Five Best Android ROMs

Whether you're looking to upgrade an Android device forsaken by its manufacturer or you just want more control over the phone or tablet you own, a new ROM is often the way to go. Rooting your phone is the first step, but a new ROM will give you a completely new mobile OS. This week we're going to look at five of the best Android ROMs.

Photo by Peter Kirn.

It's important to note that not every ROM is available for every device, and different ROMs are aimed at different audiences — some of them are designed to upgrade the OS, and others are lean and mean installs to speed up your phone. Whichever you choose, you'll have to make sure your device is supported by the developers behind the ROM before installing.

CyanogenMod

CyanogenMod is arguably one of the most installed Android ROMs in the world. It offers lots of great features, it's available for more devices than most other ROMs of its type, and it has a level of polish and support that makes it easy to fall in love with.

There are builds of CyanogenMod for Android phones and tablets, and slowly but surely the developers behind CyanogenMod are rolling out Ice Cream Sandwich versions for devices whose manufacturers have given up on upgrading the device entirely. As well, CyanogenMod includes features you won't find in stock Android, like support for OpenVPN and downloadable themes, plus more privacy tools. You can find a list of supported devices here.

Android Open Kang Project (AOKP)

The Android Open Kang Project (AOKP) is a relative newcomer compared to many of the other popular ROMs already available, but it's rapidly growing in popularity. It offers many of the features that CyanogenMod does, and at first blush you may mistake one for the other. But as soon as you start looking at the options and add-ons, you'll see the differences. AOKP has earned high marks for add-ons and tools that you can't get in CM, centralised control over ROM options and more overall customisation options than CM. At the same time, its development community is smaller, and it may not have the same polish and device support that CyanogenMod has. Still, it's super-fast, it's stable and definitely worth a look. You can find a list of all supported devices here.

MIUI

MIUI struck us with how beautiful the user interface was and how elegant it made Android look and feel. It's not the most feature-packed or hackable ROM, but it's definitely one of the most customisable and elegant, and it's seriously fast. MIUI started life as a modded version of Android localised in China, but fans of the mod have since localised it for dozens of languages and countries. It offers strong theme support, beautiful stock apps, customisable lockscreens, support for GApps and complete root access. You're not going to get a wealth of niche features here, but you will get a device that's much easier and more fun to use once you install MIUI. You can find a list of supported devices here.

Slim ICS

If you have a Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy S or Galaxy S II, Slim ICS may be the ROM for you. Not only will Slim ICS bring your device up to Ice Cream Sandwich, it's also a super-thin, lightweight installation that's remarkably easy to install, even though it's clearly aimed at advanced users. Slim ICS already has GApps rolled in, so you don't need to install those later. Where other ROMs try to add lots of new features and tweaking options, Slim ICS is designed to trim the fat down to the bare essentials and give you a fast and clean ICS installation. It's only available for a handful of Samsung devices, and there's pretty much one developer and a few beta testers behind the scenes, so don't expect too many feature additions or new devices. However, it is updated weekly and sports a good number of third-party mods.

Liquid Smooth ROMS

Liquid Smooth ROMS are available for multiple devices. While the project started off with the Motorola Droid, Droid 2, Droid X, Droid Incredible and HTC Thunderbolt, it's also available for the Galaxy Nexus and a few other devices, although you'll have to poke around the forums a bit to find them. The banner feature of Liquid is that it's probably one of the fastest ICS ROMs available — faster even than the stock install that comes on the Galaxy Nexus. You don't sacrifice features for the speed, but the overall size of the ROM is still nice and small, leaving more space for the apps and features you choose to use as opposed to ones forced on you. GApps are baked right in, and the ROM offers theme support so you can customise it to your liking. All in all, if you have a supported device, it's probably the leanest, meanest ICS ROM you can download.

No honourable mentions this week, but there are well over 60 different ROMs out there, so whatever ROM you settle on, make sure it's a good match for the features you're looking for, the device you own and the version of Android you want to run. These may be our top five, but they may not be the best for your specific device, so do your homework!

Have something to add? Did your favourite not get included? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Comments

    If there's anyone out there that's tried 'AOKP' on the TF101 Transformer could you pop in in let us know if it's faster than 'ICS'! Specially on boot. :)

      I can't speak for it on the TF101, but I ditched CyanogenMod for AOKP, and have never looked back. I've found it to be just as fast, if not faster - and more feature rich.

      CM9 was slow to get established even in beta form, and AOKP's offerings during early development just blew it out of the water; hence the reason why I switched.

      CM7/9 are still undoubtedly a great ROM, but its development is hampered by the fact that all of it's mods and tweaks are developed FOR the ROM. AOKP is a mix of AOSP code as a starting point, with a lot of it's mods "cherry picked" from other open source ROMs and developers.

    Slim ICS brings the 90s back for me with its 'Sliders' font.

    No love for Oxygen?

    Tried CM, didn't like it - not very elegant, now using MIUI. MIUI is not just elegant, but faster than my old GB ROM.

    How about even just stock unlocked roms that just don't have all the carrier b.s.?

      I think the spirit of the article is more ROMs that continue the same user experience across multiple devices. Sure, there's plenty of vanilla ROMs, but they seldom come from a single devloper community - like those above do.

    There's a bit if an AOKP cluster**** happening on Reddit right now due to the way the devs treat users who report issues...

    I'd link but I'm on a train right now and don't have it handy.

      Really? I'll have to check it out.

      The way I've always looked at community based ROMs is; if I'm not paying for it, I don't deserve to complain about it. If I'm donating towards it, then it'd be nice to know reporting issues (when done through the right channels) doesn't fall on deaf ears.

    MIUI is my favourite ROM, I used CM on my Galaxy S2 and it was good, but MIUI themes just so beautiful (Well in my eyes it is)

    I use CM on my Galaxy Note as it is the only ROM that supports it at the moment, and I can flick it to tablet mode as well. I have lost S-Note capabilites though, which is a bummer.

    I love Android devices you can experiment and play around with relative ease and find the one that you really like, not like the other smart phone we all know (that's why I Jailbroke mine and ran Winterboard so I didn't have to look at the same thing day in day out).

    obviously plenty of roms out there, and these just touch the sides. Best ISC rom is RocketROM. king droid is ok, but for the galaxy note you lose the premium suite.

    why no mention about resurrection ics roms 2 day battery life on the sg2 look up resurrection remix ics 2.0 by westcrip 4.0.4 its amazing .

      Yup. +1 on that.

    I deleted my wimax keys for my evo 4g. MIUI is one of the few that does not support 4g so it is now my current driver.

    The problem with the ones that do support 4g is if you accidently turn it on through a toggle or settings, you can turn it back off (since it never completes the on process.) Boy did my battery drain quick due to that.

    The ICS build don't support 4g, but they don;t have video working for netflix yet. I may move on when that happens since I run go launcher and exdialer anyways.

    On my Samsung Galaxy S2 i'm using F1 Nexus Rom. It's a pure ICS rom for Galaxy S2.

    Another great ROM for HTC Desire HD is Android Revolution HD. It uses the original HTC Sense 3.0 (or 3.5 if preferred) if you like the Sense experience.

    Why is there no Buglessbeast on the list? I'd say it's one of the smoothest and stock roms out there.

    It would have been better if users paste the links of the rom they are suggesting..thanks

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