While the Nexus 5 is relatively inexpensive (in smartphone terms) at $349, you should still protect your investment. Android fans will likely want the official bumper case, but that costs $35 -- a bit expensive at 10 percent the cost of the device itself.
I decided to purchase an alternative, third-party case, so that i can compare the two. The Cruzerlite series of cases are quire popular on Amazon -- they are inexpensive, look good and get great reviews. And so, I chose the Cruzerlite Bugdroid Circuit Case which is almost a third cheaper at $12.95. The question becomes, which deserves your hard-earned money?
Nexus 5 Bumper Case
This is the official case sold directly from the Google Play Store. I obtained the bright-red variant (which appears orange) and it looks very good. While color preference is subjective and won't affect my decision, it still must be mentioned. Google chose to use extremely bold hues that quite frankly, burn my retinas (not literally). Just looking at the case can change my mood and I like that.
While the color is (arguably) great, the case is not. When looking for a case, I aim for three things -- protection, usability and grip. Sadly, this case doesn't excel at any.
From a protection standpoint, the case will safeguard against scratches, as most of them will. However, I am not confident in drop-protection. The case is made of a very hard plastic, which does not offer shock absorption. If you drop your precious Nexus 5 while in this case, you will likely end up with a shattered screen.
The most baffling blunder of the Nexus 5 Bumper Case is the usability -- it sucks. I hate using that word as it is a bit low-class but it captures my feelings and is the first word that comes to mind. The button protection makes using the power and volume buttons difficult. I put this down to the hard-plastic material that Google chose to use. Listening to music and adjusting the volume becomes a chore.
The grip of this case is non-existent. In fact, it makes the phone more slippery than using it naked (without a case, not with the user in the nude). A protective case should not make you more likely to drop your phone but that is exactly what we have here.
Cruzerlite Bugdroid Circuit Case
Third party accessories can be a hit-or-miss experience. However, as stated earlier, Cruzerlite has built a solid reputation over the years at Amazon. The color palette used here is more subdued and I chose a white variant. While the color is not bold, the design on the back is. You see, like artwork, the back contains an etched Android mascot and circuit-board design. This looks really cool and should appeal to Android fans.
While the design on the back doesn't directly affect my comparison, it has the added benefit of improved grip. Yes, the circuit board print on the rear makes the case less likely to slip out of your hand. This can also be attributed to the softer, less-slippery material used by Cruzerlite.
Speaking of that softer material, it should also enhance the drop-protection. While not an "extreme" case like an Otterbox or similar, the softer materials will offer better shock-absorption.
Lastly, Cruzerlite has taken a better approach to the buttons by not offering any protection. Instead of covering the buttons and degrading the experience, the company wisely chose to use cut-outs and leave the buttons exposed. This makes using the power and volume switches a breeze -- just like the naked experience.
So, which is the winner? I must recommend the Cruzerlite Bugdroid Circuit Case as the clear champion. At a third of the price, it offers better protection, better grip and better usability. The only place where the Nexus 5 Bumper Case wins is in looks. While I love the design on the back of the Cruzerlite, the official case looks very "Nexusy" and has clean lines and ultimately makes the device look better. With that said, you should never choose form over function, especially when it comes to protecting your device.