When I first bought my Nexus 7 (2012), it was on Android 5.1 and was really slow. I downgraded it to the official Android 4.4.4 firmware, but when apps started showing incompatibility, I asked myself: is now the time for a custom ROM?
After searching around, it turns out the slow performance on the Nexus 7 (2012) was only affected by Android 5.x, with people reporting much better performance on Android 6.0 and 7.x based ROMs. So I decided to give one a try.
My first pick was Unlegacy Android, based on Android 7.1. I was forced to use the pico package for OpenGAPPS, which only included the Play Store and other services needed for it to function as the system partition couldn’t squeeze in Android 7.1 and all the Google apps.
UA 7.1 would freeze up randomly sometimes for me. It would sometimes stutter when switching between apps, but it was still better than Android 5.1. I decided that I needed a more stable ROM so I tried LineageOS 15.1, recently released and based on Android Go for a more smooth experience.
LineageOS 15.1 required me to use OpenGAPPS pico as it was based on Android 8.1 Oreo. It was slow. A little faster than Android 5.1, but slower than Unlegacy Android 7.1 and stock 4.4.
I then decided to try Unlegacy Android again, only this time it was based on Android 6.0 instead of 7.1. Frustratingly, I still had to use OpenGAPPS pico, explaining why Google did not release Android 6.0 to the Nexus 7 (2012) as they would be unable to fit all their services and apps in as well as the Android 6.0 system.
UA 6.0 ran much better. It was smooth, no stuttering, and never froze up. However, there was something wrong. What made the Nexus 7 so special was that it was Google branded. It was running on stock Android, just like Unlegacy Android does. But I missed all the Google apps other than the core Google Play functionality. Sure, I could just install them all from the Play Store. But that’s time consuming. I like having them all there.
I’m currently running, yes you heard right, stock Android 4.3 on my Nexus 7. I decided I want the fast performance and Google app presence associated with the stock firmware, so I switched back. The apps I want such as Minecraft and Crossy Road still install and almost all incompatible apps such as YouTube have an older version available. It’s fast for my Nexus and its perfect.
Do you need a custom ROM for your device? Maybe. As a power user for my Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus, I do run a custom ROM based on Android 9.0 and quite enjoy it. But if your device’s firmware is still adequate for your usage and custom ROMs just don’t mix well with it then maybe staying on stock is better.