Hello guys and welcome to our new blog followers and readers! Today I want to talk about the choice of custom firmwares (alternative ROMs) for the Ainol Elf II.
If you were following the blog, you should already know that I got my Ainol Elf 2 tablet delivered from china using EMS about a two weeks ago, and during these two weeks I was testing all of the available official firmwares and custom ROMs to get the best out of my tablet especially that chinese tablets aren’t very good at performance. However this tablet seemed to be the best 7″ tablet when it comes to performance/price, and it did a very good job with all of the firmwares I tried, but there are always some advantages and disadvantages for each ROM.
I won’t be talking alot about performance in this post, benchmarks will arrive in another one. This post will talk about the tablet in the user’s perspective (do games work? is there a lag? are there some features missing?)
Stock ROM 17/07/2012
So, let’s begin by the first ROM wich is the stock ROM. First of all, my tablet came with the 26/06/2012 ROM, if yours came with an outdated ROM do an update first. Of course, I’ll be comparing the latest versions of all of the ROMs that are available, so as of this post the latest stock ROM is the 17/07/2012.
All of the stock ROMs come with a lot of chinese apps, of course useless outside of china, these apps may bother a little bit but you can always uninstall them using Titanium Backup.
The latest stock ROM got the dual display feature on HDMI and WiFi fix like all of the custom ROMs, my Ainol Elf II (bought from McBub) doesn’t seem to suffer from the Wifi issue with any of the ROMs so I don’t know if any of all of these ROMs will fix your Wifi range issues (if you have ones).
This ROM does have Google Play store but app choice is very limited, this is due to Google not recognizing the tablet as a popular one, other ROMs like Christian’s Cyanogenmod port and DarkElf 1.1 solved this issue by faking the tablet’s name to Samsung I9100 (so that you have a full support for all of the apps supported by Samsung’s Galaxy SII)
I wouldn’t recommend staying on the stock ROM despite its stability because you’ll be missing a lot of fun and a lot of nice features that you’ll only find on custom ROMs.
DarkElf 1.1 ROM by Soulflier
This is one of the first (if not the first) custom (not made by Ainol) ROMs for the Ainol Elf II. This isn’t a Cyanogenmod port or any other port, it is just a tweaked firmware based on the stock one (so its obviously ICS).
The latest release (1.1 as of this post) is based on the stock ROM of 17/07/2012, Soulflier the developper usually tweaks the stock firmware deleting all of the unwanted chinese applications Ainol includes, he also pre-installs all of the Google Apps that are missing from the stock ROM (like Youtube, Gmail, etc…) and replaced the stock ICS apps with other better alternatives (ex: Gallery replaced with QuickPic). Soulflier also figured out a way to fake the tablet identity to make games (that weren’t supported by the stock ROM) work correctly as if they were installed on a Samsung phone/tablet.
DarkElf also has a nice feature of displaying the battery percentage. Another feature that only DarkElf has is the swapping of the internal SD card by the external one, this is useful if you have an SD card bigger than 8gig: the tablet will use it as an internal card and installs apps directly to it. This tablet explains the process better:
Even thought DarkElf isn’t based on any popular ROM like CyanogenMod or MIUI, DarkElf is very robust and stable and is frequently updated by Soulflier, a developper that seems to understand the tablet very well. This ROM is a good choice even if I prefer Christian Troy’s CyanogenMod ROMs for a lot of reasons you’ll discover later in this post.
CyanogenMod ROMs by Christian Troy
Christian Troy’s ROMs are newborns that just made their appearance to the Novo7 Elf II scene, the italian developer seems to be a serious competitor to Soulflier and has already released three awesome ROMs, two of them are CyanogenMod ports and one is the “Eleven” ROM that we already reviewed in an older post. Today I’ll be reviewing the two CyanogenMod ports.
CyanogenMod 9 ROM by Christian Troy
I already reviewed this ROM one day after its release in an older post, so let’s just recapitulate: This ROM is VERY stable and very smooth, it has all of the features of the DarkElf ROM and the stock ROM such as faking the tablet identity and making games that aren’t supposed to work on the Ainol Elf II tablet, work as if it was made by Samsung. This ROM has got features that only CyanogenMod ROMs have such as the Cyanogen and Performance menus in the settings, the tweaked Shutdown menu, the awesome theming abilities of CyanogenMod, etc…
In the latest release (as of this post 9/9/2012) Christian Troy solved a lot of problems making the ROM very smooth and bug-less, everything seems to work smoothly and all of the games work without lag.
Christian Troy always includes in his CyanogenMod ports support for a variety of OTG devices such as 3G dongle, bluetooth USB dongles and USB gamepads (PS3 and XBOX 360 ones included!) wich makes this ROM and the CyanogenMod 10 ROM a unique ROM if you want to use OTG devices or bluetooth accessories.
This is ROM is very recommended for its stability and unique features.
Jelly Bean (CyanogenMod 10) ROM by Christian Troy
If you skipped the article to this section then I recommend you to read the CyanogenMod 9 part because these two ROMs have the same features.
The most remarkable feature of this ROM is that it is actually based on Jelly Bean! This is not a fake, or a UI tweak, this is a REAL Jelly Bean port for the Ainol Elf II. As of this post, Ainol haven’t officially released a Jelly Bean firmware for the Elf II but I don’t expect it to be smoother than this ROM.
Christian Troy spent a lot of time and did a very nice work on this ROM especially. The latest version doesn’t have any bugs and all of the Jelly Bean features are working correctly, such as the Google Now (Google’s Siri alternative). Project butter makes the tablet very smooth and so responsive.
Cyanogen Mod features, Jelly Bean features and the tweaks made by Christian Troy (such as the support for bluetooth dongles, 3G dongles, gamepads, dual display on HDMI, faking the tablet identity, etc…) combined in one ROM make this ROM the BEST ROM ever made for the Ainol Elf 2 tablet.
This is the ROM I am using on my Ainol Novo7 Elf II tablet, and I don’t think I’ll change it unless Ainol officially releases Jelly Bean on our tablets, so I would highly recommend this ROM for its stability, features and external devices support.