I just got a very cheap Craig CMP 738a tablet from CVS, and, after the $25 coupon code, the total came to be $75 before taxes. CVS is not a place where you would expect to find hi-tech items, but I wanted a cheap tablet to play with and, after I got bored, to give to my 7 old son without the fear that if he breaks it I’ll be too upset. I played with it for about a week (a full review to follow) but the included software sucks: Slow, no official Google Android market, outdated apps. There are some custom ROMs available (that also come with root access) so I decided to try them, and, since the process of installing a custom ROM is not always easy, I decided to write this tutorial and post clear and easy to follow instructions, documenting each step with screenshots. The benefits of adding a custom ROM is mainly better app compatibility, speed and official Android Market.
1. What is Craig 738a?
Craig 738a is a very cheap tablet that can be purchased at CVS pharmacy for $99. There is always a coupon for $25 off available around the web, so you’ll probably be able to get it for $75. It is an excellent price for the features, although you shouldn’t expect an iPad, Nook Color or anything else like that in terms of quality. For the price however, it is an excellent toy. Here are some technical specs: (interesting to note the microSD slot up to 32GB, HDMI out and USB host capability).
- 7-inch (800×480, 16:9) with Resistive Digital Touch Screen
- Screen: 6″ x 3.5″
- Weight: 13oz
- CPU – Rockchip RK2818 ARM9 at 622MHz
- Operating System Android version 2.1 (Froyo)
- 4 GB Built-in Flash Memory
- Built in 256MB DDR-ll RAM
- Built-in WiFi (802.11 b/g)
- Mini HDMI output
- Mini USB
- USB Host (Full size USB)
- Micro SD Card Slot (Support Max. 32GB)
- Built-in Rechargable Battery (up to 6 hours continuous use)
- Built-in Speaker and Microphone
- 3.5mm Stero Headphone Jack
- 3G Ready (via the included USB Host Connection)
- 4 Way Accelerometer
2. What is available in terms of custom ROMs?
Currently, there are two custom ROMs available to install on the device, one based on Android 2.1, the other based on Android 2.2. Both of them include the official Android Market and a set of other goodies like Zeam launcher, SpareParts, Amazon Market, ADBWireless, Live Wallpapers, etc. With this occasion, I would like to express my thanks to flushback666 who created the Froyo 2.2 custom ROM (currently at release 0.2) and shad who created the custom ROM based on Android 2.1 (currently at release 4.3). We can enhance our toys thanks to the work of such dedicated people and they deserve our thanks!
I installed both ROMs on my Craig 738a device and after playing for several days with both of them, the Android 2.1 based ROM is faster than the other one, but Amazon Android app store doesn’t work on it. It starts but you can’t use it to install applications. The official Android Market works equally well on both of them. If you need Amazon Android app store, I would recommend installing Froyo 2.2 based custom ROM, if you need speed, I recommend installing the 2.1 version. The process of installing a custom ROM is the same for both versions so i’ll detail the installation of the first ROM and indicate differences for the second one.
3. Enough talk, show me how to do it
Step 1: Download rktools.zip. rktools is a package that contains a special driver for the devices built RK2818 ARM 9 chip which is what Craig 738a is and also the required tools to upload an image to the above mentioned device. After download, unzip it on your desktop. (Note: Windows only).
Step 2: Download CMP-738a-update-2011-03-15-rls4.3.7z firmware update Release 4.3 for Android 2.1 or the flushs_custom_froyo_rom_cmp738a_v0.2 for Android 2.2 Froyo, depending of your needs. To make things simpler, unzip them in the same folder you unziped rktools.
Step 3: Power off your Craig from the power button. You might also need to turn the power slider in the OFF position. Ensure the USB cable is disconnected.
Step 4: Enter in flashable mode by simultaneously holding down both power and home buttons (middle and bottom while holding the tablet in landscape orientation with the buttons on the right side) then plug the usb cable. The first time you do that it will install the driver. Most probably Windows will not find the proper driver, so when prompted point to the place you unziped rktools->281xDriver folder. If successful, Craig tablet will boot but the screen will remain blank. If it boots normally, go back to Step 3.
Step 5: navigate to the folder containing the rktools and start RKAndroidbatchUpgrade.exe from the folder with the same name. If your Craig tablet is in firmware update mode, you’ll see a green indicator.
Step 6: Select one of the image files you downloaded at Step 2. The extension of the unziped file should be .img.
Step 7: Click Upgrade. It will take some time to send the image file to the device then will perform a second step to verify it.
Step 8: That’s about it, Craig will start installing the new ROM and reboot itself when it is done. Read Step 9 for the initial configuration.
The first boot with the new firmware will take longer so don’t panic. After reboot, you’ll be prompted to re-calibrate the touchscreen sensors and you are good to go. If you are using windows, you’ll also notice that the SD card is mounted automatically and you’ll be able to use it right away in Windows Explorer (for the Android 2.1 image only). You’ll also notice that the device is much more responsive than before.
Step 9. After the first boot, you’ll be prompted to create / configure a Google account. be sure to have one before proceeding. This account will enable you to use the Android Market.
Step 10: You should now have a fully functioning (and much more responsive) tablet for a very low price. Please post your experience / issues for the community use.
Note: It might take a couple of reboots until everything works well. In my case, the Android Market did not work well the first time, and after a reboot it prompted me to agree with the conditions. After this step it started to work.