How CyanogenMod 9 saved my Galaxy Tab 10.1

Published: January 2, 2012

I have owned a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (Wi-Fi only) and used it excessively nearly every day since I found it on sale at Staples last summer. To be completely honest, it has been the best tablet I've owned to date (and I've owned quite a few). Battery life is great, the display (in comparison with similar tablets) is wonderful, and it has given me minimal trouble when it comes to performance.

That said, I can recall a time when the Galaxy Tab ran much smoother.

When I bought the Tab 10.1, it came with purely stock Android – version 3.1. I could open and switch between apps without a hitch. Moving things around and adding widgets and app shortcuts to my home screens wasn't a problem. Even scrolling between app pages and home screens was pretty smooth.

Around midnight one night, however, I received a notification telling me that there was an update ready for download. Details were pretty scarce (there probably were some helpful details, but I chose to ignore them in normal fashion). There were still quite a few bugs with Honeycomb at the time, so I figured it was just a minor update that would patch some outstanding problems – like the constantly crashing of the browser. In short, it did. And it brought something a little extra along for the ride: Samsung's TouchWiz UX interface for tablets. I didn't learn this until after the update had completed. I knew this particular update was coming at one point or another, and I was actually looking forward to it at the time – mini apps looked awesome, and the native screenshot soft button was a nice touch, too.

As I noted in my TouchWiz UX review, things weren't so bad at first. Battery life remained mostly the same and overall smoothness was on par with stock before.

With time, however, my performance took a pretty major hit. Opening an app would take anywhere from one to four seconds; scrolling between home screens became slow, choppy and insensitive; the app drawer took a few seconds to load; and there was noticeable lag in almost all transitions other actions (like opening up the Task Switcher).

It only managed to get worse with time. Apps started taking even longer to load and the tablet would become almost entirely unresponsive at times. Not long after the update, I decided it was time to root and hoped that I would be able to find some kind of mod to fix my issues. Long story short, options were slim. I could either go back to the stock version of Android I was using before, flash a modified version of TouchWiz UX that claimed to "improve performance" or flash a mod that would supposedly fix any custom, "deodexed" ROM. This meant that if I wanted to fix any of my performance problems, I was going to have to chance starting from scratch for something that might not be any better in the end.

Yes, I'm fully aware I could create a backup and quickly go back to what I had when I started, yet none of these options were particularly appealing to me.

Since the release of Ice Cream Sandwich, though, I have been closely following the progress of Ice Cream Sandwich ROMs for the Galaxy Tab in hopes of a solid build. Just last week, xda-developers user DaAwesome1 uploaded a "completed version" (meaning he modified it to work with the Galaxy Tab, not that CM9 is ready for prime time) of the open source CyanogenMod 9 ROM for the Galaxy Tab 10.1. This was just too tempting to pass up. I've been wanting to see exactly how Ice Cream Sandwich would look and run on a tablet and, of course, I've been dying to try anything that might offer better performance for my Galaxy Tab. As of late, the lag and other problems with TouchWiz UX have grown to be nearly unbearable, and I've cut back my Tab use to next to none. In fact, the last time I used my Tab to the extent I used to was before I bought the Galaxy Nexus, the first week in December.

This evening, I finally found the time to give CM9 (an incomplete and still somewhat buggy version at that) a whirl on my Galaxy Tab. I wasn't really expecting that much of a change from before. Sure, ICS runs wonderfully on the Galaxy Nexus and hardware graphics acceleration is enabled in 4.0. Still, expectations were pretty low. This is an unfinished build of ICS, after all.

Now that CM9 is up and running, though, I am pleased to say that I'm impressed by the improvements. Everything (and I really mean everything) is buttery smooth. From transitions between home screens to launching apps and switching between them is consistent and a world of difference from before. I was literally days away from selling my Galaxy Tab and buying a Transformer Prime. But now, the Tab feels like a totally different tablet. I may eventually buy the Prime, but I think I may stick it out with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 just a little longer now.

What's my point?

Well, Honeycomb is great, and I've really have very few issues with it from the start. Others, from day one, have complained about how it's slow, buggy and feels ... unfinished. If you've found yourself thinking these things or having performance issues with your Galaxy Tab (or any Honeycomb tablet for that matter), maybe you should give an Ice Cream Sandwich ROM a try. It has worked remarkably well for me so far and even restored my faith in the Tab 10.1.

Of course, I would suggest a little know-how first, and don't try anything if you're uncomfortable with rooting, flashing ROMs or trashing your manufacturer warranty. And keep that if you mod your tablet, you are doing so at your own risk. PhoneDog (myself included) is not responsible for anything that may happen to your tablet in the process.

On that note and if you're comfortable giving it a go, let me know how CyanogenMod 9 and ICS work for you on your Galaxy Tab (or other Android tablet) in the comments below!

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