Hackade Award 2022: A CM4 upgrade for your old iPad

There’s no shortage of nicely made tablets, but unfortunately many of them are now fatally powered by old motherboards. Since manufacturers are releasing replacement motherboards for their older hardware it may not seem like a common practice anytime soon, so the community has to take things into their own hands. This is where [Evan]Here comes the project – designing a Raspberry Pi CM4-powered motherboard for the original iPad. The goal is to have support for what you expect: display, touchscreen, audio, WiFi, Bluetooth and even a dock port. It also gives you more computing power to use it all.

Testing part fit with some cardboard CAD.

While the original iPad got a lot better, one factor certainly contributed to its success when it was unveiled. [Evan]Its high-end retrofit works with lots of good parts of the iPad, such as its solid shell, useful lithium-ion battery, eye-friendly LCD, and reliable capacitive touchscreen. Once these parts are assembled you will need to fit the new motherboard inside the available space, and [Evan] He shaped his PCBs to do just that – including space for CM4, and he added numerous ICs so that no function would be unrealized.

The project has been running for over a year, and currently, there are fourteen data-intensive worklogs that tell the story of this retrofit. Capacitive touchscreen and LCD reverse-engineering, creating breakouts for all custom connectors, integrating a custom audio codec, debugging device tree problems, unconventional ways to access QFN pins left unattended by accident, and widespread unconventional ways to design. [Evan] There is a lot to teach anyone who wants to bring their old tablet up to date!

Hardware files are open-source, paving the way for others to reuse parts for their own retrofit, and we’d definitely like to see more rebuilds like this. Part of this project Hack it back 2022 Hackaday Round of Awards, and seems to be the perfect fit for us. If you are looking for an excuse to start a similar project, now is the time.

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