The world of technology is currently captivated by two trends. One, PC gaming is booming and countless of peripheral vendors are trying to cash in with high-margin keyboards, mice and headsets. Two, the wearables and smartphone revolution is still a high priority for a lot of mobile device manufacturers. It appears Google Android is the de facto standard operating system for mobile devices, similar to how Microsoft Windows dominates the desktop market. “AndrARM” is the new Wintel – and I’m kicking in an open door writing this.
The interesting thing about Android is that it is such an open platform for enthusiasts and developers. That strategy lead to an enormous community of enthusiasts building their own apps, widgets and even ROMS and kernels. There is also overclocking on Android. If we search for Android Overclocking we find a whopping 3.3 million hits. There are hundreds of overclocking apps and benchmarks you can download from the Google Play Store and countless threads at the XDA-Developer forums. We came to the same conclusion as many other IT watchers: tuning Android based devices is definitely not ephemeral but will stay here for a while. It is part of the device optimization eco-system of which extreme overclocking on desktop is as well.
For this week’s editorial we take a closer look at the Android overclocking world from HWBOT’s perspective. We are eager to get a greater understanding of the challenges involved and scope the future potential of this hobby. Will the Android overclocking community eventually merge with the PC Desktop overclocking community?
Six months ago HWBOT started working on its own Android benchmark. We used the code-base of our in-house developed HWBOT Prime and ported it to Android. Our benchmark application is just one of the hundreds available on the Play Store, but our approach is significantly different from the majority (if not all) of the other benchmarks. Our aim is to deeply integrate Android overclocking in our existing HWBOT structure for competitive overclocking. The recipe: direct competition between overclockers.
We launched the application silently going from Alpha to Play Store without making too much noise. This is mainly because we want to see how the community responds and accurately analyze what we have to improve or add to the experience.
A little over a month ago, we released the app on the Google Play Store and so far 260 users submitted 3500 scores. That’s a fairly good start given we have not enabled the complete HWBOT experience yet. We saw quite a bit of interesting results pop up, including a Snapdragon 800 clocked to 3 GHz. So, curious as we are, we contacted Semeon22 and listened to his overclocking story.
HWBOT: Hello Semeon, could you please introduce yourself to the HWBOT community?
Semeon22: My name is Semeon. Online I’m also known as simms22. I was born in Lvov, Ukraine, but came to the United States at age 3, in 1975, to Cincinnati, Ohio. In my mid 30s, I moved to Brooklyn, NYC. This is where I’m living at the moment. In Cincinnati I worked as a chef for years. In NYC I sell furniture, but told myself I’ll work as a chef again when I open my own place.
Notice how I don’t do anything computer/electronics related.
HWBOT: What is your OC story like?
Semeon22: For me it started with the G1 (HTC Dream) phone. I got into android in the early beginning. I actually got my G1 a week before it was released. At the time there really was no info about Android anywhere, so I did a lot of research on my own. Eventually I rooted my G1. That’s when the tinkering really started. Again, there really wasn’t much info out there about how to hack android and so on at the time. So I made friends with people trying to hack. Eventually I became friends with developers, and kernel developers. I started putting in a lot of time helping these developers on all sorts of Android devices. One of the things that come in the mix when you work on Android kernels and kernel testing is overclocking.
In the beginning of 2011, I started testing and helping the Trinity Kernel which is a well-known kernel for multiple devices. I actually was and still am the sole tester for it. Morfic builds them and I test them. My thing is to set them at their highest CPU speed for high and low CPU speeds, OC, and try to break them :).
HWBOT: Can you tell us a bit more about the Trinity Kernel?
Semeon22: Trinity is a Nexus 5 kernel (Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4 as well). Morfic is the developer, I’m the tester and problem solver. It can be downloaded at Derkernel.com and here is the XDA thread.
Installing it is very easy. You download it in a ZIP form, boot into your phone’s recovery, then you flash it. That’s it.
HWBOT: Back in 2011, what word would you use to describe the early days of Android overclocking?
