Finally, I overclocked my N900

The Nokia N900 is one of the most powerful mobile devices around. While the specs sheet of the Nokia N900 will say that it is powered by an OMAP 3430 ARM Cortex A8 CPU, this high-end CPU is composed of three microprocessors:

  1. the Cortex A8 running at 600 MHz used to run the OS and applications
  2. the PowerVR SGX 530 GPU made by Imagination Technologies which supports OpenGL ES 2.0 (for graphics acceleration, I think) and
  3. a TMS320C64x, the digital signal processor, running at 430 MHz used to run the image processing (camera), audio processing (telephony) and data transmission. The main purpose of the TMS320 C64x is to relieve the Cortex A8 from having to process audio and video signal.

However, if all that power is still a little underwhelming for you, the N900 can be overclocked. The cortex A8 processor is actually designed to run between 600mhz and 1Ghz, so it is sort of safe to overclock up to 1GHz. However, some crazy fellas out there have actually successfully over-clocked the N900 up to 1.7 Ghz. What were they hoping to run on the N900 at that frequency?

Well, I have been wondering how the N900 performs if overclocked. This morning, I finally took the plunge and overclocked my device. I understand the risks, but feel safe below the 1GHz that the A8 was designed to handle.

This is the power of the N900 – you can make it into whatever you want it to be. You can overclock to squeeze more power out of it, or underclock to squeeze more battery life out of it. You can even install Debian and run full Linux desktop applications like OpenOffice or any other app that catches your fancy.

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Finally, I overclocked my N900 1

For starters, I have fixed it running at 850 MHz max, and it feels snappier. Battery life hasn’t been impacted in anyway yet, and the device is not running any warmer. I may give 1 GHz a try when I have primed my nerves enough to handle it. If 1 GHz works fine – and why should it not? – who needs a SnapDragon device?

  • maemo gpu overclock

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

19 thoughts on “Finally, I overclocked my N900

  • June 13, 2010 at 10:10 pm
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    Like my dear nephew who loves to take things apart and then put them back together just4fun, the incorrigible geek will always succumb to the temptation to techno-experiment.
    I guess experimentation, R&D and the willingness to take risks and take on challenges – are the way to progress.

    overclocking your device, like hacking your phone is not to be encouraged. but the geek will still go ahead for the adrenalin rush experienced when the technical challenges are surmounted.
    a ma tter of being willing to accept the risks involved!

    go ahead. go for the 1GHz redline. you have set up yourself as our techno- Guineapig, and we love you fort it! others have done so successfully. see http://www.blogsdna.com/8912/nokia-n900-overclocked-to-1ghz.htm
    For me, though, I would not be persuaded to hack my nokia 5800, or other such geeky things – for the simple reason that I do not want to go through the negative repercussion of something going awry

    there are martyrs, they die for others. and there are those that are died for. I will rather be the latter!

  • June 14, 2010 at 9:30 am
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    EyeBeeKay,

    Thanks for the vote of confidence! This morning, I pushed it up to 950 MHz after an uneventful day with 850 MHz.

    Let’s see how this goes!

  • June 14, 2010 at 11:14 am
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    @Yomi Adegboye. This is lovely. Was the process of overclocking easy? Or did you have to do some Techy things, or perhaps hack your phone to overclock?. And could you put us through a step by step guide to the process of over-clocking one’s device?

  • June 14, 2010 at 11:28 am
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    Is there a way to bench mark and determine the % increase in performance especially at 850MHz? One could extrapolate the performance increase at 1000 MHz. It would be useful in determining if the overclock is worth a try especially given the cost of this machine.

    I am worried about the heat at 1000MHz. Could one carry around this oven hot stuff around safely without having to stop once in a while to sniff the air in case your pocket is on fire!

  • June 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm
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    @Archie. It is the tympanic membrane I am worried about. That is, when using this COMPUTER as a phone.

    Burnt shirt/trouser can be replaced. Phones can be. But eardrums? Fried cerebrums? Hmmm..

  • June 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm
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    that a good one for N900 mobile computer. That means it can run desktop applications. Technology is driving one crazy. But yomi tell the difference between n900 and n8 with usb. I hope the n8 usb is not for music and media player only. ??????

  • June 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm
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    Yomi, I want to commend you for taking a very big risk. I ve actually fooled around with people that wanted to do similar thing to their devices (phones & computers). The overclocking process always goes awry for them. Meaning that they always get their expensive devices spoilt in the process.
    If you are not so much into tech stuff, I wouldnt advice you give it a try. Make do with whatever power your phone came with.
    This is not for the faint-hearted.

  • June 15, 2010 at 6:58 am
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    Okay, here are answers to your questions/concerns:

    @Afewgoodmen: I waited to do this till apps that made overclocking easy were available. The difficult and older way was to install something then go through command line. Now, you can just install two apps (Enhanced Linux Kernel for power users and CPUfreqUI), and fix the settings you want. Simple. Stressless.

    There are different ways to overclock different devices. I just read yesterday that a new Android app makes it painless for Android users. It is a whole range of differences out there depending on what platform you are using, but many of them require complicated technical steps.

    In all cases, proceed at your own risk.

