List of hackable consumer hardware products
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README.md

List of hackable consumer electronic products

Here is my list of amazing consumer electronic devices in the last two decades that are ubiquitous, have significant hacking values, and affordable. Many of them are hackable by accident and is unintended by the manufacturers.

The advent of custom firmwares and hacks have pushed the capabilities and use cases of those devices to far beyond their intended original use, extending their life way beyond their official support lifetime. Normally, hacks and custom firmwares mean the hardware does the same function better and more customizable, but sometimes the hack can steer the course of the devices. For example, NVIDIA GPUs started out being graphics accelerators for gaming. Thanks to CUDA -- initially a hack -- they turned into a catalyst in scientific research, the AI/ML revolution, and the cryptocurrency revolution.

If you are a student with a limited budget to spend on hobbies and want to start working on embedded devices, many of the devices here are great starting devices: That was how I started out.

Table of hackable hardware

Warning: This table is auto-generated. Please do not edit/submit pull requests to README.md directly. Edit the src/toh.tsv file.

UB = Unbrickable: Is this device practically unbrickable/Extremely low risk when installing the custom FW? Y = Yes, N = No, HW = Needs additional hardware to unbrick.
Resources: Links to interesting trivia you might not know. See below.
Custom firmware: + = There are more than one choice.

Device Released Why Custom firmware UB Resources
Laptops
Chromebooks 2011 - Linux native. Many run Windows, ME_Cleaner MrChromebox+ HW chrome
Acer C720 2013 ... + Cheap, replacable ssd, runs OS X MrChromebox+ HW peppy
Dell Chromebook 13 2015 ... + IPS 1080p, replacable ssd, big trackpad, backlit kb, aluminum build MrChromebox+ HW lulu
Thinkpads Various Ubiquity, run coreboot vanilla, ME_Cleaner, HW upgradable Coreboot HW thinkpad
Thinkpad X200 2009 ... + runs libreboot, ME can be disabled entirely Libreboot+ HW libreboot
Routers
Home routers 2002 - Many run OpenWRT, DD-WRT, Tomato, Gargoyle OpenWRT+ Y/HW router3rd
Linksys WRT54GL 2002 ... + First router, favored by hams, does mesh OpenWRT+ Y router3rd
Game Consoles
Sony PS3 2006 Homebrew, distributed computing, OtherOS Linux+ Y otheros
Microsoft OG XBOX 2006 X86, cheap, very good emulators EvoX+ Y ogxbox
Sony PSP 2004 Homebrew, portable, emulators Homebrew ? psp
Nintendo Wii 2006 Homebrew, ext USB Homebrew Channel N hackmii
Nintendo NES/SNES mini 2016 Can add more games, controllers, simple hakchi2 Y snesmini
Microsoft Kinect 2010 SDK Officially supported by MS Kinect SDK Y kinect
Nintendo Switch 2017 Homebrew, Linux Hekate CTCaer-mod+ Y nswitch
E-readers
B&N Nook Touch 2012 E-ink, relatively open, Android 2.2 Android Y nook
Amazon Kindle (Some?) 2007 E-ink, ubiquity Jailbreak ? kindle
MP3 Players
Rockbox devices Various Runs Doom, plays lossless, drag-n-drop Rockbox Y rockbox
iRiver H300 series ? ... + Big HDD Rockbox Y rockbox
iPods/Nanos older gens 2001 ... + Ubiquity, big HDD, moddable, accessories Rockbox Y rockbox
Sandisk Salsa Clip ? ... + Compact, SD card support Rockbox Y rockbox
iPod Touch 1/2G 2007 Ubiquity, usefulness, touchscreen whited00r Y whited00r
iPod Touch 3G ? Ubiquity, usefulness, touchscreen grayd00r Y grayd00r
Media Centers Media Centers and Streaming boxes
SteamLink 2015 Very cheap, game controllers Custom Apps Y steamlink
Digital Cameras
Canon DSLR Various Ubiquity, lenses Magic Lantern Y magiclantern
Canon Point-n-Shoot Various Cheap, get the job done CHDK Y chdk
Nikon DSLR Various Ubiquity, lenses Custom FW ? nikonhaxxor
Sony Mirrorless Various Ubiquity, lenses, Android Open Memories Y openmem
Dev boards
Single Board Computers Various Affordable, runs Linux Linux+ Y sbc
Raspberry Pi 3 2017 ... + Versatile, ubiquity, affordable, amazing and friendly community Raspbian+ Y rpi3
Raspberry Pi Zero W 2017 ... + Very cheap, very small Raspbian+ Y rpi0
Arduino 2010 - Amazing community and support, wiring Bare metal Y arduino
Arduino Uno 2010 ... + Powerful enough, ubiquity, has enough IOs Bare Metal Y arduinouno
ESP ? Very cheap and small, wiring Bare metal Y
ESP8266 ? ... + Extremely cheap, many crazy projects available Bare metal Y esp8266
ESP32 ? ... + Powerful CPU, Wifi/BLE Bare metal Y esp32
HC-0x Bluetooth ? Very cheap, does Bluetooth RN42 Firmware N hc0xbt
Cars
Comma.ai supported cars Various Autonomous driving/assistance OpenPilot N commaai
Others
Eye-Fi SD cards ? Small, Wifi, storage Magic Lantern ? eyefi
Xiaomi Dafang Camera 2017 Wifi, storage, streaming Enhanced Firmware Y dafang
TS100 soldering iron ? Solder things, small, fast to heat up Open Firmware ? ts100
T-962 Reflow Oven ? Reflows your boards, cheap, flow curves Open Firmware ? t962
TI Calculator ? Ubiquity, education, slow, fun TiCalc Y ticalc
Amazon Dash button 2016 A cheap button that connects to Wifi and does things OpenWRT Y dashbtn
Chumby, Insignia Infocast 2007 Pioneering device to promote hacking Linux Y chumby
Phones & Tablets Note: Outdated as of yesteryear. Interesting but not useful, likely.
Nokia N900 2009 Runs Maemo GNU/Linux, has a keyboard Stock Y n900
Nexus 5 2013 Tons of custom OSes Android+ Y hammerhead
OnePlus One 2013 Tons of custom OSes Android+ Y bacon
HTC HD2 2009 Runs every OS imaginable: Win 6-8, Android, etc. Windows Mobile+ Y hd2
Fairphone 2 2015 Designed to be opened, swappable modules Android Y fp2
Palm Pre 1-3 2009 Runs WebOS, friendly to develop WebOS Internals Y palmpre
HP Touchpad 2011 Firesale, runs many Android versions WebOS Internals Y tenderloin
Nexus 7 2013 De facto Android tablet, runs many exotic OS Android+ Y nexus7
iPhones/iPads 2008 Ubiquity, runs iOS, very active community JB FW/Cydia Y iphone
Siemens SL45 2001 First phone to play MP3 Hacked FW ? sl45
'XDA' HTC devices 2002 XDA-developers was born from there Hacked FW ? xda

