BlackBerry Pearl 8100 review: BlackBerry Pearl 8100

Review Sections

Features
Email has always been at the core of the Blackberry functionality and with this phone it is no different with support for a large number of Web clients as well as application formats from the likes of ACT!, Novell and Microsoft Outlook. We will not go too much into these, however, as email use is no different to in the past. Security is also very much the same, with SD card security the only addition made.

Consumers may be a little disappointed to learn, however, that they will still need to be hooked up to either a BlackBerry service or BlackBerry Enterprise Server to use the popular -push" email function -- to instantly receive messages from services external to your phone.

The Pearl does allow for instant messaging, though, with applications from Yahoo, Google and BlackBerry already installed. It also has the standard BlackBerry organisational tools such as the task list and can synchronise easily with the desktop.

Unlike overseas models the Pearl does not feature a Maps service for Australia -- but judging by reports elsewhere, work is still required on this application to bring it up to the level of other mapping services. If you require a mapping service there are other PDAs out there, for a little bit more, that can cater to your needs with GPS, which is much better.

Performance
One of the biggest additions (and bit of a let down we would have to say) would have to be the 1.3-mega pixel camera -- we would have preferred 2-megapixels and a lot more functionality. It carries out light balancing very well but its in-built flash seems to struggle under some lighting conditions. We found the 3x digital zoom very responsive, though, and thought images as a whole came out crisp and clear.

Adding to its multimedia capabilities, the Pearl comes with a good-sized powerful speaker on the rear but the back casing, once placed across, tends to muffle the output. Headphones do make this better, but to be honest we cannot see many instances where you will be looking for sound output that is up there with a multi-media computer's anyway. It does support MP3 and MIDI sound, and the video player (there is no recorder on this PDA) will also support MPEG4, but expect some lag with this.

Even though this phone does not have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0 should be sufficient for most needs. Just be sure to carefully examine what you want out of a new phone before laying claim to this one.

Service and support for the BlackBerry is through the provider -- Vodafone, Optus and Telstra all offer the Pearl at a price of AU$699 on top of a plan, and for those new to the BlackBerry's relatively easy operating system, a demonstration for dummies is also included on the BlackBerry site. The Pearl comes with a one-year limited warranty, which is standard in the market.

Overall, the Pearl lives up to most of it expectations -- we recorded a talk time way above the 210 minutes suggested by the vendor, and found navigation and other key areas of functionality up to scratch in comparison to similar devices on the market. It may not be quite "stealth" yet in terms of operation (Stealth was BlackBerry's previous name for this phone overseas) but it is RIM's first foray into the consumer space, and based on the popularity of its business-type models with consumers already, we think BlackBerry could have market, with this little Pearl, wrapped up in a clamshell.

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