This review has been updated with the benefit of six months usage. In that time Tesco has changed their tablet and online services significantly and our Hudl 2 table has become the little one’s main go to. The review now reflects this.
If you are looking for a budget Android tablet in the UK one of the surprising names which will come up is Tesco. Tesco announced their Hudl tablet late summer 2013 and everyone was sceptical – it seemed likely that the tablet would be cheap but cheap android tablets have a tendency to be poor quality and frustrating to use. When the Hudl was released it was to general surprise that while it was economic it had a decent build quality and worked well.
In October 2014 Tesco announced its successor – the Hudl 2. This was an evolution of the Hudl and was even cheaper. It is now available for a base price of £99 that can be made much cheaper (around £50) with Clubcard boost offers or other Tesco vouchers. The tablet also has several covers and cases available specific for it and comes with a some vouchers for Tesco properties.
What do you get for your money? A surprising amount. The Hudl 2 is a solid 8 inch Android tablet with good internal specifications – a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a reasonable 5 megapixel camera. It runs a very lightly skinned and respectable 4.4 Kitkat, is Google approved so has access to the Play Store (unlike Kindle Tablets). For connectivity it has dual wifi antennas, GPS and Bluetooth. For storage there is only one choice – 16gb but it has a microSD card slot.
Size: 12.8 x 22.4 x .9 cm
Colour: Slate Black, Perky Purple, Dreamy White, Rocket Red
Processor: Intel Atom 1.83GHz quad core
Operating System: Android 4.4 KitKat
Display: 8.3 Inches 1920 x 1200 or 273ppi
Camera: Front 1.2MP, Rear 5MP
Connectivity: Micro USB 2.0, micro HDMI
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 & 5 GHz) capable – dual antenna
Storage: 16gb internally, MicroSD slot up to 32GB
NFC (Near Field Communication): No
Sensors: GPS, Accelerometer, gyroscope, light Sensor
Battery: 8 hours
The only obvious problem with the tablet may be the battery and power. Tesco quote a use life of 8 hours but I’ve not been able to find a technical specification in mAH as to how large it is. In my use I found that whilst the tablet might be able to go for 8 hours switched on it would not be able to do anything significant for that amount of time. For example a 90 minute wifi streamed video with nothing else running halved the battery – 98% to 51%. This may not be an issue for some people but it is best to be aware of. This has worsened somewhat over time and if I’m out an about with the tablet I’ve got into the habit of switching it all the way off until I need it.
In addition the charging port seems rather delicate and fussy. I’ve plugged the microUSB cable in several times and thought I had a good connection and found that it was charging and stopping several times a minute. That meant my battery ran out rather than charged and cannot have been good for the battery’s stability in the long term.
Features and Accessibility
Design & Visual Accessibility
At 8.3 inches with a wide aspect ratio the Hudl 2 looks wider than you would expect a tablet to be and is clearly designed to be used in landscape rather than portrait mode. This inclination is reinforced by the relatively wide bezel which is even wider to the left and right of the screen (in landscape mode). You would expect this wide bezel to be unsightly but in actual use it feels almost as if the sides are handles rather than wasted space. The front also has a microphone and camera on the left hand side.
Going around the sides of the Hudl one of the long sides (the natural base if held landscape) has a micro HDMI and microSD port. Unusually the microSD port has no cover which did lead me to worry about the card popping out although it has never done so. With the addition of a case this was no longer a problem but it is a potential issue otherwise. The left hand side has a microUSB port and the right a 3.5mm headphone jack. The top has the power button and a volume rocker.
The back of the Hudl 2 has rear facing stereo speakers at the top corners. I found in practice that unless I thought about it I covered them up when holding the tablet in a comfortable position. They produce a reasonable level of sound and are Dolby Stereo but with little bass.
The whole tablet is covered in a soft, grippy rubbery skin that makes it relatively nice to hold. It does not pick up fingerprints too badly either.
From a software perspective the tablet is reasonably vanilla to standard Google Android. Tesco have designed their own app launcher to promote the procucts they owned when they launched the Hudl2 but with the financial issues they have had they have ended up selling off the Blinkbox TV, Music and ebook arms of their company. The apps that were preinstalled for these products have autoupdated to their new owners. The launcher has a few other variations from the norm. If you swipe from the left instead of getting Google Now you get the Tesco equivalent. This includes information from all of Tesco’s properties such as your nearest store and the TV service. It also includes Clubcard information, vouchers and recipes. The Tesco launcher also includes an ability to set up restricted children’s accounts. This has no more functionality than the Google accounts that are included in KitKat, but does present the options much more clearly and easily for a new user.
