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HTC Media Link HD review

The prospect of magically sending content from your phone to your TV isn't new. The DLNA (or Digital Living Network Alliance) protocol has been around for some time now, though there's a decent chance you've never used it.  Of newer interest to us is Wifi Direct, in which two Wifi-enabled devices talk to each other directly, no router or access point necessary.

Then there's the HTC Media Link HD, which can connect as a peer-to-peer device or go through your home network. This is the second iteration of HTC's stream-to-the-TV solution. And as the name implies, it's bumped things up to high definition in a package about one-third of the size of one of its smartphones.

What kind of sorcery do we have here? Is it worth the $90 or so you'll have to shell out for it? Read on for our full HTC Media Link HD review.

Hang on a second. Let's get this out of the way. Some of the first comments you'll see on a story like this are "I use DLNA, and you should, too!" Know what? That's great. If built-in DLNA or Twonky or whatever you use works for you, that's awesome. Keep using 'em. We're going to review the Media Link HD on its own merits here. And with that …

The Media Link HD is a small fellow. Smaller than a deck of cards or a pack of smokes (and much better for you). It has just one button that you'll probably (or at least hopefully) never use. There are two ports on of the short sides. One is to connect the included HDMI cable to your TV, the other is for the microUSB power source, also included in the box. The button on the opposite end is used to reset the network connection, but we've not yet had to use it.

And … That's it. Otherwise, you've got a small black box with a glossy top (and sides) with the HTC logo, and a matte, textured bottom with FCC info and a small, fingertip-sized dimple.

We've already mentioned that the HDMI and microUSB cables that come in the box, plus your standard HTC wall plug. The final piece of the puzzle is a small clip with adhesive on one side that allows you to attach the Media Link HD to your TV stand or a wall or the back of the TV itself. That's where the dimple comes in -- there's an outtie on the clip so things mate up nicely.

The next step? Plug everything in. And that's really the toughest part of this whole operation -- deciding how best to fit the Media Link HD into your home entertainment workflow. For me, I've got it set up on its own input. When I want to use it, I have to manually switch my receiver over to that input. If you can rig your setup to switch over automatically, more power to you. (I just haven't bothered.) The Media Link HD and your router should take care of the network connection automatically. (Provided you don't have your router locked down or anything.) There's a hidden LED above the HTC logo that will shine in either red or blue, depending on your connection state. If everything's cool, it's a nice, soft blue.

HTC has knocked this part out of the park. Once you've got the Media Link HD hooked up to your system, all you have to do is put three fingers on your phone and swipe up. It'll start the pairing process automatically. The first time you do this, it can take a couple minutes to get things going. After that, the pairing usually just takes a few seconds. You'll know you're good to go when your home screen switches to landscape mode. (As in, it turns sideways.)

So you're all connected. Now what? You can tool around the home screens, which is fun and all at 50 inches or more. But what you really want to do is play around with your apps and see how they look on the big screen. The answer, of course, is that they're just bigger. That's it, really. Big e-mail. Big browsing. Big games. Good stuff.

You're also going to want to try video streaming, from your phone to the big screen. And you should try it. But you're also going to need to manage your expectations a little bit. Is video streaming on the Media Link HD perfect? Nope. Netflix looks better streaming from an Xbox or Logitech Revue. It'll do as a backup or traveling solution, but you won't want to use it for your main source of video.

The Media Link HD does do a decent job of pushing games, though. They're smooth enough so that you don't get too frustrated, though, again, frame rate isn't a 100 percent match. If you're really into graphics on the big screen, you'll want to use a wired HDMI connection.

Audio quality is decent enough, though. No real complaints there.

Where I've gotten the most use out of the Media Link HD is for showing off photos and video after a trip. Come home, swipe up, and let the family see where I've been. Do a three-finger swipe up to connect, fire up the image gallery, and start the show. And that's where HTC's got a little trick up its sleeve. Thanks to the Media Link API, you're able to start a photo slideshow or watch a video on the TV while doing something completely different on the phone. It's true streaming, not just mirroring. So you can watch a video while browsing. Or playing Angry Birds. Or whatever. The phone handles it reasonably well (we tested on the Tegra 3 version of the HTC One X, which has the most up-to-date compatibility for the Media Link HD), though it can get pretty warm.

Supported formats

For those who appreciate the nerdier things in life. (From the HTC Media Link HD manual.)

  • Video formats: AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MKV, H.264, BP/MP/HP
  • Audio formats: MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC
  • Image formats: JPG
AVIXviD1920 x 10803040 Mbps
H.264 BP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
H.264 MP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
H.264 HP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
MPEG-4 SP@L 3.01920 x 10803040 Mbps
MPEG-4 ASP@HL 4.01920 x 10803040 Mbps
H.264 BP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
H.264 MP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
H.264 HP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
MPEG-4 SP@L 3.01920 x 10803040 Mbps
MPEG-4 ASP@HL 4.01920 x 10803040Mbps
MKVH.264 BP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
H.264 MP LV 4.01920 x 10803050 Mbps
MPEG-4 ASP@HL 4.01920 x 10803040 Mbps
XviD1920 x 10803040 Mbps

The wrap-up

And that really is the gist of it. What you see on your phone is what you see on the screen, unless you're using an app with the Media Link API, in which case you can do something else on the phone while content is on the screen. And that API has yet to be made public, so it's not like there's a wealth of apps taking advantage of it yet.