Hacks that transform devices

Every once in a while, there is a hack that comes out and brings a completely new function to a device. Here are my favorites.

Device Released Original Fn New function Enablement Resources
NVIDIA GPU Game accelerator Scientific research, Cryptocurrency revolution, AI/ML revolution CUDA+ gpgpu
Sony PS3 Game console Super computer Linux ps3hpc
Mobile phone Phone Generic smart device Apple, Jailbreak+ iphone
XBox Game console Media center XBMC/Kodi xbmc
Kinect Gaming peripheral 3D scanner/modeller Kinect SDK kinect
Amazon Dash button Amazon button Smarthome generic button OpenWRT+ dashbtn
Raspberry Pi Education Adblock router Pi-hole+ pihole
Raspberry Pi Education Smart car head unit OpenAuto/Crankshaft+ aauto
Raspberry Pi Education Game console libretro/RetroPie retropie

Adding a device/hack you know

Please feel free to make pull requests to add to this list :) To make it to this list, there are a couple of rules-of-thumb:

  1. No cat-and-mouse game, both in hardware and software. If a model is listed, then all revisions of such model have to be hackable. The latest firmware of such model should not be able to completely prevent the user from hacking it. For example, many routers that have later revisions with less RAM and unable to run the Custom FW -- that doesn't count. The PS Vita or the Verizon Pixel 1, for example, have patched software that prevents jailbreaking, so that doesn't count either.
    In other words, being listed here mean hacking such product has to be a guaranteed goal, not a lottery when you read its serial number/manufactured date/firmware version. You shouldn't have to pray for a device you purchased to be hackable. For wildly popular and easy-to-check devices, such as iPhones or Kindles, there are some wiggle rooms.
  2. If there exists a jailbroken firmware or development features from the manufacturer, that firmware has to be open-source. At the very least, it has to offer substantial development features. Hacking doesn't mean much if only the manufacturer can "hack" it. For example, the Analogue Super Nt definitely doesn't count, even it has an unofficial firmware. In the Super Nt case, the unofficial firmware is just a way to not get sued, not a way to open new possibilities.

Resources

chrome
chrome_unbrick
peppy
thinkpad
thinkpad_unbrick
  • Same as chrome_unbrick. However, you need a dedicated hardware to flash the Thinkpads in the first place.
router3rd
router3rd_unbrick
  • Depends on the model, you have to consult openwrt wiki
otheros
ogxbox
psp
kinect
nook
kindle
xbmc
commaai
  • OpenPilot supported carts list
  • Geohot, the founder of comma.ai, was previously known for the iPhone unlock and the PS3 root key publish
  • Geohot once said: The math is simple. For the first time in my life, I'm like, 'I know everything there is to know.'
aauto
retropie
  • The Pi works with most controllers, even wireless ones.
tenderloin
steamlink
  • The steamlink has the innarts of a Chromecast gen 1
  • The steamlink has KODI and retroarch working, but no custom kernel due to locked bootloader
  • As of 2018, there are some kexec workaround to load an entirely new kernel but that's very hacky
hackmii
hackmii_unbrick
  • The wii has a nand with no write protection that makes it possible to completely mess it up
hc0xbt
  • You need a parallel port on your computer to flash the firmware to the HC-0x
chumby
iphone