Since 2011, the Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) standard has let select phones, tablets and other devices connect to TVs through adapters that hook up to the devices’ microUSB and HDMI ports. This has been a blessing to power mobile users in particular: one adapter is all they need to directly output 1080p video, games and the like from their phone and put it on their television.
But yesterday, the MHL Consortium–the group of manufacturers (comprised of Nokia, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba and Silicon Image) that’s joined forces to push the tech forward–announced that the standard will be getting an upgrade.
Beginning in “early September,” the MHL 3.0 specification will be available to download, and it will bring support for 4K displays with it. You’ll need to be able to afford a 4K monitor or TV in the first place (which is usually no easy feat), but this means that MHL-equipped mobile devices will soon be able to output 3840×2160 resolution video at 30 frames per second on larger displays.
It’s generally accepted that 4K will soon overtake 1080p as the resolution of choice in the living room. Almost every noteworthy television manufacturer (Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio, Panasonic, Sharp, Seiki, etc.) has introduced their own 4K (or “Ultra HD”) TV sets or monitors within the past couple of years, with some devices making their way to major retail outlets like Best Buy as well.
And although the tech is still far too expensive for the average shopper, prices have been slowly but surely coming down as time has gone on. There are doubts to be had about the standard’s actual usefulness — true 4K content is still rare, and the average person will need to sit close to an enormous screen just to notice the difference between 4K and 1080p — but all signs point to 4K becoming the norm in the future.
In other words, seeing these manufacturers begin to prepare mobile devices for the forthcoming 4K onslaught should come as no surprise. But 4K support isn’t the only thing coming with the MHL 3.0 update. The Consortium notes that the new standard will let you connect MHL devices to multiple displays, and that MHL devices will now draw up to 10 watts of power for charging while they’re hooked up.
Audio has been boosted to support Dolby 7.1 channel surround sound, and devices will be able to transmit video and data at the same time when plugged in. MHL 3.0 will also bring an update to the standard’s remote control protocol (or RCP), which will let MHL mobile devices hook up to mice, keyboards and touchscreen monitors (theoretically letting you turn certain monitors into giant tablets). Finally, MHL 3.0 will be backwards compatible with previous versions of the standard as well.
MHL competes with other mobile-to-big screen display standards like SlimPort (which is found in various Nexus devices, among others), as well as wireless display transmitters like Miracast and Apple’s Airplay, which beam mobile content to HDTVs over Wi-Fi. All of those do not support 4K displays just yet though, so those who want to make their mobile device output the highest display possible will have to download the new specs from the Consortium’s website early next month.