You could say that the majority of people looking to buy a tablet want an iPad, but at the same time the majority of people can't justify spending £399 or more on one. The next step taken is to find out what is the best tablet they can afford. At £119 the, Tesco Hudl is high up on the list of affordable tablets, but is it any good? Here we review the Tesco Hudl to let you know whether it's a good budget tablet, or just a cheap Android tablet. There is a difference.
Tesco Hudl review: Hudl 2 now on sale
Before you head on into our review of the Tesco Hudl, we want to point out that the Hudl 2 is now launched and on sale. It comes with an 8.3in screen, Intel processor, new design and new software. It comes in at £129 which is still very cheap but its arrival has prompted a price cut for the original Hudl.
Tesco has knocked it down to just £79 while stocks last so it's well worth a look. Make sure you read our Tesco Hudl 2 review and Tesco Hudl vs Hudl 2 comparison review before making a decision on which to buy.
Below is our original Hudl review.
Tesco Hudl review: What is the Hudl?
The most important things you need to know about the Tesco Hudl are that it's a 7-inch Android tablet that comes with 16GB of internal storage - complete with an expandable microSD slot. It also has a sharp screen and an acceptable processor which delivers good performance. The overall look and feel of the device is impressive for the price, and it is built to withstand the harsher realities of family life. But to some eyes the Hudl may look a little like it is designed by Toys R Us, especially if one of the more colourful rear-cases is chosen. Read also: Tesco to launch 'enhanced' Hudl 2 in 2014.
The Hudl comes with all the normal Android physical buttons – including power button and volume up/down. It also has Micro-USB charging ports, with the added bonus of there also being an HDMI-out port on board. There are low-megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras on board, as well as two speakers locating in the Hudl's back cover. To be brutally honest the sound quality from these speakers is about as tinny as the cameras' pictures are grainy. But you're not buying this device to take stunning landscape pictures or to blast out your favorite tunes, you're much more likely to take the quick photo of your pet sleeping in a funny position and plug in your headphones and/or stream Spotify on your commute to work; and for that this tablet is more well equipped.
The Tesco Hudl does not come with cellular connectivity, but there is good 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi available as well as Bluetooth and GPS. All in all he device feels pretty solid in hand, but cannot really be described as lightweight.
Tesco Hudl review: Interface and software
Right, let's talk about the elephant in the room. This is a budget Android made by Tesco, so the question you should be asking is how much has Tesco butchered the Android Jelly Bean OS with its own bloatware, to justify selling a tablet with reasonable specs for such a low price. Thankfully the answer to this question is that Tesco has forced minimal software on to the device. It is pretty much a vanilla version of Android on the Hudl tablet apart from five presinstalled apps and a small T button located in the bottom left of the screen, which takes you to a Tesco app with links to all of its online services.
The preinstalled apps blend into the background and aren't really noticeable unless you go looking for them. The apps preinstalled are blinkbox movies, blinkbox music, Clubcard TV, Tesco Groceries and a Tesco store locator app.
blinkbox movies and music
blinkbox is a media streaming service brought to you by – you guessed it – Tesco. The best way to think of it is as a Tesco Value Spotify and LoveFilm service, the difference is that where the other services charge you a monthly subscription fee blinkbox is a pay-as-you go service. To find out more about this service, read our blinkbox for Android and iPhone review.
Tesco also preloads the Hudl with Clubcard TV, which in our opinion is pretty good for the average consumer as it lets you watch a reasonable amount of content for free. At the time of this review the current highlight is Shawshank Redemption – which isn't exactly the most up to date film, but isn't a bad deal considering it's offered for free. To access Clubcard TV you simply need to register for the service with your email and Clubcard number and you're good to go.
The app is a little niggly though as we had to have several attempts to get the content to play, which forced us to watch the 60 seconds worth of adverts over and over again. Once the film did start, streaming was smooth, and while the picture quality wasn't the best, it wasn't terrible either. To go with all of this there is also a micro-HDMI port to get those films and TV shows onto your TV. Importantly there is full access to Google Play Store which means the Hudl has one up on the Amazon Kindle Fire range of budget tablets.
