ROM Review: Project Synergy

I gave a quick overview yesterday, but here comes the full review. So strap in, hold on, and get ready to be impressed like you’ve never been before. Straight from Team Synergy (DJZager, incubus26JC, Joelz9614, Myn, WoZZer, and Virus) comes the Synergy Rom. And boy, there is a lot to love.

Let me get this out there first. I am not a Sense junky in any way shape or form. I’ve been running Cyanogen Mod since early February. I came from one of Myn’s previous ROMs, Warm TwoPointTwo. While on it even then I didn’t really use Sense that much, I much preferred the ability to trick out LauncherPro. I loved the ROM because it was familiar, had the best community around it (I will argue this with anyone: the self named “Mynion” community is hands down the most helpful group of people to ever grace xda. If you have ANY problems about ANYTHING, doesn’t even have to be ROM related, they will go out of their way to help you), and the battery life was second to none. But once I forced myself to use Cyanogen Mod I was hooked. I loved the speed, the ability to customize EVERYTHING, the free space on my SD card, all the usual AOSP goodies. I couldn’t switch from CM7 for months. Then Myn cam up and presented Synergy. I loved Myn’s older ROM so I figured I might give it a shot. But I was in love with CM7. How could I let go of that? Then I heard the developer list for it. The dev team on this makes the famous All Star team look puny (and don’t even get me started out the respective outcomes). After seeing the community and dev support for this ROM I knew I had to try it. And let me tell you this: This is the most complete ROM I have ever used. Even from beta I knew a lot of manufacturers could learn a thing or two from Team Synergy. So now that the preface is done, I present the official TalkAndroid review of Project Synergy.

The most common complaint about Sense ROMs is that they’re filled with bloatware and are slow. Naysayers be damned because I’d make the argument that Team Synergy made a conscious effort to alleviate both of these Sense issues. As you would expect, there is no bloatware. All of the usual Sprint/T-Mobile/Verizon and HTC “crap” has been removed. If you would like certain applications there is a folder that comes with the ROM that has all the removed apps’ apk’s inside, but on boot you will not be forced to see Sprint’s NASCAR app in your app drawer. The Sense issue of speed is also noticeably missing. One of the big reasons I was unable to switch to other ROMs (or even go back to Warm TwoPointTwo) was the issue of speed. It’s hard going from CM7, where everything loads instantly, to a ROM where you have to wait a second or two for things to open. CM7 spoiled me. That being said, this ROM is fast. Would it keep up with CM7 in an all out speed contest? Absolutely not. But it would be close enough that even the most die hard CM7 fans would rarely find themselves waiting for something to open. While CM7 still sets the benchmark for speed for all ROMs, Synergy should be looked at as the speed benchmark for Sense ROMs. What’s more is that the ROM is Sense 3.0, something that is not even on the Evo (perhaps because of how demanding it can be on the system? Notice only the new, shinier super phones are getting it). It STILL outperforms so called “speed optimized” Sense ROMs running previous forms of Sense. There is rarely any lag from opening the lock screen unless you have 12 apps running in the background (and I say rarely to cover the fact that that might happen to you…it has not happened with me).

Speaking of the lock screen, Sense finally got a lock screen that I’ll use. As much as I love Widgetlocker, this new ring lock screen gets the job done for me; I love it. As typical with Sense, the weather animations on the lock screen are GORGEOUS. They easily impress anyone who has not seen them before. The four shortcut apps are perfect too. Essentially you can select four apps to put on your lock screen to allow instant access to those apps. Some would have a valid argument saying that that’s not really customizable if you always have four and their in the same place. While I would agree, I don’t find myself complaining. Four apps seems perfect to me. I have my phone, messages, the internet, and my camera right there. Those (to me) are all that I can see myself wanting to use from the lock on a consistent basis. The only real widgets I used for Widgetlocker were clocks and weather. HTC’s weather lock screen is second to no third party widget, and I don’t really need a specific clock.

While we’re talking about looks, now would be a good time to go into detail about the overall polish of the ROM. It’s no secret that Sense is usually the highest rated skin for Android. If you’re not an AOSP person you’re probably a Sense one. That being said, Sense 3.0 is gorgeous. HTC did a really nice job of making sure everything was slick, themed, and in tip top shape. Every widget fits the same theme (I’m not sure how to describe what that theme is though…), and every widget is useful. Gone are the AOSP music widgets (although you can still use them if you choose) where there is an ugly block with a play and forward button. No more ugly mail clients. All of HTC’s widgets look great and have all the goodies you could want from them. If that wasn’t enough, the super star team added their own beautiful touches. The animations are smooth and crisp. My favorite being with some of the windows in the stock browser (I’m a Dolphin HD fan, but I’m reviewing this ROM stock). I love the attention to detail given to every app that is on the phone. My only complaint with HTC is how boring their native messaging app is. Everything else looks like they hired a graphic designer to touch up, and the messaging app just feels bland in comparison. The dialer/phone app is amazing. I don’t even know why it is a point of argument, but AOSP has absolutely nothing on the HTC dialer. I shouldn’t have to look through my contacts to call them. What is this, 2005? I like being able to just type in part of their name (or number) and have their number come to me. There is still the annoying Gingerbread delay of being able to talk right after you pick up the phone, but that’s on every Gingerbread phone. AOSP, Sense, Touchwiz, etc.

