Gaining administrative rights (rooting), trying out custom ROMs, overclocking the processor, tinkering with settings and other such hacks to increase the performance, upgrade the OS version and get access to hidden features give maximum thrills to a diehard Android user. While deciding which Android handset or a tablet to go in for, I would certainly want hacks and tweaks available for the device.
I visited forums to find out whether the device I’m interested in is capable of being rooted and the number of custom ROMs available for it. Initially, I thought the many tablets we tested (the list included the likes of the Micromax Funbookand the iBerry Auxus AX02) wouldn’t really be up to the mark and it wouldn’t be worth recommending any of them, but after using each tablet for a good amount of time, I found myself drawn towards a few models. I went to the extent of ripping off the back panel to check out the quality of the internal components such as the PCB, speakers and battery pack.
Interestingly, some models didn’t have memory chips for storage soldered on the PCB. Instead, they ran the operating system from a microSD -card! In one way, it’s an advantage because replacing or upgrading the memory becomes easy, but on the other hand, it increases the latency of read and write operations.
To root or not to root?
One of the models used very good quality components, which included Hynix memory chips for RAM. I also discovered that all the tablets had a similar charging jack and used a 5V charger. So if the charger goes bad, it should be very easy to find a replacement.
Finally, the most important question – is it really possible to root these tablets and use custom ROMs on them? The brands not being internationally popular, except a few such as Micromax, there’s not much to tinker around with as of now. But yes, I managed to gain Root access to many devices I tested. In fact, some came pre-rooted and it was just a matter of downloading the Superuser app from Google Play store and updating its library. We verified Root access by using apps such as Titanium Backup and Root Explorer. This allowed me to get rid of unwanted apps and free up some storage space.
I’m very tempted to buy the Micromax Funbook. Apart from the being the best performer and one of the most affordable 7-inch tablets in the market, there are quite a few custom ROMs and boot screen animations available for it. It could possibly result in improved battery life or smoother UI response.
Many budget Android tablets are actually rebranded Chinese models. The key to find out if custom ROMs are available is to search for the OEM and brand names used by other manufacturers. For example, the Funbook resembles Ployer Momo9 and Iview 760TPC. Note that you run the risk of voiding the warranty and bricking your device by using custom ROMs. So be cautious and don’t forget to backup the original ROM before experimenting.
This was first featured in Chip Magazine's June 2012 issue