Smartphones made for gaming come with some serious hardware, flashy design, active cooling, and sometimes extra buttons to improve the overall gaming experience on a mobile phone. But what if you wanted to make your own? That’s what the folks over on YouTube channel Geekerwan set out to do. Well, kind of. These guys took a Xiaomi Mi 9 with a Snapdragon 855, and significantly modified both hardware and software to make it a mobile gaming monster.
The idea is that a three-year-old flagship smartphone has enough horsepower to run modern mobile games and can be bought second-hand quite cheaply. In this video, the Mi 9 with a cracked back was only bought for CNY 700 (roughly $107) and is perfect for converting it into a gaming phone. Basically, anyone wanting to find a cheap smartphone to do this should look for a Snapdragon 855-powered device with moderate community support should do nicely – something like a OnePlus 7T.
The Mi 9’s 3,300 mAh battery isn’t going to cut it. So the battery is tripled by connecting them in parallel so the phone now technically has a 9,900 mAh battery – this will require modding the software to tell it how large the battery is. This involves knowledge with unlocking bootloaders and flashing aftermarket software.
The next step is to overclock and overvolt the chipset. Flashing an aftermarket kernel makes it possible to even overclock the display to operate with framerates higher than intended by the factory.
The cost of these tweaks is heat. So a custom thermal management system is in order. In its factory state, the smartphone is not optimized for extreme heat, which is why the camera module was removed and a heatsink with 40mm cooling fan was added with thermal compound. Of course, powering the fan will require tapping into the battery. In this case, a DC to DC converter board is added to regulate current to output 5V to the cooling fan. They even added switches to control the fan speed.
Everything is wrapped into an SLA 3D-printed case to house the new brick, complete with universal bracket to mount that onto a game controller. Check out the video to see how the phone performed in benchmarks and stability tests.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t disappoint. Genshin Impact – a heavily graphic-intensive game – averaged 39 frames per second before modifications with the highest settings. With the new mods, an average of 50fps was achieved.