[Week 3.5] – Rez K’s Review

[ROM][5.1.1][AOSP] Dirty Unicorns v9.4 (12th June 2015 stable build)

DU logo

So, Dirty Uni… What?

Dirty Unicorns, yes. Okay, so it’s not the best choice of names in my opinion, but hey! We don’t care about what it’s called – we just want a good ROM! And in the search of the perfect daily-driver ROMs you’re bound to come across one or two which, while not perfect for you, will strike you as “pretty damn good.” So, last week, MoKee was such a ROM for me – not for me, but rather good in general. This week, I spent a bit of time with Dirty Unicorns by Team DIRT. So, will this be that “surprisingly good, but not for me” ROM this week? Or will it become my daily driver? Let’s see…

Dirty Unicorns (DU) has been built on a number of different platforms over the years: it started off on the AOKP base during dhe Jelly Bean days, moving on to OmniROM for Kit-Kat, ultimately settling on a stock AOSP base (with various patches from CAF) for its Lollipop implementation. It’s a ROM that’s pretty feature rich (even more so than MoKee in a number of ways) with pretty good stability and overall performance. If you’d like to know more about their project, visit their Google+ page here. Don’t forget to check out Dax Nagtegaal’s review of DU here, if you’re considering flashing this ROM.

UI Feel and Smoothness [Pretty Good]

Since no one else is gonna say anything, I’m just gonna out-right say it: all ROMs on 5.1.1 pretty much perform the same! There are a few tweaks made to the kernel every now and then to make some ROMs a bit snappier, but I doubt that you’d notice the difference in day to day use. That being said – DU feels like one of the faster ones. I say “feels” because the massively high performance you get as you boot it up is a bit of a trick: like SlimLP, the animation scales are set quite low. In fact, SlimLP was set at .75x and DU at 0.50x; this made the UI feel blazing fast on my OnePlus One, but not in a pleasant way. I found myself quickly changing these settings back to 0.75x to get a more familiar feel.

Since we forgo doing benchmarks to demonstrate performance of a ROM, it’s hard to say this objectively, but in my testing, I got the distinct impression that games played particularly smoothly on this ROM. It’s probably not the quickest and smoothest of the lot, in fact, there were quite a few lags and stutters especially with many apps running concurrently. Stability was a bit of a mixed bag, again. First after installing the ROM and recovering all my apps from Titanium Backup, I was facing a number of force closes and UI crashes. After several reboots and a bit of poking and prodding, I decided to try clearing the cache and Dalvik cache – it seemed to work. And I hadn’t faced a single crash again until I tried changing themes; this problem was usually remedied by a reboot of the phone.

On the subject of stability, there were also quite a number of bugs in the ROM, such as the Task Manager refusing to go away if the feature was disabled from settings while it was open in the Status Bar (making getting to the Quick Settings tiles impossible until addressed.) Another recurring bug was the same glitch in the lockscreen that I’d seen in SlimLP. Another visual glitch seemed to appear when tapping check-boxes, where the radial “bloom” effect would appear broken along the horizontal edges of the check-box itself. The more annoying bugs included some that I couldn’t recreate subsequently. For example, I always use the automated priority notifications mode between 1:00AM and 8:00AM – with phone calls always allowed to interrupt; one day, it decided to ignore this rule and just silenced the phone altogether. But these few bugs and glitches aren’t enough to tarnish the otherwise good impressions of performance and stability of this ROM.

Battery Life [Good, I think…]

So our tenet is to try and give you our impressions and experiences of a ROM as it feels to us in regular use during a week of testing. While this is a great way to find out the actual impact of our daily lives on a ROM’s battery handling, it also varies with how we get to use a ROM from week to week. This entire week, for example, I was mostly running around town constantly using GPS, mobile data and keeping the phone awake with internet radio. During my downtime, the phone would mostly be used for heavy gaming – often not connected to a WiFi network either. So let’s just say that it was a week of only heavy-use and little to no moderate use.

That being said, it did seem to yield the best performance of the ROMs I have seen so far under such heavy use. Mind you, however, I was using Greenify for most of testing – but I don’t think that made that much of a difference since most of the battery was being eaten up by continuous use or extensive use of wakelocks from music apps or background downloads. On one particularly rough day, the phone was used as a WiFi hotspot serving two other devices while playing games! With such usage, I got between 2:40h (during extremely heavy use) to 4:35h (rather heavy use) of SoT all before dropping below 10%, which honestly isn’t all that bad.

Battery Stats during Extremely Heavy Use
Battery Stats during Regular Heavy Use

I would suspect that with moderate use on mostly WiFi with few active wakelocks, the ROM should easily be able to manage at least six hours. However generous an estimate that might seem, that’s not outstandingly good, but it’s not bad either. That being said, the last day of my testing revealed copius amounts of the dreaded *alarm* wakelock – so much so that my standby times had started dwindling quite badly. I haven’t been able to get any moderate-use to speak of, but if you’re interested to know how the ROM fared under less abuse, please take a look at Dax’s review.

Features and Customizability [Excellent-ish]

It might be no CyanideL, but it’s close. If I thought that MoKee overwhelmed me with features, was I ever taken by surprise by DU! Going into this ROM, I wasn’t expecting much customization. But holy shit, this ROM has everything! It has the best of Slim, CM, AOSP, etc. I personally could do without a lot – a whole lot – of these features though, but that’s just me. I prefer a minimal ROM with the most useful features rather than one that just tosses everything into the basket, which is kind of how DU felt to me. Given how well the tweaks are organized (mostly inside the “Dirty Tweaks” setting menu,) I won’t take points off for all the added bells and whistles and the slight performance hit that results in.

