I've had my Pearl for 1.5 days. It is just to use until they swap it for an 8800 for me. If I were you, I would try typing on both the 8100 and 8800.
Suretype works really well, but I'm already quite used to it. What is bothering me is the keyboard. It's still very useable, but I find my thumbs wrestling more often than I'd like given that the keys, which are reasonably sized, are simply in a smaller, phone-sized space. I also find that my fingers/thumbs don't get enough traction on the keys.
I've tried the 8800 in-store for an hour or so. They keys are smaller, for sure, but after initially thinking it was awful (as I did in the first minutes with the 8100) I quickly got very comfortable with it. I found the ridged contour on each 8800 key really helped to hit the right key.
I have average-sized but not huge hands; I play classical guitar so my RH nails are longer and that's an extra challenge. On the 8100 I find I want to use both hands' nails to type correctly, whereas on the 8800 I adapted to typing with thumb-tips/pads (not nails) in that hour-or-so.
Hope this helps!
I'd be interested to hear how you find it once you've taken the plunge.