From those coming from older ROMs you’ll notice what Team Synergy has done with the notification bar. You now have two tabs on the bottom when pulled down, one for notifications and one for quick settings. Those of you on CM7 are used to being able to change your radio settings no matter what app you’re in and the same is done here with a slight twist. Rather than the standard placement (on top of the notification pull down bar), the tab allows a pull down menu of all your radios. However, that old place where those radio settings used to lie are now filled with a scrollable bar of your recently used widgets. I’m not particularly a fan of this, but a I know a lot of people are (I will be requesting a mod to remove this). Another random tidbit: the HTC Sense USB options also are surprisingly gorgeous. I’m used to the absolutely hideous AOSP incarnation, where it’s a grey button to turn mass storage on and all the other settings are actually elsewhere. The Sense solution puts them all together and makes it look nice too. No longer do you have to travel into settings to find the data sharing option. It , and all of its prettiness, are right in front of you.

Now comes the random goodies that I was pleasantly surprised with. The keyboard is very large and particularly fast. One of my gripes with HTC was how slow their keyboard was compared to AOSP keyboards. Whether it’s the ROM that’s the real game changer I can’t be sure, but this keyboard is great. It has large keys and can keep up with my typing (and I have one of the fastest pair virtual keyboard thumbs you’ll ever see). As an added bonus, you can allow a “tracing” feature for the HTC keyboard allowing a similar experience to Swype. The tracing is not as accurate as Swype (which is a preinstalled keyboard if you prefer), but I like to have it enabled because it is substantially better than one thumb pecking. I love Swype for portrait but it’s landscape keyboard leaves A LOT to be desired for speed typers like myself (yes, I know about the dual keyboard app…it will be installed shortly). The HTC keyboard is great for that. I type in landscape most of the time, but I now have the option to use Swype style portrait keyboards without having to buy Keyboard Manager from the Market (which is a great app nonetheless). Also, this ROM sounds better than anything I’ve ever used before. “What?” you might be asking. Well, if you’re a music junkie, this is the phone for you. It uses the same DSP manager as CM7, but music honestly sounds better than on any other ROM. Again, I have a musically trained ear and nice headphones in order to help comparisons so it may go unnoticed with the general population, but this ROM just produces better sounding music than any other one. If nothing else, the bass is also MUCH louder than other ROMs (specifically AOSP). Putting the bass enhancer up to extreme actually made my car shake when my phone was plugged in. I’ve played the the same song with the exact same settings before countless times on CM7 and other ROMs and never got that to happen. So if for no other reason at all, music junkies should really appreciate this ROM.

Second last, but definitely not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fantastic battery life. While everyone’s results will vary, Myn has been known to make ROMs that your battery quickly falls in love with. I have charged my phone once since flashing this ROM two days ago, and my battery is still at 30%. You get the usual 100% to 90% drop off (hoping for an SBC kernel soon), but from there it is smooth sailing. The ROM is on par with just about every other ROM when it comes to battery use while using the phone, but it’s the idle battery management where this ROM really shines. Utilizing a couple of battery tricks, it is possible to allow the phone to sleep/idle for hours without dropping a single percent. My phone went from 65% to 64% over the 9 hours I didn’t use it last night. Gone are the days where you pick up your phone and go “when the heck did I get below 20%???” This ROM can allow you to go a LONG time *insert sexual innuendo*.

The last thing I want to mention is my favorite part of this ROM, something that no developer will ever be able to match: The Community. The Mynion community is second to none. I can not tell you how helpful they are until you see for yourself. There’s a reason that the most popular thread on xda today (go check) is the Evo Synergy thread. There’s a reason that the only ROM that had a more views and posts than CM on ANY device was Warm TwoPointTwo for the Evo. The fact of the matter is is those people are just plain awesome. Having a problem installing the ROM? You’ll be walked through it with a smile. Really want a mod? Suggest it and it will be done with a smile. Having a problem installing a different ROM? Ask and they’ll help you out with a smile. A lot xda has become bickering, thanks wanting, egocentric sub forums. If I have a question I want answered pleasantly and quickly, I ask the Mynions. There are already over 30 mods for this ROM and it has been out for 3 days. If you want proof, look at the second post in the Warm TwoPointTwo thread. It’s an index for all the mods. It’s huge for only being updated for a month or two. You’ll never be called a noob, you’ll never be sassed for not knowing something, and you’ll never not get an answer. Even throughout my CM7 career guess where I stayed? Myn’s threads. There’s something special about becoming a Mynion. Something that can’t be put in words.

