CyanogenMod 7 (CM7) – A ROM for every Android phone

I would like to start off by saying this: This is not even a final release. It’s only the first release candidate and I still plan on using it for my daily driver. It’s that good. Now, on to the clearly unbiased review/explanation.

The great thing about CM is that it’s not phone specific. If your phone is supported (and there are a lot of them) it will run on your phone the exact same way it will run on mine. Also, even if your device isn’t supported, you have a very good chance someone from XDA has already ported it for you. So unlike several of the other ROMs I’ve reviewed on here, this isn’t specific for the Evo. If you want to see if your device is compatible, check out their website:

So what’s so great about this CyanogenMod thing? Well, to be honest, I was not a huge fan of the previous release, CM6. Not that it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t for me (in fact, it’s a VERY good ROM). Myn’s ROMs have just been so consistently amazing that I had no reason to try anything else unless someone had specifically asked me to (and in terms of balance/sense ROMs, I’d still says his are the best). But after doing some thinking I realized I was getting bored with my Phone. And no one wants to get bored with a $200 piece of hardware, right? So I thought I’d try piddling around with some other ROMs. After discovering that I didn’t use the Sense launcher and very few of the Sense apps I decided maybe it was time to try and AOSP ROM. And what better ROM to try than the infamous CyanogenMod ROM? The ROM I originally decided I was going to use when I first rooted my Evo (but alas, I couldn’t keep a ROM for more than a day or two before I found Myn’s). So how bout them Cyanogens?

My first experience with this ROM was a combination of what I expected, and being blown away at how unexpected the expected thing was (odd right?): Speed. This ROM is fast. Like, fast fast. In fact, I’m completely surprised at just how fast it is. I know one of the biggest reasons people support CM is because of the speed. However, I’ve never been absolutely blown away with the speed until now. For those of you who are, like me, a quick typer, you may notice that sometimes your phone struggles to keep up with your fingers when you really get going. I have not been able to do that on this ROM. Not just in my everyday typing, but I seriously can’t get even moderate slowdown when I peck away at just two keys as fast as I can. Apps launch almost instantly every time. There is absolutely no delay when unlocking the lockscreen, and every animation is perfectly fluid. I’m not even overclocking. CyanogenMod is wicked fast. Gingerbread is MUCH faster than I anticipated. Together they make one hell of a beautiful baby. Usain Bolt, take note.

The second thing I noticed about this ROM was the Gingerbread experience. My oh my is Google finally getting it together (and to say I’m anxious for Honeycomb to be ported to the Evo is the understatement of the century). There are so many subtle things that just make it look and feel SO much better. You’ll notice the notification bar is much more plain/stylish than it’s Froyo counterpart (however, I do miss the 7 bars that Sprint usually has to display signal…I know it doesn’t make a difference but seeing 3/4 just doesn’t make me feel as good as 5/7). Also, the colors for the lockscreen sliders are a little more subtle now. Selecting text/placing your cursor is now 40 bajillion times easier now (check out the screenshots). And I would be a fool not to mention the screen off animation (The CM team also deemed it necessary to give you the option for a screen ON animation. Obviously I was all over this like white on rice). It really is 40x cooler in person than it is when you see a video of it. I know that I was occupied for a good 10 minutes of just turning it on and off to watch it…then my friend did the same. The phone/dialer is a little darker now and bit sexier in my opinion than it used to be. For those coming from a sense based phone though, be aware that sense really is more polished aesthetically than AOSP. So yes, your phone app and mail app will not be as good looking. But without sense your phone will be much faster, have more memory, and better battery*. Not a bad a tradeoff.

*this of course is ROM dependent. While Sense theoretically drains more battery than AOSP, I still have yet to find ANY ROM that can best Myn’s ROMs in battery life, and they are Sense based.

Last but not least is the big reason that I am staying: Customizing. CM7 makes your job tweaking your phone SO much easier. Want to change your lockscreen? No need to flash a lockscreen Mod, you can do that from within the settings. Want to change what power controls are in your notification bar? You can do that. Want to have a different theme? Why worry about flashing and conflicting framework files when there is an App for that (bonus: you download themes as APK’s. Which means you can also get them (and there are some) in the market! If you don’t know what an apk is, why the hell are you even thinking about rooting your phone?) Want to turn your phone’s volume off automatically at night/during certain hours? You can do that. Want to have a green flash or a bounce indicate when you can’t scroll any further in a menu? You can do that. There is so much to do within the Cyanogenmod settings that I can’t begin to explain it here. Also, my favorite mod for your Sprint users (and probably other ones too) is this one. You’ll notice on my lockscreen and on my notification bar it doesn’t say “Sprint” like it should/used to. Yeah, you can change that to whatever you want using CM7 and this mod (and technically any other AOSP ROM). It’s subtle, but it’s just one of those cool things you can do now. The more you can customize the more I like it.

On a side note: I have not had it on my phone long enough to make a fair statement about battery life (usually one of the lower points of CM because of how they trade that battery life for speed). So far I’m impressed though. It’s not quite Myn quality, but it’s still head and shoulders above the stock ROM your phone ships to you with. If something major changes I’ll post it, but as of now I’m getting an easy 13-14 hours of decent use.