The Media Link HD is not perfect. We'd love to see video streaming improved for third-party apps. (Though we're really not overlooking the relative magic of the endeavor.) We'd love to see a dedicated music app so that we could stream some tunes without worrying about display burn-in. And if you don't have an HTC One device, there's not much reason to hop on board here.

At $90, the Media Link feels a tad pricey given that it's still more of a novelty than a must-buy. But on the other hand, $90 isn't outside the impulse-purchase window. So if you're looking for a quick and easy way to stream content from your HTC One phone to an HDMI source, the Media Link HD will get the job done. 

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  • Cool. I have never been able to get DLNA working decent with my WD Live or Sony BluRay. So frustrating.
  • Guess I am missing something. I bought the Media Link HD and am attempting to use it for its main feature, streaming video to a bigger screen. It connects fine. I have plenty of storage space on the EVO 4GLTE, 64GB. I want to use it to stream a full length film to the screen but there is no way to get the film onto the EVO that I can find. I have the films ready in mp4 format containing h264 video and ac3 audio. Was easy as thats what my Tivo wants so I have many to choose from. Problem is, a 90minute film is 6 to 10 GB in size in HD. EVO will not accept any files larger than 2GB so no way to ever store an HD feature length film on the EVO. I tried both via disk drive mode and via Media Sync. 2GB limit. Its a non-starter if it can't perform is most basic design function. Phil, did you guys get this to work? I did verify it can stream smaller videos, a 30 minute tv show for instance works fine. Did I spend $90 on a paper weight?
  • Use your Dropbox storage space.
  • He said he has plenty of space. - I've ran into that problem myself, on my Motorola Atrix and on my new ASUS TF300, I don't know if it's all android or what, but they seem to have trouble with any video over 2.5gb. (I've tried both avi and m4v, and mp4) So I've just converted my movies to standard def, and have them on my sd card and dropbox, etc, at around 2gb each. I'm interested to here if anyone has any solutions.
  • Cannot stream from dropbox via 3G network. Just too slow. Local storage is the only option. If I wanted to stream, Amazon or Netflix would be fine. I have yet to see the usefulness of dropbox other than for file distribution to other folks that are too big for email.
  • Sorry, I should have been more clear: put the video on Dropbox, then transfer it to your device's local storage using an app such as ES File Explorer (via WiFi, of course). Btw, why are your files so big? Make sure you're not trying more than 720p.
  • Why should I limit to 720p when the EVO and the media link both state they are capable of playing 1080p30? A feature length 1080 res film in h.264 and a reasonable quality factor will be 6 to 12 GB, even streamed from VUDU or Amazon. Most of the movies on my home media server (encoded originally for Tivo and a WDTV) are in 1080p24 and are in that range. Yes, I could recode a movie down to a lower res and lower file size like was necessary 2 years ago on the OG EVO. The advertising indicated we had moved on. The requirement to recode for a specific device means it will go unused as its just too time consuming. Eventually portable devices will catch up. Just thought this was the one that did. Begining to look like its just not all there yet for video. So close. As for transfering from an online location, I tried. No Go. The limit is 4GB due to a FAT32 file system on the card as formatted by the EVO. Absolute file size limit on the device.
  • Media Link HD doesn't support 1080p--you're going to get far too much buffering for a watchable experience. The highest it supports is 720p. Just curious, where do you see that Media Link HD supports 1080p30?
  • You have just asked the $64,000 question. Why make a "seamless streaming appliance" that pairs up with your smartphone, when your smartphone probably is NOT a good place for content to live? By "live", I mean exactly what you asked: "I have this thing and its plugged into my big screen and now i want to watch a movie." Well, if you obtained your movie legally you probably got it either on a disc, or on a content reselling system like iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, or Google. This sort of device is only practical when you are using the latter and can stream directly to the device. That being said, why not just get an appliance that is meant to do this in the first place? Many Bluray players handle this really well (at least for amazon, netflix, and some third parties) and in fact probably handle it better than your phone would anyway. Long story short, the only use case that would earn this thing a "buy" rating is if you are really keen on watching content generated ON your phone (i.e. home movies, or watching yourself play angry birds) and NOT for typical media consumption purposes.
  • put your 64 gb microsd card into a regular pc using an adapter and reformat your card to exfat instead of fat32 and you should be able to transfer larger file sizes
  • Only works with HTC One series phones (as your "if you're looking for a quick and easy way to stream content from your HTC One phone" comment implies? That would have been nice to read right up front. Also, since it (apparently) can work a little differently when connected to a real TV versus a monitor (as you said in the video), it would have been nice to see the video done using a real TV - and with sound. Does it also work for streaming music in the background, while you're doing other stuff with your phone? Can you talk on the phone (i.e. voice call) while media is streaming to the TV? Will it work with aftermarket music players (e.g. Rocket Player), so that I can stream music including playing files that are encoded with the Apple Lossless (ALAC) encoder?
