Review: Blackberry Pearl 8120 from T-Mobile

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Here we go again: another Blackberry product with UMA from T-Mobile. If you travel at all, you need UMA on T-Mobile. Straight up. Say what you want about your Samsung Ace with SIM card slot. That’s weak sauce compared to a phone that works at any hotspot worldwide.

The 8120 is an updated Pearl with improved keyboard and Hotspot@Home support. Hotspot@Home is a $10/month service that allows you to make unlimited national calls over a hotspot, which is presumably found in your home. However, because H@H works anywhere in the world, you’ve really got the ultimate roaming phone.
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I’m not a big fan of the Pearl. Once you get used to the predictive-text keyboard, you’ll be fine. However, I prefer the large keyboards found on other Blackberry products. However, if you’re looking for a fairly usable candy bar phone that doesn’t look like a bloated skatefish, you might be in the running for this model.

The 8120’s battery life is severely curtailed by Wi-Fi. Without Wi-Fi on, it lasted for about three days on one charge. With Wi-Fi on that plummeted to about 18 hours at best, with the battery bar falling slowly over time. RIM has improved Internet access on this model and it’s seamless and quite fast. Once you’re connected, you’re ready to make and take calls. You must, however, look for the little UMA logo in the corner to confirm that you are using the Wi-Fi network.

Compared to the older Pearl, this version is a bit peppier and looks great. The keys sort of “melt” around the trackball in a way the original Pearl tried to emulate and it’s slightly lighter. It also has a 2-megapixel camera and stereo Bluetooth.

While I have to recommend the curve over the 8120, this phone is still a good casual email phone and powerful roaming phone. It’s $149 after rebate and has enough tweaks to recommend it over the older version.