RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 Review

Introduction and Design

The original BlackBerry Pearl marked a shift in philosophy at RIM. Until then the name BlackBerry had been associated with the corporate world, but the Pearl set out to bring the power of the BlackBerry service to the consumer market. It was a hit by any measure, but until recently CDMA users were left out in the cold. With the introduction of the Pearl 8130 not only do CDMA customers get a Pearl of their own, but they get an upgraded one to boot. Notable changes from the original 8100 include upping the camera to 2 megapixels, moving the microSD slot so it is easily accessible, a 3.5mm headset jack and, probably most importantly, 3G data (EVDO). Other important features included GPS, a SureType keypad and of course, BlackBerry’s excellent push email service. We will be looking at the Verizon Wireless 8130 today, however the phone is also available from Sprint and Alltel.

Included in the box you will find:
• Pearl 8130 handset
• 900 mAh battery
• AC Adapter
• USB Data Cable
• Leather pouch
• 3.5mm stereo headset
• BlackBerry Tools and VZAccess Manager CD


The 8130 is a small candybar phone, and when we say small we really mean it. Those familiar with BlackBerries who have not held a Pearl are almost always taken at just how small it really is. The device is so light and narrow that it fits very well into the hand. The phone is all plastic, and the Verizon variant is a bright sliver, bordering on white, with bright chrome sides. Sprint and Alltel’s 8130 is a deep amethyst with darker chrome trim, and a red variant is expected on Sprint in January.

Those familiar with the Pearl 8100 will notice the 8130 is slightly heavier, though just a bit narrower and skinnier.

ModelDimension (Inches)Dimension (mm)Weight (oz)Weight (Gramms)
Blackberry Pearl 81304.20" x 1.97" x 0.55"107 x 50 x 14
Blackberry Pearl 81004.20" x 2.00" x 0.57"107 x 51 x 14.53.1690
Palm Centro
4.22" x 2.11" x 0.73"107 x 54 x 18.54.20119
HTC Touch
3.97" x 2.34" x 0.55"101 x 59 x 143.99113

Overall the design is very similar to the original, but eagle-eyed users will notice several subtle differences. For starters, the love-it-or-hate-it SureType keypad has been slightly reworked. Whereas the original was angular, there is a slight curve to the keys and it is now slightly larger. While the camera is still on the back is is moved to the left side, with the mirror in the middle and flash on the right. The camera button on the right side has moved up a bit, and on the left side the voice command button has moved slightly down to accommodate the microSD slot.

The front of the phone features a speaker at the top, with a status LED to the right. Below that sits a 65k color TFT LCD screen. It is plenty bright, though we would like to have seen it a bit crisper, as the resolution is only 240x260 instead of a more conventional 240x320. Still, we had no problems reading it even in direct sunlight.

The keypad takes up the bottom half of the phone. It is a 20 key SureType keypad, meaning it is laid out in QWERTY format but most keys have two letters on them. It is small and cramped, and try as we might we just couldn’t type with any kind of speed. There are four keys and a trackball above it: Send, Menu, Back and End.

The left side of the phone has the 3.5mm headset jack at the top, followed by the miniUSB charging/data port, microSD slot and finally the voice command button. They are all crammed within the top 2/3 of the phone, and we would have liked to see the microSD slot occupy the empty bottom portion and the voice command button moved up. We found ourselves constantly inadvertently launching the voice command, which became rather annoying, and feel that if the button was moved up this would be less of an issue.

The right side is simpler, with a volume rocker up top, the camera key near the middle and a lanyard loop at the bottom. An oddity we noticed is that, at rest, the volume rocker does not do anything, meaning that the ringer must be controlled through the profiles option. The top of the phone has a single button, a speaker with a line through it. When in a call it will mute the microphone, but instead of putting the phone on silent it actually toggles standby mode when the phone is not in use. The bottom simply has a tiny hole for the microphone.

We like the 8130’s size, though can’t help but feel that the device feels a bit cheap. The plastic casing is good, but not great, and we would have liked some more weight to the phone. Making the chromed sides metal instead of plastic would have gone a long way to making the phone feel higher-quality. While we know several people who are happy with their 8130, we also know several others who planned to upgrade to it but have reconsidered due to the chintzy feel. We would highly recommend using one for yourself to see where you fall on the spectrum.

Flip the phone over and you will find the 2 megapixel camera.It is at the top, and sits inside a black trim which sits inside achrome trim that wraps around the top and incorporates the standbybutton. Below this trim is a small slit for the speaker. At the bottomof the phone is the battery door clasp, a flush silver button flankedby two gold accents. The gold is a bit out of place on the phone, butit looks good enough that most users won’t realize that they areactually connectors for a desktop dock.

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