RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130 Review

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.

Model Dimension (Inches) Dimension (mm) Weight (oz) Weight (Gramms)
Blackberry Pearl 8130 4.20" x 1.97" x 0.55" 107 x 50 x 14
Blackberry Pearl 8100 4.20" x 2.00" x 0.57" 107 x 51 x 14.5 3.16 90
Palm Centro
4.22" x 2.11" x 0.73" 107 x 54 x 18.5 4.20 119
HTC Touch
3.97" x 2.34" x 0.55" 101 x 59 x 14 3.99 113

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.



1. Paul unregistered

Actually you can change the shortcut items on the basic menu. If you move an application icon into the top five it will then display on the basic menu.

2. unregistered

Trackball is not cumbersome at all, not sure how you managed that conclusion. Menu icons are hideable so they dont clog up your screen. How can this phone not be picked up and used... Its size and very useable UI are strengths.

3. unregistered

I agree about the suretype being cumbersome at times, but that is the only real flaw that I notice. I didn't notice the browser being slow at all, it was much faster than other peoples phones that I compared it too. Overall a solid review though.

4. SQFreak unregistered

About connectivity, I notice no slowness. I think you're in a low-signal area, based on the fact that your screenshots alternate between 1XEV (broadband) and 1X (barely faster than dialup). Actually, my Pearl 8130 performs faster than my Q9m in almost every respect. Additionally, I use Outlook 2007 to sync with the BlackBerry with no problems.

13. unregistered

Could you please tell me which U prefer... Moto Q9m (Q9c for me on SPrint) vs. the Pearl 8130?? I'm torn as this will be my 1st SmartPhone, and I'm a MS Windows PC user, etc. But I really do not plan to do much e-mailing on either as I want to keep my sanity & life. I want a great phone, easy to use & setup, easy to type w/o looking alot. Can you turn off The Pearl's guess-ahead typing, and put it into an ABC mode only?? Thx Much, tom

5. dragserb unregistered

You have to be pretty dense if you can't learn to use this phone quickly. It's not that hard for anyone who cares to read a little. The phone deserves at least an 8 not a mediocre 7.

6. Reviewer unregistered

@sq...The testing of the phone was done in many places, most of them strong EVDO areas. Where the pictures/video was taken the Pearl did jump between 1x and EVDO, but literally every other Verizon phone I've owned and tested (probably 15 or so) has had no problem not only pulling an EVDO signal, but a strong one at that. Air cards usually get speeds over 1Mbps

7. VZ Hater unregistered

Check your info guys, the Pearl launched on Sprint on Black Friday, as noted on many other blogs AND Sprint's own site. A comparo coming soon?

8. unregistered

was the reviewer not smart...or maybe just missed some things the phone does? the BT is fully unlocked, I am able to send object via BT and receive them, fairly easily mind you as well. I can connect my pearl via BT to my laptop for syncing as well as modem(though modem via BT is dumb and slow, but more power to you). so the BT stuff is all wrong, but how about the rest of it? the main menu is the same menu you get on any BB phone, and you cna hide any icon you don't need or move things around. so the side keys can be made into anything you want. as to the trackball...do you have MS or shake a lot? because that thing is easy as hell to use. and no review of the new RIM browser? this thing blows the old ones out of the water. and have you never owned or done a review of a BB? all you realy did was get in there, and download an app and not try to use the standard browser. did you go to yoru website? it pulls up without issue, and you cna move to a pan and zoom way of looking at the webpage much like opra mini. every time any of you guys get a phone the first thing you do is suck opera mini's sausage by mentioning it, then complain about how the phone can or can't run it. wow this review is lacking on all front, facts, info, and apparently knowledge.

9. unregistered

i tried one of these out in a verizon store and almost instantly i was flying with suretype, not sure how u can be slow with it

10. VZW Sales / Pearl Owner unregistered

Phonearena, why are you paying this guy? The suretype is faster than the full QWERTY or the T9 if you take more than 15 minutes to get used to it. I'm already faster on my Pearl (10 days into ownership) than I ever was on my EnV in the year that I had it. You -CAN- reorder the shortcuts on the main screen. I initially had the same problem with the BIS site blocking the Go To... option, but that was quickly resolved. Getting Opera Mini 4 to work was as simple as going towww.operamini.com on the phone's browser, choosing download, download high-memory version, and then choosing download. It downloads in a java file, not a .zip. Try it again. Valid critiques: the GPS is locked. The voice dial button is a little too easy to accidentally press. That's why I remapped it to lock the keypad. The internet is somewhat slow. It depends on the site - sometimes the Pearl stops using EVDO and drops down to 1X-RTT, and you have to yank the battery and reset it, but that's a periodic annoyance I've only had to do a couple of times. Phonearena, stop paying this slacker and hire me!

15. unregistered

A tip for anyone who suddenly loses EVDO and reverts to 1X-RTT: Turn radio off in the settings, then on again. My phone was stuck in 1X out of the box, and doing this fixed the problem. There should be no need for battery removal. Also, keep in mind that cell towers will sometimes stop transmitting EVDO during brief maintenance cycles. I adore my Pearl. I use it as my primary connectivity device. Anyone complaining about the convenience keys should remap them.

11. jean unregistered

the suretype was quite easy to pickup. I had no problems and the trackball is great. Fast browser and this was my first blackberry phone. After 3-4 days i had the hang of it.

12. DDH unregistered

This is a great phone. It's my first blackberry and after owning a Q for the past year and several others windows smartphones this is a pleasant upgrade. Most other sites and reviews I've read gave this phone high reviews so disregard the inaccurate complaints from the reviewer. Suretype was easy to learn and the track ball is one of the best features on the phone.

14. unregistered

Can u give me some thoughts re the Q9c vs the Pearl?? I'm trying to decide & this'll be my 1st Smart phone, and I'm not a gear queer... i just want to use them to get work done & be productive. I'm a Windows user on my NB & PC.

16. Jerry unregistered

CDMA Pearl for Verizon: After 2.5 wks, I feel that this phone has robust features coupled with serious flaws. If you are not a previous BB user, navigating through the menus is not intuitive. Suretype is a bit cumbersome, but you can setup shortcuts that really help you along. For example, I have setup "u" to correct to "you", "w" to spell out "with", etc... My biggest beef is the lack of memory and what happens when you run out. The Pearl literally starts randomly deleting your call logs and messages to free up space! Can you imagine telling a business counterpart that you will call them back in 2 min only to find out their number was erased from your logs! Ask me how I know. *L* Keep in mind that inserting a flash card does NOT help this issue. I have no media, pics, or music on my phone whatsoever. The cure? Believe it or not, you just need to reset your phone from time to time by pulling the battery which will take you a minimum of 4.5 min to bring the phone back up again. All in all, I give the Pearl for Verizon a 3.5 out of 5. We should all do ourselves a favor and buy the iPhone.
Pearl 8130
  • Display 240 x 260 pixels
  • Camera 2 MP
  • Battery 900 mAh(3.66h talk time)

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