  • Works great on the LTEVO, had it connected last weekend streaming movies, music, and pictures. It creates a Media Server that the TV or DVD player can see and connect to for play. While that is going you can in fact use the phone for other things. Depends if your sending the content or receiving the content from/to the phone. If sending the content from the phone, it doesn't play the music, video or pictures on the phone, it streams it to the TV and plays it there. So it doesn't matter what video player or music player is on the phone. All that matters is that the content is supported by the TV, DVD player or game system. Whichever is receiving the content. Now, if you were receiving the the video, music, or pictures from the TV, Games System or DVD player to your phone, then it depends if your phone supports the content.
  • That is actually kinda cool. I wonder if they will do legacy support for older devices? I have a one s but still use my incredible s as a media player, would be nice to be able to do that. Phil, the new my little pony is awesome, way more watchable then wonderpets or Diego. Although the new Dora is actually not horrible.
  • Someone needs to get whomever does the product shots a duster. They are always dirty!
  • Really surprised no one asked this yet...but...... Phil, can I get this to work from Google Play and stream rentals onto the big screen? I have not been able to stream any HD movies to the big screen via my tablet/micro hdmi... will this work on the media link?
  • Yes, it works with everything...even HBO and Hulu Plus
  • I have yet to get my HTC Media Link to play any content from Google play. I specifically bought the media link in order to watch the current season of Breaking Bad. After trying all recommended fixes it still didn't work. I called and talk with Google play support to which I was told there was a compatibility issue and they were working with HTC to solve the issue. Its been 3 months and I'm still waiting! Biggest p.o.s accessory I've ever wasted $80 on. I have a Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE
  • I just can't see why I would ever want/need this. But I find it fascinating that when not in link, Sense 4 forces the user to be portrait-only. And when linked, Sense 4 forces the user to be landscape-only. So if Sense 4 can do both, then why can't we choose when linked and (more importantly) when not linked?
  • The fact is you can do whatever you want with your phone while streaming media through the MediaLink to your TV, under one important condition.
    This condition is that you play your media (Movies or Pics) via HTC Gallery, the default out of the box Sense 4.0 app.
    How to do this, simple:
    Fist method:
    You go straight to the Gallery, choose a video or pic and click it.
    The phone will prompt you wither you want to stream it to your TV via MediaLink, choose yes, it will send the media, click play if you're viewing photos to start the slide show,
    Click home, and you're out to your portrait home screen and you can do whatever you want,
    Media will still stream on your TV, and an Icon on the notification bar will show up marking that there's a media streaming,
    Click it and you may disconnect and stop the stream, The other way is to use the 3 fingers gesture up, and the mirroring begins, go to Gallery, choose a media video file or a pic, it will stream,
    Choose home and you'll be back to the portrait home screen It's all in the default media player by HTC Sense which is Gallery app
  • I love using this thing, works great with both of my EVO 4G LTEs.
  • I was initially interested in this but after phils review and some thought i will be passing on this. I have a revue and an apple tv so my netfix streaming is covered. I dont travel a heck of alot and whn i do im not sitting in a room watching netflix. It could be cool to hook up to a projector to share PP presos, but I would have to buy a projector with an hdmi input then. oh well.....
  • I don't get it. How does the phone connect to it? DLNA? So this is more a solution to give your TV the DLNA capabilities that it doesn't have already? And is this not even necessary for somebody who has both? Or is HTC doing something else proprietary? I have read through the article and can't figure out how I am missing this obvious information... ?
  • It's a proprietary HTC technology. Photo and video streaming is essentially DLNA, but everything else is proprietary.
  • Don't wanna start a ios vs android war but my experience using apple's airplay is amazing compared to the media link hd.
  • Is there an equivalent option for Samsung Galaxy phone?
  • I must be missing something. How is this different than simply connecting your phone to a tv via hdmi?
  • It is not different but is wireless so you can move around, play games, keep it charging etc The problem being that it appears to be only for HTC devices will be great if it can be used for phone, laptops and tablets.
  • Can I stream a google play rental through this?
  • is it possible to use this on other phones. I have a Galaxy Note N7000 running CM9 and would love to be able to use this.
  • Also this would be great for all other android types of phones and tables. Will it be possible with an ad on apk etc? This is WIDI without the intel crap!
  • Love htc one and also htc one have them both would love to use media link for all my pics of my precious Golden Doodle Posted via Android Central App
  • It would be an awesome experience to view phone content on tv with just a single gesture.
  • Seems like an awesome device. So many possibilities!
  • Good reveiw, would love winning one for my old HD tv !
  • Im trying to connect the media link through an onkyo amplifier then to TV, however all i get is a white screen with HTC in green letters,The TV then switches off because it isnt receiving a video signal.It is connected because it will play audio. The media link is working fine because when I plug it direct into TV all is OK. Is there a reason it wont play through an amplifier. Thanks