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BlackBerry Pearl 8120 (AT&T) review: BlackBerry Pearl 8120 (AT&T)

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The Good The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 for AT&T brings Wi-Fi to the slim smartphone, along with an improved Web browser and a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities. The handset also has integrated Bluetooth, strong e-mail capabilities, and solid multimedia features.

The Bad The BlackBerry Pearl 8120 lacks 3G support and GPS. The SureType keyboard still requires a learning curve, and there was a slight background hiss during phone calls.

The Bottom Line The addition of Wi-Fi and other enhancements make the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 a nice upgrade, but we couldn't help wanting a little more from the smartphone.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

You knew it was just a matter of time before one of the GSM carriers got a hold of the next-gen RIM BlackBerry Pearl after Verizon Wireless released the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130. And that lucky carrier would be AT&T. Today, AT&T introduced the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120, a Wi-Fi-enabled version of the slim messaging smartphone that also offers other enhancements, including a better Web browser and a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities. In all, the new features make the popular smartphone even better but we couldn't help but want a little more. You see, unlike the BlackBerry Pearl 8130, it doesn't have 3G support or integrated GPS, so that left us feeling a bit unsatisfied. Still, the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 is a solid upgrade. The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 is available now initially through business channels for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates and discounts.

If you were to go on looks alone, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the original BlackBerry Pearl and RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120. We can't really knock the lack of changes to the design either, since you're getting a full-featured smartphone in a cell-phone-like form factor that's pocketable and comfortable to use as a mobile. The Pearl 8120 keeps the same compact frame, measuring 4.2 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and even weighs less at 3.2 ounces. And while the casing might appear to be black, it's actually an attractive deep sapphire blue.

The overall design of the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 remains the same as the original Pearl. You do, however, get new interface themes, graphics, and more, including this L-shaped menu.

On front, there is a 2.25-inch nontouch display with a 65,000-color output and 260x240 pixel resolution. It's also equipped with a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlight depending on the environment. All these factors combined make for a sharp and vibrant screen, but RIM also made some enhancements to the user interface to make it more visually pleasing and easier to use. There are new themes, including an L-shaped menu format, new graphics, fonts, and colors. The changes aren't anything to write home about, but they certainly make for a better user experience.

The SureType keyboard will admittedly give some users some trouble, but also features enhanced word completion for easier text entry.

Below the display, you'll find the same navigation array of previous Pearls, which includes Talk and End keys, the BlackBerry menu shortcut, a back button, the pearl-like trackball, and of course, the SureType keyboard. As we've said many times in the past, the modified keyboard isn't going to suit everyone (present company included), and there is a bit of a learning curve to the text entry. However, we understand that some concessions had to be made in order to fit a QWERTY keyboard into a smaller space. The SureType software also now features improved word completion and an easier way to correct misspelled words, though we didn't notice a huge difference.

Among other things, the left side of the smartphone holds a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD/SDHC slot that can accept up to 8GB cards.

On the left spine, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mini USB port, a microSD/SDHC memory card slot, and a push-to-talk button. Meanwhile, the right side holds a volume rocker and a camera activation button. Both the PTT and camera keys can, however, be reprogrammed to launch other applications if you prefer. There's a mute button on top of the unit, and finally, the camera lens, self-portrait mirror and flash are located on the back.

AT&T packages the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a stereo headset, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.

The most noteworthy addition to the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 is, obviously, Wi-Fi. The smartphone supports 802.11b/g networks--enterprise, home, public hot spots--and has a setup wizard to help configure your device. The Pearl can automatically scan for networks or you can manually input the SSID and security login. The Wi-Fi integration is particularly welcome since the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 only supports AT&T's EDGE network. Obviously, we would have liked to seen 3G support but at least Wi-Fi gives you an alternative (and faster) way to surf the Web on your smartphone. We should also note that the Pearl 8120's Web browser is improved with an onscreen cursor that you can move in any direction and place on any part of the page where you can click a link. In addition, there's a Page View option that enables you to easily zoom in on part of a page.

The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120 (pictured here with the RIM BlackBerry Curve, right) now includes Wi-Fi.

In addition to Wi-Fi, you also get Bluetooth 2.0. Supported profiles include those for mono and stereo Bluetooth wireless headsets, hands-free kits, and serial port. Unlike the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 for Verizon Wireless, the Pearl 8120 doesn't include a GPS radio. To add real-time tracking, you will have to use a Bluetooth GPS receiver.

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