Ask LH: Should I Upgrade The Processor In My Tablet?

Dear Lifehacker, My phone's screen and battery are still great, but the dual-core processor is getting long in the tooth. Is there any way I can either upgrade the processor, or get it to draw on the much more powerful processor in my phone? Thanks, Tanking Tablet

Tablet picture from Shutterstock

Dear TT,

Unfortunately, swapping out a tablet's CPU is no easy task. The motherboards aren't supposed to be accessed by the customer and the processors tend to be soldered in place. They're basically built to purpose. (There are exceptions, such as Lenovo's modular Thinkpad X1, but these are few and far between.)

Even if you manage to replace it via some clever engineering hack, the process will invariably void the tablet's warranty and the performance gains are likely to be minimal. In short, the effort probably isn't worth it.

When it comes to improving a tablet's performance, you're better off looking at software solutions. Start by checking if there are any OS updates available and swapping to a faster screen launcher. You could also try employing a few kernel tweaks and ditching the widgets that you don't use very often. As a final resort, you can always root the device and then overclock the CPU.

Alternatively, you could repurpose the device so that it fulfills one specific job. Examples include an ereader, a portable media centre or a control panel for a home automation system. For more ideas, check out our New Uses For Old Tablets guide.

We're also going to throw this one over to our readers. If anyone has alternative suggestions, let TT know in the comments section below!

Cheers Lifehacker

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    It's certainly possible to safely replace the CPU and other components on a tablet or smartphone. You need some special equipment (such as an electronic component rework machine, or a hot air gun specialised for electronic component removal) but this equipment is extremely expensive and learning to use it takes a very long time. A separate set of equipment is required to place the new components.

    Short of doing this yourself, your only other option is to pay someone else to do it, who already has the equipment and know how.

    Long story short: it's possible, and can be done without damage, but very expensive. It would be cheaper to buy a new phone or tablet than to attempt to upgrade it.

    I'm a soldering technician who regularly does this kind of work on very complex systems.

    Last edited 21/11/14 6:24 pm

    Just root it and throw on a custom OS. I currently still use my old Samsung S2 and haven't felt the need to get another phone as yet. It's rocking a heavily modified Jelly Bean OS (though I'm about to try the Resurrection Remix Kit Kat version) and I've overclocked the cpu just a tad. You will want to get a bigger battery however, as any tweaks that will draw more power will drain your battery fairly quickly.

    Last edited 21/11/14 3:52 pm

    While I'm sure it is possible, I can't imagine why you'd want to. Mobile SOCs aren't that easily available. Certainly you can't just go to MSY or similar retailers and buy them off the shelf as with desktop CPUs. Plus the skills required to correctly replace chips are way more advanced vs a desktop or even laptop. Phone mainboards don't tend to have slots with everything hard soldered in place.

    Even if you do replace the SOC, if it's not with the exact same chip, there will be problems getting the system to boot. Android (and iOS) have monolithic kernels with the drivers compiled per device and per OS. A different SOC would require completely rebuilding the kernel with the correct drivers and then lots of bug testing to ensure compatibility.

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