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Ok it is all a bit overwhelming at first, been there. The major difference between Stock and Custom: Stock ROMS are built by multinational companies that do not have your best interests at heart. They take what Google gives them as open source and defile it with so much bloatware and affiliate programing.
Originally Posted by Antob125
Custom ROMS are built by the wonderful programmers that populate this community, wave to some of them because they do hold your best interests at heart. They make your phone work the way it was supposed to before the manufacturers and carriers decided to rape the programming.
On a serious note, everyone has the things they like and dislike for each category. The idea is to read any descriptions on what the ROM has that others don't. It is a lot of reading and pretty much all opinion. Read the steps to flashing ROMS and try them all out, I ended up going to Gingerbread .595 and froze all bloat. GB is great for me, exactly what I wanted currently. But Apex, Darkslide, Rubix, Liberty, & Tranquility are also great. i will give you my breakdown.
Apex: Super Vanilla Android - this is as close to what Google wanted you to see.
Darkslide: Super Clean - quick, responsive, and pretty.
Rubix: Super Stable with some Blur or none. Comes with quick clock(overclocker).
Liberty: Super Customization - if you can't do it with this ROM you probably just can't do it
Tranquility: I would say this is one of the best polished and sits squarely between Rubix and Liberty, good split of Stability and Customization.
Hope it gives you somewhere to start.