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There was a time when anyone looking to a BlackBerry to deliver their mobile email was going to have to carry a fairly large and not too pretty device around, and know that while their pocket computer was good at email it wasn't good at much else. No music playback and no camera, for example. The combination of staid looks and feature-deprivation was enough of a double whammy for some to avoid the BlackBerry altogether.
Then BlackBerry maker Research In Motion decided it could do more. It started adding features to devices and making them prettier too, in a bid to appeal to out-and-out consumers and those business people who like a bit of style. So, this year we've seen the arrival of the QWERTY-keyboarded Curve and, just before the that, the candybar style BlackBerry Pearl.
There still are the larger format devices, and most recently of all I reviewed the 8820, which I've been using thanks to RIM ever since penning the review back in August. But with the Pearl 8120 I think I am going to switch allegiance. The original Pearl didn't quite do it for me. I hated SureType (which I'll get to properly in a couple of paragraphs), and the features on the device just weren't good enough to keep me happy.
But RIM has taken on board a lot of the criticisms I and others made of the original Pearl, and of BlackBerry handhelds in general, and the Pearl 8120, while not perfect, is an improvement I think many people could live with.
Also, regardless of the feature improvements, this new Pearl is a cute looking device. The colour scheme is dark blue and chrome with the latter used for the left, right and upper edges and various highlights, while the front and back fascias are predominantly blue. It is comfortable to hold, being a slimline candybar handset. The actual dimensions are 107mm tall, 50mm wide, 14mm thick and just 91g. Its metal-like finish means it feels lovely in the hand.
The small miniature trackball that sits under the screen and is used for navigation within and between applications remains as delightful as ever. It rolls comfortably under either left or right thumb. I'd like to see an auto-scroll mode implemented so that longer emails can be run through without to much ‘thumb action', though.
To the left and right of the trackball are the BlackBerry menu and back keys, and to their left and right the Call and End keys. The arrangement is unchanged from the original Pearl, and it works fine. There are also two ‘convenience keys', one on the left and one on the right edge. You can configure these to launch whichever application or device feature you want.