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BlackBerry Pearl 8120
Gone are the days when businessmen had no option but to carry a bulky, no-media-support business phone that screamed out, 'all work and no play'. Things have changed since the arrival of the BlackBerry 8120 – nicknamed 'Pearl' – and the handset has many hooked today.
The main reason why it may catch your eye could be because it's the first BlackBerry to be slim and stylish. RIM has done a brilliant job by shrinking the size of the BlackBerry. It is comfortable to hold, thanks to its slim candybar profile. The dimensions are 107 x 50 x 14mm, and it weighs just 91g.
The Pearl has a host of ports on the upper left edge of the device. There's a 3.5mm headset jack, and right below is the USB slot which also serves as the charging slot. Below that is the microSD card slot through which you can expand the 64MB of internal flash memory. On the right you'll see volume increase/decrease buttons and a camera shortcut key. A small trackball right below the screen is the main key for navigation within and between applications.
The Pearl has a display of 65,000 colours at a resolution of 240 x 260 pixels. But such a small screen could give you eyestrain while viewing PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
Due to the 50mm width there isn't enough space for a QWERTY keypad, and RIM has shied away from a standard phone-like keypad too. The Pearl has a system where two QWERTY letters share a single key. Sounds really bad for typing? Even I thought so. But that's where SureType comes in action and saves our fingers. I will discuss this a little later.
Features and Performance
The user interface is snappy, and accessing the relevant application is easy. It’s very simple and you will find lots of stuff that you will use daily. You will notice that as soon as the SIM card is put in with the battery, the phone starts on its own. It does take a minute or so to start, but it’s much better than many other phones.
The Pearl is a quad-band phone that supports both GPRS and EDGE networks. Since 3G still seems to be an elusive thing in this country, you wouldn't miss 3G support. But there is Bluetooth with A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile), which is ideal if you have a Bluetooth stereo headset. The A2DP is a feature only available with Bluetooth 2.0 devices.
As mentioned earlier, SureType is BlackBerry's version of the T9 predictive texting. The predictive engine is very good at guessing what word you want, and you can use the Pearl button to select it, or just keep on typing. It's quite fast once you get used to it. New to the Pearl 8120 is a spell checker that can be run manually and set up to check emails automatically.
I was pretty impressed with the Pearl's SureType system – but if you don't like it you can switch to a multitap system instead. The Pearl 8120 is a small device, so if you have large hands you could find SureType a bit difficult to deal with.
Music and Camera
The Pearl 8120 has a 2MP camera with flash, which at least a better version of the Pearl series – the earlier one was a 1.3MP with a bad flash. The camera lets users capture video in two resolutions: 240x180 and 176x144. The pictures I took were not all that great. Surprisingly there's no cover for their camera, so it's exposed. The flash too was not adequate as the pictures were blurry without natural light; and with natural light the picture quality was strictly okay.
Interestingly, you can send the pictures directly as attachment. It saves you the hassle of sending it via Bluetooth to your PC and then transferring it online. Indeed, transferring files from your PC to the BlackBerry is very easy – simply drag and drop, whether it's a video, picture or song. You can save directly to your device, or put the media files on the memory card. The media application was done in collaboration with PC software maker Roxio. The Roxio Media Manager will automatically offer to convert the videos for playback on the BlackBerry. It runs quite smoothly.
The phone's player supports MP3, AAC and WAV files. The loudspeaker was decent; it played music as loudly and clearly as a normal music phone would. I was particularly happy while listening to music on the loudspeaker. Overall, I was pretty happy with RIM's efforts to push the 'multimedia' label.
One major advantage of this phone is that it’s Wi-Fi enabled, so you can easily scan for networks and join them. I could access sites like Orkut and Facebook, and most websites displayed quite well. But the browser doesn't support multiple page browsing. The phone doesn’t even support Opera Mini, so you will have to work with the bundled browser. EDGE speeds were consistent, and adequate for accessing text-based web applications such as push email and IM.
Mail and Messaging
One important reason why you would buy a BlackBerry is to access your office mail. You can either use the BlackBerry Internet Service or the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The latter will be provided by the mobile carrier from whom you bought the phone, with a server set up in your office. It works using Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino or Novell GroupWise. The phone allows up to 10 emails accounts to work simultaneously. We checked with our office account, and it worked without any glitches.
Business related functionality remains intact; the only additional specification is support for Triple DES3 encryption, to ensure more secure data transfer via mail. Attachments opened in seconds, but the need for a bigger screen is sorely felt – after all, not many people like to view their Excel sheets in parts. The trackball is very handy though, to move left or right and horizontally or vertically while viewing large documents and sheets.
The phone takes less than a minute to start up, which is good compared to other BlackBerrys. Call quality is good, and works fine while being mobile. We got about three hours with optimal talk time usage. The Pearl claims talktime of 4 hours and standby time of 360 hours (that is, 15 days). However, after some browsing and emailing, the battery gave way after the second day was over.
I recharged the device and tried everything from voice calling, browsing, chatting on G-talk etc, and this time the battery lasted only till the start of day two. Of course the usage of the media centre and other applications will further chew up the battery. To sum up, the battery life was strictly okay – it can be improved upon.
The BlackBerry 8120 Pearl is a stylish user-friendly smart phone that can cater to most of your daily needs. Businesses will not change with this BlackBerry, but you can 'play' with it a lot. The media center application is good; but the 2 megapixel camera underperforms.
Though SureType desperately tries to help you, I felt the lack of a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard. Wi-Fi is what to look out for on this phone and the in-built G-talk is far superior to any other third-party applications. And despite the odds, if you run your business by the minute and need to access your mails 24x7, this is the right phone for you and priced at Rs. 21,990 it's the right price.
Check out the video review here.