So you’re probably thinking to yourself, “what are the downsides?” No? Well good for you, you’re not a pessimist. However, that also means you’re not a realist. The world’s not that perfect. As such, this ROM is not without it’s (albeit minor) faults. As of right now (unless you’re flashing the nightly releases) there is no 4G for you Evo users. Also, I’ve had one reboot when I was trying to max out my phone (I was half BEGGING it to slow down just to see if it could). I’m not sure if that caused it, but 20 minutes later I pulled my phone out of my pocket and it was rebooting. Not major, but that scares some people. However, I would be at fault to not point out that this isn’t even a final release(Oh, I did that already?). These issues have been promised to be worked out for whenever the final release is out.

Screenies below. Oogle and ogle. (I’m sorry they got scrambled…not really sure how that happened)

About the Author: Andrew Greenfield

Andrew Greenfield was born and raised in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. He is currently attending THE Ohio State University where he is majoring in Honors Industrial & Systems Engineering. He was allowed to pick a smartphone for college and has been surgically attached to his Evo ever since. When not playing around with his phone, Andrew enjoys playing frisbee, football, soccer, Super Smash Bros, fixing the technology for the technologically impaired, and making fun of M*chigan fans.

  • samsunghater

    boy are you wrong i run cm7 comin from warm 2.2 and battery life has dwindled i get about 3/4 the life out of it

  • DrMacinyasha

    Nice review, but there’s something major missing:

    RC2, nightlies, and the upcoming RC3 (ETA is this weekend-ish) and Stable builds all have WiMAX in them. In addition, thanks to Team HDMwIn, we also have HDMI mirroring through an app in the Market which is compatible with CM7 (and soon, CM7 will have the modified kernel built into it).

    RC1 is now EOL. :P

  • Andrew Greenfield

    I’m sorry you have that problem, but I can guarantee that it’s not a ROM thing, and it’s a “your phone thing.” Thousands of people are using this ROM as their daily driver and get better battery life than 3/4 hours. Make sure you do a full wipe before flashing a ROM or your battery life could be (occasionally severely) affected.

  • Antony Mifsud

    @samsunghater try to calibrate your battery, this worked for me when i had trouble with battery life

  • James

    Some other downsides of cyanogen 7 for me from the perspective of the Evo: It does not break up text messages over 160 characters. You have to use an alternate messaging app. Sprint visual voicemail does not work. I tried to manually install it but it never would activate. Keyboard does not have arrow keys. It’s fast for sure, I really miss those arrows… Weather widgets, well there is simply no weather icon that looks as nice as the htc ones. I’ve tried all fancy widget and beautiful widget skins. It crashes, the phone will restart itself about once a day. HDMI out does not work.

    Battery life was just fine for me. didn’t notice any downside. The phone gets about 240 free ram. which is great. Seems to run fast. don’t get nearly as much lag when multi tasking. Not sure if it’s from the rom itself or from 2.3.

  • Andrew Greenfield

    Handcent SMS is the only way to go for texting anyhow :) haha
    Also, for sprint visual voicemail, all you need is a sense base ROM with it installed, back it up using titanium backup (or mybackup root may also work as a free alternative), restore back to CM7 and restore the app. It worked for me.
    I have an exact replica HTC Weather widget…that I don’t even use. I’m not sure what you’re talking about with none looking as nice as the HTC one (which, after being in the business for a while, I believe is actually quite ugly. But that’s my opinion).
    If you have it installed for more than 3-4 days the crashes stop. Seriously.
    HDMI is already in the latest nightlies, and it’s only a matter of time before CM7 RC 3 comes out :) I’m sorry your first experience with CM7 wasn’t very good, but I promise you, there’s a reason why CM is the most popular Android ROM :)

  • dylan murphy

    good article, ive been running cm7 for awhile now on my htc inc. what i wanted to know was what the background and weather widget you were using in the screen shots, both look pretty sweet, especially if that background is live. there are a lot of cool live backgrounds out there but i really like the ones that change with time of day so i always end up sticking with either the grass or dark polar clock that come stock with the phone.

  • Chris

    Where can that tree wallpaper!?

  • Mellowhippo

    NO 720p videocamera support in CM7 is enough to keep me from moving to it, sorry to say.

  • Drew

    When you say you have “an exact replica HTC Weather widget” do you mean you customized Beautiful Widgets or Fancy Widget to look just like it, or you literally got the Sense clock/weather APK or something? I run the stock rom on my EVO and have tried switching over to ADW or Launcher Pro launchers, but the inability to have the EXACT Sense weather widget (clock *and* Live Weather animations when you turn on your screen) kept me from sticking with it. I’m sure a lot of people think that’s ridiculous, but I’m a sucker for stuff like that. I would love to get a custom rom loaded up and I honestly don’t like the Sense launcher/app drawer, but the widgets and animations are crucial for me.

  • suleing

    hi… i am a first time user for Anroid. i just recently bought a brand new Sony Ericsson xperi X10 mini but im already fade up with just beauty from outside but just whole bunch of crap inside it!

    my question are…..
    1) does cynogenmod compatible with my SE X10 mini?
    2) if yes, which version of cynogenmod rom should it be?
    3) where and how to download.
    4) please show step by step procedure because im really new with this thing.