When you first think of a tablet, you wouldn’t think of Tesco, would you? The supermarket giant that’s more famed for its aisles of groceries than its tech prowess has been stocking phones, televisions, tablets and all sorts of gadgets for years - but now the company’s come out with its own low-priced, seven-inch slate to entice shoppers away from rivals like the iPad. We’ve got our hands on the brand new Hudl and put it through its paces, but is it Tesco’s Finest effort or should it end up in the bargain bin Value range? Find out in our review.
The Tesco tablet is surprisingly solidly made. Despite the low £119 price-tag, Tesco has managed to stuff its first effort with some top-notch hardware under the hood and still find budget for a pleasing design. First up is the high resolution screen which comes with a 1440 x 900 HD resolution that looks pin-sharp, with great viewing angles. While it doesn't compare with the stunnung 1920×1200, 323ppi display that Google’s latest Nexus 7 is packing, for the low price that Tesco has set, it certainly comes close. Software-wise, it’s a fairly bare bones installation of Android 4.2.2, with only has a few minor Tesco additions. The Hudl’s 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM keep things humming along, and it’s only when you’re really taxing it with updates, downloads and everything in-between that you’ll notice any slow down. It’s speedy for all your basic tasks, but it might buckle in some intense situations or the odd 3D game.
When you first get your hands on the Hudl, you’ll find that it’s made of a hard plastic that’s soft to touch and is quite grippy, but also pretty weighty and rigid. It comes in black, blue purple or red flavours, and you’ll also find a matching micro USB cable in the box, along with a mains charger that looks a lot better than any bargain bin chargers you might encounter on eBay. Ours came in the burning bright red hue, complete with a matching hard-case that’s available separately for £15, and it makes for an attractive and protective combination. On the back, you’ll find a pair of speakers for stereo sound, while you can also plug in your own headphones via the jack. Tesco rates its Hudl for nine hours of battery life, and we managed to squeeze out around the same amount in practice.
There’s no doubt the Tesco Hudl is going to be compared to the Nexus 7, thanks to their relatively low prices, but Tesco’s take actually has a few of its own tricks to bring to the table. Unlike the Nexus 7, the Hudl comes complete with a micro SD slot, letting you expand the onboard 16GB of storage with a 32GB microSD card, bumping it up to a maximum of 48GB, plus there’s also a micro-HDMI port too. That means you’ll be able to hook up your tablet to your telly and watch movies and videos stored on your tablet, or beam down clips from the likes of YouTube, Netflix or Tesco’s very own Blinkbox, which is pre-loaded on the Hudl.
Despite its rugged, weighty, hard plastic construction, we can’t help but feel it’s just too plasticy. It’s not the premium polycarbonate that you’d find on Nokia's finest Lumia devices, or with Apple’s iPhone 5c, instead, it’s a rather cheap feeling material that feels rough to touch after extended periods of time. We’re also not too fond of the landscape orientation that seems to be favoured by the Hudl, evidenced by the location of its buttons and cameras, and we found ourselves scrambling to find the on/off button at times. Speaking of the cameras, simply put, they’re atrocious. The front-camera will make do for Skype video chats, but the rear 3.2-megapixel snapper takes muddy photos and doesn’t fare any better when it comes to shooting video.
When you’re first greeted with the Hudl’s home screen, you’ll find that Tesco has pre-loaded it with widgets advertising its Blinkbox video and radio services, shopping tools, a Clubard widget and more, but you can get rid of them easily. It’s the unremovable Tesco T logo at the bottom left hand corner of the display that grates though: you can't get rid of it. Tapping it, no matter what app you’re in, and even by accident, will send you to the Tesco hub, which gives you quick access to many of the company’s guides, app shortcuts and even a store locator. Useful if you’re very tied into the Tesco ecosystem, not so much if you’re not - and the location the button is positioned in makes it suspiciously easy to hit by accident.
We also had a few problems with the Wi-Fi reception on the tablet, as we found it would constantly drop even when similar gizmos right next to it were picking up a strong signal. That has a knock on effect on the battery, as the Hudl would constantly be hunting around for a network to connect to, but once we brought it closer to our router, the slate beamed down data from the web happily. It might be worth noting the Hudl’s Wi-Fi range, especially if your house is pretty big, or your living room on another storey to your router.