The final two apps with which the Hudl comes preinstalled are Tesco Groceries and Store Locator. Both of these are pretty slick and easy-to-use apps.
The Groceries App lets you sign in with your Tesco online shopping / Clubcard account and place orders for home delivery, as well as providing you with cooking recipes, complete with links to buy all of the ingredients. Whereas the Tesco Store Locator app uses your Wi-Fi connection and GPS location to tell you where your local Tesco Grocery Store and/or petrol station is.
Other than these apps and a few removable Tesco widgets, the Hudl is actually running a pretty clean version of Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and for that it's a pretty sweet deal. Especially when you consider what Amazon has done with the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (2013) and its heavily customised Amazon app store. It's worth pointing out that with Jelly Bean on-board on board the Hudl, users can create multiple accounts, meaning the Hudl will suit families who want to share the tablet. The Nexus 7 also offers this facility, plus restricted accounts since it runs version 4.3 of Android.
Tesco Hudl tablet: Design and build quality
The Hudl feels nice in the hand with its soft-touch plastic casing. You can pick from four colours: black, blue, red and purple and there's a range of accessories including cases and headphones. Realising that parents will want to give their kids a Hudl, there's also a red rubber child-safe cover for £15 and kids' headphones (£12) which limit volume.
The Hudl is a little chunkier and heavier than the latest Nexus 7 at 9.9 mm and 370g but doesn't feel unwieldy. It's also very well built for a cheap tablet with a solid and durable construction.
Tesco Hudl tablet: Hardware and performance
Despite the budget price, the Hudl has a decent specification. Much better than we expected, in fact. As well as dual-band Wi-fi and Bluetooth, there's also a built-in GPS receiver so you can use it as a satnav.
The 7in screen matches the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD but has been designed to be used in landscape mode. You can still use portrait if you wish. The resolution is good for a budget tablet at 1440x900 (higher than the Argos MyTablet and Kindle Fire HD) and viewing angles are good.
It isn't perfect, though. We found the screen occasionally unresponsive and it's also relatively dim, so you'll probably use it at maximum all the time, draining the battery (we'll get to battery life shortly).
To keep things simple there's only one model (you merely choose which colour you want). It has 16GB of storage and around 12GB is available to use. That's pretty good for the money but the best news is that there's a microSD card for adding up to 32GB more. Take that, Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.
The 1.5GHz quad-core A9 processor copes fairly well with most apps. Navigating around Android is nippy enough, although as we've said, it does suffer from occasional slowdown. Web browsing and gaming is reasonable, but it certainly can't compete with the new Nexus 7, although you'll have to spend at least £80 more to buy that tablet.
The Hudl scored 1583 in Geekbench 2 which is a little more than the original Nexus 7. It's only one frame per second off the Galaxy Note 8 (which is considerably more expensive) in GLBenchmark 2.5 - it managed 17fps. The new Nexus 7, however, managed 41fps, so is a much better choice for gaming.
In SunSpider 1.0, the Hudl scores a middling 1397ms, which explains why browsing the web isn't the fastest, slickest experience.
Cameras are under par with 3Mp at the rear and a 2Mp webcam. The results from both are low quality and the tablet has problems focusing. See below for a test photo and video.
Tesco Hudl tablet: Battery life
Tesco says that the Hudl can provide up to 9 hours of video playback, depending on various settings. At maximum brightness (for comfortable viewing), streaming a 30 minute BBC iPlayer TV show over Wi-Fi used just under 10 percent of the battery. So it will last around five hours in total if you only watch video.
General battery life will depend on how often you use the device. If you pick it up occasionally to check Facebook or Google who that actor is on TV you can't place then it will give you a few days' worth of use. The Hudl holds its charge very well when not in use. We'd like some kind of power management though, so that Wi-Fi could be automatically switched off with the screen.