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.

PhoneArena's Video Review of RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130:

BlackBerry Pearl 8130 360 Degrees view:


The 8130 of course runs on the BlackBerry platform, using version 4.3. There are plenty of customization options, something we always are pleased with. The user can change everything from the background wallpaper to the font style and size to rearranging the main menu. At its base it is very similar to Palm OS in that users can create custom folders and file applications as they wish. However, its implementation is very different and for a new user it is overwhelming and takes some getting used to.

The default standby menu is simple, featuring five commonly used items along the left side.  They are Messages, Browser, Media, Options, Calendar and Applications.  The standby shortcuts can be customized by rearranging the top five applications in the main menu.  There are different themes will change the layout as well, for instance the user can have icons on both the left side of the screen as well as the bottom.  Choosing Applications or pressing the BlackBerry key brings you to what would be considered the full menu.  Other basic information such as time and date, signal strength and battery life is also displayed on the home screen.

The trackball is used for navigation. Initially it is set to a very high sensitivity and precise movements require more concentration then it should, but once we found the sensitivity setting it lowered it the user experience increased greatly. To user can press on the trackball to select an item. Though the ball rolls in all directions the user cannot move diagonally through the applications.

One thing that annoyed us to no end was the constant confirmation it required. Every time you do something it asks if you are sure you want to do it. For instance, simple things like turning the flash on take multiple key presses just because you have to confirm that you actually want to turn it on. This is found throughout the phone, and is even more frustrating than it sounds.


As expected from a smartphone the Address Book on the 8130 is full featured. Each entry can hold three email addresses, two work phone numbers, two home numbers, a mobile, pager, fax and “other” number as well as a space for a BlackBerry PIN number. There is a slot for both a home and work address, as well as dates for anniversary and birthdays. Contacts can be sorted by user definable categories, each entry can have a custom ringer and picture id, and there is a spot for a webpage and a notes section. Users can search for contacts by both first and last name, and as you start to type a number the Pearl matches it with the contact list. When an entry is highlighted from the main contacts view the user can hit the send button to initiate a call. If the entry has multiple numbers it will bring up a popup window where you can select which one you want to call.


The Calendar function of the Pearl 8130 is also very robust. It can be managed either on your phone or on your PC, and when paired to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) it can be remotely managed and synced over the air. Creating an appointment is straightforward, and options such as reminders and recurrence are present. Appointments can also be marked as private for added security.

Other basic PIM functions are available, such as Tasks and a Notepad. Tasks are pretty straight forward, but reminders can be set and they can also be grouped in categories. The Notepad is simply that, no bells and whistles. Users can also save voice memos as well. There is a basic calculator available also.

The voice dialing feature is handled by VoiceSignal, and as always the software is excellent.


The Pearl 8130, like BlackBerries before it, support a whole slew of messaging options. Standards like SMS and MMS are onboard, as is support for multiple email accounts and BlackBerry PIN messaging. PIN messaging is basically the same as SMS, except that it is sent securely over RIM’s servers and does not use an SMS gateway. Each BlackBerry, regardless of carrier, has its own unique PIN. You simply chose the PIN Message option, enter their PIN in the To field and send the message.

Email setup on the BlackBerry is about as perfect as it gets, we simply put in our email and password and that was it. Even with our uncommon work email we didn’t have to enter any server information. The push email arrived nearly instantaneously in our testing. With the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) the user can have up to 10 email addresses on one device.

The 8130, like SureType BlackBerries before it, utilizes predictive text for input. Similar to T9, you just hit the button once and it interprets what word you’re typing. Other options are displayed in a drop down menu as you type, so if you want a different word simply roll down and select it. While 95% of the time it predicted the word we wanted, when you have to input words not in the dictionary you have to roll down the menu for each letter, which can become cumbersome quickly. For password fields it reverts back to an abc mode, and you have to hit the button twice for the second letter on it. The prediction software worked well, but the keypad is too small for quick typing. We definitely prefer the full QWERTY of the 88xx series, or a true 12 key T9 keypad.

Connectivity and Data

Unlike the 8100, the 8130 includes 3G cellular data in the form or EVDO rev 0. Despite this web browsing and downloading was much slower than we would have expected. Simple, cell phone optimized pages from the VZW portal took a noticeably long time to load. Downloading Google Maps took over two minutes, something that normally is done in 20 seconds or so. Furthermore, after setting up our email the “Go To…” option did not show up in the context menu of the browser, and Home took us to the BIS home instead of the preloaded VZW home. We had to go to our history, pull up a non-BlackBerry page and then the Go To… option reappeared. It handles HTML pages better than most browsers (pages are optimized for the device, so there is no horizontal scrolling) but overall the browsing experience was lackluster. Editor’s note: we did not experience these issues with the Sprint 8130, only the Verizon version.

