To see what the burgeoning tablet PC market might be able to offer you in the near future, read on for a comparison of the newly announced tablets from HP, Lenovo, and Sony, as well as a look at some of the almost-announced tablets on the horizon.
Lenovo Ideapad U1 Hybrid Notebook/Tablet
Lenovo's Ideapad U1 touchscreen laptop/tablet turned heads at CES - probably because it can take its own head off. The Ideapad U1 starts out as a 3.8-pound (1.7kg) laptop that runs Windows 7 on a Core 2 Duo CULV processor and a 128GB solid-state drive, but removing the 11.6in display lets you use it as a stand-alone Linux tablet PC, powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon ARM processor with 16GB of flash memory.
Once detached, the base of the PC becomes a 3G wireless hub for the tablet, ensuring that you keep your internet connection. Lenovo's Hybrid Switch software handles the move between the main processor and the tablet processor, so users should be able to start browsing a website in laptop mode and continue where they left off after they detach the tablet. Lenovo's Ideapad U1 hybrid PC is due out in June in the US for less than $1000 (£620).
Sony Dash Mobile Internet Device
While HP's unnamed tablet and Lenovo's Ideapad U1 are headed in a general-computing direction, Sony's Dash is taking a different tack. Sony is calling the Dash a "portable internet device", and the product takes more inspiration from the Chumby internet appliance - in fact, Sony collaborated with Chumby in developing the Dash - than it does from any previous tablet PC.
With a Dash, you can stream media from Sony's Bravia content networks or attached USB devices onto its 7in, 800-by-480-pixel touchscreen, and listen to it through the built-in speaker or the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. You can also access the internet over the Dash's Wi-Fi 802.11b/g connection using the included apps, or you can grab your own choices from among its library of over 1000 existing Chumby apps.
The unit has no built-in storage space - the Dash is meant only for accessing the internet. It supports multitasking, however, so you should be able to listen to Pandora while updating Facebook. It will be available for $200 (£125) in April.