Panasonic announced three Android tablets at CES 2011, to the surprise of just about everyone. The 4-, 7- and 10-inch variants run version 2.2 of Google's mobile operating system. We also discovered that the company is planning to release a version of the 4-inch tablet with phone capability.

We weren't immediately sure why Panasonic decided to launch its own Android tablets, so we went to the company's CES stand to ask, and we're glad we did, because we see the point now, and we think you will too. The key is the new Viera Connect service, which replaces Panasonic's older Viera Cast feature.

On these tablets, you'll be able to access the same video-on-demand content as you can with the company's TVs and Blu-ray players. There's also a new market, where you can buy apps. In the US demos, we noticed Hulu and Netflix support, but we're hoping the UK version will have BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm support.

The best bit, for us, is how you can transfer what you're watching from the tablet onto the screen. All the content is stored in the cloud, so, when you find the clip you want on the tablet, you can flick it towards the top of the display, and the tablet will transfer it to your TV. This not only looks cool -- check out our video below -- but it's great for queueing up video while you watch something else.

All of the Panasonic apps support this 'send to TV' mode, and there seems to be a good selection of content available in the market. We noticed that virtually all the Panasonic apps were paid-for, rather than free. 

These early prototypes looked good to us. We think the 10-inch model is a little too large, but the 7-inch variant felt great, and it's about the right size for taking out and about with you. The 4-inch model is just like a phone really, and we don't think it's going to be much use until Panasonic actually releases a call-capable model.

It looks like 2011 is destined to be a second strong year for the tablet, but we never expected Panasonic to make one.
The Viera tablet comes in three sizes. This is the 10-inch model, displaying the Panasonic app store.
The Viera tablet is surprisingly light, but it's also quite chunky.
We liked how the tablet felt and, for home use, the 10-inch model is ideal. We'd probably still opt for the more portable 7-inch model, though.
There's a 4-inch version too, which Panasonic implied would get built-in phone capability at some point.
These are early prototypes, so we're not going to judge the build quality too harshly.
There's a camera built into this 4-inch model.
The tablets run Android 2.2. Android 3.0 Honeycomb wasn't mentioned, but we hope Panasonic will consider updating the tablets' OS, as they aren't due out until the second quarter of the year.
The Viera Connect service looks superb. It's a huge improvement over Viera Cast.

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