- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Pearl, a $400 list price cell phone/personal digital assistant, is smaller than older BlackBerry models, smaller than Palm Inc.’s PDA/phones. An intensive bit of work with the device convinces me I might be lost without it.

Diminutive aptly describes the Pearl, which is about the size of a business card case and has the feel of a TV remote, though smaller than most of those.

You get full sound from the device. It holds a lot, both on the subscriber identity module card provided by your wireless carrier, either Cingular/AT&T; Wireless or T-Mobile, and on a microSD memory card, which can run as high as 2 GB. A 1 GB card was installed in my test unit, giving it storage 100 times that of my first 10 MB hard drive computer.

Voice quality is excellent, and the phone is Bluetooth-capable, which lets you use wireless as well as standard wired headphones. The four-band GSM/GPRS cellular phone should allow for roaming in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

The e-mail and messaging features include one to link the Pearl to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server if your organization has that software installed. I was impressed — astonished, actually — to merely enter my e-mail address and password and then have the device set up an e-mail account; no other configuration was necessary.

It’s also nice to be able to read Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF files on the device, though PDF files can be tricky. Word documents are as clear as can be.

The 1.3-megapixel camera produces sharp, clear images that can be exported easily to a desktop computer or e-mailed. Finding the pictures once you’ve snapped them can be a challenge, though: Neither BlackBerry’s desktop software, available only for Windows computers, nor Corel’s PhotoAlbum 6 downloader could find the photos on the miniSD card.

It was only by going through the Windows file browser that I was able to find and download about 11 shots that I wanted to keep.

Web browsing is also hit-and-miss. Some sites, such as CNN or AccuWeather, come up nicely; others not so well. If you need a site and it doesn’t display properly, you might be stuck using this device.

The BlackBerry Pearl is a great device that I’d like to hang on to: It’s sleek, useful and feature-packed. Refinement in its desktop software is necessary, however, along with a tweak to the built-in Web browser.

Details are at www.blackberrypearl.com.

At $101 — and available online for less — the V-Moda Vibe headphones seem an extravagance, until you slip them on. Once in your ears, the headphones are comfortable and produce amazing sound fidelity. Bass sounds are rich and deep, and the overall experience rivals more expensive headphones such as the Bose QC3 on-the-ear model. If you have one of the new Red Apple IPods, there’s a Vibe model to match that color, too. The V-Moda folks pride themselves on designing and releasing stylish products for the fashion-conscious.

These V-Moda Vibe headphones sound better than they look, and they look very good. Once you sample these wonders, you’ll agree that top sound isn’t an extravagance, but a necessity. You can learn more at www.v-moda.com.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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