How to choose a custom ROM

Stub, expect some rewrite / additions

- Introduction -

Knowing your device

- What to expect from custom ROMs -

Privacy
Interface
Difference

- ROMs to avoid -

Pixel ROMs
Limbo ROMs
Stock ROM (and their ports)

- Recommended ROMs -

- Conclusion -

Introduction

Personal custom ROM recommendations & reasons why some ROMs had to be avoided.

Knowing your device

Let's start with getting the obvious thing off the way - knowing what your device is, what ROMs are available, whether its bootloader can be unlocked & how it's done, how to install custom recovery, & how to install the ROM.

You can start with searching [your device name] XDA on the internet & opening the corresponding forum for the device.

What to expect from custom ROMs

These are what we should expect from custom ROMs in general.

Privacy

When it comes to privacy, here's a list of what most custom ROMs do for user privacy :

However, most custom ROMs do not remove / change other Google connections such as captive portal, NTP, & IPv4/IPv6 availability check.

Pixel ROMs are consistent in the regard of removing any non-Google preinstalled corpo apps, & that's about it. As for Limbos, they're too inconsistent in this regard, either flip-flopping from Vanilla to Vanilla/GApps / GApps-only, and/or supporting some devices as GApps-only while leaving others to Vanilla-only / Vanilla/GApps, depending on the maintainer's whims.

/e/ does somewhat better in this regard by removing Google's captive portal connections (except for fallback) & NTP, but haven't managed to deal with the IPv4/6 checking & has preinstalled Magic Earth, a closed-source maps app with questionable privacy policy.

Interface

Most ROMs will run a Quickstep-based launcher (which looks & feels like the Pixel launcher), except for /e/, which uses BlissLauncher, an iPhone-like launcher. The stock launcher can be replaced with third-party launchers like Nova & OpenLauncher though.

For the settings menu, most ROMs will take this approach : Take AOSP settings, add a custom-named advanced settings, and / or add some additions in the default settings. Occassionally, some custom ROM (mostly Limbos) will also change up the settings UI, which can make them either look better or worse.

So... what's different?

The difference you'd see will be the amount of customizations, the boot-animation, & the prebuilt apps (sometimes the UI as well). Aside from all of them, what you'll get is AOSP, with some mods here & there, sometimes crammed onto an aptly-named "advanced settings". And, if we take /e/ into the equation, the captive portal, prebuilt launcher, & network time server, but /e/ is the only one doing so, AFAIK.

ROMs to avoid

Here are the ROMs you should avoid.

Pixel ROMs

Always avoid these kinds of ROMs. They're basically similar to the stock OS found on Pixel PDAs, but with arguably more features.

Here's a short list explaining why you must avoid all Pixel ROMs :

Limbo ROMs

Generally, you should avoid them. While they do provide Vanilla variants, odds are that they'll support your device as GApps-only. However, AEX leans away from being a Pixel-oriented Limbo ROM - but still, due to lack of Vanilla / Goolag enforcement, you should avoid it just to be on the safe side.

Here are the examples of Limbo ROMs you must avoid:

Stock ROM (and their ports)

Go-ogle spyware, spywares from the stock ROM, custom vendor firmware that don't work with custom ROMs, & custom kernels not working (or have some issues), perhaps by design. Don't bother unless being a slave is more important to you.

Recommended ROMs

At the moment, there's no ROM I can recommend without regret as they're either missing essential features and/or have user-hostile sites. However, regardless of whichever custom ROM you're running, you're mostly going to be dealing with the apps you've installed once you get the ROM tuned to your specifications.

Either way, here are the best 2 (3 if LineageOS microG counts as a separate ROM from LineageOS) custom ROMs (despite their issues) according to me :

And some custom ROMs I would like to use & consider a top ROM candidate, but can't :

Conclusion

TL ; DR : Any proven custom ROM of choice (my recommendations list includes some of them) > Vanilla Limbo > not using a PDA > Pixel & Pixel-Limbo ROMs > Stock ROM.

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