If this year's CES is any indication, 2010 will be the Year of the Tablet PC. Practically every major consumer tech company came out with something thin, touchable, and Twitter-friendly.

The evolution of the tablet PC is similar to that of the laptop, the netbook, and the smartphone: companies aren't so much selling us a better computer as they are selling us new ways to use computers. However, consumers want something more portable than a laptop, more powerful than a netbook, and more comfortable than a smartphone - and a new tablet PC could very well fill all of those needs, in many different ways.

People who love their e-readers but want something a little more versatile would likely love the Adam by Notion Ink, for example, while fans of touchscreen smartphones should pay close attention to Dell's concept Android tablet, which could offer similar internet functions with a much more comfortable user experience.

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. Most likely, none of these products will be able to replace your main PC - but one of them just might scratch an itch you didn't realize you had.

HP Multitouch Tablet

HP's as-yet-unnamed tablet was one of the stars of CES, considering that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer demoed it at the CES 2010 keynote.

HP multitouch tablet

Some tablet enthusiasts were disappointed because it wasn't the rumoured Microsoft ‘Courier' dual-screen tablet prototype that leaked in September 2009, and in Ballmer's brief demo we didn't see any game-changing features. At this point, though, HP's tablet seems poised to define the standard tablet PC experience. We do know that the HP tablet runs Windows 7, supports multitouch gestures, has an accelerometer to change the display's orientation automatically, and is due out in mid-2010 for under $500 (£310).

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.

Lenovo Ideapad U1

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.

Sony Dash

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.

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.

Notion Ink Adam Smartpad

The Android-based Adam, created by India-based startup Notion Ink, is a tablet PC that blurs the line between e-reader and full-fledged PC. First announced in December 2009, the Adam carries the nVidia Tegra chip, weighs 0.75kg, supports wireless internet via Wi-Fi and 3G, and can charge via USB.

Notion Ink Adam

Of particular note is the 10.1in Pixel Qi display, which could potentially stretch the Adam's battery life far beyond that of other tablet PCs, especially when combined with the power-efficient nVidia Tegra chip. No news yet on a shipping date, but the price is expected to be less than $400 (£250).

Archos 9 PCTablet

Despite appearing at Steve Ballmer's CES 2010 keynote, the Archos 9 PCTablet didn't get any love. That's probably because it actually debuted in mid-2009.

Unlike the rest of the tablets at CES, the Archos 9 PCTablet is more like a 9in, 1024-by-600-pixel touchscreen ultramobile PC that runs Windows 7 Starter Edition; it's powered by a 1.1GHz Intel Atom Z510 processor. The PCTablet also packs a 60GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM, offers networking via 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and 100-mbps ethernet, and has USB 2.0, microphone, and 3.5mm audio ports, as well as a 1.3-megapixel webcam.

Archos 9

The Archos 9 is available for £459 in the UK, but considering that it was first announced in June 2009, specs-wise it might struggle to keep up with all the new CES-announced tablets.

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.

Innovative Converged Devices Vega and Ultra Tablets

ICD announced a pair of Google Android 2.0 tablets, one of which - the Ultra - popped up at nVidia's and Verizon's CES booth.

According to ICD's Ultra product page, the Ultra tablet has a 7-inch touchscreen and is powered by a 1GHz nVidia Tegra T20 processor, which lets you watch smooth 1080p video; the device also includes 4GB of on-board storage space, as well as a MicroSD card slot for further expansion. The ICD Vega, the Ultra's bigger cousin, has a 15.6in, 1366-by-768-pixel touchscreen and a 32GB solid-state drive.

Both tablets give you a full spread of connectivity options, ranging from USB 2.0 and Bluetooth to 2G/3G data networks and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, though the demo at Verizon's booth reportedly had the unit using a Motorola 4G modem on a precommercial network. Other specs include a 1.3-megapixel webcam, an accelerometer, dual digital microphones, an FM radio, and an ambient-light sensor.

While the tablets look promising, our brief early look at the ICD Ultra suggests that they have a ways to go before they hit the market. No release date has been announced.

Freescale Semiconductors Tablet

Freescale made waves by announcing the $199 (£125) ‘smartbook' tablet early on in CES, but the company hasn't pulled the veil off quite yet. Equipped with a 1GHz ARM processor, some sort of on-board graphics hardware for HD video, and wireless connectivity via 802.11b/g/n or (optional) 3G modem, the device is intended to run general applications such as a web browser (with Flash support), social networking tools, and an office suite.

Freescale smartbook tablet

The tablet is expected to have a 7in 1024-by-600-pixel touchscreen, a 3-megapixel webcam, 4GB to 64GB of internal storage, and a MicroSD slot; it will also weigh less than a pound. So far, Freescale's design appears more conceptual than concrete - no manufacturers or vendors have been named as yet, though Freescale is aiming for a summer release.

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.

Pegatron Tablet

The other mysterious tablet from Steve Ballmer's CES keynote was a tablet by Pegatron, which was spun off from Asus in December 2009. Details are scarce, except that the device is significantly larger than the Archos 9 and HP tablets. According to Neowin, the unit has an 11.6in touchscreen display, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage, a webcam, and HDMI-out.

Dell 'Streak' Android Tablet Concept

Rumours of Dell's entry into the tablet market have been floating around for a while, starting with the Google Android-powered mobile internet device rumours from mid-2009 and continuing into December, when the unit picked up the Dell ‘Streak' moniker.

Though this device has finally surfaced as an unnamed concept product at CES 2010, we have few details aside from confirmation that it uses Google's Android OS and has a 5in touchscreen with a 5-megapixel camera on the back.

Apple 'iSlate' Tablet

Even though Apple never attends CES, speculation has been rife that Apple will launch a tablet for months. Rumours suggested Apple was planning to announce the product just after we went to press.