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Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

Modder's Column, formerly known as Modder’s Monday, is a column dedicated to rooting, hacking, and other forms of modifying Android and is written by Jaroslav Stekl, a man who spends his days coding, hacking, hiking, and of course, writing for Android Police.

As I mentioned in the last edition of Modder's Column, one of my favorite things about Android is how customizable it can be, even for novice users who would rather not spend all day hacking their phone.

Unfortunately, one thing Android does not allow you to do right out of the box is install custom ROMs, which allow you to further customize your device by adding features, removing useless apps, and possibly even speeding it up or improving battery life. Still with me? Good, because if you are like me, you're on an HTC EVO 4G and have been hunting for the best ROM out there for a while now. And you know what? I don't think there is one. Why? Read on to discover the results of my exploration.

ROM Manager

Before you even think about using a ROM other than the stock ROM that came with the device, you should take a long, hard look at ROM Manager. It comes in both a free and a paid version, but considering that the paid version allows you to browse what is best described as a ROM store as well as as checking for updates to your current ROM right within the app, I would recommend shelling out the $3.99 you have worked so hard to earn. Plus, no matter which version you download, you will be able to do a full nandroid backup of your current ROM, so you will not lose any of the information contained on your device, even if you wipe your data and cache (which is necessary for installing new ROMs). Of course, the app also provides an easy way to restore to those backups as well as an easy way to install new ROMs that are currently stored on your microSD card.

Oh, and the cherry on top? You can partition your SD cards, which is needed/desired by some ROMs, right from within the app.

Download ROM Manager by clicking or scanning the QR code below:

QR code for https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.koushikdutta.rommanager

Why None Of Them Are The Best

While each ROM that I've tried so far has its advantages over the stock Sense ROM that comes with the EVO, none of them seem to have significant advantages over one another. For example, Fresh EVO comes with a handful of beautiful (and not-normally-pre-installed) widgets, but what it does not provide is a clean stock install, which is something that a ROM like DamageControl can provide.

It's just too hard to pick a single ROM to use on a daily basis - each ROM is perfect in its own way, for its own intended demographic. Read on for the list of all EVO 4G ROMs that I've tested out so far.

Fresh EVO

There's not really much to say about Fresh EVO other than that it's super speedy. It's based on HTC's official update to Android 2.2 FroYo, only with way less bloatware pre-installed. No, it's not anything mind-blowing, but to be frank, this is almost what I want from a ROM: speed, minimal bloatware, and FroYo.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Fresh EVO comes with very little bloatware (in fact, it moves quite a few HTC and Sprint apps to a directory where they can be reinstalled from). However, the same cannot be said for widgets. While there are not a whole lot on the homescreens when you first load up the ROM (which is a good thing), dig into the "Widgets" menu and you'll find everything from widgets that display battery statistics:

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to widgets that allow you to flip a coin:

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Additionally, it comes bundled with a Wireless Tethering app, which is completely free and in fact essentially duplicates the functionality of the $30/mo Sprint's Mobile Hotspot app, which, therefore, is not included.

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Finally, it changes up the look a bit in some areas, such as the little dock at the bottom of the homescreens, which has now been transformed into a flat, transparent, three-part bar (see screenshots above). While I personally like it, it certainly does not add anything to the OS and and some users may even find it annoying.

On the battery side of things, Fresh sports a new, more efficient kernel since version 3.2, which reportedly translates into better battery life.

Fresh certainly gives DamageControl (see below) a run for its money, and may even be the best ROM of the bunch.

DamageControl

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Not to be outdone by Fresh EVO, DamageControl is another ROM that comes with the free Wireless Tethering app built right in. That is not the only thing that comes built right in, of course; you also get lots of Google goodies like Chrome to Phone as well as several ROM-specific luxuries like DConfig, which allows users to change up various settings, including Auto Tuning Profiles, where you can choose a profile from the following options:

  • UserConfig
  • Battery Saver
  • Equal Performance/Battery
  • Performance
  • JIT Perf.(sense banned - Advanced)
  • JIT Casual(Sense banned - Advanced)
  • JIT Perf.(Sense - Advanced)**
  • JIT Casual(Sense - Advanced)**

Other options include moving apps, texts, and ringtones to the microSD card, "basic settings," a menu from which you can ban apps, (including Sense UI!) and some advanced tweaks such as upping the threshold. Beyond that, DConfig also provides some Debug Info that may be useful for ROM or app developers but will be useless to the average user.

Also included is the DC Updater, which does exactly what its name implies and no more; it simply checks for updates to the ROM.

Moving on, you will also notice an HDMI Controller app that I did not have a chance to test out. Like some other ROMs that I've tried out, Quick Boot is also included, which provides a fast and convenient way to reboot, reboot into recovery mode, or reboot into the bootloader.

Aside from that, you also get an app called "Spare Parts," which is essentially an add-on to Android's "Settings" app. It offers application usage statistics, battery statistics, settings for window animations, and several other tweaks.

Also, there is an included app called "WiMax Tool," which I would have assumed to contain settings for the EVO's 4G capabilities but instead provided me with nothing other than the following error message:

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Finally, the developers of the ROM were kind enough to include a "Send Bug Report" app to make reporting bugs easier.

