Review: Vaio UX180P keyboard

Find out how the UX180P’s keyboard stacks up in this third installment of the feature-specific review series.

The consensus about the UX keyboard is that it’s handy for typing out short emails and URLs, but relatively useless for anything beyond that. It’s true that no one will type their thesis or the great American novel on it, but a micro PC (or anything designed for mobility) isn’t designed for such tasks anyway. Contrary to what naysayers seem to suggest, the goal of UMPCs and other handtops is not to obliterate the desktop and notebook market. Likewise, Sony does not intend to destroy the sales of full-size keyboards with the 64 mini keys (8.6mm pitch, 0.15mm stroke) built into the UX.

The most important feature of any keyboard is, of course, its function. I decided that the only way to find out how the UX really compared to other keyboards I use regularly was to take a typing test. So I headed over to and took their 3-minute "Fishing in Finland" test on keyboards that really were designed for writing the great American novel to determine my speed (expressed in words per minute, or wpm) and accuracy.


Sony Vaio GR390 results
Net speed: 86 wpm
Accuracy: 91%


Apple iBook results
Net speed: 83 wpm
Accuracy: 93%


Think Outside Bluetooth results
Net speed: 73 wpm
Accuracy: 88%


And then came the fun part: finding out how the UX180P measured up to its older and bigger siblings. The results? Not too impressive. I took the test every day this week to determine whether practice makes perfect. It doesn’t. Practice makes improvements, but definitely not perfection.

Net speed: 22 wpm
Accuracy: 77%

Net speed: 29 wpm
Accuracy: 92%

Net speed: 28 wpm
Accuracy: 91%

Net speed: 30 wpm
Accuracy: 94%

Net speed: 31 wpm
Accuracy: 96%

Although the keys are small, they don’t require pinpoint precision to work correctly. Adult thumbs are obviously much larger than a single key, but with practice, hitting a key adjacent to the intended one happens rarely. This is likely to do with the keyboard’s spacing.

During the first few days with my UX180P (who I finally named Violet, by the way), I was really disappointed by the unusability of the keyboard, which was partly responsible for helping me choose between the UX and other UMPCs. I could type so much faster, more accurately, and more comfortably on my PDA, a Palm Tungsten C (with no Java support, though, I couldn’t take the typing test). And look at how much smaller that keyboard is!


What the UX was sorely missing, I determined, was a "shift" key on the right side of the keyboard. How else could I capitalize any letter on the left side? There was simply no way I could hold down the "shift" key with my left thumb and then stretch my right thumb all the way over to the other side just to get an "A" instead of an "a." It was ridiculous.

I posted my woe at the wonderful Handtops forum and was quickly enlightened by a member who mentioned the ever-lovely StickyKeys. Turns out that the solution to my problem was already a built-in feature of Windows. Amazing!

There’s no question that the keyboard is well built, nicely protected by the UX screen, and very pleasing to the eye,


especially when compared to the ugly keyboard on the Tungsten C.


Looks aren’t everything, though, as the Tungsten’s "protrusions" are much easier to press. Since the UX keys are nearly flush against the unit, touch-typing is pretty impossible. Being forced to look at the keys really impacts speed, as you can see from my test results.

On the other hand, at least I can type in the dark!



I guess I won’t be writing these long posts on my UX, but according to this website, I’m only a few weeks away from meeting the basic minimum typing standard!

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Vaio UX180P keyboard

  • Great stuff Jenn!

    I wish you could do this also using an OQO.

    Same test subject and skills using different machines…

    I think over time, your UX typing skills will increase, but I also know that you’ll never be as fast on the UX thumboard as you will be on the full keyboards.

  • If you’re interested I purchased a nice 8 inch USB keyboard from Ergonomic Resources. The model is DS31/31-Black
    Super Mini USB Keyboard – Black

    Although not as good as a regular size keyboard it does provide some mobility. One feature described above is still present – a shift on the left side only.

  • Thanks for the info, Dave. It looks similar to the Samsung Q1 keyboard, which I think should work really well with the UX. It’ll probably take 4-6 weeks for me to get it since it’s via a manufacturer’s rebate (I just ordered a Q1P and haven’t even mailed the rebate yet).

    I actually only use the shift key on the left side of standard keyboards. The Sony mylo has the key ONLY on the right side and it’s really difficult to get used to.

    Thanks again :)

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