BlackBerry Pearl 8130 review: BlackBerry Pearl 8130

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The Good The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 adds built-in GPS, EV-DO support, and video-recording capabilities. The smartphone's Web browser is also improved, and it has a 2-megapixel camera. Sprint's version supports the carrier's various mobile entertainment services, and the device's messaging functions remain strong.

The Bad The BlackBerry 8130's SureType keyboard takes some acclimation. Video playback isn't the smoothest, and the various wireless options can take a toll on the battery life.

The Bottom Line The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 improves on an already-impressive smartphone with the addition of GPS, video recording, and 3G support.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Editor's note: Portions of the Design and Features sections were taken from our review of the Verizon RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130, as the two devices share many similarities in those categories. Exceptions are noted.

A couple of weeks ago, we reviewed the Verizon Wireless RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 and found it to be a true gem. Luckily, Sprint customers don't have to sit back, seething with jealousy, since the carrier offers its own version of the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130. For the most part, it largely resembles the Verizon model, except it comes in the stylish amethyst color and supports Sprint's mobile entertainment services, including the Sprint Music Store and Sprint TV. The sleek smartphone also features the added capabilities of built-in GPS, 3G support, and video-recording capabilities. And while we have some minor complaints (i.e., the SureType keyboard and video performance), we think the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 is a great all-in-one device that combines messaging, multimedia, and productivity in one sleek package. It's available now for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after discounts and rebates.

The hardware on the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 hasn't changed much from the original Pearl, but that's not a bad thing since we're fans of the Pearl's overall look. However, there are some slight tweaks, which we'll note as we talk about the smartphone's design.

Thankfully, the BlackBerry 8130 still keeps a slim profile, measuring a slight 4.2 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and weighing 3.4 ounces. You'll have no problem slipping this handset into your pants pocket, and it feels comfortable and natural to hold during phone calls. Of the two colors available, Sprint offers the amethyst version of the Pearl (Verizon offers the silver model), and we're quite taken with the color. It's a deepish blue purple hue, so guys, you don't have to worry about it being "girly."

The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 keeps the same sleek design of its predecessor. The Sprint version comes in the attractive amethyst color.

Front and center, you have a 2.25-inch non-touch screen that displays 65,536 colors at a 260x240 pixel resolution. Text and images look sharp and vibrant, and the display features a light-sensing technology that will automatically adjust the backlighting depending on your environment (e.g., it will get brighter in darker rooms). You can choose different font styles as well as customize the Home screen to your liking with various themes, background images, and menu styles. There's also a small LED in the upper-right corner of the Pearl that illuminates various colors for different status alerts, such as new messages, low battery, and so forth.

Below the display, you'll find the same navigation array and SureType keyboard of past BlackBerry Pearls. You get Talk and End keys, a shortcut to the main menu page, a back button, and of course, the pearl-like trackball navigator that started the whole Pearl revolution. All the controls are easy to use, and you can adjust the trackball's vertical and horizontal sensitivity under Options > Screen/keyboard.

Not everyone will be a fan of the SureType keyboard, but it can be mastered with a bit of practice.

And then there's the SureType keyboard. I've made it no secret that I'm not a fan of the modified keyboard. For those who are unfamiliar with SureType, there are two letters assigned to one key. As you start to enter the letters of a word, the SureType software will present you with a list of possible letter combinations or words based on context. Personally, I found it irritating, but I also know plenty of Pearl users who don't mind it and have no complaints. As with anything new, it just takes some time to acclimate, and it's a trade-off for the smaller design.

The most notable differences between the Pearl 8130 and the original GSM version are found on the side controls--all welcome additions. On the left spine, you'll now find a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, so you can plug in decent headphones, and the microSD expansion slot has been relocated from behind the battery to the exterior of the phone for easy access. There's also a mini USB port and a customizable quick-launch button on the left, while there's another convenience key and the volume rocker on the right. The top of the device has a mute button, and the camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are located on the back.

The BlackBerry Pearl 8130 is now equipped with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack and the microSD expansion slot has been relocated to the exterior of the phone.

Sprint packages the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset, and a soft protective pouch. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page

The RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 is noteworthy for more than just the fact that it's the first CDMA Pearl. It's also the first device from RIM to offer video-recording capabilities and the first Pearl to have built-in GPS, not to mention the EV-DO support and improved Web browser. But first things first: let's discuss the phone capabilities.

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