If you are a regular Tesco customer the Tesco launcher might actually be a plus – I was able to get a couple of coupons and vouchers that I would probably have missed otherwise.
Audio & Accessibility
The tablet has one microphone on the front. This seems to work reasonably well and was usable for a Skype call but its not great – have the mic more than a foot or so away from you and the sound quality becomes very poor.
There are dual speakers on the back of the tablet and they are both stereo and Dolby. They go louder than you would expect with little distortion but have a small amount of bass. They are fine for watching TV on the tablet or game sound effects but not really sufficient to listen to music on.
The headphone socket is a headphone only one – not headphone and microphone headset.
The only other non-Android standard audio part of the tablet is the boot up. Tesco have added a couple of loud cheery sound effects seemingly to make it more friendly.
In short the Hudl 2 is as accessible as any other Android device from an audible point of view. Voice control is built in as is a screen reader but the hardware does not really distinguish itself in a positive or negative manner.
Input and Touch
The Hudl2 has two hardware buttons on the long top side – the power button and a rocker volume switch. Both have good actions although the power button needs a harder press than you would expect to activate it.
The touch screen usually feels very responsive and is multi-touch, supporting up to 10 points at once. The three Android control buttons (back, home and programs) are soft on screen buttons and change position (or vanish) depending on the orientation of the device.
The tablet supports Bluetooth and I was able to use it with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with no issues. It also supports an OTG cable which effectively allows the microUSB port to be used as a full size USB port. In addition with a hub this let me use wired keyboards, a mouse, USB flash drives and an Xbox 360 controller. As with OTG supporting devices the biggest problem is one of power – can the tablet put out enough power to use whatever is plugged into the OTG cable and how fast will it run down the battery in that case. I was able to get around this somewhat with a powered USB hub which did charge the Hudl as well as provide power for the accessories but it is not exactly a mobile solution.
The tablet was responsive at all times I used it with one repeated exception – waking from sleep. I’m not sure if it was the power button or a software with the launcher issue but the tablet regularly refused to wake with a single press. Holding for several seconds would often be enough to wake it but there were a couple of occasions where it had to be held for much longer and completely reboot. I changed to a different launcher and this did not recur.
As with most Android devices the Hudl 2 is fairly straightforward to customise your input. This could be anything from changing keyboards, gestures partial or near complete voice control.
Ease of Use
The Hudl 2 has had a small number of changes made to its software but is extremely similar in use to any other Android tablet. On first use you sign in to your wifi and Google account and set your localization like every other Android device. You are then prompted to set your Tesco account details. If you choose not to – or cannot remember them then you can skip that step. If you do skip that step then you are prompted daily in your notifications that it has not been signed in yet.
If you are a more advanced user the Hudl 2 is close enough to stock that it can be rooted without significant problems.
The Hudl 2 runs Android 4.4 which is not the most recent version of Android but is relatively modern. Its chances for an official update to Lollipop seem even lower than they did six months ago. The Hudl 1 was released with 4.2 and was never updated and Tesco are very non-committal about any updates to the Hudl 2 saying “ we’ve no information on this of yet but we are constantly updating the Hudl 2 so keep an eye out for this in the future”.
Manufacturer: Wisteron Corp (an arm of Acer) for Tesco
Price: £99 (or less with Boost)
Included In The Box
- Hudl 2 Tablet
- Quick start guide
- USB wall charger 5v 2A
For the last few years the Nexus 7 was the best economic small Android tablet. With its withdrawal there is no clear replacement. The Hudl 2 does not clearly replace it, but it makes a very good try. The Hudl 2 is well-built and snappy to run, has a nice screen and reasonable sound. It’s lightly skinned Android is inoffensive and actually adds features if you are a regular Tesco customer although its increasingly old verison of the OS will put some people off. The biggest problem with the tablet is its battery life which is just not what you would expect from a quality tablet.
With that caveat the Hudl 2 is an excellent budget tablet at its normal price of £99 and a steal at the potential £50 especially as a childs or spare tablet. Recommended.
The Hudl 2 was released in October 2014.