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BlackBerry Pearl 8100 review: BlackBerry Pearl 8100

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The Good Slim and sexy design. Lightweight. BlackBerry's email and business functionality. Multimedia capabilities. Inclusion of a camera. Quadband. Flash memory and microSD card. New consumer focus.

The Bad No 3G connectivity. No QWERTY keypad. No Wi-Fi. Poor camera quality.

The Bottom Line Consumers that have already been lured by the BlackBerry's popular email functions will love the new-look Pearl, but may be disappointed when comparing it to other high-end consumer devices with 2-megapixel cameras and Wi-Fi connectivity.

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7.2 Overall

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BlackBerry creator Research in Motion (RIM) is diving for affections this Christmas with the release of its James Bond-esque BlackBerry model the Pearl -- a far cry in looks from its more bland business-focused models of the past.

And in a first for BlackBerry, which hopes to win over the consumer market, RIM has added a camera and integrated multimedia capabilities with expandable memory, showing that this light-weight offering is more than just a jewel of the sea for RIM.

Design
The most significant difference with the Pearl compared to other BlackBerry devices though is its size. It measures in at 107 by 50 by 14.5mm and weighs a mere 89 grams, making it one of the lightest PDAs on today's market.

From a physical perspective, everything about the Pearl oozes quality from the ultra sturdy release buttons for the back tray to the smooth rounded keypad that fits with the contour of the phone -- we really wish more phones were designed to look this way. Even the Pearl's added accessories speak style -- a lamb skin tote, a smooth Bluetooth headset or a docking station that puts your phone rightfully on display.

You will want to make sure your nails are perfectly manicured before using this phone though, as all eyes will be on you once the "pearl" comes out. RIM has done away with its standard track wheel at the side and replaced it instead with an addictive luminescent ball that resembles a pearl. It navigates in all directions and is much more responsive than previous BlackBerry tracking devices.

With such a tiny phone though, something always had to give. To the dismay of some business users, Blackberry has reduced its full QWERTY keypad to less than half its size, sharing two letters per key using SureType predictive technology, which allows you to choose letters as you go. This process is a lot slower than simply typing your message, but RIM has aligned the keys in a rigid manner which should help ease the transition to the new key layout.

The Pearl's screen, which takes up about half of the phone's front real estate, only supports 65K colours but a built-in sensor monitoring exterior light conditions ensures the view on the screen is crisp and clear at all times -- even under bright sunlight the 240 x 260-pixel resolution brings up great images, despite the phones glossy cover.,/p>

A voice control command and a mini-USB port and 2.5mm headset jack sit to the side of this phone and a fast camera activation button and volume controls are found quite typically to the right. A nice addition -- especially with such loud sound -- is the mute button snuggly fit into the top panel.

It really is the design which makes this phone, but we cannot stop wondering why RIM would have placed another of its new additions -- the microSD card slot -- behind the battery in the back. We all know how flimsy clutches holding mobile phone bodies can be. Even the clasp holding our SIM did not work upon arrival. So you really want to have to open the back of the phone as little as possible. This back casing also contains the phone's camera, and we found that after a day in a handbag dust would easily accumulate on the lens, with no real protective layer to keep it clean.

The Pearl ships with international adaptors that click onto the AC cord -- great if you travel a lot but depressing if you were to leave the end in a power socket somewhere. It is an interesting little touch, however, to boost its desire in a business market while RIM tries to entice new consumers.

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