nexus hubbed

The Nexus 7 is a wonderful tablet.  Well specced, compact and reasonably priced even over a year after its launch but sometime its possible to get tired of a touch screen and want or need to use some more traditional input devices such as a mouse and keyboard.

You would think that this wasn’t possible but Android has  drivers built in to allow this.  Not all devices will have the necessary setup known as MHL (most notably the Nexus 4) but these instructions will work for a vast majority of Android devices.

There are two keys to expanding your tablet like this – data and power.  If you plug a USB OTG cable such as [amazon_link id=”B0064GZAIQ” target=”_blank” ]this [/amazon_link]one you have tablet with a USB port.  If you plug a USB mouse or keyboard into it you may or may not get any reaction.  The missing element is power.   USB devices take their power from the USB cable, often called BUS powered and with a PC a typical USB port has enough power to run most devices.  A smartphone or tablet has far less native power output which means only a relatively few devices will work with it.  The answer it to put a [amazon_link id=”B003DVC7N6″ target=”_blank” ]powered USB hub[/amazon_link] in the loop.

Plug from the tablet to the OTG cable to a USB cable to a USB hub and then on to a mouse and keyboard and you will have a docking station keyboard and mouse for your tablet.  Add screen sharing software such as BBQScreen or a USB screen such as [amazon_link id=”B005ZWS5K0″ target=”_blank” ]this [/amazon_link]one and you could have an entire sit down computer.

If you want to be mobile it is possible to find a keyboard that requires a low amount of power to run, but it might involve a lot of careful spec checking.

More unusual usb input devices such as an N52, gamepad or switch systems might work depending on the exact item, but the Nexus 7 has what’s known as limited MHL (Mobile High definition Link) rather than full MHL which does restrict some systems.  If you have a specific system you want to try try googling it – someone has probably tried it already.


  1. Barrie Ellis 27/07/2013 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    Great video. Always interested in this stuff, and I’m quite ignorant on android stuff. so can you play the likes of angry birds in this way too?

    • Chris Ellis 28/07/2013 at 10:00 am Reply

      Yes – I’ve just downloaded the original Angry Birds and played a couple of levels with a mouse plugged in. In most cases games will work straight off. You do occasionally run across issues when a game needs you to make multifinger gestures o but thats not something that comes up that often – most games are as simple as plug ang play.

Leave a Reply