- Solid AOSP Foundation w/ Essential CM Customizations,
- Highly Optimized Source & Kernel,
- Smooth, Lag-Free UI,
- (Above) Average Battery Performance,
- Stability, Stability, Stabilty.
When I say Vanir, you say.. Exodus? There was a time, not so long ago, when the mention of Team Vanir conjured up images of the ubiquitous and oft celebrated fan-favorite Exodus ROM in the minds of many flashaholics. This was not an inherently ‘bad’ thing, as Exodus has proven time and time again that it is deserving of it’s iconic status. It did, however, create an interesting dynamic in which the hype train generated by Exodus had effectively overshadowed the viability of it’s AOSP-based brethren, VanirAOSP & Commotio. This created a scenario in which Exodus was pushed to the precarious edge of being overrated, while it’s counterparts remained under appreciated by comparison.
Flash forward to present day, and a Great Schism has occurred. The masterminds behind Exodus have since mutually severed ties with the Vanir Development Team, and while there is no bad blood between the two parties and collaboration continues, Exodus has moved away from the Vanir Build Platform and chosen to move forward with a pure Cyanogenmod 12.1 foundation. With any luck, this may facilitate an opportunity for the remaining Vanir offerings to receive the consideration they deserve. Over the course of the next two weeks, I will be presenting these ROMs to you in hopes of setting that consideration in motion. This week we’re going to be taking a look at VanirAOSP (06072015 Nightly Release) for the OnePlus One. Hail Satan, indeed.
Let me begin by saying, I’ve always been a pretty big proponent of Team Vanir and the professional quality of the software that they’ve been responsible for over the years. Truth be told, I’ve also spent my fair share of time trying to convince others to remove the Exodus blinders and take one of the less acclaimed Vanir builds for a spin. With that said, I’ll admit that my focus has always been centered on Commotio and admittedly, prior to this review I had only ran VanirAOSP on one other occasion and very briefly at that, just long enough to arrive at the conclusion that aesthetically it’s nearly identical to Commotio. The primary difference being that Commotio can be seen as the more experimental of the two builds, including test scripts, new features, and UI tweaks that typically end up being merged into VAOSP after they have been proven stable. VAOSP itself tends to be updated at a (slightly) lower frequency awaiting larger, more significant changes before new builds are introduced. Commotio just happens to appeal to my experimental nature when it comes to Android modification, but more on that next week.
Despite my historical affinity for Heavy Metal Android Development, my approach for this review is far removed from how I would run this, or any ROM under normal circumstances. I’m an AK guy, always have been, overtime I’ve become intimately familiar with the overarching control it allows one to exercise over their device that I’ve never seen a reason to stick with stock kernels when I can squeeze out more favorable results using custom ones based on my prefered configs and personal goals, instead of relying on the devs to decide what I want for me. However, if there’s one thing the Vanir Team is known for, it’s their heavily optimized and juice sipping kernels. Thus, for the purposes of keeping this review as unbiased as possible, I’ve stuck with the stock offering and refrained from implementing any performance enhancing modifications outside of what Vanir’s NUCLEARREACTOR kernel natively supports. As a final caveat, any modifications I did implement were strictly cosmetic in nature, with the exception of my kernel analysis in which I enlisted UKM and SetCPU to tweak the available stock kernel settings to something more akin to what I would run on an AK base, but only after a thorough evaluation of the ROM using the default kernel configuration.
Straight out of the box, the most apparent benefit of VanirAOSP is simply how damn smooth it is. This ROM runs like a well-oiled machine, it just flies. The scrolling is precise, the UI is very responsive, animations are lag-free, transitions are buttery, and the touch response is on point. I would attribute this in part to the updated Synaptics Touch Drivers, and the rest to the kernel itself and classic Vanir optimization. It’s also worth mentioning that unlike the stock Exodus kernel, VAOSP’s does not implement the kexec hardboot patch, so MultiROM support is not included and will require a custom kernel to run. I learned this the hard way, but ended up maintaining a primary ROM running AK and two instances of VanirAOSP as secondaries (one stock, and one with some light kernel tweaks and aesthetic mods) for the purposes of this review.