A lot of the features are a bit buggy and most users will not use any more than 30 to 50% of all the things that DU comes bundled with, but here are a few I feel are worth mentioning:

  1. Cyanogen Theme Engine: If you’re into customizing your UI, you’re probably going to appreciate this being included.
  2. The Privacy Guard and App Ops: I keep raving on about the necessity of this feature in any ROM and DU does not disappoint. A previous build seemed to render App Ops broken, but in the build I tested, it seemed to work fine.
  3. A metric ton of UI tweaks including list view animations, status bar and Quick Settings tweaks, custom navigation bar controls, recents window customization, etc. etc.
  4. Built in Ad-blocker: something that many users will thoroughly appreciate. I personally prefer to support developers in any way possible, though, so I chose to keep this feature turned off. If however, you have apps that get really annoying to use because of a barrage of ads, this feature will certainly prove useful.
  5. Wakelock blocker: Yet another excellent feature to help cut down on battery use – I hadn’t had much reason to use this at first, but given how wakelocks started to build up during the last day of testing, this feature probably warranted a second look.
  6. User selectable DPI settings: This is available on a lot of custom ROMs, but most usually allow you to choose from a set of preset values; DU gives you the opportunity to set any DPI you like (as long as it’s a multiple of 5.)
  7. Pre-rooted: And root access is via Chainfire’s excellent SuperSU app, which is my personal preference in root methods.
  8. OmniSwitch: This multi-tasking method is appreciated by many due to its minimal approach and added functionality. This is one of those features I found myself not using, but it might prove useful to fans of OmniROM builds.
  9. Gesture Anywhere, App Circle Bar, and more: These are some of the features that I didn’t find particularly useful, but die-hard fans of these features would certainly be more appreciative of them than I was. One feature of particular praise is the ability to turn off heads-up notifications – the more I use Lollipop, the more and more this feature feels like a necessity in a ROM.
  10. Includes Apollo Music Player and DSP Manager: Neither of which are particularly great, nor are they horrible. The DSP Manager seems to only work with Apollo, which is a bit of a shame because as EQ apps go, it’s not terrible. It’s no Viper4Android, but it’s at least a good substitute for MaxxAudio/AudioFX.
  11. A very well-presented About screen: This might not sound like much, but if you want your information about the ROM in one place (including contact info for the dev team, maintainers, etc.), this is a very considerate and useful addition; something that I felt deserved particular praise.

And of course, as is par for the course with most of these feature-laden ROMs, there are a lot more features to speak of, as you can probably tell from this video (the theme I’m using is called “dark material // regression+” by chummy development team, in case anyone’s interested):

A stark absence of the performance tweaks was rather eye catching: a lack of performance tweaks (as with MoKee.) But MoKee at least allowed some level of performance customization – here, it just seems to be absent altogether with the only accessible control seemed to be between turning Battery Saver on or off.

Overall Impressions [Good]

So with middling performance, good battery life, and a smorgasbord of [mostly] useful features, this ROM has just one thing holding it back: the bugs. Don’t get me wrong – the bugs are more of an annoyance rather than a deal breaker. But it makes the ROM lack a certain quality feel in how it has been put together. I would have appreciated the inclusion of the LiveDisplay feature which I had quickly gotten used to with custom ROMs, but DU still includes a good range of display color adjustment in its current state.

After the week I spent using it, I feel that my inability to test the battery life under more varied conditions leaves me a bit hesitant to pass a final verdict on it. From what I’ve seen so far, though, I’d say it’s a pretty good ROM overall.

In conclusion

So who is this ROM for?

If you’ve used a lot of different ROMs but can’t seem to find the perfect combination of features and performance, DU might just be a good checkpoint ROM for you. It’s not perfect, but the development team seems to be active in addressing the users’ concerns and inputs – so if you like to engage yourself in a ROM’s development, this may turn out to be an appealing proposition.

 Would I recommend this ROM to others?

I would not recommend this ROM to everyone, no. But I would certainly recommend it to a flashaholic who has tried most everything else. DU is, by no means, a badly designed ROM, but it feels rather “unfinished” in the way its features integrate with each other; as such, someone looking for a stable, more integrated-feeling OS is probably better off with MoKee, COS 12, Vanir-Exodus, EOS, etc.

Final words?

Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t feel that I’ve had enough time with this ROM to render a final decision on how good it really is. But I can say for certain that this ROM will not be my daily driver – while it’s a rather good ROM, it feels a bit “all over the place” in my honest opinion. I will be revisiting this ROM sometime in the coming weeks to get a more through look at it, though… So stay tuned!

Interested in trying the ROM for yourself? Visit their repository here: http://download.dirtyunicorns.com/files/

 

2 Comments

  1. theshinybeast theshinybeast

    Lovely Review again Rez K.I tried DU briefly after Dax´s review and had a similar feeling about it as you,that unfinished feel sort of very good but what´s missing?Like only wearing one sock.

     
    Reply
    1. Rez Rez

      Thank you Kevin.

      As always, it’s great to hear your feedback… :) As for the “unfinished” feeling, you’re absolutely spot-on with the one sock analogy! The main aspect that feels lacking is the proper testing of battery life under moderate use… Not to mention the bugs were a bit like ticking time bombs – they’d come and go in bursts, so maybe it’ll take a better look to put myself at ease.

      Thanks again for chiming in, man… I’ll keep you posted for when I redo DU.

      Cheers!

       
      Reply

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