SlimSaber based on SlimLP
Introducing the ROM
After a “nice” experience going back to a heavy skinned KitKat based ROM (MIUI 6 – link) it is so good coming back to a “stock like” Lollipop ROM. This does not mean that I had a bad experience with KitKat, in fact going back to it made me realize that for the average user and apart from material design there is no much differences between the two operating systems as functionality goes. For my daily usages there was not one single thing that I couldn’t do on KitKat that I could on Lollipop. But I am one of those that after going one iteration up I can’t really “downgrade” again. Yes, Lollipop has it fair number of bugs and issues (the mobile radio bug is on top of my list) but once you start using and enjoying the UI smooth transitions and overall speed (due to a better RAM management and ART runtime) you go back to a stock KitKat ROM and it seems that you went back 2 or 3 years in time. I am sorry but I loved you Kitkat but our relationship while it was good is now over! I love another.
After “breaking up” (again!) with 4.4 KitKat, today I bring you another 5.1.1 review but taking the queue of last week and breaking away of the CM based ROM’s for the time being I decided to use SlimSaber as my daily driver for this past week. Some of our fans (we listen to you) asked us to test this ROM as it has some good impressions over XDA and Oneplus forum. There was even an user over XDA that posted some screenshots of his battery performance achieving 11h of SOT on a 3 day cycle. I was highly dubious to say the least as you can easily achieve this kind of stats if you leave your phone on airplane mode, using the phone on battery saving all the time, high underclocking, etc. But it still got both of our fans and AndroidScout curiosity so he put this ROM to a real test.
SlimSaber is a ROM developed by @fusionjack (link here) and as the name suggests it is based on SlimLP weekly builds thus earning the “unofficial” denomination. SlimLP is a well-known AOSP based ROM that aims, on SlimROM’s team words, “(…) to offer users a slimmed down but still feature rich alternative to other android operating systems”. So, basically, SlimSaber is to SlimLP as the vast majority of custom ROM’s are to CyanogenMod.
This SlimSaber review is based on the build from July 5 of 2015 (5.1.1 – 20150705) and on the writing of this review it is the latest version. Let’s see if this ROM lives by its expectation.
1. UI impressions: another one bites the dust?
Like the name suggests, SlimSaber is based on SlimLP but on the contrary of what many custom ROM’s do when basing off on CM where they add a lot of customizations, SlimSaber just aims to improve two aspects: performance and smoothness. If you come to SlimSaber expecting add features to SlimLP you better turn around as this ROM does not give you that. But if you been following me (not literally I hope) you know that I prefer overall smoothness and performance over shear number of customizations. Don’t get me wrong, I love to have the power of customizations but if I need to pick performance or customizations I will take the first one any day of the week.
I never tried SlimLP so I can’t tell you if SlimSaber improves performance and smoothness but I got to tell you that I was worried on the first minutes of using SlimSaber. After setting up everything (accounts, apps and so on) I started to notice some lag on certain animations. No matter what I was doing, the launcher, Wi-Fi on or off, etc the animations framerate drops were visible. But the strangest thing happened on the second day: the issues were completely gone. What kind of black magic is this? I didn’t do anything different from one day to another and I didn’t have any update so this come as the most unexpected thing but it was a very nice surprise. Welcome back smoothness!
With that issue out of the way, the experience just went to the place it should always be. Every transition from multi-tasking to actually app running was very pleasant, typical Lollipop. The latest 5.1.1 ROM’s that I’ve been running (mostly CM but also some AOSP based) UI smoothness was not an issue as they all ran buttery smooth.
As my daily usage go, I never encountered any hiccups or slower load times from moderate to heavy usage. Even jumping out intensive graphical games to hungry apps like Facebook and Instagram and coming back to the game was accomplished like it was nothing. Antutu scores were around 48000 and on Geekbench it managed 940 and 3140 (single-core and multi-core). You know my opinion on benchmarks so use this information as just a mere indicator.
Like I said, I can’t back up the promises of improved performance or smoothness as I never ran SlimLP but what I can back up with the overall great smoothness and performance, at least on my daily usage.And rest assure that I threw everything to SlimSaber and it managed to fly through it with no big of a deal. Top notch job done here with the ROM and Kernel, both compiled with SaberMod custom toolchain (thus the “saber” name).
2. Battery performance: enough but only that
Performance and smoothness wise the ROM behaved like a charm so I was very eager to evaluate battery performance. I really was expecting great battery life or, at the very least, above average battery life, comparing to the 5.1.1 ROM’s I’ve been testing. My very minimum SOT for my daily usage (16-18h cycle) is around 4.30h but my latest experiences on 5.1.1 gave me around 5.30h (mostly CM based) so I was expecting something around those values. I was quite surprised and not in a good way.
The best that I managed to get was 5h SOT on my second day and that left me with high expectation as battery performance tends to improve (not in all ROM’s!) after a few cycles.
But I was let down after this first cycle because I was never able to achieve the same stats, I was even struggling to get more than 4h SOT. It was very strange as I didn’t install any more app and the only thing that changes were apps updates. But I don’t find that as a reason because I always use Servicely to hibernate power hungry apps like Facebook. I did the exactly same thing on other ROM’s and I was always able to surpass the 5h SOT mark quite easily.
But be aware that the same thing can or cannot be verified by you. We can have the exactly same apps with the exact same usage and get different stats. It depends on a lot of things but I don’t think that you will be able to get better battery performance than me as I don’t use that many power hungry apps and the ones that I have I use Servicely to hibernate them when locking the screen. For that matter, I don’t even use that many apps, I am on of those that stick to the ones that I really use.
