Considering its position as the only Google-branded Android handset, it's hardly surprising that the Nexus One hardware is good. Google's choice of manufacturer, HTC, is no stranger to making quality handsets, and the Nexus One is definitely among the best, striking a fine balance between style and functionality. This, of course, is something of a modus operandi for Google.
Unimposing it may be, but the Nexus One is far from unattractive. With its combination of metal and soft-touch plastic and curved edges, it resembles an iPhone 3GS in many respects. The dimensions are similar too; the Nexus One measures 119mm x 59.8mm x 11.5mm and, subjectively, feels very nice in the hand. In fact, it's arguably nicer to hold that an iPhone 4 - and there's no wrong way to do so.
No complaints can be made of the physical buttons - power up top, and a volume rocker on the left edge - but the touch-sensitive controls below the display are pretty poor. We frequently found our presses going unregistered, requiring a stronger prod than many physical buttons, making the slight vibration the Nexus One offers as confirmation of a registered press somewhat pointless.
The trackball is a mixed bag of good and bad points. We like the use of different coloured lighting to represent varying notifications, and the click action has a nice tactile feel to it. However, the sensitivity is far too low for our tastes and it's not often when using a touch-driven interface that we find ourselves thinking: "if only there was a more cumbersome way to emulate this intuitive input method with an ungainly physical control."
Foraying around the rear of the Nexus One reveals its camera, a five-megapixel affair with an LED flash, also able to capture 720 x 480 pixel video at 20fps. Up top is a headphone jack and down below is a micro-USB port, flanked by metal pins which let the Nexus One interface with a docking station - particularly useful if you plan on using the Nexus One in a car as a sat-nav.
Under the bonnet, so to speak, is the Nexus One's removable battery (take that, iPhone!) which has to be disconnected to get at the SIM and micro-SD cards slots. As the Nexus One has an almost-negligible 512MB of internal flash memory, you'll likely be storing all your downloaded apps on a memory card, so ensuring its left in while the phone is on is probably a good move, for once.