RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100 review

As the first BlackBerry to contain such consumer trinkets as a camera and MP3 player, the Pearl is a step into the unknown. At just 15mm thick and 50mm wide, it’s larger than the average phone, but it feels great in the hand and looks smart too. Plus, there’s a raft of features.

RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100 review

The Pearl takes its name from the trackball in the middle of the phone – the jogwheel from other BlackBerry devices is absent. Although smaller than a pea, it’s much more intuitive and faster than using key presses to get around.

The QWERTY keyboard of chunkier BlackBerry devices such as the 8700g is gone, and some won’t find the Pearl’s SureType keyboard any faster than using a standard T9 mobile phone. It’s fine for short emails, but writing more than a dozen lines is utterly time consuming. When it comes to reading incoming email, though, we’ve no complaints with the bright and clear, 240 x 260 resolution screen.

All of RIM’s killer features are here. Push email (either via BlackBerry Enterprise Server or the BlackBerry Internet Solution, for around £10 per month), web browsing and a spectacularly stable Java-based OS mean there’s little to differentiate the Pearl from the larger BlackBerrys. In terms of wireless, the only omissions are 3G and WLAN – albeit both notable absentees. Still, GPRS, EDGE, GSM and Bluetooth mean you’ll be able to make full use of the device from almost anywhere.

While the camera is headline news, it’s only a lowly 1.3-megapixel resolution and is hampered by a clunky software interface. The media player also smacks of being a first effort thanks to limited software controls and support for just MP3, MIDI files and AAC. Placing the MicroSD card slot behind the battery isn’t a great move either.

Battery life is good – using the phone every day for calls, SMS, email and web browsing saw just under five days’ use. This will decrease a little under intense use, but the fact that you can charge the Pearl from any PC with a USB port is a big plus.

The Pearl has its faults, but classy design combined with push email make it a very desirable piece of kit. If you need a device for writing short messages, internet browsing and voice calls, it’s a superb fit.

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