So, the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Dell Streak 7. Both are dual-core 7-inch tablets that can now be had away for not very much money, with the 16GB PlayBook costing just £169 and the Streak 7 a very attractive £99.97.

But which of the two to buy? If you’ve found yourself in possession of a bit of pocket money left over from Christmas, which should you plump for?

Obviously the Dell Streak 7 has the more alluring price at nearly £70 less than the BlackBerry tab. Plus, it’s an Android device. This means you’ll immediately have access to a greater range of apps and games, out of the box at least. Jury’s out on whether or not it’ll get updated to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich; chances are slim given that Dell has discontinued support for its tablets.

We’ll go through the specs of each device and elaborate on some of the finer points before serving up our conclusion.

BlackBerry PlayBook 16GB - £169.00

OS: BlackBerry Tablet OS/QNX

Dimensions: 194 x 130 x 10 mm

Weight: 425 grams

Screen: 7-inches, 1024 x 600 (WSVGA)

Storage: 16GB

Processor: 1GHz, dual-core (Texas Instruments OMAP 4430)

RAM: 1GB

Connections: 3.5mm headphone jack, micro HDMI, microUSB, 3-pin proprietary connection

Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (2.1+ EDR) 3G access via BlackBerry Bridge

Battery life: 7-10 hours

Misc: Adobe Flash Player 10.1 and HTML 5 supported in browser, BlackBerry Bridge-compatible phone needed to check email.


Dell Streak 7 - £99.97

OS: Android 2.2 Froyo, upgrade to 3.2 Honeycomb available

Dimensions: 199.8 x 119.8 x 12.4 mm

Weight: 453.5 grams

Screen: 7-inches, 800 x 480 (WVGA)

Storage: 16GB, up to an extra 32GB with memory cards

Processor: 1GHz, dual-core (Nvidia Tegra 2)

RAM: 512MB

Connections: SD/MMC/SDHC card slot, 30-pin proprietary connection

Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (2.1+ EDR)

Battery life: 3-5 hours

Misc: Adobe Flash Player 10.1 supported, more connections available by purchasing additional dock for £50.

Pros and Cons

In our hands-on time we’ve had with both devices, it’s the PlayBook that offered an overall smoother performance. We especially found browsing the web on the PlayBook to be a joy. The viewing angles and resolution of the PlayBook’s screen simply beat that of the Streak 7’s hands down.

Both tablets feel pretty solid in the hand, though, if you twisted our arm, we’d say that the there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the PlayBook’s smooth matt surfaces. The Dell Streak 7 isn’t ugly but the PlayBook is clearly the better designed device, both outside and in.

In terms of actually getting things set up, we’d say that its the Streak 7 that’s the more approachable, if only for the fact that it’s not tied down to 3G tethering over BlackBerry Bridge.

Though both tablets can connect to Wi-Fi, fine for surfing from your sofa in the home, you’ll need to have a BlackBerry phone that can install the Bridge app if you want to do something as rudimentary as checking your email on the PlayBook.

Comparatively, you can tether a 3G connection to the Dell Streak 7 using any Android phone that’s 2.2 Froyo or higher and any iPhone rocking iOS 4.3 and above.

The Dell Streak 7 simply requires that you sign in with your Google Account (like on all Android devices) and after that, emails will start popping up in your Gmail inbox, thick and fast. There’s simply a greater range of apps and games that are immediately available to you on the Android Market as well. Powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip, you’ll be able to play some of the more advanced games from the Market.

Streak 7’s bought from PC World ship with Android 2.2 Froyo, but there’s already an update to 3.2 Honeycomb available. So you ought to be able to get this update - it should arrive over the air automatically - and enjoy the various benefits that Honeycomb brings. As an added bonus, Swype (pictured above) comes included with the update as well.


Summary

So in summary, we’d say that the PlayBook is the more nicely designed product and offers a smoother end user experience. However, as has been noted previously, you’ll need a BlackBerry phone that’s compatible with BlackBerry Bridge to get the most out of the PlayBook - i.e. check your emails.

If you just want a tablet to browse the web on from your living room and don’t mind spending a bit more cash, then we’d say go for the PlayBook. It’s the better tablet for surfing the web, largely owing to the more advanced display.

The price of the Dell Streak 7 makes it an immediately more attractive proposition, but overall the user experience just isn’t as polished. Performance-wise its fluid, but the 800 x 480 resolution means that for browsing the web, it can’t hold a candle to the PlayBook.

If you’ve already got an Android phone, and have purchased high-end games like Dungeon Defenders and Samurai II: Vengeance then the Streak 7 has appeal as a (now) cheap ‘n cheerful gaming device.