Virus ROM

A well-known ROM, Virus ROM is actually one of the best EVO 4G ROMs out there. It doesn't remove as much bloatware as I'd like it to, but it does add the following apps, most of which are also included with Fresh EVO and DamageControl:

  • Wireless Tether v.2.0.5
  • Astro File Manager
  • Quick Boot
  • Titanium Backup
  • Superuser
  • All Google apps (GMail, Voice Search, Maps, etc.)

What's more, VirusROM comes with a wide selection of themes (Stock, EVOlution, VirusXroM, and Carbon) and kernels (Stock, KingKlick, and Netarchy). Better yet, a Sense UI-less version of the ROM is said to be on its way. Difficult to choose from? For sure. The ultimate in customizability? Also for sure. And, for what it's worth, VirusROM Revolution (screenshots below) is the ROM I use most often due to its amazing battery life, speedy transitions, and overall awesomeness.

snap20100918_163927 snap20100918_164349  snap20100918_164326 

In Conclusion

For those of you who are wondering why CyanogenMod 6, the final version of which was recently released, was not included, please understand that the ROM is not compatible with unrevoked, which I used to root the EVO I conducted all this testing on. It also doesn't support 4G, at least not yet, and therefore cannot be considered a full stock ROM replacement.

So who knows? Maybe there is a ROM out there that is the perfect combination of everything I want: a free Wireless Tethering app included, speed, increased battery life, and lots of other goodies, only based off of stock FroYo but with 4G support. If you know of such a ROM, feel free to share your knowledge down below in the comments.

Jaroslav Stekl
Jaroslav Stekl is a tech enthusiast whose favorite gadgets almost always happen to be the latest Android devices. When he's not writing for Android Police, he's probably hiking, camping, or canoeing. He is also an aspiring coffee aficionado and an avid moviegoer.

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Why is inclusion of the WiFi tether app such a big deal? It's an app that can be downloaded after you install, just like any other app. And since you already know about it, I don't know why you'd want it to come pre-installed (which means every time you upgrade the ROM, your possibly newer version gets wiped by whatever the ROM comes with).

    I think the most important features are: battery life and speed, and for what it's worth, I'm not happy with the former, even when running Fresh. Still looking for that magical silver bullet that will make my battery last for more than it does now. Fresh is quite speedy though, and very well maintained, so that's what I'm sticking with for a long while.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I agree. The fact that it's with Artem depresses me to no end =(

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        /squints eyes. You sonufabeeeeech.

    • Jaroslav Stekl

      First, the inclusion of the WiFi tether app isn't such a huge deal, I just thought it was a nice addition.
      I agree on those most important features, and although Fresh grants both, my personal fav. is VirusROM, which, at least for me, delivers on both fronts.

    • JERRY

      Battery life and Speed = CyanogenMod ROM

      I haven't tried any of these other ROMs but my phone use to die when I forget to unplug it overnight. Now my batt life is 100x times better especially when I dont use the phone much it doesn't lose much battery life when I leave it unplugged overnight ..

      The speed is also great on Cyanogen .. but I'm assuming it's great on most of these mods... As far as batt life I doubt they're as good as CM considering how you guys are complaining

  • David

    Fresh ROM also includes the Fresh Updater, and all the bloatware programs are installed in a folder to the sd card, so you can choose to install them. Flipz who creates the Fresh ROMs also has the Fresh Kitchen you can download so that you can create your own ROMs and install the options you want from your own desktop. Additionally, you can opt to install a custom kernal overtop almost any ROM. Netarchy is one that was created to overlay and adds options such as overclocking and undervolting, which also allows performance enhancements as well as power savings.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      The downside with the Fresh ROM's at the moment is that you have to wipe between updates. Understandable, but lame, and a huge downside IMO.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        You don't have to wipe between updates. This happened like 1 time before the upgrade to Froyo but it was so major that Fresh had to do it. 3.2 -> 3.3.0.1, for example, didn't require any wipes.

        • Aaron Gingrich

          Actually, it happened 3. But 1 and 3 are almost the same when you're talking about erasing all the data on your phone.

          Edit: And all 3 times he said it would be the last time you'd have to wipe. Understandable, but annoying.

  • Tate

    How could you even consider this list complete without including Cyanogen? If you're not running CM6, you're doing a great disservice to your EVO.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I've been running CM6 since July (started with nightlies, then RC's, now on 6.0 final). Honestly, I've considered switching back to Fresh numerous times - only reason I haven't is the need to wipe to update.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      CM6 was mentioned at the end but skipped because it's not a full ROM - no 4G and no HDMI.

      • Tate

        That was added after my comment was posted.

  • Brian

    I've been using fresh for a while now and have no need for anything else. Would try cm6 but until 4g is working its not an option.

  • drew l.

    is mys warm 2.2 not a full rom?? i've been using it for weeks and i love it but thanks for the info on fresh and virus i shall try them soon as im done with warm

  • pete m

    How about mikfroyo 4.4!! Such a sick ROM

  • Nando

    Totally a noob post...but i just rooted my Evo after contemplating rooting my phone for months. And i've decided i want to use the VirusRom..but the link on the site keeps giving me the 404 error. Am i doing something wrong or is there another link? Please help.

  • magicmarleymar

    what is the best Rom for the evo 4g that can support 4g use?

  • Justin

    Try Elite S3 rom its very very clean and runs perfect. Also here is a list of a ton of roms. http://alchemistar.blogspot.com/2010/10/htc-evo-4g-supersonic-custom-roms-list.html?m=1

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