But what about SureType? Well, the 50mm width of the Pearl 8120 simply doesn’t provide enough space for a QWERTY keypad, and RIM has shied away from a standard phone-like keypad too. Instead we have a system where in most cases two QWERTY characters share a single key.
You just type away hitting a key once regardless of which letter you want. The predictive engine has a stab at guessing what word you are after, and you can use the pearl button to select it, or just keep on typing. It does take a bit of acclimatisation, but is actually quite fast once you are used to it. New to the Pearl 8120 is a spell checker. It can be run manually and set up to check emails automatically.
I was pretty impressed with SureType this time around. If you don’t like it too much you can switch to a multitap system instead. This is more T9-like, as you tap a key once if you want its first QWERTY character, twice if you want its second. There is a point of ergonomics. The Pearl 8120 is a small device as I’ve already noted, and if you have large hands or stubby fingers you could find using SureType a bit fiddly.
There is another point too, with regard to using the Pearl 8120 as a mobile email device. The screen is a bit on the small side. RIM doesn’t divulge the screen resolution, but I can tell you the screen is almost square at 38mm wide and 43mm tall, sharp and bright, and clear enough for reading incoming emails. But for complex attachments such as spreadsheets it isn’t really up to the job.
I said earlier that RIM has bumped up the features of this new Pearl and listened to criticisms. Well, on the latter front there are two important things to note. First off, at long last RIM has seen fit to cater for a 3.5mm headset jack. This sits on the upper left edge of the device and finally means you can use your own preferred headset instead of the bundled one. Hooray! Let’s hope RIM takes this ‘innovation’ forward into all its future devices.
The second thing is that the microSD card slot you can use to expand on the 64MB of internal flash memory is on the left edge of the casing where it’s easy to get at. No more powering down and removing the battery to swap memory cards. Again, I say ‘hooray!’