But I digress, If there’s one thing I don’t place too much stock in, it’s Benchmarks. I often see users going nutty over their AnTuTu scores, but I just don’t feel as though it necessarily paints an accurate portrait of the actual ROM experience. They can serve as a decent indicator of overall performance, but I’ve just as often had better overall experiences on ROMs clocking in with lower scores and vice versa. Thus, I find them to be largely inconsistent, but for any AnTuTu junkies that may be reading this, VanirAOSP’s average score was in the 46000-47000 range with stock configuration. Some may consider this score to be on the low end of the spectrum, but I implore you not to let this influence your opinion of the ROM too heavily. Speaking of inconsistencies, when subjected to GeekBench VAOSP seemed to fare well and returned above average scores across the board. I’m not going to focus too heavily on what I was able to accomplish once I started to play with the stock kernel configuration as the purpose of this review is to demonstrate the capabilities of this ROM as the developers intended it. Suffice it to say however, VanirAOSP is more than capable of achieving scores closer to the coveted 50000 range with the proper configuration, although, as you’ll see I typically prefer to approach kernel modifications with the goal of striking a balance between necessary performance and power conservation.
VanirAOSP: AnTuTu & Geek Bench Results (Stock Configuration)
Whether or not calling this ROM VanirAOSP is misnomer is debatable. I don’t pretend to know the sorcery behind the foundation of Vanir’s Build System, but I would have to imagine that the ROM was constructed using a Stock Android base. Despite this, VanirAOSP’s interface relies fairly heavily on features pulled from Cyanogenmod code. Whether this a good or a bad thing is dependent on you own personal preference, but after experiencing the CM template, I’ve always felt AOSP to be a bit.. restrictive. Thus, I’ve always been a fan of Cyanogen’s focus on enhanced customizations. I’m a pretty big fan of having options in general. The Settings UI is, of course, going to be the focal point of any feature appraisal and in this case is for the most part standard CM fare, as detailed in the screenshots below. The primary difference being that some of the more popular Cyanogen-like features have been relocated to Settings Submenu appropriately named ‘Voodoo ‘, with the ‘Interface ‘ section containing most of your heavy hitters. Despite this, it does seem as though there are some unique options sprinkled amongst the more common but I could just be hallucinating, you can expect the following:
- CM-ish NavBar Customizations:
Power/Home Button to End/Answer Calls, NavBar Shortcut Remapping (Longpress/Double Tap Actions for Home/Recents/Menu Softkeys), Basic CM NavBar Layout Editor, Basic Power Menu Customization,
- Bare-bones CM Status Bar Tweaks (Clock Position + AM/PM Indicator, Battery Status Icon – Portrait/Landscape/Circle with or w/o % Text), Status Bar Slide Brightness Control,
- Status Bar Double-Tap-To-Sleep,
- Basic Notification Drawer Customizations, 24 Configurable Quick Settings Tiles, Option to Hide Brightness Slider, & Quick Pulldown Settings,
- Head Up Notification Control, In-Built Notification Manager w/ Per-App Filters, Notification Accsess Control, Global Notification Blocking, Lockscreen/System Persistant Notification Control, & Configurable Priority Notification Settings,
- Basic CM cLock Widget Settings (Clock, Weather, Calendar Preferences).
- Lockscreen Left/Right Shortcut Editor.
- Option to Enable Preset Pre-App Performance Profiles,
- Screen-Off Gesture Essentials, Double-Tap-To-Wake, V = Torch, ⭕ = Camera, < > = Seek Music Tracks, Two Finger Salute = Pause Playback,
- CM Theme Engine!
- Privacy Guard!!
- Adaptive Brightness & Live/Ambient Display Settings, Accidental Wakeup Prevention,
- Baked In Custom DPI Settings (320 – 560)!!!
