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May
06

Cell Phone Smackdown: Pearl 8120 vs. Blackjack I vs. Blackjack II

For the last few weeks I’ve gotten deep and dirty into investigating which phone will earn the right to replace my current, aging Samsung Blackjack I and win the honor of sitting in my pocket or on my belt for the foreseeable future.

Here were the criteria for the choice:

  • Reasonable keyboard for doing real email
  • Small
  • Seamless Exchange integration (No, IMAP doesn’t count)
  • Loads of available third party apps (offline)
  • A display large enough to decipher most web pages
  • Fast data connectivity
  • GSM (sorry Verizon)
  • Great coverage (phone and data reception) in the Boston ‘burbs’ and as good as possible everywhere else
  • Quad Band
  • WiFi, while not required, would be really nice

The list of candidates quickly dwindled, leaving me with three: the RIM Blackberry Pearl 8120, the Samsung Blackjack II and my current Blackjack I.  The reason other Blackberry’s weren’t considered was because of a combination of size and available apps.  Neither factor was a killer, but the combination was.  There were also several phones that were on the bubble, including the iPhone, the Moto Q and the HTC Touch.

The iPhone fails because of weight (size), keyboard (the virtual, non-tactile keyboard doesn’t work for me) and lack of apps.  The Moto Q is a nice phone, but is larger than the Blackjacks while offering the same basic feature set and the HTC touch, while a very cool device, has the same virtual keyboard problem as the iPhone.

The Samsung Blackjacks are powered by Windows Mobile (WM6 in both cases).  The Pearl by it’s own, dedicated Blackberry OS (v4.3 in this case).

Let’s start with the Pearl.  I REALLY wanted this device to be the winner.  It’s small; the keyboard, with two letters per key, uses RIM’s SureType to almost always guess the correct word for you (very impressive) and is almost as good as having a full QWERTY keyboard; it has built-in WiFi; and it’s reception is much better than the Samsung devices.  All-in-all, a terrific package.

The trick behind Blackberry is that the server does a lot of the heavy lifting for the phone.  This leaves the phone nice and lean (and fast), but getting everything established without an IT department becomes problematic.  It took me three passes with AT&T to get it provisioned to use BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server).  They don’t usually have guys coming off the street who want to have this level of service.  It took me another three passes with my Exchange Server host to actually get BES enabled on my account and working with Exchange.  While neither of these problems is with the phone, it does impact the overall experience.

At the end of the day, in addition to these headaches, AT&T wanted to charge me more each month as did my Exchange host.  All this, when my current phone, the Blackjack I worked with Exchange without any muss or fuss right out of the box and for much less money. 

I was also baffled by the fact that the Blackberry couldn’t handle HTML email (there are third party solutions for this and the server will be updated to deal with this “soon”).  The Blackberry web browser was also lacking.  Combine that with a limited number of third-party apps, and the phone left me wanting . . . a lot.

So, I returned the device and picked up a Blackjack II.  The second generation of this phone is a bit larger and a bit faster than its predecessor, but doesn’t offer loads of new functionality.  It has built-in GPS (I’d rather have WiFi), a better camera (who cares?) and a few Windows Mobile tweaks.  It’s also supposed to have better battery life, but in my testing, it ate through its charge faster than the original.

So, I returned it too and ended up with my old phone which, for me, still represents the best overall phone/pda available on the market.  Open platform, small form factor, great Exchange integration, cheap and fast enough.  I am a real gadget fan and like to have the latest stuff.  The fact that I didn’t jump on the latest and greatest thing says something about either the state of the market or the strange set of requirements I have for a phone.

Here’s my summary of the three in my shoot-out:

Pros 

Pearl 8120 Blackjack I Blackjack 2

Small

Full QWERTY keyboard

Full QWERTY keyboard

SureType

Loads-o-apps available

Loads-o-apps available

Many apps available

Easy Exchange integration

Easy Exchange integration

Builtin WiFi

3G

3G

Great voice & data reception

Great soft-feel, fingerprint resistant finish

Improved voice reception

Fast

 

Built-in GPS

Long battery life

 

Faster

 

Cons 
 

Pearl 8120 Blackjack I Blackjack 2

No 3G

A bit slow

Bigger than Blackjack I

Not a full keyboard

Just OK reception

1+ Day Battery Life

No HTML Email (without 3rd party add-on)

One-day battery life

Fingerprint magnet – glossy surface

Poor browser

No standard headphone jack

No standard headphone jack

Requires additional server

 

 

Functional, but lousy looking fonts

 

 

Overall solution costs more

 

 

As I said, I would have loved to get the Pearl to work for me, but all the additional costs and a smaller number of third-party applications made me less interested in doing the heavy lifting.  The Blackjack II is just not enough of an upgrade to make it worthwhile.  So, in the end, I stayed with my trusty steed, the original Blackjack.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best balance of phone, PDA and size available.

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 May 6th, 2008  
 Will  
 Gadgets  
   
 22 Comments

22 Responses to Cell Phone Smackdown: Pearl 8120 vs. Blackjack I vs. Blackjack II

  1. Pingback: Cell Phone Smackdown: Pearl 8120 vs. Blackjack I vs. Blackjack II

  2. You didn’t try the T-Mobile Dash…meets your requirements, which are similar to mine…it comes out on top for me.

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  3. You didn’t try the T-Mobile Dash…meets your requirements, which are similar to mine…it comes out on top for me.

    I also prefer IntenseDebate.com comments!

  4. Hey Tom. you’re right, the Dash is great. I like the size, the way it feels in my hand and the keyboard. The only problem for me is T-Mobile reception around where I live and in many of the places I work. I would have definitely had it on my list otherwise.

  5. Hey Tom. you’re right, the Dash is great. I like the size, the way it feels in my hand and the keyboard. The only problem for me is T-Mobile reception around where I live and in many of the places I work. I would have definitely had it on my list otherwise.

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  16. I tested this camera for a client. I didn’t have the light running for more than 15 minutes. The battery lasted approximately 6 hours before recharging. The LCD, however, had a few dead pixels – never saw this before. Tried returning for exchange and had to put up quite a fight. Anyone else seen this? http://www.batterylaptoppower.com

  17. I tested this camera for a client. I didn’t have the light running for more than 15 minutes. The battery lasted approximately 6 hours before recharging. The LCD, however, had a few dead pixels – never saw this before. Tried returning for exchange and had to put up quite a fight. Anyone else seen this? http://www.batterylaptoppower.com

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  21. I love blackberiies all those buisness men in suites have them hehe. Im getting one in july my plan for my contract is up then and im swithching companies so i get a new phone with it hehehe. Im gonna get the bold though i cant wait it will be my fist phone other than an ericsson. Did ya see that china only sony ericsson bravia phone that records live telly to the sd car thingy. its great but i would never have gotten it becasue it looks like cr** http://mobilephoneblogaroo.wordpress.com/sony-ericsson-bravia-tv-mobile-phone does anyone have any other suggestions for a blackberry or do u think im right with the bold one

  22. I have a bit of a predicament right here. I want to get myself a new unlocked phone and can’t make up my mind on which phone to choose. First of all, i am considering the Nokia E71, which my friend has. It appears pretty durable, and it all seemed alright, but i started looking at others. Now my largest dilemma is to decide between the Nokia 5070 and the Samsung i900 Omnia. All advice is welcome.

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