Sony is about to make a formal announcement on September 15 concerning their new dongle, the Bravia Smart Stick. We saw this device coming through at the FCC earlier this month, on a tip from a tweet, with the link that leads you to the drawing at the FCC. It looks like a rectangle wafer cookie that plugs into the MHL port on only Sony TVs made in 2013 and later, and a smaller cable that plugs into the USB port for power. This is much like the Chromecast dongle, except it plugs into an HDMI slot, along with a connection for the USB port or an adaptor that you can plug into a wall socket.
I was curious exactly what a MHL port was and exactly how it worked – It stands for Mobile High-Definition Link, and was the brainchild of a group of heavy hitters, such as, Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony, and Toshiba, as a specification that could be used to connect smartphones and tablets to an HDTV. This sounds a lot like the function of the Chromecast dongle. The MHL supports 1080p video and 7.1 channel audio, as well as, sending control data through the cable so you can use your TV remote to control the dongle. By receiving its power through the cable to the USB port, there is no extra drain on your smartphone or tablet battery.
We must point out that simply because those are the full-features that MHL allows, does not mean that Sony will follow its protocol. This is fairly evident as they provide a universal remote when you purchase the Smart Stick, that functions like a keyboard and includes a microphone.
Inside the device is 8GB of flash memory and 1GB of RAM, and according to the spec sheet, is limited to 720p video output. It is very similar to Chromecast, but also has Google TV-like features. We do not know for sure at this time if Sony’s dongle will be able to stream, or cast, content to the TV, but judging from their description, it most likely will not have that capability. Sony stresses that is more like Google TV device only with Bravia apps pre-installed on the device, such as Netflix Hulu Plus, Pandora, YouTube, and others. It will also have the capability of picture-in-a-picture so you can continue watching TV while browsing the web.
Chromecast was a mere $35 and sold faster than Google could supply them – the success or failure of Sony’s Smart Stick could depend on how much it will cost and what features of this Android-powered dongle will actually do for that money.