SlimPort is a feature of Nexus devices which is unfortunately not covered much in reviews. It is still a quite important feature – especially for those who are interested in getting Amazon Instant Video from the phone on the big screen.
Basically SlimPort is DisplayPort over the Micro-USB connection of your device allowing you to mirror its display.
But the future has arrived: we got Miracast!
One might wonder why one should go through the hassle of using a old-school HDMI cable.
You can get a Chromecast Stick for 35$ and nowadays it also supports Miracast so you can simply stream the images over WiFi.
Well Miracast is all nice if all you need to do is to put up some slides without carrying all possible adapters with you. But as soon as you try to stream a movie or a game you will reach its limitations.
Remember that Miracast works by grabbing the Framebuffer and compressing it with H.264. While encoding happens in hardware it still takes some time and it inevitably introduces compression artifacts. This means:
- in games you get a noticeable lag – especially in FullHD
- in movies you get noticeable artifacts – especially in FullHD
- in both cases your battery will get drained for heavy WiFi and Encoder usage
Going with the old-school cable on the other hand you get HDMI 1.4 transfer rates for up to 1080p at 60Hz while saving the battery.
Configuring the second screen is quite straightforward in android. As Mirroring is your only option, there is actually nothing to configure. Once you connect the adapter android will set up your monitor based on its EDID information and transfer image and audio over HDMI.
In case you only want to have the image over HDMI, simply attach your speakers to the phone and android will re-route the audio.
The days where you had to manually set up everything are over.
Furthermore most adapters have an micro-USB port allowing to still charge your phone while using SlimPort.
The free FireTV
Well it took Amazon long enough to finally release Instant Video for android – although their Fire devices share almost the same software stack. And even then they still left out Chromecast support. Amazon is clearly trying to push their own devices.
And it kind of works out – the FireTV for the launch price of 50€ is a steal. (The comparable Odroid U3 is 100€+ and that is w/o any remote)
But still it is 50€ if all you want is to get Instant Video on the big screen. Using the SlimPort of your device you get there. And for the saved money you can get a Bluetooth Gamepad/ Keyboard get some more FireTV functionality out of your android device.
The downside is that most of the devices do not support SlimPort. The device list more or less boils down to
- Google Nexus 4/ 5
- Google Nexus 7 (2013)
- LG G2/ G3
Samsung devices go with the alternative MHL. Comparing these two SlimPort has the bandwidth advantage of 5Gb/s vs. 3Gb/s of MHL.