Gingerbread ROM Roundup
CyanogenMod is one of the most popular custom Android operating systems available. If you've heard of an Android ROM in the past few years, you've probably heard about Cyanogen. It's designed to make Android devices faster and more stable while including the best Android features, and my testing confirms that CyanogenMod is everything it claims to be.
Reliability: My Nexus S running CyanogenMod 7 didn’t crash or suffer from slowdown. Angry Birds looked and ran great, though Currents seemed to load slowly. However, I couldn’t reliably re-create the slow loading time, so it might be an anomaly.
Speed: CM7 is fast, there’s no denying it. Booting takes a bit longer than on stock, but that’s more or less normal for custom ROMs.
Installation: Booting into recovery and flashing were no issue after I unlocked and rooted my Samsung Nexus S. Of all of the ROMs I tested, CyanogenMod 7 had the longest “first boot” after the initial flash; honestly, I was pretty sure my phone was done for. It booted, though, and I experienced no other problems.
General feel: CM7 feels fantastic to use. The customization options are great, and since CM7 is a vanilla ROM at heart, it's very close to pure Android in look and feel.
Battery life: My phone's battery life while running CM7 was quite good; I saw noticeable improvement over stock Gingerbread. I could put the phone through moderate usage without fear of running out of juice for at least 12 hours. If I kept the screen off for as long as possible and turned off battery-draining features (such as the GPS radio) when I wasn't using them, my phone could last a couple days without charging.
Final thoughts: CyanogenMod is my favorite Gingerbread ROM; it contains everything you want in a ROM, and during my testing it was stable, fast, and generally awesome. When anyone asks me about rooting their Android phone, I advise them to flash CyanogenMod.
As I mentioned earlier in the Ice Cream Sandwich section, if you want a ROM that doesn't look like stock Android, MIUI is a good choice for you. I find it too much like iOS, but I flashed it and gave it a try all the same.
Reliability: MIUI ran without any problems during my time testing it. I saw no force-closes, and all of my apps ran like well-oiled machines.
Speed: MIUI was snappy enough to use daily, though it won't break any benchmark records. It’s designed to be stable first and foremost, though, so that’s okay.
Installation: Installing MIUI was easy, and I encountered no issues. It installs just as most ROMs out there do (via a custom Android recovery image), and I went through the process without a hitch.
General feel: In case I haven't made it clear, I don’t care much for MIUI’s design. There’s nothing wrong with it, though, and I can understand how many people would appreciate MIUI's application folders and its lack of an app drawer.
Battery life: MIUI didn’t demonstrate much improvement over stock Gingerbread during my testing. That said, I think it’s impressive to see a ROM that makes my Android device feel so different from stock while still lasting for hours.
Final thoughts: Despite my reservations, MIUI is vastly popular, so don’t dismiss it on my word alone. It’s a nice ROM, and it performs admirably while managing to look and feel dramatically different from stock Android.
And that’s a wrap for our roundup! These are the ROMs that you should consider when you decide to take the plunge to root and customize your Android device. Try them all, and stick with the one that works the best for you. Note, however, that it's also worthwhile to learn how to revert your Android smartphone to a stock ROM so that you can go back to stock Android whenever you want.