BlackBerry handhelds haven't quite acquired the iconic status of the iPod, but the design remains unmistakable. Lately, however, maker RIM (Research In Motion) has been making the devices sleeker and easier to carry.

The latest BlackBerry has seen its weight slashed to 89g (despite the processor speed being upped to 312MHz), and is now as light as any standard mobile handset. Add the polished black exterior and this is one device that's bound to catch the eye.

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Controversially, the Pearl dispenses with the traditional scrollwheel on the righthand side. Instead, you navigate using a small white orb – hence the Pearl's name. Using this, you can scroll up, down, left and right through the extensive menu of applications. To the immediate left of the orb is a BlackBerry button that acts as a shortcut to a customisable list of items you use most often.

As well as the usual suspects – browser, email, calendar, to-do list, contacts and other business functions – the Applications menu includes voice-activated dialling and voice notetaking and forwarding, as well as the Pocket MobiReader, with which you can view PDFs. BlackBerry also adds its own instant-messaging client, and Google Talk.

In a departure for RIM, the BlackBerry also has a 1.3Mp (megapixel) camera with a 3x zoom. Unfortunately it's pretty awful, except in bright conditions. And for the first time there's a well-hidden microSD removable memory card slot, so you can take and store photos, videos and more – video clip playback on the Pearl's 38x41mm (2.25in) screen is actually rather good.

What's great is the seamless way in which all of these functions fit together. We'd go so far as to say this is the best implementation of a smartphone and desirable mobile phone we've seen so far.

BlackBerry 8100 Pearl [PCA]: Specs

  • Quad-band mobile phone
  • 312MHz processor
  • 64MB RAM
  • 1.3Mp camera
  • 240x260 2.25in screen
  • push email
  • browser
  • voice dialling
  • contact management
  • Pocket MobiReader PDF viewer
  • instant-messaging client
  • WMA playback
  • microSD card slot
  • lithium-ion battery
  • charger
  • headphones
  • international socket adapters
  • 49x13x105mm
  • 89g
  • Quad-band mobile phone
  • 312MHz processor
  • 64MB RAM
  • 1.3Mp camera
  • 240x260 2.25in screen
  • push email
  • browser
  • voice dialling
  • contact management
  • Pocket MobiReader PDF viewer
  • instant-messaging client
  • WMA playback
  • microSD card slot
  • lithium-ion battery
  • charger
  • headphones
  • international socket adapters
  • 49x13x105mm
  • 89g

OUR VERDICT

This is undoubtedly the jewel of the BlackBerry range. The candy-bar design has come a long way since RIM’s original – a broader device that took up the width of your palm. This sleek black number can properly be called a phone rather than a PDA, with all the bulk such a term implies.

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