RIM's latest BlackBerry, the 8100 (or BlackBerry pearl as it is more likely to be known) continues the firm's drive to make ever smaller devices that are still a BlackBerry at heart.
I have to say that the BlackBerry Pearl is quite convincing as a smartphone. In fact, it is smaller than any other smartphone I have seen, and even matches my trusty (but ancient) voice-only handset, which I bought specifically because it was the lightest model I could find.
Despite its small size, the Pearl has a surprisingly large screen, which is quite bright and easy to read. RIM also seems to have stuffed the device full of almost every function the company could think of – it has not only RIM's BlackBerry Messenger, but also Yahoo! Messenger, plus Google Talk, an alarm clock, message pad, browser, a password keeper, media player for audio and video, and all of the usual PIM (personal information management) tools. And BlackBerry email, of course.
Sadly, the Pearl isn't quite as easy to use as other BlackBerry models. RIM has abandoned the scroll wheel on the right side of older devices in favour of a miniature trackball just below the screen. Pressing this in selects items, and a 'back' key next to it cancels actions, but it just doesn't seem as intuitive as the thumb-operated scroll wheel, especially as there is now a 'BlackBerry' key used for some functions.
One neat feature is the BlackBerry Pearl's built-in 1.3 megapixel camera. A flick of the trackball zooms the view either in (up to 5x zoom) or out, allowing users to capture either close-up detail or a wider view of a scene.
The Pearl's keyboard is also designed to allow speedy text entry while keeping the size down as much as possible. It puts two letters onto each key and uses predictive text to work out what you are trying to type. This works impressively well most of the time, but can't match the qwerty layout of bigger BlackBerry models when you need to key in lots of text.
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