Clash of the titans: CyanogenMod vs Paranoid Android

July 29, 2013
Picking the best custom Android ROM can be a tricky business, so we tear-down two of the most popular Jelly Bean ROMs to try and figure out which is the best.

cyanogenmod vs paranoid android

It’s very easy to find yourself locked into a single user experience, especially with smartphones. As a long time CyanogenMod user, I thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to check out what else is available in the pool of custom Android ROMs, and Paranoid Android’s commitment to innovative new features seems like a sensible place to start.

After a weeks’ worth of daily use, here are my thoughts on Paranoid Android, and how it compares to the incredibly popular CyanogenMod 10.1.

Installation

For a start, it’s worth nothing that I’m still quite happy with my Samsung Galaxy S2, which is powered by an Exynos 4 processor, infamous for its problems with custom ROMs. So my CyanogenMod experience was slightly tainted by the odd 3D application crash, and such similar mishaps, which occur with Nightly builds.

Similarly, the latest versions of Paranoid Android aren’t officially supported on the Galaxy S2, so I’m running an unofficial version of 3.68 put together by XDA forum member fldc, so many thanks go out to him. But this is more of a feature comparison, so I’m happy to let the odd app crash slide.

Having installed a custom ROM before, I performed a factory reset before switching ROMs to Paranoid Android, and if you’re thinking about doing the same, you’ll need the latest version of ClockWorkMod Recovery, the required ROM and GAPPS files, followed by a full cache and Dalvik cache wipe.

On the whole, if you know what you’re doing, installing either of these two ROMs is simple enough, although the initial setup guide crashed when I first booted up Paranoid Android, so I had to learn how to use all the features myself.

Performance and features

Both Paranoid Android 3+ and CyanogenMod 10.1 are based on stock Android 4.2.2, and come complete with all the most recent Android features, like Google Now and an updated camera app. However, PA offers the option to save pictures to SD card, which was missing from my version of CM10.1.

Both CyanogenMod and Paranoid Android are stock Jelly Bean ROMs at heart.

Both CyanogenMod 10.1 and Paranoid Android 3+ are stock Jelly Bean ROMs at heart.

Even on my aging device, I found both ROMs to be super smooth, with no noticeable delay between switching apps, booting up, or playing games, they’re both much faster than Samsung’s tweaked version of Android. The two ROMs share many common features, from the DSP manager, right down the same Trebuchet launcher.

PIE controls are also implemented on both version of the ROM, although it is missing from some versions of CM depending on your handset. But I found that this functionality caused some lag and miss-clicks when typing on my keyboard and selecting options near the bottom of my screen, as that’s where the PIE control trigger area is located. In the end I turned this feature off, as I didn’t feel that the damage dealt to my handset’s responsiveness was worth a feature that I could access via the Galaxy S2s hard buttons, although you can move it around if you’d rather keep the function enabled.

Multitasking

Now to delve into the more noticeable differences between the two ROMs, and we’ll start with PA’s new Halo feature. Essentially this works as a floating notification panel, which gives you the option to free up some more screen space, and grants access to PA’s multitasking functionality.

Multitasking on Paranoid Android is effortless, Halo is by far the best multitasking feature that I've tried.

Multitasking on Paranoid Android is effortless, Halo is by far the best multitasking feature that I’ve tried.

Simply clicking on the circle when a notification comes in will open up the related application, giving you access to the full functionality of the app without closing what you’re currently doing. CM’s quick response feature in the notification bar, which only works with a limited number of apps, is perfectly functional, but feels a lot more primitive by comparison.

You can also add applications to Halo, which can be used to bring up your favorite apps quickly and whenever you need them. After just a few days with Halo, I’m totally sold on the feature, and would certainly struggle to move to a ROM without a similar multitasking feature.

