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Can Sony save the UMPC?

Can Sony save the UMPC?

Throwing its hat into--or at least nearby--the UMPC ring, Sony has announced the VAIO UX180P Micro PC. Taking some of the most innovative elements of the T-Mobile Sidekick and the OQO Model 01, the VAIO UX180P features a a 4.5-inch (diagonal) wide-screen display, which slides up to reveal a QWERTY keypad. We got a sneak preview of this thing a few weeks ago, and our early impression was that it's friggin' cool. But this is Sony, after all, and the VAIO UX180P is also friggin' expensive.

Weighing 1.2 pounds, the little rapscallion has a 1,024x600 native resolution and is equipped with components that will make a Treo user quiver. You get a low-voltage Intel Core Solo U1400 processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 30GB hard drive, as well as a full version of Windows XP Professional. Networking connections include 802.11a/b/g wireless, Bluetooth, and Cingular EDGE WWAN. Remarkably, for such a small device, the UX180P makes room for two cameras--a 1.3 megapixel one that faces out from the back and a 0.3 megapixel one that faces out from the front for Webcamming--as well as a biometric fingerprint scanner, headphone and mic jacks, a USB port, and a Memory Stick slot. It's an impressive lineup of specs that you could expect to find on any number of late-model laptops. And then there's the price...$1,799.


Leaving price aside for the moment, the fact that it has a built-in keyboard is critical, and it gives the VAIO UX180P a better shot at success than other early UMPC designs, including Sony's own VAIO U50. We found the keys to be spaced apart a bit far, but we didn't spend enough time with the VAIO UX180P to get a chance to get used to them. The device has a touch screen, which you can manipulate with your finger or the included stylus, as well as a stick pointer.

We watched some movie clips on the VAIO UX180P, which looked great on its 3.5-inch display, and we surfed around the Web a bit using the stylus to navigate. Sony told us that these systems are getting about 3.5 hours of battery life, less if you're watching a movie or surfing wirelessly, and they'll run up to 4.5 hours if you're being extremely gentle.

Enough about us, though, and our impressions. What do you think? Does the price make the Sony VAIO UX180P DOA.? Or is it the future of the UMPC?