CM12.1 ROM with Android 5.1.1 Review!

CyanogenMod Team has announced official CM12.1 nightlies, which are the latest CM12.1 ROM based on the latest Android 5.1.1 (not Android 5.1) Lollipop.  I’ve flashed these official and unofficial CM12.1 ROMs on many of my Android smartphones and boy, these are definitely the best CyanogenMod ROMs I’ve seen so far.

What I notice with these CM12.1 builds is that they are more stable than ever as upgrade from CM12 to CM12.1 was really an incremental Lollipop upgrade, not a major one like we saw from CM11 to CM12.  It seems like the CyanogenMod Team is skipping stable milestone releases for CM12 and jumping straight to CM12.1  Well, the good news is that these CM12.1 don’t have early beta bugs like we saw with earlier CM12 builds.  In fact, these CM12.1 nightlies could be considered one of the first milestones as they are nearly bug-free, at least on many Android devices I’ve tried.

So, what are the new features on CM12.1?

Of course, Android 5.1.1 brings more stability, slight performance improvement but the biggest change I found was with the Buttons in settings for phones with hardware buttons.  Just like they did with CM11S/12S on OnePlus One, the latest Buttons setting feature the ability to disable your hardware buttons if you want to enable the soft buttons(on-screen nav bar).  This is actually one of the most useful new features as having both soft/hardware buttons can be confusing and prone to accidental presses.  With this feature, you will also be able to make use of navigation ring targets, allowing you to fully transform your phone into button-less device.


Themes were introduced with Lollipop but it has gotten better with every iteration.  One of CyanogenMod’s goals before they were revamping the theme engine (according to Steve Kondik the founder of CM) was to really make it as good as MIUI themes.  Well, I think we’ve definitely hit that point now.  Couple years back, you could find just a few dozen themes that were actually usable but now there’s a ton more themes that are much more refined and fun to actually use new themes.

If you are looking for some good themes, check out some of my favorite themes including Resurrection Remix Pitch Black Theme, Infamous Theme, and Purple CM12 Theme.  You can also check out many free themes on Play Store by searching for “CM12 Themes”.


Need to enlarge your screen as big as possible when using certain apps like your browser?  Use the expanded desktop feature to hide status bar, navigation bar, or both.


I find this handy when using my Chrome browser, makes full use of your screen.


With CM12.1, you can customize your notification lights individually by apps.  This feature has been around awhile for a bit now with many custom AOSP ROMs but now it’s part of regular settings in CM12.1 Lollipop.


Don’t forget that you can add extra buttons like a menu button, which comes in handy whenever you need to things quickly without having to use awkwardly-positioned on-screen menu buttons.


Whenever I drive and use GoogleMaps app, the menu button it located on top-left of the screen to hit the Traffic button.  This requires me to either fiddle with the phone while driving or use two hands.  Both of which are dangerous but having the extra menu button allows me to skip all that hassle and let me use GoogleMaps with one hand.  This is just one example but I am sure you can find more situations when a menu button could come in handy (GAWD, I miss my ice cream sandwich!).


Don’t forget, screen pinning is a great way to keep your phone stuck on one app of your choice.  This can come in very handy when you need to stay in one app like when your 3-year toddler borrows your phone while waiting in line at the post office so they don’t mess up rest of your phone, like erasing an important e-mail or calling someone by accident.  Pin any apps and they cannot be unpinned until you give it permission, you can even set a password to make it super secure.   Have a lot of porn on your phone?  This could save you next time your new potential girlfriend wants to check out your phone and you forgot to hide them.



Performance on the CM12.1 is also very beastly.  You can expect the most efficient use of your CPU than ever and make most out of your smartphone, especially older Android devices.  With root and CM12.1 ROM, you can nearly double the performance of many older Android smartphones.

Overall, CM12.1 looks very promising and with all the right features so if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go today and do let me know what you think!

Download and Installation Instructions:

First, you will need a rooted Android device, see How to Root Android! first if your phone is not rooted yet.

Download CM12.1 ROM Nightlies – These are official CM12.1 nightlies.  If CM12.1 isn’t available for your device yet, it means either you will have to wait a bit longer or your device is no longer supported (in that case, you can grab unofficial builds, which are just as good in most cases).

Download Android 5.1.1 Gapps (Do not use older Gapps, they will FC!)

I do highly recommend using TWRP recovery to install CM12.1, see How to Install Custom ROM using TWRP!

Unofficial Other Recommend 5.1.1 ROMs for various different devices

I will be listing unofficial CM12.1 ROMs or other similar Android 5.1.1 ROMs for different devices here for those that don’t have official builds from CyanogenMod.  Please check back as I will update this list frequently.

Euphoria OS for Galaxy S4 GT-i9500 – I found Euphoria OS worked best for Android 5.1.1 on the GT-i9500

Have a question?

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Max Lee

Max Lee is the founder of Max makes Android tutorials and review videos for people who want to get high on Android over at his YouTube channel and Korean YouTube channel.