Hyrbid properties

This is a PA feature which is a lot more subjective to taste, but offers users a lot more customization than any other ROM that I’ve tried. Combined in this section of the settings menu is the option to change your devices PPI and layout, turning your smartphone into a mini tablet, and adjust individual app DPI’s and colour schemes.

Custom DPI

Customized DPIs can help squeeze that little bit of extra space and functionality out of tablet optimized apps, even on my modest 4.3 inch, 480×800 pixel display.

At first, I didn’t like the look or feel of shrinking everything down to fit in a tablet-like notification and a lot of apps looked a bit weird. But after messing around with the options for a while, I eventually stuck a delicate balance between squeezing a little more on screen without making everything too small to read.

It depends on the app, but sometimes having the tablet optimized version on your smartphone is a really big help when it comes functionality; email is a good example of this.

The changeable app colors are also a nice touch if you’re really into customization, as it blends the notification bar to better fit the look of whatever app you’re currently running. If you find yourself using any of these features, then PA is a clear choice over CM.

And the winner is…

On the whole, Paranoid Android feels like a more unique ROM, with a perfect balance of unique features and small tweaks which improve on the default Android experience, which also give it a slight edge over CyanogenMod. Some of the features will obviously boil down to preference, and CyanogenMod is still an excellent ROM if you’re looking for a more standard experience. But I don’t think I’ll be switching back to CM, at least not until the 10.2 update.

Comments

  • http://www.thedroideffect.com/ Damir Franc

    the 2 most boring ROMs available are Titans,that´s sad. Both are a great base for ROMs but no great ROMs themselves

    • http://google.com/+derekross Derek Ross

      So, stability is bad? Gotcha. Tons of features comes with tons of bugs. No thank you.

      • http://www.thedroideffect.com/ Damir Franc

        I use ROMs like uxylon and Rootbox. They are absolutely stable. I get that everyone praises the stability of the Titans but most others are as good as those by now. All the instabiility is just bias. I test a lot of ROMs and didn´t have one unstable one for ages. They are all pretty mature right now. I am talking about 4.2.2 ROMs , 4.3 ones will probably take a while until they are there and that´s why I will just stay on 4.2.2 a while longer

        • http://google.com/+derekross Derek Ross

          Right now, sure. 4.2.2 has also been out for how long? Since February. CM and PA have been stable for quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used a lot of ROMs in my day. I always go back to a closer to stock, less featured ROM for stability.

          • http://www.thedroideffect.com/ Damir Franc

            I get that and everybody is free to use which ROM he wants to but I don´t think it fair to call are ROM with more features unstable because that´s just not true.A good ROM with tons of Extras can still be more stable than a sloppy one with almost no features.

          • http://google.com/+derekross Derek Ross

            Sure, a ROM with no features can be horrible. Thankfully we’re talking about ones that aren’t here such as CM and PA.

          • http://www.thedroideffect.com/ Damir Franc

            yes and I was talking about ones like uXylon and Rootbox. I use both on my One X and my Nexus 7,no stability issues here whatsoever ;)

          • Joshua Hill

            CM hasn’t always been stable on my S2. They have good reputations but generalising like your doing isn’t necessarily providing accurate info.

    • smart guy

      Without the base there would be nothing to build on. The titans are important. If paranoid android didnt make pie it wouldnt be in cm,root box, xylon, etc. Without the device trees and hardware repos most devices wouldn’t work. These two teams are essential for the community

      • http://www.thedroideffect.com/ Damir Franc

        yes that´s why i said great for a base but not the rom itself. I agree with you the are cruical but this doesn´t change the fact those ROMs itself are way too limited. All the ROMs on their base are at least as stable.But nowadays most use CM for the base.No ROM uses PA anymore,all they do is cherry pick the hybrid engine,pie and halo

    • Infinite7154

      What features make a ROM “exciting”? I think the PIE controls, halo, and multi window are revolutionary features.

  • Shahnawaz Pirzada

    What a nice post thanks to share with us.

