The HTC Media Link is a tiny box with two small outputs. What it does is fairly magical and quite cool. Plugging it together is simple enough. A familiar miniUSB charging plug goes into one hole, a miniHDMI plug in the other. After hooking the HDMI into your TV you’re on – the HTC “Quietly Brilliant” logo appears and you’re met with a soft coloured home screen.
But wait, let’s just explain why you’d want one of these. In an office somewhere across the world a group of people got together to discuss technology, TV and media. They came up with all sorts of acronyms and ideas to make your life better whilst adding a certain element of confusion. Over the years our standard TV’s have gone from big, square monsters into flat, wide devices including technology called LCD, HDMI, RGB, DVI, HD and so on. Now there’s another one – DLNA. It stands for “Digital Living Network Alliance” and, to be honest doesn’t really tell us much. Put simply it’s a way for you to send media – pictures, music and video – over WiFi to a TV or other connected device. Some TV’s have this function built-in now but, for the rest of us, there’s this little box.
To use, you need a phone with WiFi. Some Android phones will do it out of the box, as will some Windows Phone 7 devices like the LG Optimus 7. You can get apps – like the Twonky application on Android or PlugPlayer for iPhone – that will push media from your phone to your HTC Media Link and then, in turn, onto your TV.
The box itself is a very small unit with a brushed metal top and angular design. It’s around the same size of a credit card with the width of a normal mobile phone. On the front is one power button for resetting and powering the device on or off. Plug the thing into your TV and you’re given an IP address and a WiFi name.
It’s from here that you do changes to the settings – grab your laptop or phone and look for the WiFi access point displayed on screen. Connect in, enter the default WiFi password (which is in your manual but not hard to guess) and you get to browse to the nice web-based control panel via the IP / port displayed on your TV. From here you can change the WiFi Access Point name, WiFi password, type and various other stuff.
Setting the HTC Media Link to be an Access Point is great, and it’s good for when you’re moving the device around a lot (say, you’re visiting relatives and want a quick way to display your holiday photos on their TV) but, via the control panel, you can also tell the HTC Media Link to join an existing WiFi network that you’ve got setup already. Doing this will change the way you connect to the control panel and possibly the IP address too, so you may have a little bit of tweaking in the first few minutes of setup. However, after you’ve hooked it to your internal network you can start streaming music, pictures and video from servers, non-WiFi PC’s, NAS boxes and the like.
There are a few caveats. Firstly, you should remember that most media will work. We streamed YouTube videos fine, we streamed music fine, we streamed AVI’s fine, but some xVid stuff with weird decoders wouldn’t.
Once we connected to our home network it was a breeze to use in Windows 7 on a PC or laptop. We just searched the network, it found the device, knew it was a DLNA network and set it as an “Output”. It was then just a matter of right-clicking media files and saying, “Play on…”
On Android phones like the Motorola DEFY it was made easier by their Media Share app. Others, like the HTC Desire we used, seemed quite happy with the Twonky app and related client, plus we could click YouTube videos and play them out on the TV – that’s pretty cool. Newer HTC phones like the HTC Desire HD also have a built-in app ready to push media out through this device.
In use the box is pretty solid. We didn’t need to reboot and it didn’t freak out if we unplugged it and moved it to another TV. It got a little warm on the top but nothing to worry about and, apart from the odd few seconds to prepare the media, it played the pictures, music and video without a problem – even the HD stuff.
As is usual we’ve filmed a video of the device in action. Click on for the YouTube goodness….
Pah, I can’t fault this. Sure, I’d like someone to say, “This will play everything you throw at it” but hey, it just works. To be able to plug a tiny box into your TV and then beam content to it on your phone is pretty cool. No USB or LAN media boxes, no messing around with copying to DVD’s and CD’s – this trims out a lot of conversion and burning. I popped it into my pocket whilst visiting friends. Plug it into their TV and, combined with a decent speaker system, you’ve got an instant TV channel from your pocket. Play YouTube vids, play the MP3’s on your phone or even show those embarassing holiday photos if you want – all over the inbuilt WiFi. Brilliant.
Link – Clove Technology (£91.91)