Review: BlackBerry 9105 (part 1)

Something pretty is coming.

RIM and Hardware Magazine (HWM) Indonesia have kindly let me to lay hands on this BlackBerry 9105 (referred as Pearl 3G from now on) on a free trial during March 2011. All opinions presented in this review are expressed solely based on my personal xprinces, points of view and judgement as a user, and do not represent either RIM’s or HWM’s ones. 

Ready, set go. Oops, don’t forget to click images for full-size view!

Retail package

 This box of the retail package right before unboxing. Following the eco-savvy industrial trends nowadays, RIM ships Pearl 3G in rather smallish box (the highly popular 8250 aka Gemini has got bigger box, mind you). As you might have heard somewhere else, small packaging is meant to reduce the environmental effects of transportation, preserve the use of paper and allow the manufacturer to send more phones with each shipment. A right move to RIM.

The retail package contains every single thing you will need to live with the Pearl 3G. You’ll get a handset unit (all trial users got Red Gradient units!), a cable data with microUSB connection, a piece of stereo headset, a user tools CD, a charger, and a quick guide with SAR information. A 2GB microSD is inserted into your phone already, preloaded with driver that prompts when you connect your phone to computer for the very first time. What’s missing here is a carrying pouch–I will discuss about this in details later, in design review part. Please keep in mind that your retail package might be different from what I’m showing you here, depending on your regions and network operators (if you purchase it from them).

Design

Pearl 3G is crafted in 108 x 50 x 13.3 mm body and it weighs 93g only. This makes Pearl 3G one of the most compact smartphones on the market. 93g is, you know, surprisingly lightweight. Pearl 3G also fits my hand perfectly and it feels nice there. I was impressed by the dimension.

The front face is made of glossy plastics with piano finish. It doesn’t look cheap at all. The red-to-black gradation paintjob worths a praise, I really like it! Pearl 3G is certainly a looker. My office mates were impressed by the looks as well.

On the front face, from top to bottom, you’ll find earpiece, status LED, screen (discussed later), trackpad with 4 control keys, 14 input keys and a tiny microphone. The trackpad works well, the sensitivity can be adjusted in the Options menu. It’s a bit sunk down and I needed some time to be friendly with it. Call, menu, back and end call key are raised higher than the trackpad. They offer a very good tactile feedback. Status LED serves as indicatorof network coverage and some events (missed calls, new BBM messages, etc). Earpiece and microphone work well, no complain here.The build quality is good. No creak whatsoever so far.

Okay, that are the good things. Now, the downside is the finishing. Piano finish makes Pearl 3G (really) prone to fingerprint. Based on my personal experience, fingerprint was visibly scattered on the surface and that had me to spend time to clean it up with smooth cloth. A quality pouch is welcomed, unfortunately RIM does not include it in the retail package. Every beauty has a price, and this is the price of Pearl 3G’s look.

 
 No QWERTY keyboard this time, but don’t worry…
Pearl line up has been famous for the half-QWERTY keyboard and SureType combo for years. RIM shipped Pearl 3G in two version, the half-QWERTY packing 9100 and the 9105 with conventional alphanumerics. This is 9105.
There are 15 input keys to serve you–all in piano finish. They consist of 10 alphanumeric keys, enter, back space, symbol and upper/lower case shift key. The tactile feedback is good. Each key isn’t too big nor small and well-spaced one to another. There is no distinct separator between keys in the same row (sans the 0 key) but don’t worry, misspressing is seldom happened though. The back space and symbol key are close enough.
Pearl 3G supports 2 input methods: SureType and multitap. SureType is pretty similar to T9, you don’t need to type every single character right but the dictionary will help you choosing the words you mean to type. For example, you can say “I love you” by typing “4056830968”. It works well and you can type anything quick! Multitap is an input method we usually find on traditional alphanumeric phones. You can switch both methods anytime. From my personal experience, chatting with SureType is fun when both your friend and you very well versed in English.
The trackpad serves as main navigation control. The size is rather smallish, yet the functionality is decent. It responds soft touches very well and even more you can adjust the sensitivity as you see fit. The only complain I’ve got is the placement. It’s a bit sunk down relative to the surrounding keys. I took time to accustom myself to this condition.

 The keys are designed very well. They are raised to provide comfort in typing. The wave pattern adds some aesthetics to the device. Red-to-black gradation paintjob is, once again I tell you, certainly a fresh air to the design. The back space and symbol key are close each other. You may make typing mistakes in some occasions, especially when you’re granted with big-sized thumb. Next: let’s go around.

The right side is home to volume keys and right convenience key. By default, pressing right convenience key launches the camera. All keys are made of rubber. The design itself is signature to RIM–you’ll find this kind of keys on some other BlackBerry devices (9700, 8520, etc). Tactile feedback is good. There is chrome frame that outlines the device. Again, RIM’s design signature.
On another side, there are 3.5mm port, microUSB port and another convenience key. This key launches voice dial by default, but you can change this in the Options menu. Both ports are “naked”. I’m afraid they collect dust with the time. Protecting cover should be considered by RIM designers next time.
There are microphone and loudspeaker on the bottom. The loudspeaker is decent, the volume is not too high nor too low. It gets a little bit cracked on highest volume but this won’t be a big deal. Medium volume is okay for notification ringtones.
There are three dedicated music keys atop of Pearl 3G (play/pause, previous, forward). The play/pause also serves as mute and lock/unlock key. They all look hidden but are comfortable to use. Music keys come useful when you play music quite often. The placement is just right and proper.

There are some stuffs you see on the back; camera lens, LED flash and battery cover. The back part is accentuated with chrome lining, and the battery cover is made of good, alumuniumlike plastics. There is a small groove on the bottom to remove the cover. Pearl 3G sports 3.2MP autofocus camera. There is no cover to protect the lens from scratches of daily use, though. Camera quality will be discussed later.

Pearl 3G comes with 2.25″ screen on the resolution of 360 x 400 pixels. The density is high, i.e. 239dpi. The unit itself is TFT, supporting 262K colors. All these combination makes Pearl 3G’s screen one of the best to please your eyes. Both brightness and contrast are okay. Colors look vivid. Single pixel is barely spotted by naked eyes. And viewing angle is good.

With the pearl 3G, viewing pictures is a joy. One hell of a beautiful screen.  Big love!

The goodness doesn’t stop there. Sunlight legibility is fairly good. Pearl 3G’s screen manages to keep decent readability under direct sunlight. You’ll not meet any fuss with proper brightness setting.

I’ve got chance to borrow some phones from my workmates and compare them to Pearl 3G, side by side. Here you can judge how compact the BlackBerry is. Left picture: (L-R ) Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8, Nokia E72, Google Nexus S, Samsung C6625, BlackBerry Pearl 3G. Right picture: (top, L-R) BlackBerry 8520, 9780, 9105, 9000, (bottom) 9520.

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3 thoughts on “Review: BlackBerry 9105 (part 1)

  1. hehe.. nice review, kebetulan sama persis ama gadget yang gw punya 😀 lumayan kuat ko klo OSnya diupgrade jadi OS v.6.0.0.344 (leaked), tapi jadinya sedikit bermasalah di symbol (ga keluar smua karena keterbatasan layar).@ariefakbar

  2. thanks, Arief. make Pearl 3G juga? wow, padahal gw pikir nih blkbri jarang bangeeeet yg make. yang ini gak gw update ke OS 6 soalnya barang pinjeman, akhir maret dibalikin LOL

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