RIM's smallest ever BlackBerry looks glorious and maintains its svelte stature in part to the SureType keyboard.
Banging out messages with the keyboard was a quick fire process, and though it took a bit of getting used to, the optical trackpad was a cinch to get to grips with.
Although it may be small in stature, the Pearl 3G is packed with features including Wi-Fi, HSDPA, A-GPS, push email and access to BlackBerry App World
The Pearl 3G excels at everything it turns its head to, from an expert email experience, lightening fast internet browsing and a pinpoint mapping solution.
If you're using 3G expect a battery life of around 300 minutes talktime and 312 hours standby.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/3/2010 4:00:40 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Top of the line email, dedicated media controls, high quality apps from BlackBerry App World, integrated Facebook contacts and calendar, HSDPA and Wi-Fi in a basic-phone-sized body
Browser doesn?t auto-fit non-mobile sites, trackpad slightly unresponsive at times
With every phone, BlackBerry sheds a little more of its corporate image. The Pearl 3G is the latest to package the 'Berry's business class features with a rather unexpected mix of media and social networking - and it works. It's the first Pearl handset since the 8110 was launched two years ago, and though it's the same size, Pearl 3G 9105 packs major advances in its inner tech.
About the size of a standard Nokia, its glossy black chassis fits nicely into the hand, and its keyboard - in classic RIM style - is wide and comfortable, with large keys spaced in a wave-like line. In the UK, we get the version with a standard keypad, while Americans get model 9100 with a half-QWERTY as seen in the original Pearl. It's easily the best standard keypad on any phone though, and firing off long messages is almost as fast as on bigger 'Berrys like the Bold 9700. This is one phone which should be equally usable for both large and teeny fingers. There's also an optical trackpad replacing the classic RIM trackball, but it's not quite as responsive, and we encountered a few lags when scrolling down the screen. Probably the most crucial additions have been HSDPA and Wi-Fi support though, which gives the Pearl 3G the same powerful internet features as the Bold 9700.
Typing with predictive text (or SureType, as RIM calls it) is much quicker than multi-tap of course, and it's still pretty easy to write non-dictionary words. Each time you do, the word will be added to the dictionary so it'll show up as one of the suggestions when you type that letter combination. Like the Bold 9700 and Storm 2, the Pearl 3G runs on the new BlackBerry OS 5.0, with all the same email functionality, though its email client can't handle HTML - so graphically designed bits don't fully render, for instance. But everything else is just like it is on the desktop, so you can add BCCs, check your spelling, add priority tags to outgoing messages, or flag important inbox ones. Attachments can be added and viewed too, but again, the phone doesn't deal well with HTML. BlackBerrys still boast the fastest, most intuitive email system around though, with most actions centred around the 'OK' button, which acts as an options menu in any app. You can add up to ten email accounts, whether webmail or Microsoft Exchange. Gmail is nicely implemented, with the ability to sync contacts with the phonebook (and if you're moving over from Android, or simply use Gmail as your primary, this means a dead easy transfer and backup solution). You can view these inboxes separately or in the excellent universal inbox, which pulls together all messages from Facebook, email, texts, and even direct messages on Twitter.
With Wi-Fi and HSDPA, the Pearl 3G has internet covered, and in fact, it's one of the few phones to support the new, faster 802.11n protocol. Its preloaded Opera Mini browser loads mobile-optimised sites as well as it does non-mobile sites (which look the way they would on a desktop). There's no autofit feature on the non-mobile sites though, so when you zoom in, you'll have to scroll around to see the full page. Pictures render quickly and look decent - though of course the 256K colour screen won't be standing up to the AMOLED screen tech of more dedicated browsing phones. You can also save images from webpages simply by pressing the 'OK' button and selecting from the pop up menu. There's also a great little copy and paste function - hit menu where you want to start copying, and you can highlight text from that point on. You can then paste into any text field, so you can copy addresses, names, or snippets of interesting articles to email to friends. You can also beef up the phone with apps from BlackBerry App World - its 5,000+ apps may not approach the iPhone's 100,000, but its quality is probably as high. For example, the Facebook app integrates completely with your BlackBerry so you can sync Facebook contacts with your phonebook, and event invites with the BlackBerry calendar.
The camera is now 3.15-megapixels, up from two in the last Pearl handset (and 1.3 in the first), and the quality of its snaps is more than adequate for viewing on desktop, or uploading to social networks. In daylight, clarity and colours are good, and pictures came out well even when blown up on a desktop monitor. The autofocus works for both close-up and regular shots. There's also an LED flash and we were able to take decent photos in a nearly dark room - though warm colours (like our faces) came out nearly orange. There's an autofocus with regular and macro settings, though it didn't always focus on the intended object in the closeups, resulting in slight blur. You can send a photo via email or MMS, or share it to any social network apps you've downloaded, and we love that you can adjust the file size to any one of four options between 50KB to 400KB before sending it - particularly crucial if sending via MMS. The camera can take video as well, and though it's certainly not a selling point of the phone, it's good enough for the odd spontaneous YouTube-destined video of a pet doing something cute.
Just to round out an impressive set of specs for this tiny device, RIM has gone and added dedicated media keys to the top of the phone, so you can play, pause or skip tracks without removing the phone from your pocket. The 3.5mm audio jack is a given, handily placed near the top, and there are also dedicated volume control buttons. In fact, the music and video players are pretty full bodied considering this isn't positioned as a media phone - you've got album art, playlist function, and ability to keep running in the background while you take calls or email. The 256MB of storage won't keep you going for long (it's a bump up from the 128MB of the original) but you can expand the memory via the microSD slot.
The display is also higher-res, at 360 x 400 pixels versus 240 x 260 pixels of the Pearl 8110, so videos look marginally better. It's not a highlight of the phone though, since the 2.5-inch screen would put off any but the most fiendish media hound. It support A-GPS as well, and we were able to get a quick fix in Central London. BlackBerry Maps is preloaded but downloading Google Maps from the BlackBerry App World is a better option.
The Pearl 3G is a smartphone masquerading as a normal phone, and its slinky chassis actually houses the exact same high-tech specs as RIM's flagship Bold 9700. It's just as much of a workhouse, just as fast, and even the standard keypad isn't much of an impediment to email - still the biggest 'Berry feature. This is a high performer, and a great choice for anyone who likes the feel of a standard phone, but prefers the features of a smart device.