  • brady

    I encourage any fan of CyanogenMod and Paranoid Android to look at IllusionROM

    • Lorenzo Aquino

      *thumbs up* I’m using this ROM on my I9300 and it’s great! Worth a look :) (already tried CM / AOKP / PA before, but this has got to be my favorite ROM)

  • http://www.mobileosworld.com/ Xen Lee

    Do anybody know how to root nexus 4 with android 4.3. I want to try out CM 10.1 on my phone. Is it worth it or not compared to Android 4.3.

    • KanishkSingh

      Wait for CM 10.2 which will be based on Android 4.3

  • George Av

    JELLYBAM FTW :D

  • tom yum

    Try vanilla rootbox, got great battery life and has the halo feature. And I like their equalizer.

    • Arun

      yup. rootbox has the best of both worlds, features from CM and PA. if you’re on a new device like gs4 or nexus 4, it’s even better with the extra ram.

  • Adnan Khan

    Keep Calm and flash CM.

    • Bjajjull

      Have used PA for 5 months on my N4, flashed CM yesterday. It’s faster but I’m missing some features. PIE is much better in PA. But the new camera app in CM? I love it and I’m ready for the rest of Project Nemesis.

      • Flo Edelmann

        are you already using Focal?
        and where did you get it from?

        • Bjajjull

          No, but what I’ve seen ;)

        • Lucas Gomes

          I’m using it bro, I get the Focal from the official CM 10.2, the preview is hanging but the UI is awesome!

      • Parth

        USE LMT LAUNCHER its similar to pie and more smooth
        here is the link
        http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1330150

  • MasterMuffin

    Many custom CM builds have Halo, so that’s not a big deal. I think CM as more of a base ROM than a daily driver. “…option to change your devices PPI…” Now someone will think that (s)he can actually change the screens sharpness xD

  • Chris Boots

    i use Sentinel Rom on my old s2 , after going through nearly every rom i find it the most stable and frequently updated , no glitches at all and always the llatest android builds

    • Joshua Hill

      Stable for 3d apps? I’m using slimbean which I love but it crashes on Ray man :(

  • frhoward

    Until CM/PA fixes the no audio problem with the Vonage app on the HTC One build possibly others, I can’t use either as my daily driver. Stable but still have some major bugs to work out.

  • Billy

    *CTRL-F*

    *hyrbid*

    *Replace*

    :D

    Good comparison! I feel the same with PA being a slightly fresher experience.

  • jimbo

    CM 10.1 has had the ability in the camera app to switch to SD card for a while now… maybe you should 1) try reviewing roms with a better device, and 2) use the latest version of the rom when you are reviewing it.

    • Joshua Hill

      It’s great that we have reviews using older and newer hardware. Not everyone uses the sane phone as you.

  • Andrew T Roach

    Neither. 4.3 gave me the fluidity that previous iterations of jelly bean weren’t able to deliver. My days of flashing roms are over.

  • jane doe

    Or just get pac-man rom, best of both worlds

  • Ray

    CM all the way.

    PA is way to heavy on all the extra stuff IMO. That said, some peolpe love that.

    Each to their own I guess.

    • Paul Henschel

      um, pa is stock android with carefully added features, few actually, optimizations and selected rom scene features – but nothing that would smash googles principles.
      cm is more like a skin with deeper more unix’y features and replaced google services. they probably carry ten times the weight than we do.
      its actually weird for me that so many people have never even seen stock android.

      • Ray

        I think you may be talking about something different because there is no way you could make that comment assuming you’ve used both ROMs.

  • enloquecido

    This is why Android is awesome. Of the two i give the edge to CM, I just like it better, Halo and PIE aren’t what I like to use and CM has been innovating in other ways like privacy and photos.

  • Joshua Hill

    Good to see another user still happy with their S2. I’ve tried CM a few times and personally find it the worst ROM I’ve tried. My current fav for my S2 is Slimbean ROM and my most used ROM over last 2 years would be Jellybam after rooted stock Samsung OS ( Yes I don’t love touchwiz but it’s more usable than some would have you believe).

