The first release candidate (RC1) of CyanogenMod-7.1 is already out and available for testing. This release updates existing CyanogenMod installations to Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, packs new features, and lengthens the list of supported Android handsets.

Among the new devices supported by the CyanogenMod-7.1-RC1 are several devices from Samsung (Galaxy S, Captivate, and Vibrant), LG Optimus 2X (also known as the T-Mobile G2x), the HTC Incredible S (ViVo), and the Motorola CLIQ and CLIQ XT.

As a release candidate, the software update provides for a functional preview of features that will potentially make it to the final release of CyanogenMod-7.1. It is a much stable release version than nightly builds.

Among the changes included in CyanogenMod-7.1-RC1 are the following (shamelessly lifted from the Changelog page on CyanogenMod Wiki):

  1. Common: Android 2.3.4 (Google)
  2. Common: Bluetooth mouse support – Scott Brady
  3. Common: Improve notification swipe-to-clear – Evan Charlton
  4. Common: Improve album-artist support in media scanner – Paul Crovella
  5. Common: Profile improvements and bugfixes – Martin Long
  6. Common: RTL text improvements – Eyad Aboulouz, Eran Mizrahi
  7. Common: Wake on volume key option – Sven Dawitz
  8. Common: Support for revoking application permissions – Plamen K. Kosseff
  9. Common: Latest Superuser app – ChainsDD
  10. Common: Control brightness by sliding on statusbar – Danesh M
  11. Common: Add “copy all” to context menu – Danesh M
  12. Common: Lockscreen haptic and statusbar indicators toggle – Danesh M
  13. Common: Nicer timepicker/datepicker – Jiri Tyr
  14. Common: Configuration 0/90/180/270 rotation – Jonas Larsson, Scott Brady
  15. Common: DSP Manager bugfixes and improvements – Antti S Lankila
  16. Common: Support for launching apps via gestures in the background – Jiri Tyr
  17. Common: Option to hide hold button during call – Roberto Leinardi
  18. Common: Allow using wildcards for call blacklisting – Nihanth Subramanya
  19. Common: Option to allow in-call lockscreen to match main lockscren – Sven Dawitz
  20. Common: Option to notify about incoming call only in background when screen is on – Pavel Kucera
  21. Common: ADWLauncher- Transitions, catalog improvements, bugfixes – John Van Etten
  22. Common: Optional GMT correction for SMS/MMS timestamps – Terry Hau
  23. Common: Add FM Seek for TI devices – KalimochoAz
  24. Common: Add FM support for SI4708 devices (Blade, V9, Racer) – Stéphane Konstantaropoulos
  25. Common: Add FM seek implementation to FM application – Tom Giordano
  26. Click, Motorola: Speed up photo recording – Emilio López
  27. Click, Motorola: Add Geolocation to photo app – KalimochoAz
  28. Vision/Glacier/Ace/Speedy: 2.6.35 kernel and updated userspace
  29. Buzz: 2.6.35 kernel – Arne Coucheron

Creating a backup of existing and fully functional installations is recommended before installing the release candidate version. The Cyanogen team also invites testers to send feedback and report bugs so that issues and showstopper bugs can be squashed before release of the final version.

Using the ROM Manager to install RC1 is also recommended, although the installation files can also be downloaded from Cyanogen’s mirror network.

Close to half a million Android users have rooted their Android devices and are using the custom Android distribution called CyanogenMod. Among the most important reasons for rooting an Android device are to boost the device’s performance and improve its stability, to enable frequent updates, to allow tethering (or Internet connection sharing), and to add or remove bloatware (depending on one’s understanding of what is or what’s not bloatware).

Are you using CyanogenMod and have you updated it to the latest RC1? If so, tell us what the experience was like.