    @archie: benchmark results are available at maemo.org: Benchmarking apps for N900 – How fast is your N900?. The differences are good.

    @all: I did eventually try out 1GHz, but noticed that my device seemed to freeze briefly once in a while, so I am back to 850MHz. There are others who have not experienced this issue and run above 1GHz. Why did i choose 850 MHz? While I am sure that there is some difference in performance between 850MHz and 950 MHz, it is almost unnoticeable (at least for me) that I don’t think that the extra risk is justified.

    On the subject of heat, all through yesterday at 950MHz, there was little extra heat generated that I noticed. I am sure, of course, that during intense use, some extra heat will show up.

    But for those of you who are really scared about this, note that the CPU does not run at its maximum clock all the time. Idle speed is much lower (stock idle is 250MHz). One of the configurations available actually lets the N900 idle at a lower speed than the stock fixture. This powersave mode sets it to idle at 125 MHz and then deliver whatever maximum power that you want on demand.

    While that is bound to save battery consumption and keep the CPU more comfortable, I find that with that powersave configuration, once the N900 is idle, doing anything on it results in an initial sluggish response as the CPU picks from 125 MHz. Annoying for me. I have chosen a different config that keeps my device idle at 250MHz and then powers up to 850 MHz as needed. If I could find an easy way to keep it idle at 350/400MHz, I’d be in mobile paradise.

    At 850 MHz max, my N900 rocks well enough.

  • June 15, 2010 at 7:11 am
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    I’ve overclocked my N900 (Range is from 500-1000 Mhz with kernel v37 and ideal)). Today I noticed the smell of burnt plastic when I smelled on the middle of the keyboard. I was browsing and listening to music.

    Source

  • June 15, 2010 at 7:40 am
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    ‘today I noticed the smell of burnt plastic when I smelled on the middle of the keyboard’

    moral of this story, do not overclock a device you can not afford to lose.

    do not overclock when you have catarrh/flu. you may need all your olfacory faculties to smell the burning plastic earl y enough!

    seriously though, i think Azeez Saheed said it all…

  • June 15, 2010 at 10:43 am
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    “I am worried about the heat at 1000MHz. Could one carry around this oven hot stuff around safely without having to stop once in a while to sniff the air in case your pocket is on fire!”

    “I’ve overclocked my N900 (Range is from 500-1000 Mhz with kernel v37 and ideal)). Today I noticed the smell of burnt plastic when I smelled on the middle of the keyboard. I was browsing and listening to music.”

    Beware of the risks of overclocking. I am aware that when computers are overclocked, the first worry is heat and how to dissipate it easily and quickly. Thats where heat sinks come in. Some even experiment with water cooled systems. One of the first indications of an overclocking going awry is freezing up. Over heating is a real concern.

  • June 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm
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    This is just great.
    What’s happening?
    Everyone bevahing like my 8 yr old kid. You get a very expensive toy, take it apart within two days out of curiosity, then wonder how to put it back again while the friends cheer you on to further mutilations of the device.

    Great!! Just great!!!

  • June 15, 2010 at 7:14 pm
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    deoladoctor,

    We lose some spark when we grow up. Each and everyone of us has an 8-year old inside somewhere. Sit back and enjoy the show. I’m not through yet.

    Next stage of my experiment is under-clocking. As explained earlier, the CPU idles at 250 MHz and maxes at whatever ceiling is set. What I have now done is fixed the CPU to run at 500 MHz ALL THE TIME – whether the device is idle or churning away at some heavy task.

    Can i have the opinion of the Linux/clocking experts in the house. What are the consequences here? For one, I expect my battery life to suffer. But anything else besides that?

    Archie?

  • June 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm
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    That’s the spirit, EyeBeeKay. You know you want to do it. Go for it… 😀

    By the way, still on hacks, mods and clocks, I just changed the default font on my N900 from Nokia’s Sans to Droid – the very same font used on the Android OS.

  • June 16, 2010 at 9:09 am
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    This flat run at 500MHz actually delivers a better performance than 600MHz or 850MHz on demand, which has the CPU delivering whatever frequency from 125/250MHz that it thinks you need per time. I might keep it running this way, barring any hitches.

    No heat generated so far, no freezing, no pauses in user interation. This is smooth.

  • June 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm
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    The N900 is a mobile computer just has nokia has put it and you can practically do anything on it. Have seen ppl overclock it, dual boot without any problem.

  • June 18, 2010 at 6:37 am
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    You definitely have piqued my interest in the N900, never knew any Nokia product could be modified in any way. Install a debian OS on it, wao!I have extensive experience with Windows mobile products but definitely not Nokia! I really need to research more on this product with a view of buying it, i hope Nokia would pay you for the product exposure you are giving their product.

  • October 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm
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    Hello all i am thinking of getting an n900, the device seems great with all internet options. I did some research online about the phone and have seen mostly complaint .i.e

    1) inability to check balance e.g *556# or *123# e.t.c
    2) Phone malfunctioning i.e always triping off and on
    3) Inability to browse with out obtaining some sort of crack software.

    I would really appreciate it, if regular users of n900 device share their experience with the phone in general.
    Thanks

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