Reviewing one of 2011’s most anticipated phones is no easy task. We’ve had our hands on the GSM flavor for over a month now (the Verizon version for about a week), and even that amount of time has left us feeling conflicted. Mostly the Galaxy Nexus impressed as being the best smartphone on the market. Other times, not so much. Having reviewed countless phones over the past twelve months, the Galaxy Nexus is definitely a welcome change of pace over the droves of devices that came out in 2011, thanks in large part to Ice Cream Sandwich. To break it down, we’re making it crystal clear about what we loved, and what we hated, starting first with the positives.

On the hardware front, the Galaxy Nexus’ screen is stunning, plain and simple. With a 720p Super-AMOLED (1280×720) display, the text, images and video all look crisp, clear and incredibly vibrant. Of course, a nice display would be meaningless without a good OS, and Ice Cream Sandwich certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Google’s Android has traveled a long way to get to Android 4.0, and now that it’s here, the OS has really staked its claim as one of the most feature-rich, user-friendly experiences on the market. From multitasking, to widgets, folders and notifications, ICS is a killer operating system that both Android vets and noobs will enjoy.

With Verizon’s iteration coming with 4G LTE, we found data speeds to be outstanding. Web-browsing, downloading and streaming all soared. Of course, the catch is battery life suffers greatly as a result, which leads us to our dislikes.

Being a flagship Android device, we would have liked for Samsung to up the build quality. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t up to snuff as it feels a bit plasticky and cheap. Although, we must say this does allow for a pleasant weight seeing as the phone has such large dimensions. Further diving into the build quality, we didn’t like how the headphone jack and power buttons were laid out on the phone, though other users may not even notice it as a problem. In addition, setting up Ice Cream Sandwich was a cumbersome experience, taking more than a few hours to cross every T and dot every I. To that end, the learning curve may be a little steep for users who aren’t familiar with Android.

Of course, some of our gripes won’t be reciprocated by other Galaxy users. Overall, the Nexus is a very good device that we have no problem recommending. The phone has a lot of potential yet to be tapped into, with a lot going for it thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich. Once developers start making apps optimized for the OS, we can see the device getting even better than it already is. There are a lot of great phones on the market right now carrying their own pros and cons, and the Nexus is no different. If you’re thinking of splashing down the $300 (with two-year contract), consider spending a lot of time at a Verizon store playing around with the Galaxy Nexus, and compare it to other devices like the Droid Razr, HTC Rezound and iPhone 4S.

Check out the video for a more in depth look at the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, and let us know how your experience is going, or if you plan on getting the device in the future.