  • Joshua Hill

    I find Rayman the worst 3d app for random crashes. Locks up on over half the custom ROMs within seconds.

  • Tommy

    Is it possible that a custom ROM can be developed that would effectively block the NSA surveillance of smart phones and tablets using Android?

    This problem needs a solution:

    It has been recently discovered that the US Military (NSA) has required all Internet connected electronic device makers (Samsung, HTC, Apple, Google, Microsoft, GM, Chrysler, Ford, etc) to embed backdoor access in all software & hardware in those products to allow them (NSA) to monitor us instantly and easily (Android, Windows & Mac PC’s, smartphones, OnStar System, tablets, xBox, Skype, Office 365, Skype, DropBox, laptops, PC’s, cars, trucks, etc).

    Using this back door access the NSA now has the capability to store everything and anything about each of us (device audio, video, keyword searches, email content, web sites visited, contacts, GPS locations, etc) . They have your voice-print, and face image (for facial recognition). They (the NSA) have admitted they can turn on any of your devices at any time and use the microphones and/or cameras and convert all your conversations to text and store it forever.

    America is becoming scary … a nazi kind of scary.

    • msx

      Holy-fucking-shit, do you have any respectable source?

      In any case I think that by flashing a totally custom ROM one could be relatively safe as that piece of software that you talk about should be embedded in the original ROM.

      I’m searching the tubes for more info right now but a link to the sources is welcomed.

    • https://teamblueridge.org/ insink71

      Plenty of sources, but op is viewing it wrong. They don’t monitor/break into your device. That would be insanely taxing. No, they monitor the internet backbone [communication]. You could encrypt your emails, texts, etc, but they can still break it [breaking encrypted tunnels is what they do best]. Best advice make yourself a highly encypted RSA key and at least slow em down/tax them a bit. I gotta imagine its a bad day at the office when an analyst spends hours decoding my communication, only to find I’m verifying my mom’s grocery list. Hey, honest advice says don’t do crime; it doesn’t pay. They’re not too concerned about collecting random love letters, and if they are [and that could be proven] that’s just sick. ;)

      PS the NSA wrote selinux [like 7 years back] which was just implimented in android 4.3 (and is probably the most secure patchset we have linux side). Now stop and ask yourself… you think our beloved NSA would gift us something they couldn’t/haven’t already hacked? Now, know that they work for the USA not against, but beating them would be like me competing at brain surgery a team of 20+ neurosurgeons. Not gonna happen; although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently.

      • Tommy

        “They don’t monitor/break into your device.” It’s well known the NSA, FBI, CIA all can very easily break into your devices & activate the microphone and/or camera on Internet connected devices. This has been public knowledge for at least 7 years. There was a mafia case where this was revealed.

        Also recently saw the following article:
        “A research and development agency attached to the Pentagon is paying a computer scientist $300,000 to develop a means of transcribing thousands of telephone conversations into text at once. This would enable the government to create a database containing thousands or millions of telephone conversations — at least a public version of such a database that likely already exists in some form. The database could be easily searched by government agents employing a simple search engine. That means agencies like the National Security Agency would be able to keep a record of millions of phone conversations and pull up what you said at any time. The project has the euphemistic name of “Blending Crowdsourcing for Fast, Cheap and Accurate Analysis of Spontaneous Speech,” and it is being funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Wired magazine reported that the computer scientist being paid the $300,000 is Matt Lease of the University of Texas. Wired writer Robert Beckhusen believes the ultimate goal of the project is to create a means of quickly transcribing telephone conversations into digital documents. That would make them far easier to read, store, and transmit. The ultimate goal is a database of conversations an agent could pull up on his computer.”

