First things first I had to take the beast out of the box. So here’s that.
Most people would probably lead off talking about the size and shape of the device since that is what you typically notice first. The reason I’m not going to do that is because I want you to have the good news first. The quad core Snapdragon 600 at 1.7Ghz is very fast. It’s consistent with a premium device. Apps fire what feels like instantly and games run silky smooth. 2GB of ram as we’ve seen seems to be the key amount to keep a device from feeling slow.
The screen is mostly incredible. The full 1080p display is sharp and crisp. Colors The only place you might consider faulting it is that the blacks may be to black. to the point where dark scenes are really really dark. I’m not a displays expert but when watching a few movies that had scenes that were dark I could still see what was going on but the scene was almost to dark. It doesn’t make any content un-watchable just noticeably dark. I wonder if this might be a compensation for the screen technology used since other display tech does darker blacks.
Battery life is nothing to write home about but I would still classify it as reasonable. If you’re going to be doing a lot of browsing and/or reading you’re going to find very nearly 2 days of moderate use from the device. This seems to be about standard across the Nexus line of devices. My Nexus 4 and my G Pad 8.3 last about the same amount of time and it sounds like the Nexus 5 is coming up the same. If you go heavy use with gaming and video watching for more than 4 hours you’ll be looking at needing a recharge over night but it’ll last you easily through the day.
So you can see it’s a nicely sized piece of kit. Slightly less constrained than a 7″ tablet but it’s still not going to require two hands most of the time. It’s very thin. That type of thin device that borders on awkward because you can barely get your fingers under it type thin. Luckily the side bezel does have a gentle curve away from the screen which allows for a finger hold. I liken it to the sort of experience you get going from a Galaxy Nexus to a Galaxy S3. It’s thinner than my Nexus 4. I wager it’s more easily managed with a case on it. I just haven’t found a good one yet.
Sounds is reasonably loud. It’s not going to scare anyone with it’s loudness but you won’t be disappointed. It has a pair of speakers that seem a little oddly placed. When held in portrait they are along the left hand edge. This makes it clear this tablet is intended to be used in a landscape orientation putting the speakers left and right at the top or bottom back of the tablet. Despite their location your hands rarely, if ever, interfere with audio fidelity. It’s an odd design choice that seems to work quite well.
This brings me to the niggly bit. The one thing that keeps this from being an absolutely killer device. The bezel, or lack there of, on the sides of the screen when in portrait orientation! The top and bottom bezel are the expected fattest part of the bezel. Roughly equal in thickness but by no means massive. When you hold it in a landscape configuration they work beautifully. However when you hold the tablet in a portrait orientation there is just nothing to really hold on to. This has a few effects. First is that reading is not as comfortable as with some other devices. You have to wrap your hand around the back of device so that you are using your thumb is on one side of the device and fingers on the other. You can’t hold the device between your thumb and forefinger like you would a kindle or a standard paper back. There just isn’t room for the width of a thumb. If you love reading in portrait and/or you have small hands you probably won’t like reading on this tablet.
The other issue and really the worst one is typing in portrait. Now maybe I just have fat hands and perhaps this wouldn’t be an issue for people with skinny hands but I frequently find myself in the middle of typing and all of a sudden I’m in numeric keyboard mode. The problem is that the bit of skin just below my thumb that sort of bends and folds is nicking the screens edge and switching the keyboard mode. I’ve tried very hard to be cognoscente of it but despite that it still happens with surprising frequency. I don’t wonder if there isn’t some way to bring the sensitivity of the display down just a touch to keep this from happening?
Over all it’s a pretty great tablet entry in the Google Play Edition stable of devices but it’s not with out it’s problems. While I’m sure gamers like me who spend most of their time in a horizontal landscape mode the issues will be forgivable in favor of pretty great performance, reasonable battery life a big(but not to big) screen and that early update advantage that Nexus devices enjoy.
As with most any personal device you should really put your hands on one before you make a decision to buy. Make sure it will suit your personal needs and has the features you really want.
EDIT: I had incorrectly listed the processor at a Snapdragon 800 it is in fact a 600. Thanks to Reddit user pelvicmomentum for catching that!