HWBOT: What has changed since? Is there an increased support from Google for performance tuning or is it still “hack-it, root-it, tweak-it”?
Semeon22: I’ve always gone with the Nexus, except my G1’s (I kind of consider the G1 as a Nexus, since it was the first developer phone as well).
The good thing about the many Nexus smartphones is that they never have to be hacked. The source is always readily available and you can get help at AOSP if needed. Google has always been supportive. I’ve seen Google developers help out on XDA (the Android Development/hacking Community site), and share not yet released code. Heck, Google made it easy to root any Nexus.
- 1. Connect to fastboot
- 2. “Fastboot oem unlock” (code that unlocks your bootloader, google set it that way in the Nexus One. It makes it easy to unlock it).
- 3. “Fastboot flash a recovery”
- 4. Flash the su binaries
- 5. You have root.
And you can even relock it! Simply “fastboot oem lock” and done.
HWBOT: We released our first version of the HWBOT Prime for Android about a month ago. What do you think about the initiative and about the benchmark?
Semeon: I’ll be honest with you: someone asked me what score I got on it knowing that I usually score very high in benchmarks. So I gave it a try.
One thing I like about it is its length. Many benchmarks take a long time. Plus, it doesn’t really take long enough for thermal throttle to kick in, like Antutu for example.
HWBOT: What is the key difference between overclocking smartphones compared to their PC desktop counterparts?
Semeon22: I never OC’d a PC, so I can’t really tell you. Generally, with phones and tablets it’s easy. All you do is select the speed and if your device doesn’t like it, it freezes and/or reboots. Then you play with the voltages for that CPU frequency. You try to find the sweet-spot so it runs and perform best.
HWBOT: Wow! I’m genuinely surprised to hear you never overclocked a PC! Does overclocking Android devices trigger your curiosity to also overclock your home PC?
Semeon22: It would, but I do not have a PC at the moment. I’m home so rarely that I haven’t gotten one yet.
HWBOT: Back to the Android. What cooling method do you use to achieve your top frequencies?
Semeon22: For phones I always use a fan, air conditioning, or a freezer to cool the device down before testing. For long benchmarks, I’ll cool my device down to 0-10°C. For shorter benchmarks, around 20°C.
HWBOT: Overclocking on Android is mainly about software tuning. How do you prepare your devices?
Semeon22: I used to do a lot to prepare, but now not as much. I found what actually counts and what doesn’t. All my devices use the ondemand governor with deadline scheduler. Ondemand always has up threshold set at 98 and sampling rate at 15000. I found that this always was the most important element to score high across all of my devices. I also always set my CPU speed to the same speed for highest and lowest state, depending what speed I’m testing.
HWBOT: What is the point of overclocking an Android device?
Semeon22: For the fun of it, for the excitement, for the speed :).
Unlike before, most modern devices don’t need to be overclocked. It’s the older and less powerful devices that needed it. Look at my Nexus 5: it has a quad core ARM SoC clocked at 2.265GHz by default. Does it really need to be run at 3.014GHz? ;-)
HWBOT: Do you see the future of Android benchmarking evolve in the same direction as HWBOT evolved?
Semeon22: Sure, there are many android benchmarks, why not.
HWBOT: We host a lot of overclocking competitions. If we start running Android competitions, would you consider joining?
Semeon22: Of course
HWBOT: Do you know others that would like to join?
Semeon22: Yes, of course :)
HWBOT: That’s great to hear! We want to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Have a nice day!
After reading through the interview again, we feel that the Android overclocking community is not that much different from the desktop overclocking community. We both do it for the love of speed and excitement. And we both try to figure out how to get the best benchmark scores by trial and error and figuring out what settings matter. The interview makes me go down memory lane and recall those magical early years of overclocking. Oh, times have not changed!
With great excitement (that is definitely the keyword) we look forward to following the evolution of Android overclocking more closely. Hopefully HWBOT Prime for Android can open up the dialogue and information exchange between desktop and mobile performance tuning enthusiasts.
‘Till the next time!