If, like me, you still have a 2012 Nexus 7 (and the OG 8GB version at that), you may have noticed it running a big more sluggish as the years have gone by. I recently flashed a ROM I happened upon in the XDA threads, called XenonHD, based on Android 5.1.1, and it’s running as good as when I first got my tablet all those years ago (as far as I can remember, it’s been a while), so I thought I’d share my experience so far in case anyone is interested.

If you’re still reading, I’m going to just assume you already have an unlocked bootloader and TWRP recovery installed. If not, you can read the guide on Lifehacker, from last year but the info on it should still work.

The XenonHD ROM is brought to us by Team Horizon, and all the links are provided on their XDA thread.

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From the download link, just select your device, which in my case was the Asus Nexus 7. The ROMs are listed with the most recent at the bottom, in this case the one with 04-29-15 in the file name. You’ll also need Gapps, and there’s a link provided on their download list, but you can also try AROMA (and there’s a write-up about it on the O-Deck).

I personally had a little trouble with AROMA, so I’d also download the gapps zip listed on the XenonHD page just in case.

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Once I had it installed, it seemed to run a lot smoother than before, just as advertised.

Base : Lollipop 5.1.1_r1 : FULL AOSP BASE FROM SOURCE.It’s Rockstable,Blazing fast.and now Buttery Smooth too!

I should mention that I mostly just use this as my at-home device for Chromecasting videos, mostly using either the Vudu or Flixster app, but sometimes for Youtube or Twitch, since I have a Nexus 9 for most of my other entertainment (digital comics, web browsing on the couch, videos while traveling). But I did notice app updates ran faster, and web pages on Chrome loaded faster, so if you haven’t upgraded to a newer tablet, this should add a few more years of use to your aging Nexus 7. They support other devices (including the 2013 Nexus 7, Nexus 4-6) but I’m just going by my experience on the device I flashed it onto.

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And now, it’s screenshot time.

As mentioned, it’s the latest edition of Android - 5.1.1.

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And it comes with a lot of the extra options you’d expect from a custom ROM, which you can get to from ROM settings. And it comes with Super SU installed (the ROM has root access built in).

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From ROM Settings, you can make changes to the Status Bar, Notification drawer, , add a clear all recents button, etc.

Status Bar options include brightness control (from the status bar), centering the clock, text battery indicator, and date/time style.

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Here’s the notification drawer options

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And the buttons options

If you go into the Power Button option, you can then choose what options show up when you long press the power button to turn off the tablet.

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And that’s all the screenshots. Admittedly I only used it for a night, but as you can see from the clock, I was up kind of late playing around with it, and everything was running faster than it has in a long time. .

As for what prompted me to try out this ROM, here’s the story if you’re interested.

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I was previously on Purity for KitKat and then for Lollipop 5.0, and had successfully installed Xposed for Lollipop 5.0, and it was all working although running a little sluggish the previous few weeks. Then I wanted to try Lollipop for 5.1, so I flashed the 5.1 update for Purity ROM, and my tablet first got stuck with a cellular data error that kept popping up. As soon as I hit the ok button to close it, it would pop back up a few seconds later. Then after trying a clean install (factory reset, flash ROM, flash Gapps, wipe dalvik/cache), I got a “setup wizard has failed” error and then I couldn’t proceed any further.

So I checked through the Nexus 7 Android Development Thread, and decided to try out Dirty Unicorns 5.1.1 ROM, so I did a clean install and it worked! And Dirty Unicorns was a nice ROM with a lot of customize options, but it seemed a bit more feature heavy than Purity (and XenonHD) which seemed to slow it down a little. Anytime I tried to install Xposed for Lollipop 5.1, something would go wrong. So to see if it might be an incompatibility with DU, I decided to try yet another ROM, which is when I stumbled upon XenonHD. Xposed for 5.1 still wouldn’t install without making my tablet unusable, so I think it’s just not meant for the 2012 Nexus 7 on 5.1.1, but I noticed it was running a lot smoother and am sticking with this ROM for the forseeable future.