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RIM BlackBerry Pearl 3G phone

Redesigned keypad that's strikingly familiar

So, replacing the SureType approach with a standard numeric keypad doesn't really make much sense to me, nor, I suspect, most other phone buffs. Might the abandonment of SureType – and its perceived learning curve – persuade casual users who've been put off by the BlackBerry's 'difference' in the past, yet covet RIM’s facility with email? Maybe. At least RIM is working the options.

RIM BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105

Will offering a conventional keypad be a fruitless exercise?

In action though, the keypad works perfectly well, with nicely responsive keys, and the wavy layout actually helps a little with two-thumbed typing. The fact is though, it's just not as quick as a Qwerty keyboard or even the SureType keyboard on previous Blackberry Pearls, such as the 8120.

Like the most recent Curve 8520, the Pearl 3G runs on the latest v5 of the Blackberry operating system, backed by an improved processor, and very nice it is too, with its easy-to-navigate icon-based user interface. It's not as flashy perhaps as Android's widget-based layout, but its supremely practical and easy to navigate. The push email system is still just about as good as it gets, and while many are approaching it in terms of usability these days, arguably, RIM handsets still have the edge in terms of security and reliability.

The browser is efficient enough – speedy whether you're connected by Wi-Fi (now upgraded to 802.11n) or 3G network link – with scanning of pages made easy by the nippy trackpad which only requires a single press to zoom. But with a screen measuring an extremely snug 2.2in, browsing never gets to be much fun. There's no Flash support either, but then with a screen this size, you're unlikely to be keen to watch a lot of streaming video on it.

The Pearl 3G can play MPEG4, H.263, H.264 and WMV3 video formats but, like web browsing, actually viewing this content can be a bit of a chore. While the 360 x 400-pixel screen is sharp and clear, there's no option to adjust the resolution and, as a consequence, widescreen film trailers and the like appear in a squint-inducing dwarf letterbox format.

RIM BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105

Browsing is fairly swift, but with such a small screen it isn't particularly satisfying

The music player benefits from having the transport controls on the top, so you can organise your tunes while the phone is in your pocket. Unfortunately, the sound tends to be a bit muddy and on the boomy side, despite the best efforts of an equaliser with 12 heavy-handed presets. It will play MP3, eAAC+, WMA, Flac and Ogg Vorbis formats and there's a 2GB micro SD card included as standard for storing your media.

Blackberry Pearl 3G

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