Turn your smartphone into a desktop PC with these 6 MHL-compatible docks

Turn your smartphone into a desktop PC with these 6 MHL-compatible docks
Believe it or not, today's Android smartphones pack quite a bit of horsepower. We're not even talking about those crazy octa-core chips and Quad-HD resolution screens found in cutting-edge flagships. Even an old man of an Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 packs plenty of punch for the essential tasks and some reasonably complex games. Thanks to this, it can even become a desktop personal computer that will deal just fine with browsing, document editing, and multimedia. Great stuff! 

The only major prerequisite to trying this out is MHL. But what is an MHL and does it grow on trees? MHL is short for Mobile High-Definition Link. This is the industry standard that lets people connect smartphones, tablets, and other portable smart devices to HDMI-compatible (you know HDMI, right?) displays via microUSB. It's a pretty awesome invention that turns the ol' microUSB port into a gateway for streaming data, video, and sound over a mere cable! It also allows devices such as microUSB to MHL adapters and docks to exist, letting you merge your MHL-compatible smartphone or tablet with a 1080p display, mouse, keyboard, and external storage! If you're in doubt about your device compatibility, you can check the MHL Consortium website for information - there are an extensive list of supported devices and a search engine to help you poke through it.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, buying the right MHL adapter or dock is a little complicated. To blame is the industry's notorious penchant for developing different standards for doing the same thing, leading to fragmentation. Basically, Samsung replaced the standard 5-pin microUSB connector with a 11-pin one so it could bring aboard some additional functionality. This happened with the Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2 (all variants of these smartphones), and the Galaxy Mega 6.3. Curiously enough, the overwhelming majority of convenient MHL docks we found (and will be showing you below) were created specifically for those 11-pin Samsung gems - they were, and still are popular devices, after all.

You'd think this limits compatibility to Samsung's phones of yesteryear, but thankfully, technology comes to the rescue again! Unless specifically noted, these docks should work with 11-pin to 5-pin microUSB adapters and cables, which are in abundance. Now, we don't have the means to test and confirm that last bit ourselves, but at least one MHL dock maker around here is selling their 11-pin product with a bundled 11-pin to 5-pin cable for compatibility with newer devices - so we reckon there are no problems on that end. The unfortunate tradeoff, however, is that some of these docks won't be able to support your smartphone in portrait orientation. If you don't like the sound of that, you might be better off with a regular microUSB to MHL adapter off your favorite shopping website or hardware store. Obviously, it won't look as great on your desk, but it will get the job done!

Okay, so we've told you what you need to know. Once you've procured an MHL dock, it's only a matter of connecting your smartphone, display, and (optional) sound system to it, then adding a mouse and keyboard combo - wired or Bluetooth. If you're getting an MHL adapter, though, make sure to get one with a 3.5mm stereo output jack, because not all displays can handle audio over HDMI. Also, wireless mouse and keyboard are mandatory if you go the adapter route, as these are small and don't usually have USB ports. There you go! Enjoy!

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19 Comments

1. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Something to use all the horse power in current s6 and all future phones.

9. SuperMaoriBro

Posts: 533; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

Someone did a video using an android smartphone like a desktop PC with mhl here:http://youtu.be/VbOCp6ruans and then using it with Linux here:http://youtu.be/iFulMBNvjZA. Cant wait to see if this can also be done when windows 10 comes to phones.

10. SuperMaoriBro

Posts: 533; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

Also found one for using phone like a game console over mhlhttp://youtu.be/xGeYlfSyhe4

2. delta

Posts: 80; Member since: Jan 29, 2015

Mhl compatibility is very important for me, but phone arena usually never mentioned if a device is compatible or not with that technology

4. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

Most likely because most, if not all, smartphones today support MHL. Even the iPhones support it now (I think; not sure since the iPhones don't really do anything except answer calls and reroute iMessages to a black hole).

11. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

After checking on the MHL consortium website, it doesn't appear that the iPhone doesn't supports MHL. Why am I not surprised. Like I said, the iPhone doesn't really do anything other than make phone calls and send iMessages

12. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

correction: it doesn't appear that the iPhone supports MHL.

13. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

I use miracast in place of MHL when i doing work or media consumption. I only use MHL for large screen gaming with Bluetooth controller.

3. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

"This is the industry standard that lets people connect smartphones, tablets, and other portable smart devices to HDMI-compatible (you know HDMI, right?) displays via the latter's microUSB ports." -PA (Luis D.) The latter? What latter are you referring to? Other portable smart devices? That implies that smartphones and tablets don't have micro-USB ports. This sentence doesn't make any sense. Please learn proper English. Please.

19. shipinwinebottle

Posts: 1; Member since: May 20, 2016

I can't believe such a rude and obnoxious comment as this ("...This sentence doesn't make any sentence. Please learn proper English....") is tolerated here. Idiots like this need to learn how to READ proper english. I understood it clearly instantly. Hey dumbass, you don't know how to interpret various grammatical instances other than "see dog run", or what ? Just in case there's OTHER morons lurking in these threads the "latter" referred to (and in grammatically correct context, I also will point out) is the words immediately preceding the paranthesis "to HDMI-compatble" and the word "displays" - the operative word being 'DISPLAYS. The sentence is not at all deserving of "doesn't make any sense" if you actually knew english grammar to begin with, that (in this case) the words beginning with "to..." are a subordinate as an extension of and referring back to that which preceded them. That's a summary explanation without dissecting and using precise grammatical vernacular.. Please focus on the message more than taking potshots at the friggin messengers here... especially since you can't shoot straight to begin with....

5. livyatan

Posts: 867; Member since: Jun 19, 2013

Thank you for this article PA :) Been looking for a good yet reasonably priced Note 3 compatible dock.

6. DnB925Art

Posts: 1168; Member since: May 23, 2013

I didn't think about this, using my old Note 2 (no longer with mobile service just using it as WIFI only) as a desktop at home like a game console. I think I'll get one of these and try it out.

7. mrej201

Posts: 226; Member since: Feb 04, 2015

the sweet old note 2 best device even made

8. ianbbaa

Posts: 332; Member since: Mar 20, 2013

I have older MHL 5-pin cable to my note 8 and it works with my fHD monitor, video OK but actually it looks bad on fHD monitor while the mirrored screen of N8 is 1280x800 and the outcome is blurry - blurry text. I didnt had the chance to try 11-pin on my S4 or another device like N3 which are FullHD devices. I have a question - how is the text looking on the monitor when mirrored fHD display to fHD screen (PC monitor?) Does the text looks sharp and crisp? Or still some blurry fonts? Thanks for answer.

14. WallStreet

Posts: 256; Member since: Sep 21, 2014

Are there any docks compatible with the Xperias?

15. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

I found several for my Xperia Z Ultra on amazon.com. They had real Sony and non-Sony versions. So I think you should be able to find one for whatever Sony Xperia you own. In the case of the Z Ultra it uses the built-in landscape magnetic docking port leaving the USB port available. If your Xperia does not have a docking port it may not work so well.

16. NIK01

Posts: 40; Member since: Apr 29, 2013

I tried out MHL with my Xperia Z3 compact yesterday. BUT: the mouse cursor is late almost half a second, so that you can not use it sensefully. THE SAME with Nexus9+Chromecast. Anyone with any idea about it maybe???

17. marcva

Posts: 3; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

Couldn't you also use chromecast and Android screen mirroring?

18. Raito1982

Posts: 1; Member since: Aug 12, 2015

confusing title "Turn your smartphone into a desktop PC with these 6 MHL-compatible docks" make me think if my smartphone can be used as PC monitor with HDMI cable" it should be "how to play smartphone game on bigger monitor".

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