Review by Sunetra Chakravati,10/10/2014 5:01:34 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Great screen | Family friendly design | Unmodified Android software
White model picks up lots of dirt | Storage can only be increased by 32GB | Average cameras
Tesco surprised everyone when it announced the original Hudl a year ago. Here was a supermarket selling an Android tablet at a knock-down price; it was hugely successful, selling 750,000 units and proving that, if the hardware is good and the price is low, own-brand tablets can be worth considering over alternatives like the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire.
Now Tesco is back with the Hudl 2, an 8-inch Android tab to wage war on the battlefields of last-minute Christmas shopping with the Nexus 7 and a new fleet of Kindle Fires. Can Tesco put up a fight, or was the Hudl’s initial success merely a flash in the pan? We spent a week with the new model to find out.
Available in eight bright colours, the £129 Hudl 2 has a rubberised and slightly soft feel to its plastic shell. The texture gives off a unique, premium vibe which, although obviously a cheaper alternative to aluminium like an iPad mini, looks and feels much better than some of its low-end rivals. To quote Apple’s Jony Ive, it’s “unapologetically plastic” - and we love it for that.
Just 9mm thick and weighing 410g, the Hudl 2 is extremely comfortable to hold, even in one hand. At a time when glass and aluminium-shod tablets and smartphones provide as much grip as a ice rink, the Hudl 2’s body provides just the right amount of friction to make it feel safe in your hand. We suspect this is a deliberate move to make the Tesco tab child-friendly - and the finish should shrug off the occasional drop, too.
Our only criticism with the design is how quickly our white review sample picked up dirt. A week in our satchel was enough to turn the corners black, but thankfully a wipe with a damp cloth immediately fixed this; we suspect the other colours suffer much less from dirt pickup. All in all, the Hudl 2 feels practical and as if it could be used anywhere, at any time and by any member of the family.
Designed to be held in landscape for watching films on the 176:9 widescreen display, the Hudl 2’s dual speakers are located on the back and well away from where your hands naturally rest.
An 8-inch panel with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and pixel density of 273 per inch means image quality is fantastic. It’s not up there with the likes of the iPad mini with Retina display or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, but for a tablet costing a third of the price, the Hudl 2 is without fault.
When I first switched it on my colleagues thought the Hudl 2 had a stick on its screen, such is the sharpness and vibrancy of the colours it produces. Text is beautifully rounded and smooth, icons are pin-sharp and viewing angles - often the sign of a cheap tablet - are great.
The screen’s brightness can be cranked up high enough to deal with most reflections and glare - although, as with any tablet, outdoor use will depend on how sunny or overcast it is. The 16:9 aspect ratio is perfect for widescreen content like films, games and Netflix, but makes websites look very shallow; for browsing the web you’re best off switching to portrait, where a page fits neatly in the width of the display.
Tablets live or die on the strength of their screen - afterall, it’s your primary point of interaction - and in this case Tesco has played an absolutely blinder. At this price (just £129, remember) the Hudl 2 is a no-brainer.
The Hudl 2 runs a version of Android 4.4 KitKat which is almost completely unmodified from how Google intended it to be. The only change from stock is the addition of a home screen with widgets giving access to Tesco’s many online services. There’s also a folder of Tesco apps - essentially links to said services - on the home screen, plus an app called Child Safety, which lets parents limit how much their children use the tablet.
Each child can have their own profile which limits what they can access online.
Power comes - unusually for a value tablet - from an Intel Atom processor which is quad-core, clocked at 1.83GHz and comes with 2GB of RAM. This provides the Hudl 2 with more than enough grunt to run Android smoothly; apps open quickly and even Real Racing 3 - our current yardstick for tablet testing - boost quickly and plays without issue, just as it does on a £400 iPad.
Browsing the web is slick and snappy, apps respond as quickly as you’d expect them to, and because Tesco hasn’t tried to modify Android too much visual, everything runs with a breath of fresh air missing from some other tablets at this price range. Seriously, the Hudl 2’s performance cannot be faulted.
The only downside is storage space; 16GB internal is fine, but the microSD card slot can only accept cards up to 32GB, which is a shame given 128GB cards are now on the market.
Battery life is stated by Tesco to be eight hours and during testing we’d be inclined to agree. Of course it depends massively on what you use the Hudl 2 for - Real Racing 3 will kill it much quicker than occasional web browsing or Netflix - but a weekend of average use is a perfectly reasonable expectation.
The rear camera is 5-megapixel, while the front-facing selfie snapper is 1.2-megapixel. Both are fine, but fairly basic and produce photos which are often over-exposed and washed out. Don’t rely on the Hudl 2 to snap photos of your wedding, but for the occasional Snap Chat and Skype call they are fine.
If you’re looking for a great value, entry level tablet for less than £150, you should buy the Tesco Hudl 2. It really is as simple as that. The Google Nexus 7 is a great alternative, but it’s getting a bit old now and its successor will no doubt cost more than the Hudl 2.
At this price there is no other option; the Tesco tab blends great, family-friendly design with a fantastic Full HD screen, intuitive software, powerful components - and the supermarket has been subtle with its own product placements; all the Tesco services are there, but they’ve never forced upon you like they can be on Amazon’s Kindle Fire range.
Tesco has knocked it out of the park with the Hudl 2.