You’re not going to find much of an argument from anyone that the Nexus 7 is one of the best tablets for your dollar that you can buy today. There’s a fair amount of speed tucked away in it’s relatively affordable innards, specifically a 1.2 GHz, quad core Tegra 3 CPU. In real-world use the Nexus 7 is quite competent. It’s not terribly fast, but it’s not “slow” by any stretch of the imagination… except when it comes to web browsing.
The Chrome browser seems sluggish. It hesitates. It stutters. It gets the job done, but it’s not the buttery smooth experience that we were expecting from Google’s very own tablet running its built-in web browser. There’s got to be some way to speed that up!
We’re not alone in out musings about speed, and someone has decided to do something about it. The best way to enable low-level tweaking? Through the kernel, in this case, it’s called Elite Kernel, and it’s like running your Nexus 7 on after-burners!
How is all the extra speed accomplished? The timings are aggressive and voltages are decreased on the low side and increased on the high side. Put in less geeky terms: it’s just all-around faster! But that’s not all the Elite Kernel does. From the post on XDA:
- JRCU is implemented
- Lowest backlight setting set to 5 (save battery and better reading at night, if you have screen flicker issue it will be more noticable because of this so I suggest covering the ground pin of wifi)
- Core voltage increased from 1200 to 1250mv on the high side to hit 1.7 frequency and 600 GPU but decreased from 950 to 900mv on the low side.
- Increased CPU voltage to 1240mv for 1.7 frequency but allows decreased 750mv in low side
- Increased GPU clock to 600 and pixclock increased (please let me know if you have problems on screen due to pixclock increase but so far no issues on testers)
- Built using gcc 4.5.2 ( I know, I’m an oldie)
- DVFS core table completely changed to allow max clock of host1x and pll_c and hit most max frequencies.
- Enable Thermal_Sys to throttle at 68 (BTW, if you are using system tuner, the reading is +10 as per secret)
How does it shape up? Quadrant normally scores around 3505 for me. In my tests, running at 1800MHz/1800MHz on the “performance governor” I was benching in the 5400s. Some people have been able to tweak even further to get scores in the 7000s! Fast!
What does all this speed to to the device?
Everything is simply faster. Chrome is no longer the lumbering troll that we’ve gotten used to when using the “stock” kernel. Swiping across the homescreens and the app drawer are even smoother and more “buttery” than before.
Is there a down side?
Yup. A couple of them.
First off, the 4325 mAh battery lasts about 8-10 hours of use (and over 300 hours stand-by) using the stock setup. Running Elite reduced this by half — easily!
Next: heat. Lots and lots of heat. You’re not going to run your Nexus 7 at 1800 all the time because it gets uncomfortably, worryingly hot! As we all know, when things get “too hot” bad things happen.
Last, there are two speakers on the back of the Nexus. When running at 1800 you’re going to get some weird sounds out of those speakers — even when you’re not playing any audio. Dropping your speed to 1700MHz or lower seems to make it go away, so there probably isn’t any permanent damage done to your speakers, but keep it at or below 1700, just to be safe.
Are you up to the challenge?
If you’re ready to assume the risk you’ll need to OEM unlock your Nexus 7 (if you haven’t done so already, which will wipe it), root + superuser, then flash the kernel through a custom recovery image. After that, if you want to tweak with speeds and whatnot you’ll need an app. I used SetCPU because it’s quick and easy. There are other apps out there that let you have even more control.
Where can you get the kernel? Check out this forum over at XDA-Developers.com.
So, if you want to know just how fast that little Nexus 7 can really go, take the leap — but don’t burn it up! It’s like you’re running a completely new device!