BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9100 review: BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9100

The BlackBerry is practically synonymous with e-mail, and it's no surprise that the Pearl 3G works great as a corporate e-mail device and is compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, Novell GroupWise, and more. It is also compatible with BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, which is tailored more for individuals and small businesses. You can sync up your calendars, contacts, and tasks as well. With BlackBerry Internet Service, you can also access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts.

As for surfing the Web, the Pearl 3G comes with the AT&T Mobile Web browser as the standard, though you can swap that out for BlackBerry's own browser if you wish. The settings are fairly rudimentary, with the ability to toggle JavaScript, send URLs, zoom in and out, and manage your bookmarks. OS 6 will bring the Pearl 3G a new WebKit-based browser, which promises a richer experience and it also supports tabbed browsing.

Since the Pearl 3G has external media player keys, it only makes sense that it comes with a media player. The phone supports a range of music and video formats that include MP3, AAC, WMA, MPEG4, H.264, and WMV. You can drag and drop files to the phone via USB mass storage mode, or you can simply preload a microSD card with content--the phone accepts cards with capacities up to 32GB. Luckily, you can even sync with iTunes and Windows Media Player thanks to the new BlackBerry Desktop Software. As the Pearl 3G is an AT&T phone, it is also compatible with AT&T Radio, and you can purchase songs via AT&T Mobile Music.

Other AT&T services compatible with the Pearl 3G include GPS with AT&T Navigation, and AT&T Mobile Video, AT&T's streaming video service. If that's not enough, the Pearl 3G has plenty of other apps to keep you entertained. It comes with Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace for your social networking needs, MobiTV for on-demand television, My-Cast Weather, and 10 different games--Tetris, Scrabble, Bejeweled, Pac-Man, BrickBreaker, Word Mole, Texas Hold Em, Sudoku, Klondike, and Trooper Typing. Of course, it also has business-related apps like Documents To Go as well.

The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 3G doesn't take very good indoor shots.

The Pearl 3G only has a 3.2-megapixel camera. It has 2.5x zoom, and there's an LED flash, but the overall picture quality wasn't so good. Images did look sharp, but lighting seemed dim, colors looked muted, and there was a slight orange tinge in indoor shots. You can geotag the photos, and after that you can send them via MMS or share them online on any of your social networks. There's also a video recording option.

We tested the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 3G in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. Call quality was good on both sides. We enjoyed loud and clear audio with very little distortion or background noise. Our callers sounded natural, too.

On the other end, callers reported very good quality as well, though they said they detected a bit of an echo, as if our voice had deepened suddenly. It wasn't a deal breaker, however, as they had no problems otherwise. Speakerphone calls were also quite good. The echo effect did seem a bit more pronounced, but that's typical of most speakerphones.

General performance was great. The Pearl 3G felt responsive during our testing period, and we experienced no system crashes. There was an occasional delay when switching apps, but that happened rarely.

We did have problems with 3G coverage. It was very spotty in our area in San Francisco, pushing us down to EDGE more often than we wanted. Yet, when we did get 3G, the speeds were pretty good. We loaded the CNET mobile page in just 8 seconds, and downloading a 1.8MB app only took 34 seconds. Wi-Fi speeds were great, too; we loaded the same page in just 6 seconds. Music playback was decent through the phone's speakers, but we definitely recommend using a headset for better-quality sound.

The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 3G has a 1,150mAH battery and has a rated battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and 18 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 48 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 1.37 watts per kilogram.

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