Overclock Your Android Phone

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Overclocking unlocks the true potential of your hardware, so why should it be limited to desktop computers?  A cellphone is a tiny computer after all, so surely there must be a way to overclock that too.  Thanks to SetCPU, Google Android based phones do have that ability.

According to the developer, SetCPU is:

“An application for Android that is specifically designed for changing the CPU speed on Android devices with root access. It is currently compatible with many devices, including the HTC Dream, HTC Magic 32B, Motorola Droid, Google Nexus One, Samsung Galaxy, and several other devices. In addition to setting CPU speeds, SetCPU can also show the user information about the device’s CPU, set speeds automatically upon system boot, set custom profiles based on the phone’s sleep, charge, battery, or temperature states, and run a quick benchmark testing the CPU’s floating point capabilities. Because of its nature, SetCPU can only be used with phones with root access running Android 1.5 and above. Because SetCPU changes the device’s clock speed, possibly running the phone out of manufacturer specifications, use of this application may potentially damage your device. Use it at your own risk.”

The requirements to use SetCPU and overclock your phone are:

  • a smart phone/cellular phone running Android version 1.5 or above
  • root access in Android
  • a kernel with cpufreq enabled

For most devices, directions on how to enable all of these requirements can be found at DroidMod and XDA-Developers.  Most custom ROMs will cover those three requirements out of the box.  Once a custom ROM is installed, the next step is to install the SetCPU program which can be found in the Android Market or on the XDA-Developers forum.

The main SetCPU screen
The main SetCPU screen

To get started with the app, select “always allow” when asked to give root access.  Then, select your device from the list or “AutoDetect”.  You can then set your desired maximum and minimum frequencies.  Also, select the “Set On Boot” option to have these settings restored when the device is rebooted.  For a good mix between battery life and performance, select the “On Demand” governor which will increase the CPU speed as needed.  “Always Max” will give better performance at the expense of battery life, while “Conservative” will give the most battery life but lower performance.  There is also a “Benchmark” button that will let you see how these all perform.  Obviously the lower the completion time, the better the performance.

Other features include the “Profiles” which allow for different settings when on battery power or external power.  The Advanced Settings have controls to fine tune other aspects such as how often the demand on the CPU is polled.

Now, just like every other aspect of your computing life, you can enjoy knowing that you are getting the most your cell phone has to offer.



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  1. Impact on battery life is variable depending on settings and usage.
    Having run some of the early oc kernels (prior to setcpu) my experience is that battery life is NOT impacted negatively at speeds up to 800mhz.
    In fact, my battery life was actually INcreased, although reports varied. (Just as it is with desktop chips- results vary per chip.) At 1.2 Ghz, the battery will drain pretty quick....
    I run fairly agressive settings to modulate cpu speed so I get good response from my phone but also allow it to idle down to 250 mhz or up to a max of 1200. With these settings my battery life is about the same as it was stock, at 550mhz.
    The biggest drains are wifi and gps regardless of overclocking- if those are not used and no heavy phone use occurs (my normal calls are less than 5 minutes 3 or 4 times a day) then I can go a couple of days between charges.
    One other suggestion I would add: TempMonitor.
    This lets you read the cpu core temp instead of just the battery which is all the stock temp indicates. As in any overclocked computer, knowing the temp range your cpu normally runs in is important to max performance and maintain long life.
    Oh this is sweet thanks. Looking at hopefully getting an Android phone when the HTC Desire releases for US Cellular this Summer. Ideally its what I'd love to get and having the ability to OC or tweak it a little will be welcome.
    I was going to do this but my MotoDroid already runs hot enough and the battery is too short as it is.

    Could lower the clock speed in non-time of need might help extend the battery life.
    not sure about the nexus one, it varies depending on the phone. i believe the max on the droid eris is 1100mhz, which is double the stock speed iirc.
    not sure about the nexus one, it varies depending on the phone. i believe the max on the droid eris is 1100mhz, which is double the stock speed iirc.

    I believe the Nexus comes at 1000mhz to start with.
    Would you also be able to undervolt it to increase the battery life? I don't really have much experience with smartphones, but it would seem that this could be more important to certain users than performance.
    As a side question, what applications would you run on a phone that requires an overclock to improve performance?
    Yes, I have my phone underclocked by a couple hundred mhz, but I haven't done anything with voltage. Droid incredible running at 691mhz Max, 250 min.
    Runs everything i use smooth. I run plex, nzbair, default browser, Pandora, Google play music, logmein, and xbmc remote mainly. Nothing real CPU intensive - mostly just internet and managing my htpc/streaming.
    I get pretty good battery life, but I have also disabled all fancy effects and stuff. Display is always using the most battery... not much that can be done about that, but I keep my screen timeout on the next to lowest setting.
    Yeah 30 sec time out vs the 1min they have it set by default on all phones really sucks the life out of it.
    I force it to run slow when the screen is off. At least with my old phone I'd drop the clocks by 20% when it hits 50% battery life... just to help conserve power a little more. Though charging I cranked it up to OC speeds for my rom I was using on my old phone.
    Have yet to do anything with my new one yet, but im sure that will change in due time.