I also thought that it could be because of the GAPPS that I use (Euroskank Dynamic GAPPS) but I’ve used the exactly same package version on my OwnROM review (link here) and I managed to get over 5.30h SOT on it. Well, it can still be the problem as some GAPPS package work better on certain ROM’s but I am highly dubious that it could be the source of the problem. Moreover, the overnight drain was quite impressive as some nights I only lost 3% and normally my overall hourly drain was around 5% which was the same as other ROM’s where I got way better SOT. It was very strange!
What this ROM gives you out of the box (very common on some ROM’s now) that can extend your battery life is the use of a kernel tweaker: Kernel Adiutor (under the “Advanced” tab on the “Settings” menu). This is a well know app for those “tweak lovers” and you can take full advantage of it having this app built-in. On AndroidScout reviews we do not change anything on the kernel settings when testing our ROM’s as we use them as they are out of the box.
I was quite disappointed with its battery performance as SlimSaber focus on improving battery life but I simply could not stand by it. It still could be true that SlimSaber improves battery life in comparison with the ROM that it is based but if SlimLP has even worse battery life then there is definitely something wrong with it. Still, SlimSaber managed to get me through the day so it didn’t ruin my daily experience.
3. Customizations: “Because less is more”
That expression is the exact words of the SlimTeam when describing SlimLP. I got to tell you that when I saw it I was a little held back due to the fact that I have “customizations needs” (don’t even ask), it is like a condition. Besides, SlimSaber doesn’t add any more features apart from improving performance. But because we love our followers and they ask us to review SlimSaber I still went through it.
Eager to see the impact of “less is more” in the customizations department, immediately after setting up my accounts and apps I started looking for the customizations. Luckily I was in to a good surprise has SlimSaber gives you a good amount of customizations under the tab “Personalization”.
Like you see on the photo above, the customizations are divided in three subgroups plus the SlimOTA center. Going through settings you have:
Interface – in here you will find the “Quick Settings” where you can customize the quick toggles; you can change the clock and date looks and position as well the battery status style under the “Status Bar” menu; next is the “Recent apps panel” where it give the much more handy “SlimRecents” and all the customizations you can do it to that panel (if you never tried Slim recents I urge you to do it as it is way better multi-tasker than the stock one); and finally the “Expanded Desktop” where it allows you to hide the status bar and navbar to all apps or just on individual ones (pretty useful if you use the soft keys but don’t want to loose screen real estate)
Navigation – you can toggle between the hardware and soft keys as well as customize and set different actions to every button; “SlimPIE” is a well know feature that I end up used a lot since I prefer to use the capacitive buttons, you have two layers of buttons that you can fully customize to certain actions quick access; “Global menu” gives you the ability to choose which actions you can trigger when holding the power button
Gestures – from here you can change what screen off gestures trigger from 4 directional arrow to circle and double finder swipe down. On most CM based ROM this is set do default actions but in here you can make them launch whatever you want.
SlimOTA – this is not a personalization per se (and I don’t know it is on this submenu) but it is still under the customizations menu. Still, every custom ROM should have something like this where you have direct access to new builds, changelogs, GAPPS to download and even the link to the XDA SlimSaber page.
As you can see above, there is enough customizations for you to play with. Of course SlimSaber is nowhere near certain custom ROM out there on the customizations power but it is still pretty good amount. Besides, if that is not enough for you SlimSaber throws you a very nice “bone” under the “Advanced” tab on the “System” submenu.
As you can see it is right there that you will find the SuperSU root management, the kernel tweaker that I talked before and the MaxxAudioFX (although I prefer the Viper4Android – if you haven’t tried it yet, then to it now!) to tailor your “sound needs”. On the “Miscellaneous” you can adjust the settings of the screen recorder like video size and bitrate.
But the “bone” that I mentioned earlier is the built-in Layers Manager, a theme engine that can change almost everything on the UI. It is a way more powerful themer than the theme engine that can be found on CM based ROM’s. The power that gives you is endless.
I got tell you that CM theme app is easier to use but that comes on the expense of being more limited on what it can customize. Layers has a learning curve that can be overwhelming to first comers but the Layers Manager app does the hard work for you (creating the necessary folder for example). The apps is self-explanatory and for easy use it gives you the link to the Layers available on the Play Store that are as easy to install as a CM theme, with just the extra step of rebooting. For more information on Layers and what you can do with it you can follow this link. If you surpass the learning curve you will want them on every ROM you flash.
4. Bugs – Unsuccessful search for them
The reviews that I’ve been making, this chapter had become the shortest one on my (very) long articles and that’s a very good thing. On SlimSaber I didn’t find any bug on my daily usage but that doesn’t mean that they are not there as there is no such thing as bug free ROM.
If you know any bug that I fail completely to reproduce you can use the comment section bellow to bring it to my attention as well to others that are reading this review. Make yourself at home.
5. Final “Slim” thoughts – top notch performance on battery expense
SlimSaber did exactly what it aimed for: improved performance and smoothness but that came on the expense of battery life as my experience showed that it takes a heavy hit. It still managed to get me through a full day but if you are a heavy user be prepared to have a charging station around you.
Overall, I was quite impressed with its performance on my daily usage. Most 5.1.1 ROM are overall pretty smooth so it is kind of difficult to see differences between them. I never encounter any lag whatsoever so if you want a very stable and smooth ROM then SlimSaber needs to be on your “consideration list”. But be prepared to the bellow average battery life or get your hands dirty tweaking the kernel settings.
SlimSaber also offers enough UI customizations (Slim features like SlimPIE and SlimRecents) but for that extra you can always rely on Layers to give you that edge that you may seek.
Overall, this is a very good ROM but either SlimSaber or the “mother” ROM SlimLP still needs some work on the battery department. If they managed that then this is a very capable ROM.
Link to the XDA thread here
Link to the changelog and download version reviewed here
Written by Tiago Marques