Jun 25 AT 8:29 AM Brooks Barnard 33 Comments

Breathe new life into Nexus 7

Nexus 7 Custom Kernel

By now, I’m sure you’re all familiar with Dustin’s thoughts on the Nexus 7. But there’s another side to the story. I, for one, really like my Nexus 7. Mine still performs admirably for a one-year-old device. In fact, I even bought my dad one for Father’s Day. As far as I’m concerned, the Nexus 7 is still the best bang for your buck in the 7-inch tablet market.

Dustin’s post left me with a few questions. For one, why is my tablet still working? And, have I made a huge mistake in buying one for my dad? Then it dawned on me: I have had similar issues with my Nexus 7. But I figured out a way to fix them.

Boot and Root

Modding devices is a hobby of mine. I unlock the bootloader and root my devices from day one. It’s how I best enjoy the Android experience. For me, this has cleared up a lot of the issues other users have had with the Nexus 7. It’s unfortunate that the Nexus 7 has undergone a drop in performance in its stock state. Rooting may be an option for those of you who are unsatisfied with your device.

As always, we advise you to exercise caution when rooting your device. The process will void any warranty the device may still be under. (However, early adopters of the Nexus 7 are likely no longer covered, so what the hey).

In general, the Nexus 7 is very modding friendly. If you would like to try rooting your Nexus 7, I strongly recommend WugFresh’s Nexus root toolkit. The toolkit includes a step-by-step guide (which you should read before starting). It will walk you through each step of the bootloader unlock and root process. If you don’t like what you’ve done, the toolkit can also help you return your Nexus 7 to stock.

Please note that unlocking the boot loader will completely wipe your device. You will need to use an app like Helium to backup your data prior to rooting your Nexus 7.

LagFix (fstrim)

Note: This app DOES require rooting.

This suggestion comes to us from our readers! LagFix is an app available in the Google Play Store that aims to correct lag issues with the Nexus 7. According to the developer, “The source of the [Nexus 7 lag] problem is that internal storage is not trimmed when needed.” (You can find more information on XDA).

Custom Kernels

Note: This method DOES require rooting.

Back in February, around the time of the Android 4.2.2 release, I remember experiencing uncharacteristic lag with my Nexus 7. To fix this, I explored using a custom kernel.

In your day-to-day, you never directly interact with the kernel, but it’s extremely important to how your device operates. As Faux123, a popular kernel developer, eloquently puts it, “The kernel is the foundation in which everything else builds upon in any software system. The kernel is like the engine, electrical system and transmission of a car. The library, framework and apps are the body frame.”

Custom Kernels

Using custom kernels allows you to tweak your device in a variety of ways. You can overclock it, undervolt it, adjust sound and color settings. There’s tons of stuff you can change and break!

But, if you’re willing to try, there are a few highly recommended custom kernels for the Nexus 7 running Android 4.2. Franco.kernel has come highly recommended to me and is one I think is very easy to implement.  A free app is available from the Play Store that allows you to directly download the latest version of the kernel.  You can even flash it right there from the app without having to boot into your custom recovery.


The paid version of Franco.Kernel adds a nice user interface that aids in carrying out an unbelievable number of modifications within the app, without having to edit any code. If you’re not into overclocking or undervolting, the the free app should fully meet your needs.

I’ve been running CM10.1 with Franco.Kernel since February and haven’t looked back. My Nexus 7 may not be as snappy as the Nexus 4 or recently released flagship devices, but I have no complaints.

Franco.Kernel isn’t your only hope. The Nexus 7 has a huge development community behind it, so that means options. Dig around a little bit and see what kernel might be right for you. Make sure you backup your device prior to flashing a kernel in case you don’t like the end result. Don’t let modding stress you out; just have fun with it!

But I Don’t Want to Root!

Although rooting the device seems to have vastly improved my experience with the Nexus 7, some make the argument that you shouldn’t have to modify a device to enjoy it to its full potential. I hear you loud and clear, and I agree. In addition to a factory reset, there’s one more non-root method you can try.

Cleaning House

This method has made a difference for our very own Dima, new to Android And Me from DroidDog. Some users who are able to free up at least 3 GB of storage on the Nexus 7 have reported better performance from their devices. This may be attributed to ASUS using sub-par RAM in the device.

Obviously, this method is not ideal for owners of the original 8 GB Nexus 7. That device comes stock with just a smidge over 5 GB of available space as is. But, it may be worth a try if there’s a chance to breathe new life into your Nexus 7 without rooting.

Cleaning House

There’s no one trick that will rectify the issues you may be facing. This method did not work for Dustin, even after a factory reset, and is met with skepticism in many corners of the webisphere.

Hopefully Google gets it together and solves the issues that have been plaguing Nexus 7 owners. Because those of you who don’t want to root are right; you shouldn’t have to root a device to enjoy it. We loved it when it came out a year ago, and it still has some pretty respectable hardware under the hood. It should still be able to deliver. Maybe Android 4.3 will bring the optimizations we’re looking for.

Let us know your thoughts. Is it finally time to root your Nexus 7? Have you tried any of the methods mentioned here? How did they work out for you? Any other suggestions for Nexus 7 owners hoping to revitalize their device?

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours surfing the interwebz and addictive ROM flashing and began writing. He has a hot wife, is a father of two, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 5 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms rooted and modded with Xposed Framework (but this is subject to change). You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

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