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7 min read 85 comments

These are the best custom ROMs for Android

Update: LineageOS for microG, Resurrection Remix added

If you want to use your smartphone for more than 2 years, you will only get reliable and up-to-date software again with ROMs.They also give you the opportunity to explore brand new designs and UIs, and offer new and impressive functionalities. If you've yet to explore the world of ROMs, here is our guide and list of the best.

Custom ROMs: A dying hobby?

Good custom ROMs are characterized by an active community and support for many different devices. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many third-party firmwares. Many smartphone manufacturers have taken on important criticisms of their original firmware and proved users wrong. Here are exampled of the updates:

  • Previous security updates
  • Less pre-installed software
  • Improvement of the user interface

After about two, in a few cases three years, security updates are over. If you want to continue using your smartphone, you have to accept security risks or at least replace the software.

However, additional issues are waiting for the modders: protection mechanisms from SafetyNet. Because of these, apps refuse the service and games do not start. Well-known examples are Pokémon GO, Super Mario Run, Snapchat or Netflix. So, we have extended the feature table with the appropriate tests.

The same applies to the vendor image, whose closed-source components often have to be installed separately, which takes time. However, some ROMs already include them in their images and make installation and updates easier. Others deliver the matching images to the same location where you find the system firmware.

The best custom ROMs

Good custom ROMs are characterized by an active community and the support of many different devices. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer third-party firmwares match these criteria. Those who want to keep their Nexus 5 or his Galaxy S5 still up to date have only a few alternatives. If your smartphone needs a better user interface, less bloatware and earlier software updates, then you should consider a custom ROM.

Custom ROM features: quick comparison

  Lineage LineageOS for microG Dirty Unicorns Paranoid Android Resurrection Remix SlimRoms
updates Download in the settings, installation via TWRP Download in the settings, installation via TWRP As an app Integrated in the settings Integrated in the settings Manual via TWRP
Vendor-Image Separately Separately Separately, even server Integrated Separately, same source Separately
Root Access Optionally as a zip Only ADB as opt-in; optional as zip No No Only ADB, opt-in No
SafetyNet / Pokémon GO No / Yes n / A n / A Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
Themes via substratum via substratum; not available without Play Store via substratum Per color engine or via substratum via substratum via substratum
Special features
  • Trebuchet Launcher
  • Privacy management
  • Volume profiles
  • Better camera app
  • Better music app
  • Screen recorder
  • F-Droid with extension pre-configured for automatic updates
  • Google-free replacement services
  • Rest like stick lineage

No browser

Dirty tweaks:

  • animations
  • OmniSwitch
  • Improved App Switcher
  • App Ops
  • Completely CAF-based
  • PA Browser
  • Shuttle + Music Player
  • PIE controls (new design)
  • Burn in Protection for OLEDs
  • Privacy Guard
  • Volume profiles
  • No browser
  • Developer tools

Interface options:

  • Status bar
  • Overview of open apps
  • Quick settings
  • navigation bar
equalizer AudioFX AudioFX MusicFX Snapdragon Audio + AudioFX MusicFX

LineageOS (the legacy of CyanogenMod)

Lineage is the legacy of CyanogenMod. Fans of the mod have to say goodbye to CyanogenMod and their favorite features. CyanogenMod was ideal for beginners, since the Wiki offered a great collective wealth of knowledge. Lineage was able to hang onto some of this in the form of its own Wiki. A backup copy of the old wiki was created as well for posterity.

cyanogenmod 13 home screen
Lineage has its own interface. / © AndroidPIT

Lineage has a compact launcher, a feature-packed camera app and few pre-installed apps which leaves you with a lot of free memory. It also has volume profiles, which make the phone muted or loud under certain defined conditions. The privacy feature also sends incorrect data to apps that whose privileges aren't normally escalated. And the best thing: Lineage makes old smartphones fast again. 

cyanogenmod 13 features
Lineage has adopted many CyanogenMod features, but the equalizer (right) is missing. / © AndroidPIT

LineageOS for microG: Android without Google

Common to all custom ROMs is that they ship without Google apps. Anyone who wanted to use Android without Google anyway, is not yet well served. Important Google Suite souvenirs such as location services, play store, and theft protection should not be missing. Alternatives for some of these components are present in the microG version from Lineage. After installation, you can update your smartphone with ordinary LineageOS images.

Dirty Unicorns

Dirty Unicorns is designed for Nexus, Oppo, OnePlus, Xiaomi as well as some HTC and Samsung devices. It has similar features to Lineage and provides root access via apsp and regular updates for security and stability.

dirty unicorns nougat home
DU presents itself as tidy and up-to-date. / © AndroidPIT

DU supports a wide range of devices. Also, the update frequency is exemplary.

dirty unicorns nougat tweaks
OmniSwitch and Dirty Tweaks. / © AndroidPIT

Thanks to OmniSwitch, you can easily multitask. Dirty Tweaks contain important settings options which are missing in conventional Android.

