A while back I was lucky enough to receive a Nexus 7 (2012) as a Christmas present (read my review). I have quite a few tablets and this isn’t my daily driver, but it sits beside my bed as it’s handy to check emails or the weather when I wake up. It’s also great to catch a YouTube video or listen to some songs before settling down for the night. So it gets used every day.
It rarely ventures elsewhere in the house, let along out and about. I prefer the bigger tablets for those sorts of things. Still, it’s a handy addition. That’s why I was becoming a bit disillusioned with its performance.
It started out as super fast and snappy, as you’d expect. It’s a Google device so has got all of the OS updates. Over time it’s become not just slower but almost unusable. It was getting to the point that I was tapping icons multiple times because the delay was so long I didn’t think it had registered. Chrome kept crashing on me too.
I looked at the options to speed it up. Restarts didn’t work for long, if at all. It seemed absurd to simply write it off and consign it to the rubbish pile. This isn’t an old device. In the end I knew I was going to have to look at a new ROM to help speed it up.
A New File System
After searching for a while, I found there were endless options for ROMs that supported the Nexus 7. Which one to choose? In terms of features I only really wanted speed, stability and access to the Play store to download the apps I wanted. So the could, should, be fairly minimal. Every one seemed to qualify though.
That’s when I stumbled on an article about switching not only the ROM, but the file system too. Apparently the low price tag on the Nexus 7 was partly the result of opting for poor quality NAND flash memory. Some of the limitations were apparently helped by TRIM support in Android 4.3 but it obviously didn’t solve it.
The answer, it seems, is to switch to a file system called F2FS (Flash-Friendly File System) that was developed by Samsung for this sort of memory.
A New ROM
The Tekno Venus article also mentioned a ROM called SlimKat. It sounded like what I was after. Few ROMs are designed to run on F2FS, but the article included instructions for how to convert it. Reading the comments I saw references to a pre-built F2FS version though.
After some more digging I found not only a version that didn’t need conversion, but was a newer version of Android (5.0.2 alpha). It was a bit confusing, but I also needed to install a Google Apps package. I opted for the Zero package (beta 5.0.x), which includes the absolute barebones, then I picked up the apps I wanted from the Play store.
I largely followed the steps on Tekno Venus but skipped over the conversion steps and had to install the Google Apps package alongside the ROM itself. I did find I had to play about a bit, especially with changing the file system on the various partitions (I think I selected slightly different partitions on the advice of another thread/post). Still, it all worked out. It wasn’t a particularly short process, largely down to repeated searches to confirm processes or packages, but it wasn’t overly complex either.
I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I’m glad to say my Nexus is back where it should be. It’s fast and responsive (I still have to hit the power button a couple of times to wake it up though) and running smoothly. No crashes or issues.
I was able to install all of the apps I wanted from the Play store, while avoiding the ton of superfluous ones Google decides you must need.
Battery life is also much better than the pre-upgrade Nexus. Partly down to having fewer apps installed I suspect as there was barely a day when one of Google’s random apps updated itself. I may be mad, but it also seems to charge quicker too.
So I’m very pleased. If, like me, you are getting frustrated by or have abandoned your old Nexus it is certainly worth the time to switch the ROM to something a little more performant. I was worried spending the time wouldn’t yield results, but it certainly did. It should give your device a new lease of life, and possible save you money too, because you won’t need to go buy something else.
My Nexus is a great device once again.