- Custom Battery/Notification LED Color Settings,
- Remove Search Bar From Recents Menu
- Device Profile Support
If there’s one thing I place less stock in than Benchmark Scores, it’s Battery Stats. No, that’s a lie, it’s other people’s Battery Stats. To quote myself, it’s completely subjective and based heavily on your usage. Your individual battery performance has less to do with the ROM you select and more to do with the practices you exercise to maximize it. There’s only one way to figure out what works best for you, and it isn’t asking other people what works for them. That may give you a baseline to work from. My point is, you can ask 100 people and you’ll get 100 variable answers, including mine. You can sift through all of that or you can just flash and find out for yourself. With that said, having a solid, highly optimized ROM and kernel backing you can certainly get you started off on the right foot. With that said, I’m going to do my best to give you an overview of what kind of usage I partake in on a daily basis, as well as share with you the results I experienced, on average, concerning VAOSP’s Battery Performance. The usage part is easy, 95% of the time when I’m on my phone I’m either; aimlessly browsing the internet, text messaging, browsing YouTube, watch Netflix and/or streaming to Chromecast, toiling away in Solid Explorer or a Settings Menu somewhere, posting on the OnePlus Forums, and more recently reviewing ROMs and chatting on Hangouts (Now, Telegram) with my partners in crime. I’m sure my Battery Life has taken a hit thanks to them, as either one of the aforementioned messaging apps has had my phone jumpin’ jumpin’ all the livelong day.. screw you guys, having friends sucks <3.
Ironically, I don’t spend a whole lot of my time with the device actually making phone calls (that would require real life friends) but despite this, I am on my phone a LOT so I would describe my usage in any of the aforementioned categories as moderate to heavy. With this in mind, I feel comfortable in assuring that one can expect to achieve 4-5 hrs SOT with heavy usage, 5-6 hrs with moderate usage and 6-8 hours with an appropriately configured kernel and a well implemented regimen of Xposed Modules (Greenify/Amplify/PowerNap). I won’t be going into any more depth about these modules at this time, as this review is based on a stock experience. I will however, briefly touch on some alterations I made to the stock kernel on my second ‘experimental’ installation of VAOSP during the last two days of testing. It is, after all, still the stock kernel.
To wrap things up, I wanted to provide those of you that may be interested with a breakdown of VanirAOSP’s NUCLEARREACTOR kernel and it’s default settings versus how I would configure it to strike an optimal balance between overall performance and desirable battery economics. This is purely personal preference of course, and based on how I would normally configure something along the lines of AK, minus the undervolting and overclocking. The best way I could think to illustrate this was with the following graphic:
Also, in the spirit of Heavy Metal Android Development, I’ve put together a short video not only to show off my handiwork, but to provide you all with a slightly less vanilla ROM orientation. This was recorded on my ‘experimental’ ROM, you know, the one this review was NOT conducted on. I had some fun and ran wild with both aesthetic and performance mods after the stock testing had been completed. Not something I would normally rock, theme-wise, but I felt it was only fitting. Furthermore, if you happen to see a feature during the video that isn’t listed above in the ‘Features ‘ section above then it’s something I manually implemented. Finally, I apologize for the subpar video quality. I ended up having to put the whole thing together on my phone due to PC inadequacies, this is something I hope to correct and improve moving forward.
WARNING: Soundtrack not for the feint of heart, this review is after all only semi-professional.
If I had to arbitrarily assign a score to this ROM, it would probably be something along the lines of an 8.5/10. For what it is, I enjoyed the ROM thoroughly and performance-wise I’d have a difficult time envisioning how it could get any better, the UI is fluid and responsive, Battery Life is favorable, and I don’t think I encountered a single ANR or Force Close during the course of my testing. There were no significant, deal-breaking bugs to be found. Google Play Services behaved itself for the most part, and with the exception of my Internet Browser I did not experience any Mobile Radio hyperactivity, nor did I encounter any Miscellaneous Power Consumption which has plagued me in the past. What’s going to make or break most user’s opinion of this ROM is it’s features, and only you can decide if VanirAOSP suits your needs in that regard. It manages to strike a delicate balance between providing enhanced customization options beyond what you would normally find in a Stock Android offering, without going out of it’s way to shove extraneous settings down your throat. Personally, I tend to prefer a more comprehensive Settings Interface like those found in ROMs like Cyanide and BlissPop. Despite this, I remain undeterred as any features I felt it to be lacking would simply end up being implemented manually. I feel that this ROM is best suited for those of you that desire a clean and pure AOSP experience with just the right amount of CM garnish on top, in which case VanirAOSP is most certainly worth your consideration.