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SlimKat custom ROM review: the tiny ROM

Sterling Keys (translation)
3

For many, SlimRoms simplifies the Android experience while reducing a lot of the unnecessary overhead that might be found within. As such, it provides a good experience for most Android purists and those who are looking to bring an older device out of the dark ages and back into the golden light of Android. 

slimkat rom galaxy nexus teaser02
Today, we take a closer look at SlimKat. © ANDROIDPIT

Custom ROMs are always associated with some kind of a mission statement. Some give people the option to customize the look of your device with a theme engine and have more customization over app permissions (such as CyanogenMod or Paranoid Android). Others take Android and go in a completely different direction than the norm, creating a fortress of privacy in which security is of the utmost importance.

AndroidPIT SlimKat Settings Style
Everything looks pretty stock (left) but with way more customization. © ANDROIDPIT

SlimRoms offer you the choice of just exactly how bare bones you want to go with a ROM. When you download the ROM, you’re given with the choice between three different versions of Google Apps: a mini-version that is limited to basic services (such as the login services), a normal variant that includes Search, Music, and YouTube, and a full version that also provides Chrome, Drive, and all the other Google Apps you’ve come to love.

Home Screen: everything is tiny!

slimkat android home
Nova Launcher with reduced DPI make room for piles of icons on the home screen of SlimKat (left). On the right we see the standard Google Now Launcher running on Paranoid Android. / © ANDROIDPIT

In SlimKat, one of the first things that you’ll notice when you fire it up is that you will be asked as to which launcher you’d like to use, either Google Now or the Nova Launcher. For us, we decided to go with the Nova Launcher.

From there, you get a glimpse at the home screen: the SlimRoms work with reduced resolutions that can be customized as you see fit (here’s a table to refer to). Although the individual elements are a little harder to identify, if you’re dealing with a device that has a smaller display, you’ll be pleased with the extra space provided. As well, you’ll notice that you can also have up to seven apps on the favorites bar on the bottom of the screen as opposed to the standard five.

Lock screen: customized and informative

AndroidPIT SlimKat Lockscreen Ring
SlimKat's lock screen is great (left) and you can set ring actions too (right). © ANDROIDPIT

The lock screen comes equipped with a feature that we’ve become more acquainted with from the developer preview of Android L. Notifications, such as text messages and emails, can be found next to clock. When expanded, a complete list of recent messages will be displayed and if you tap on them, the appropriate app will open immediately.

As with CyanogenMod, you can add in custom shortcuts into the unlock ring to make it easier to get to your most used applications straight from the lock screen.

Notifications and Quick Settings

AndroidPIT SlimKat Notifications Quick Settings
SlimROM's notification shade and Quick Settings. © ANDROIDPIT

The notification drawer is accessed just like the factory image of KitKat, by dragging your finger down from the tip of the display. You can modify the transparency of the notification drawer, add in shortcuts for applications or contacts. SlimKat also provides the ability to directly open the Quick Settings if no alerts are present with a “smart pull”.

Even the quick settings are modifiable in SlimRoms. If you’re looking for quick access for a flashlight, you can easily add it in. While much like the rest of everything in SlimKat, the quick setting tiles are smaller than their normal selves, but they’re still big enough to quickly pick and choose between them.

A great custom dialer

AndroidPIT SlimKat Call Settings
In the dialer settings, you can find a forward and reverse search, as long as you're in North America. © ANDROIDPIT

As long as you’re living in the United States or Canada, you can use the custom dialer that comes with SlimRoms. The dialer itself can perform both forward lookups, which allows you to find the numbers of nearby places when you’re in the dialer, as well as reverse lookups, which looks up the information about the person or place that is calling you from an unknown number. Right now, this feature is basically only available in North America and with the latest build of SlimKat, they had to remove part of their intelligent forward lookup due to privacy concerns. For more information on what’s in the latest build, check out their changelog.

Recently Opened Apps: close everything with a pinch

AndroidPIT SlimKat Recents
SlimKat has a very cool Recent Apps list. © ANDROIDPIT

Another really nice feature that is included in with SlimKat is the list of running applications. When opened, it doesn’t take up the entire display but rather just occupies the right hand side. Furthermore, if you tap on the downward facing arrow, you’ll get a preview of the application that is running. You can customize whether you want to see these previews automatically or even which side of the display they are shown by heading to the Universal Access System preferences. As well, you can quickly and easily close all the current open apps by pinching the column once.

Additional Features: more space for your shortcuts

AndroidPIT SlimKat PIE App Drawer
SlimPIE controls add to your shortcuts for your favorite apps. © ANDROIDPIT

Similar to Paranoid Android, SlimKat provides a pie menu what the catchy name of SlimPIE. The menu was originally developed by CyanogenMod and was then discarded, taken over by Paranoid Android and then refined by SlimRoms. The Pie menu in SlimKat has three layers instead of the standard two and the first two can be customized to have whatever you want in them. As well, combined with the extended desktop and the option to have power controls built into the pie controls, you can free up more space on your display.

SlimKat also comes with some specialized apps that are particularly known in geek circles. There’s a built-in IRC client called Slim Chat that can easily connect you with the developers of the Slim community.

slimkat simple explorer irc
The Simple Explorer (left) in SlimRoms delivers what its name promises. The IRC chat client Slim (right) connects you with the Quickly development team. / © ANDROIDPIT

No custom ROM would be complete without a standard file explorer and SlimKat isn’t any different. In this case, it is a bare bones Explorer but it gets the job done without having to tie up any major resources from the system.

There is also the DSP Manager, taken from CyanogenMod, which helps you control the audio output on your device. Whether you’re using external speakers, headphones, or a bluetooth device, there are different settings for each possibility.

SlimKat provides a built in update center called SlimCenter which can be provide OTA updates when a new build is released. Within SlimCenter, you’ll also find Slimsizer which allows you to further slim down your ROM by removing system apps such as the Calendar.

AndroidPIT SlimKat SlimCenter
This is SlimCenter, with the SlimSizer tab for removing system apps (right). © ANDROIDPIT

People who value their privacy will be delighted by the addition of Privacy Guard, another tool taken from the CyanogenMod side of things. This will allow you to change permissions that apps have after you’ve installed them and also limit them to what you believe they should have. Take note, however, that by severely limiting certain privileges to certain apps, you can cause them to stop working properly.

Root

AndroidPIT SlimKat Notification Settings
SlimKat has tons of default options, but with root there's even more control. © ANDROIDPIT

SlimKat comes with some specific geek features, but it hides a lot of the power under the Developer Settings. By default, root access is only granted to you if you’ve activated it under “Debugging”. Subsequently, once enabled, you’ll get requests from the Right Management system each and every time an individual applications wants to gain superuser access.

Conclusion

SlimKat provides ample opportunities to breathe some new life into an old smartphone with the latest version of Android, combined with a ton of exclusive features. As well, the distribution for devices is pretty robust as all relevant Nexus and Samsung devices are supported, including the Tab and Note series. As well, the Motorola Moto G and Moto X, the LG Optimus G and G2, Sony Xperia Z1 and Z Ultra have all received official updated builds, most of which were published simultaneously on June 30th. 

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Comments

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  • Nishant gauns 1 month ago Link

    Hey guys!!! Review the pac man rom its nice!!!

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  • flooney 1 month ago Link

    Got CM and it's awesome! Like everything at this rom, especially the possibility that there will be updates, even if other roms stops theirs. Got me wrong but I think it's this way ^^

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  • Geoff Totten 1 month ago Link

    Also how about reviewing some of the Touchwiz Roms as well.

    0