living rooms). If you’ve downloaded a movie or want to watch a show on Netflix, an HDMI cable is perhaps the best way to watch your favorite content on a big screen.

Connecting a Set-Top Box to a TV

Another great use of an HDMI cable is that you can use it to connect a PayTV decoder to your TV. Before HDMI cables were invented, banana pins (or composite AV cables) were used. Most PayTV decoders now have an HDMI port which enables them to transmit HD video and audio directly to your TV.

MHL

Since MHL cables are very similar to HDMI cables, they are also used in many cases as HDMI . However, the devices used in this case are  different since MHL sources content from mobile devices like phones or tablets. 

Connecting Your Phone to a PC

Using the USB port on your phone, you can connect your phone to a PC and experience your phone’s games, videos, or images in a different resolution. As technology has evolved, people have stopped using the MHL standard because there are more convenient options available that don’t require a wire. 

3 in 1 HDMI Cable Adapter Type C/Micro USB/Phone MHL to HDMI
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How do they work ?

HDMI

HDMI cables work by using transition-minimized differential signaling (TDMS) that transfers data from one device to another. This technique of transferring data protects data from deteriorating as it travels from one end of the cable to a different end. The device sending the signal decodes it by reducing transitions which helps protect the quality of the information. 

HDMI cables also can protect data from piracy with the high bandwidth digital protection (HDCP) technique. 

MHL

Essentially, one end of the MHL cable is plugged into the micro USB port on your tablet or phone, while   the other end will be plugged into a monitor or a television. Once this is done, it works the same way as the HDMI cable does. It also uses the TDMS technology to prevent data from deteriorating when traveling from one end to the other. 

Different Types

HDMI

8K HDMI 2.1 Cable 6.6FT 48Gbps
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There are several different kinds of HDMI cables that you can buy. The one you pick depends on the kind of device you have. Older devices may support older generations of the HDMI cable like HDMI 1.3 or 1.4, while newer devices may support the highest end HDMI cable like the HDMI 2.1 standard or HDMI 2.0. 

The cables you can get are:

  • Standard (Category 1)
  • Standard with Ethernet
  • High Speed (Category 2)
  • High Speed  – Ethernet
  • Category 3 (4K)
  • Category 3 (8K)

MHL

Giom Type C/Micro USB/Lightning MHL to HDMI
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As the HDMI standard, the MHL cable has seen several upgrades too, and with each standard, the cable’s features have improved. 

The different MHL cables you can get include:

  • MHL 1.0
  • MHL 2.0
  • MHL 3.0
  • SuperMHL

HDMI vs. MHL: Head to Head

FactorHDMIMHL
Use Cases
  • Can be used to connect an external display to a media device
  • Can be used to export content between two devices
  • Can also be used to connect a smartphone to a TV
  • Is usually only used to connect a phone to a TV or a computer
How they WorkUtilizes the TDMS technology to transfer contentWhile the two connector heads are different, an MHL cable works using TDMS technology, too
AffordabilityModerately affordableModerately affordable
Types
  • Standard
  • Standard with Ethernet
  • High Speed
  • High Speed (CAT2)
  • CAT3 4K
  • CAT3 8K
  • MHL 1.0
  • MHL 2.0
  • MHL 3.0
  • SuperMHL

Wrapping Up

2-in-1 USB Type C Micro USB to HDMI Cable, Weton MHL to TV HDMI
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While the HDMI standard has managed to stay relevant even after all these years, the MHL standard quickly fell out of favor because there are several other ways of connecting your phone to different displays. In fact, in the smartphone space, companies like Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, and several others are known for having smooth ecosystems that allow the user to transition between different devices seamlessly. 

Alternatives for the HDMI cable like screen mirroring have also popped up, but they haven’t been able to gain traction yet. But will HDMI fall out of public sight soon, too? 

Only time will tell.


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