Paranoid Android is back

Paranoid Android is one of the oldest custom ROMs and is a popular alternative to CyanogenMod & Co. After a brief awakening in summer 2016, the third-party firmware once again fell silent. Following May 2017 though, there has finally been a big update again and an equally big promise: more frequent updates.

AndroidPIT paranoid android 6
Paranoid Android is looks good, and offers PIE Controls. / © AndroidPIT

This new version brings Android 7.1.2 Nougat to smartphones. The CodeAuroraForum (CAF) drivers are expected to make more Snapdragon-based devices compatible with the ROM. In addition, we can expect more frequent updates from changing the substructure.

On the positive side, there was no need to install an additional vendor image for the Nexus 5X in conjunction with OpenGapps' Google apps. This effort makes operating system updates easier to handle compared to Lineage OS, where you have to get and flash the vendor images additionally.

paranoid android update marshmallow 601
Paranoid Android returns / © AndroidPIT

Resurrection Remix

Resurrection Remix has a large user base, supports several devices and offers the fewest range of functions. In our January 2018 test with the Nexus 6P, no variant of Google Apps allowed installations from the Play Store (bug 963), so we can make no statement regarding SafetyNet.

SlimROMs: bloatless but feature-rich

SlimROMs made a name for itself by offering a completely stripped down version of Android and letting you determine exactly how much of the Google Play services you want bundled in. Otherwise, SlimROMs is characterized by the ability to modify the DPI of fonts and icons and make everything as tiny as you need it to be. The Slim family currently supports almost 50 devices.

An alpha Android Lollipop build is out, but things are moving slowly at the SlimROM camp and updates are currently infrequent at best. Find out more at slimroms.net.

Conclusion: to mod or not to mod?

Custom ROMs can be the salvation of older smartphones and tablets. They can also clean up new smartphones and remove bloatware. Often, they speed up smartphones and add more features. But, the threshold is high for those who want to mod, as it can be a confusing process for beginners. This threshold is less of an issue thanks to LineageOS, which is much simpler and is well supported by many from within the vibrant CyanogenMod community. 

What do you think is the best custom ROM on Android? Let us know in the comments below. 

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  • Sorin 2 days ago Link to comment

    It's the ideal time to play with custom ROM on an old phone that now has Android 2.2.2. Yes, it is very old and almost nothing goes on ...


  • What happens if you try one and it doesn't work/load is the device bricked? Or is there a way to revert back to last know good boot?


  • Love custom roms, except for one thing. When development stops, it really stops, for a particular phone. The developers will lie, and tell you the updates coming, but they just want you to keep interest. I had to tell posters on another site, that was it for dev on a phone, but they posted I didn't know what I was talking about. 8 months later, nothing, but there are posters that still will say updates are coming.


  • You do realize there are Samsung based custom roms as well not just AOSP?

    And again a rehash of old articles. Considering the cost of a Samsung phone (and quality) I would never use a AOSP based rom on such a great device.

    In fact I now have a S8+, and have no intention of putting on a custom rom Sammy based or not.


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible CUSTOM rom please


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible CUSTOM rom please


  • Where is Resurrection Remix?


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible rom please


  • Would you recommend a BlackView R7 compatible rom please


  • Please correct this article because dirty unicorn now countains a equalizer!


  • I don't understand the basic idea behind custom ROMs. Do we need them just because of variety? If they really prune android to its bare minimum, how are they different from stock Android which we get on Pixel? And since they seem very hastily thrown together, I'm surprised they aren't buggy.


    • Custom ROMs are good for devices that manufacturers have stopped updating. They allow you to get the latest version of Android on an older device.


      • That is a good point for custom ROMs. Apple definitely seems to be doing a good job rolling out updates promptly and keeping almost all devices still being used actually equipped with the latest iOS. Steve Jobs' fascination with complete control of the end-user experience does seem satisfying at times. Most Android users, on the other hand, are stuck with older versions of the operating system.
        One thing, however. The targeted market of custom ROMs doesn't just consist of users with pretty old devices which are no longer getting system updates. Hobbyists who like tinkering with and modifying their phones are a part of this market too.


      • Bastian Siewers
        • Admin
        • Staff
        Feb 15, 2017 Link to comment

        Yes, they are, and the main reason for using Custom ROMs are features. Most CRs offer so much more than any stock Android version. You can basically tinker around with everything, while it takes some time it's also a lot of fun :)


      • Thanks. Although I am fascinated by custom ROMs, sadly I can't find a proper one for my Samsung Galaxy A7 model SM-A700FD. I want a proper one, not just a nightly indie modification. If you can suggest something, I'll be grateful.


      • Bastian Siewers
        • Admin
        • Staff
        Feb 16, 2017 Link to comment

        Well, there are smartphones that are greatly supported by the community and others sadly are not. The A7 is one of those phones that do not really interest the community :(

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