The original slimline Pearl got the famously stuffy BlackBerry accepted by the mainstream. But can its successor, the 8120, keep the dream alive?
The original Pearl, the 8100, was the first BlackBerry to comfortably bestride the starchy business world and the pleasure-seeking mainstream. Its trim design, compact physique and newfound multimedia mojo meant you could happily flash it outside of office hours without fear of losing friends.
But if we're honest, its features were pretty tame. A basic 1.3-megapixel camera and no video capture seemed woefully sub-standard even in 2006, so we're expecting, nay, demanding, a sizeable feature step-up from its successor, the 8210.
No major surgery
There's something very familiar about the latest Pearl. Apart from a new range of paint jobs – including sunset red and Carphone Warehouse's exclusive pink – and a wavier keypad motif, these Pearlers could have been separated at birth.
Thankfully, BlackBerry creator RIM has demonstrated more imagination on the feature front, fitting the 8120 with Wi-Fi, a 2mp snapper with video capture and a 3.5mm headphone connector. On the downside, the built-in Wi-Fi only masks the fact that RIM has once again eschewed 3G. Frankly, we're bored rigid of asking when 3G will make an appearance on BlackBerry devices.
Still, while hitching a ride on the Wi-Fi express, web browsing is nippy – which only makes the plodding speed of EDGE more exasperating. Elsewhere a cursor pointer has been added for more accurate navigation, and full-fat web pages are squeezed nicely to fit the smallish screen.
Short-changed by the snapper
BlackBerry fans might welcome the new camera but the hike doesn't feel nearly enough. It's still fixed focus and offers a fickle LED flash, making picture quality vapid. True enough, video recording skills have been introduced, but again the 240x180-pixel resolution is interrupted by the dreaded judder and drag.
The addition of the 3.5mm headphone jack gives the basic player an audio lift when you plug in classy cans. And with no sound boosters, you're going to need your headphones' quality to bolster the bass. In fact, performance was surprisingly dynamic through our Sennheisers.
All your multimedia loot is stored in a microSD card. RIM has helpfully shifted the slot from under the bonnet to a hotswappable side location.
Lest we forget, the 8120 is a push emailer at its core. We've often harped on about the BlackBerry's legendary messaging prowess, so you should know by now that it's Lurch-proof to set up and use.
Typing out messages via the dual-function QWERTY keypad, however, is an altogether more thorny proposition. With two letters assigned to one button separated by a rocker switch, those with sausage fingers will struggle to discriminate.
Along with Google Maps and BlackBerry Messenger apps, serial social networkers will adore the Facebook app: they can get poked while away from the computer, upload snaps and reply to messages.
The 8120 Pearl doesn't really offer a significant advance on its predecessor. Its email talent is unquestioned, and the built in Wi-Fi welcome, but the lack of 3G and lukewarm multimedia performance is disappointing. Pearl devotees, however, will no doubt find reasons enough to upgrade.
Blackberry 8120 Pearl review
The second-gen Pearl is a tasty emailer and has extra mainstream appeal, but we'd still like more toys and features