        And Bloomberg reports, “The NSA is quietly writing code for Google’s Android OS.” and Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano confirms that the company has already inserted some of the NSA’s programming in Android OS. “All Android code and contributors are publicly available for review at source dot android dot com.” Scigliano says, declining to comment further. It has been said the code NSA “gave” Google was to fix some “security problems” (wink wink).

      • Norbert Korzus

        The problem is some of the monitoring is done by 3rd party private companies that sell the info to law enforcement but the market is very unregulated and currently it is not illegal for private companies to buy the same data. I know that happens on iphones (and they have a keylogger installed) not sure about android phones but it’s probably similar.

        See the “Terms and conditions…” docu.

      • fishbrainsformemory2

        Get educated or stfu in a field you have no education in.. Your opinion means nothing against fact.

        • https://teamblueridge.org/ insink71

          heh.. funny. you offer your opinion & no fact. Appropriate name fishbrain.. maybe take your own advice.

  • ash71ish

    PAC-MAN all the way for me. I love it.

  • tim

    what clock widget is he using in the paranoid android screenshots?

  • Straynart

    Hum, if you really want to use both ROMs at the same time, try the PACMan ROM [on XDA], it’s a combination of CM and PM.
    Enjoy

  • Dey Anand

    using CM 10.1 on my Nexus 4 …PA was my last rom and i must say CM+Franco kernel M2 is the best combo for a very good battery life ! better than PA and yeah its smoother too :)

  • Dey Anand

    And never use an EXYNOS device to review a rom ;)

  • Yohanes Adam

    is paranoid android compatible with samsung galaxy s4 gt19500?

  • The Calm Critic

    On 10.2 unofficial build http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2379850 already for my i9100g. I’m interested in PA once they tightened up the JSS15J base in moving forward. Atm though I still feel that Slim Bean (http://slimroms.net) gives the best balance of a more newer kernel, light footprint and custom gapps rolled in.

  • androider

    In the multitasking part was the most left screenshot maybe a new trebuchet launcher or what? Looks cool to me! And also what is that clock widget in the same pic?

    • Luka Tomašević

      thats halo, on PA

  • MultiCoreChina.com

    Awesome ROMs, once flashed they are so smooth…I’m a huge fan of Cyanogenmod ;)

  • Malcolm Bates

    Cyanogenmod for phones, paranoid android for tablets, especially small tablets.

  • Vardan Nazaretyan

    Why compare them, when you can have both. Just flash PACman ROM and you’re good to go. You even get AOKP, along with CM and PA.

  • http://ortizol.wordpress.com/ John Ortiz

    I can’t back to CM. Multitasking effect on PA is addictive. But I hope improvements in stability and performance on this last one.

  • Egil Kvam

    Hi, can anyone tell me if jellybean (4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.2.? Etc.) support Norwegian language. And which should I use?
    Thanks for any help.. ;-)
    Regards Egil

  • killy sam

    How do I get paranoid android

  • forfrosne

    lol two of your four categories are only there so that you can say PA is better, shit list

  • yogi

    Screw all the ROM ever tried Slimbean ?
    or Rainbox ROM
    nobody can beat their UI or Size.
    Lovely piece of code its appliance type approach to Android.

  • Somedude

    Anyone used any bluetooth devices on PA, had loads of issues with Bluetooth on cm so thinking of switching?

  • peter

    Personally, in my experience with custom ROMs on my xt912, none of them compare to the stock ROM. PA crashed on any 3D experience. Cyanogen tends to have multitasking issues and goes to hell after a few said days. Pacman, Jelly*, Root box, etc… tried them all with awful choppy issues. Not only that, but the HDMI experience and navigation is lost with any custom ROM.

    50 different custom ROMs… none with a stable final release for the xt912… IMHO.

  • Johnny Flasher

    Either way, Cyanogen or PA, you can find the best of both of them at http://downloads.crackflasher.com/?dir=Devs. Find a developer, and enjoy their work.