So what should this mean to you, the end user? Well, if it hasn’t been obvious yet you should really give this ROM a look (and it hasn’t been obvious, my writing skills are clearly poor enough that TA should consider firing me). It a speedy, highly polished, battery hugging, well supported ROM. If you’re going to be keeping your My Touch, Incredible, or original Evo for a while, this is the ROM and community you want to be a part of. If you don’t at least try this ROM for a day or two you are truly missing out. Whether you’re an AOSP or Sense person: Synergy is the ROM to have.

The Evo thread (with links to the others) can be found here.

Edit: Quick fix: the ROM is actually running Sense 2.1, not 3.0. A lot of edits, additions, and tricks have been added to include a lot of Sense 3.0 things (there is an optional Sense 3.0 carosal and widget mod though). Just clearing that up!

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.

  • crankcaller

    Not to be an arse, but…
    Leedroid 3.07 doesn’t have the anwser delay. I came away from cm7 coz of the delay.

  • Brian Rubin

    So I’m usually not one who likes sense, as I looooooooooooooove Cyanogen. That being said, it sounds like this ROM is actually worth a try…

  • Persnlmgr

    I AM a Mynion, and damn proud of it. Even prouder after reading this review.

    I’ve been a Mynion since Warm TwoPointTwo R2 (we’ve been at R5 since January) and have ventured into other ROMs and their corresponding threads on XDA.

    Especially when I first rooted my Evo last September, being a noob in those other threads was akin to walking naked into a burning building doused in gasoline.

    Then someone tipped me off to WTPT and I was in heaven. The ROM made my phone exactly what I wanted it to be, and as importantly, the community was the polar opposite of those other threads. I’ve learned more in my 8 months there than 25 years as a tech junkie (who can break down and reassemble a computer the way a Navy Seal does a pistol)…

    And all of it with not just civility but incredible insight AND kindness… an incredibly rare blend!

    I’m jazzed to see Myn finally getting his [general public] due with Synergy. It took 3 months to get the amount of mods for WTPT as Synergy’s gotten in 3 days. If that doesn’t tell ya something, you’re just not paying attention.


    I have been using this ROM for a while now and I love it. It is so fast for a Sense ROM and I really have no complaints. The lock screen is awesome with weather and 4 app dock. I recently added the Sense 3.0 carosal and widget mod though and it made it drastically slower when cycling through home screens. I used to be able to free up 150M with task manager and now I get 90M max.

  • semperfratres

    You obviously haven’t used Vaelpak. Just released yesterday was AOSP GB preview v0.2.2. Until the other day, I had not used another ROM, and after flashing warm 2.2 and CM7, I went straight back. Vaelpak is only a preview and has everything working, everything included (no flashing GAPPS), cpu settings and governers,.and great battery life. We have at least one person getting over 2 days between charging. Not to mention our forum. We Vaelpakians beg to differ about who has the best forum. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Charlie W.

    Does this have the Sense 2 or 3 camera app, with the panorama etc?

  • D Rhee

    What’s the difference between this and the MikG rom? I’ve been running MikG Sense 2.1+3.0 for a while, and it seems to have all the same stuff going for it.

  • Andrew Greenfield

    Sempergrates: I have nothing against Vaelpak! I have not tried it and with your recommendation I definitely will!

    Charlie: This has the Sense 2 Camera. However, Myn has stated that for RLS 1 (it’s still *technically* in beta, it’s just public now) it will have the Sense 3 camera, with panorama installed. However, if you ask for it on the thread there is a panorama app being passed around until it is baked in :)

    D Rhee: It tends to be a little faster and there are just a few more goodies added in. MikG is a great ROM, it just doesn’t feel as polished in my opinion (in fairness, MikG developed most of it by himself…He didn’t have a large team working with him)

  • jollymonsails

    It does look awesome! Seems to work great! Super fast!
    I went back to CM7 n121 though as I couldn’t live without Bluetooth Mouse Cursor, Bluetooth HID, Keyboard… and it doesn’t seem that there’s a FULL HDMI kernel baked in…

  • jollymonsails

    Gave RC2 another shot! Again, beautiful work you guys! Love it! Fast, Stable, Sexy, nice features, great camera! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get FULL HDMI to work at all (not just the enhanced version with special kernel). It might be my pico projector – but it seems to work fine with all CM7 nightlies.
    I wish there was a quicker way to switch ROMs… like a dual boot or something. Synergy is a great daily driver, but at night when I want to watch netflix/hulu/blockbuster/youtube on the projector in mirror mode with bt mouse, I need to be able to switch to CM7… anyone have any suggestions?