Review: CyanogenMod 10 for Desire HD
I noticed there was a fair amount of interest in HTC’s Desire HD here when HTC first announced and then reneged on the ICS update for the phone. I thought I’d write a quick review of XDA developer randomblame’s Jelly Bean CM10 ROM “Jellytime” for the Desire HD in the hopes of reminding the disappointed DHD users out there that it’s not all doom and gloom for the almost two year old device. Note: This review is based on the Beta 7 release. At the time of writing, randomblame had just released Beta 10.
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It was April 2011. I hadn’t owned my Desire HD 24 hours before I rid it of it’s crippling Sense infection, to be replaced with the then-newly minted Cyanogenmod 7. Even though it was my first Android phone, I had read enough about manufacturer’s skins to know that vanilla Android (with a few additions thrown in) was my kinda Android. As soon as it booted up, I knew I had made the right decision. Hell, it even had a skateboarding Android as a mascot! I stuck with CM7 for the rest of the year, but switched to an AOKP ROM once the ICS ROMs started to pop up. Now, sixteen months later, my DHD is feeling old, and thoughts of dumping it for a younger, skinnier, smarter Galaxy SIII are becoming more and more frequent.
But wait, what’s this? Someone has released a CyanogenMod 10 ROM for the DHD? Is there a chance there is still some life left in the old girl? In a word, HELLYES. Cyanogenmod is back on the DHD with a new mascot and new version of Android, and the phone is the best it’s ever been.
In keeping with Cyanogenmod style, CM10 is pretty close to vanilla Android, that is, Android as Google intended it to be. There are the classic CM additions: notification toggles, theming support, phone profiles, performance settings and so on. What really stands out however, are the improvements Jelly Bean brings, CM10 of course being based off Jelly Bean.
Screen animations. Screen animations everywhere.
I don’t know if it’s because they weren’t in previous releases of Android, or just that the DHD didn’t have enough grunt to run them all smoothly, but I’m blown away with how everything has an animation now. Send a text, the text now slides upwards, instead of just appearing. Click an icon, and the new window expands up and out from that icon. Hit menu, and the menu panel slides up from the bottom of the screen. It’s really striking. And quick too, the phone feels really snappy and responsive. Obviously not comparable to any brand new multi-core device, but really impressive considering the combination of dated hardware and a latest-gen OS.
Jelly Bean’s revamped notifications are another noticeable improvement. The ‘windowshade’ now seems a lot more responsive and the larger notifications and text are definitely appealing. I haven’t really made use of the expandable notifications however. Many apps haven’t been updated to support the feature yet, and when normally using the phone, i rarely have 2 fingers free to invoke the expanding gesture.
Google Now is another of Jelly Bean’s headline features that stands out in CM10. I’m still “training” mine to know the locations i frequent, but it’s clear the feature is just plain cool. The voice search can be a little hit and miss, i think the Aussie accent throws it off a bit, but still very impressive. The quick access to geocoded weather is cool too – farewell weather widgets!
Battery life is also very good, I manage 12hrs plus with regular texting, music browsing and the odd phonecall. The standby battery drain is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen on the DHD, with some low-use days leaving me with 70odd percent left when i plug it in to charge at night. For a beta-release ROM, it’s also very stable. I don’t think I’ve had and random reboots, and the only real hiccups coming from the occasional app that doesn’t play nice with Jelly Bean (LBE Privacy Guard I’m looking at you).
Android manufacturers are notorious for junking up their phones with unnecessary bloat, and then claiming that it’s because of these additions they are unable or unwilling to update their phones to to the latest Android release. While this does suck for the end user, it’s the climate that manufacturers operate in, and we’re stuck with it. Luckily, the Android community works tirelessly to keep older devices alive and kicking, and this is truly the case with JellyTime for the Desire HD. My once slow and dated phone has been given a new lease on life, and for me, the phone is the best it has ever been.
If you own a Desire HD and are bummed about the ICS cancellation, i highly recommend checking out this ROM, it’s awesome. It’s so impressive that it motivated me to write this review, and put off upgrade plans for now. Although, there is that Galaxy Note 2 announcement in a few weeks…