BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 review: Back in style

GSMArena team, 04 October 2010.
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Tags: BlackBerry

Unboxing BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105

The contents of the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 retail package are not too surprising. You get a microUSB data cable, a charger (with two different power plugs) and a one-piece headset. There's also a 2GB microSD memory card, a mini CD with software and the usual bunch of paperwork.

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The retail box and its contents

The only thing that’s missing in the Pearl 3G retail package is a carrying case.

BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 360-degree spin

The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 stands at 108 x 50 x 13.3 mm and weighs 93.6 grams. The Pearl lineup is the compact class. It’s a BlackBerry package for the size-conscious and the budget-minded. We usually praise RIM for the styling of their handsets but it feels special recognition is due here. Never before have Pearl phones felt so sexy.

Design and construction

It’s been a while since the last BlackBerry Pearl and what we have here is the perfect upgrade in terms of not only features but styling and feel too. It’s not like the Pearl 3G 9105 has extra special expensive finish. Quite the contrary in fact – but the phone looks and feels quite fit and fresh – simple but not without class.

The piano black gloss up front is a questionable choice but despite the inevitable fingerprint issues, the handset manages to impress. You might expect the phone to feel cheap, but you would be wrong.

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BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105

The Pearl 3G features another thing that runs in the BlackBerry family – the dark silver frame and stealthy top buttons. The hidden keys are handling music controls this time, instead of Lock and Mute.

The back has faux metal finish which is subtle enough – and quite practical. The sides have a soft rubbery feel – similar to the Curve 8520 – with few discrete controls.

The 256K-color screen runs 2.25" in diagonal and has the rare 360x400 pixel resolution. It looks like the perfect solution for the Pearl’s size and price. More importantly, it easily beats the display resolution of what seems to be the main competition – Nokia’s Eseries candybars.

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The display is good

No QWERTY keyboard, no BlackBerry. Who would think they’d cross that line. The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 is to be remembered – even if it’s for being the phone that said No to QWERTY keyboards. It must‘ve made sense though and seemed risk-free. Why not – as long as Blackberry purists are getting a proper phone in the shape of the Pearl 3G 9100.

Anyway, you can’t expect someone good at making QWERTY keyboards to screw up a nice and easy numpad. Bottom line, the alphanumeric keypad on the Pearl 3G 9105 is great. It’s peculiar a wave pattern where entire rows are sculpted for excellent touch orientation. Keys are well spaced out and clicky enough. It’s a fine keypad for quick typing and there are some rare perks too: Backspace and Enter keys.

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The keypad is a looker and really comfortable

A standard BlackBerry navigation pad is the dividing line between the display and the keypad. A small but finely responsive optical trackpad is the centerpiece, the menu and back keys and the two call buttons on its sides. The End key doubles as a power button. All the controls are perfectly usable – with good stroke and tactility. The trackpad is great and we guess it’ll be some time before the Berry trackballs, which we’re so fond of, are back in fashion.

On top of the display we find the earpiece and a status LED.

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The earpiece and the LED status light

The left side of the Pearl 3G 9105 incorporates the 3.5mm audio jack, one of the "convenience keys" and the microUSB port. There is no cover over either of the two apertures.

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3.5mm audio jack and microUSB port

By default the left convenience key activates voice commands but you can easily assign it a different task.

The same holds true for the other convenience key, which is located next to the volume rocker on the right-hand side of the 9105. It’s set to act as a camera key and is a two-step button – auto-focus and capture.

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The volume rocker and the right convenience key

There's nothing of interest at the bottom, the mouthpiece being the only notable presence there.

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The microphone pinhole

The top of the 9105 Pearl 3G is where it gets interesting - here you can find the hidden dedicated music keys. It seems RIM learned from their experience with the Curve 8520. This time, the music controls are a lot more comfortable to use. They are not separate buttons but a platform that can be pressed on the either side or in the middle.

The music keys have a fairly short stroke but getting a press accepted is easy enough, unlike on the Curve 8520. The middle play/pause key also serves Mute and Lock/Unlock in the relevant context (short press / long press). The star key on the keypad will lock the keypad too, but only the top button can do the Unlock trick.

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The music keys are quite comfortable

The back of the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 features nothing but the 3 megapixel camera lens and its LED flash companion. The lens is unprotected – not even recessed at all – so it seems quite easy to scratch.

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The 3 megapixel camera and the LED flash at the back

Removing the rear cover reveals the microSD card slot and the 1150 mAh Li-Ion battery. The microSD card is hot-swappable; never mind its location under the cover.

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The 1150 mAh battery is quite good

The Pearl 3G 9105 lasted the impressive five days on a single charge, though we must admit we weren’t too hard on it (about ten minutes of telephony and 40 minutes of using the other phone features a day).

The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 is neat, compact and handy. The new Pearl phones get a boost to performance and new, looks to match the new skill.

It’s an all plastic phone but feels quite sturdy and handles comfortably. Fingerprints are a pest and you’ll need to take the time to regularly clean your handset to allow it to look its best.

Other than that, there’s little to worry about on the outside. You get a sexy little push email machine, with a good high-res screen and a comfortable keypad. And you know, you can make it a hybrid QW-ER-TY keyboard. That would be the Pearl 3G 9100.

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The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 held in hand

Now join us on the next page to check out the software package of the Pearl 3G.

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