Bluetooth 2.0can be found, but it is limited to the HSP, HFP, A2DP and AVRCprofiles. Basically, you can only use it with a mono or stereo headset.As Sprint includes Phone as Modem with their BlackBerry data packagetheir 8130 variant may include other profiles, such as DUN.

TheBlackBerry desktop software is included with the 8130, and it is usedto manage calendar, tasks, contacts and email synchronization with yourdesktop. The user can sync data with ASCII importer/exporter, OutlookExpress, Outlook and Yahoo. Some users have reported issues withOutlook 2007 however.


This is where the Pearl line stands out from the rest of the BlackBerry family. Whereas pervious BlackBerries were strictly business devices, the original Pearl, and later the Curve, set out to be more multimedia friendly. For the first time a camera was included on a RIM device, and the Roxio-designed media player allows the user to play and manage music, videos, ringtones, pictures and voice notes.

The media player is good and simple to use, but not overly loaded with features. It supports folders, and will sort your music by Artist, Album and Genres. It also supports album art and playlists, which the user can create on the go, and the other options are Repeat and Shuffle.
Audio formats supported are MP3, AAC(+), WAV, and AMR, while the video formats are MPEG4 (H.263 profile 0, H.264 baseline) and WMV.

RIM has listed the following limitations for the supported videos:

Local playback:

• MPEG4/H.263 with AMR, EVRC, QCELP, AAC, AAC+, EAAC+: 30fps @ QVGA, 384kbps
• H.264 with EVRC, AAC, AAC+, EAAC+: 30fps @ 160x140, 384kbps
• WMV: 15 fps @ QVGA, 192kbps


• MPEG4/H.263 with AMR, EVRC, QCELP, AAC, AAC+, EAAC+: 15fps @ QVGA, 384kbps
• H.264 with EVRC, AAC, AAC+, EAAC+: 15fps @ 160x140, 384kbps
• WMV: 15 fps @ QCIF, 192kbps

The 2-megapixel camera performed very well. Pictures were crisp and color saturation was superb. They were just a little dark, but we really had to nitpick to find something wrong with it. Options are sparse, the only real adjustment is the white balance, but the results speak for themselves. Especially since the camera is almost an ancillary feature we were pleasantly surprised with its performance on the 8130.
Video performance was more pedestrian. It records at 240x176, and is more on-par with what you’d expect from a cell phone. Performance isn’t bad, it’s just not good. The only option is White Balance, and videos can only be recorded when using a memory card.


While it runs the BlackBerry OS, the Pearl 8130 does support Java applications. It has 64MB of onboard memory, and the microSD can handle up to 8GB of expansion. Third party applications can be installed, though not all are compatible. For instance, we were able to download and run Google Maps with no problems, but could not get Opera Mini to work.

BlackBerry Maps is included with the 8130, a program very similar to Google Maps. On the Verizon version the native GPS is locked, but it is not on the Sprint variant. While it does not offer voice prompts, it is a nice free GPS program and we are disappointed to see Verizon force their customers to pay for a service that should be free. We were of course able to purchase VZNavigator. The Sprint 8130 allows for free GPS that can be utilized by third party applications, and the Sprint Navigation program is included in the required data plan. The GPS of the Alltel variant also isn’t locked.


Users made note of how good we sounded when using the 8130. They said we were particularly clear, and beginning/ending words of the sentence did not get truncated as can sometimes happen. On our end they were loud and clear, as if they were on a landline, but we did have an issue with hearing our own echo at times.

Reception was on par with other phones, it didn’t stand out but we didn’t have any issues either. Battery life, on the other hand, was fantastic. Rated for 220 minutes, we were able to achieve 307 minutes, or over five hours of talk time. Standby time was equally good, it is rated for 9 days and we let it sit for days and the battery exhibited minimal drain.


We ended up with very mixed feelings about the Pearl 8130. The email setup and delivery is fantastic, and from a multimedia standpoint the Pearl is a standout. However, we couldn’t recommend it to users looking just for a strong multimedia phone due to the overall experience. The OS is plenty customizable, but still intimidating to a new user and even experienced users will find annoyances. Conversely, corporate users will like the power the BlackBerry OS but we don’t see them adapting well to the tiny and cumbersome SureType keypad. We feel the 8130 has a lot of stand out qualities, but in the end important features like OS, navigation and the keypad proved to be a dealbreaker to the respective target markets.


  • Great form-factor
  • Email support is second to none
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Excellent call quality
  • Stand-out camera performance
  • Customizable


  • SureType keypad too small
  • Trackball cumbersome to use
  • Not a device you can pick up and use
  • UI is bloated (out of the box there are 30 application icons on the main screen)

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