"It’s got a stupid name and it’s made by Tesco." When the two biggest criticisms about a £129 tablet are dismissible as just snobbishness then you know you’ve got something special on your hands. The Hudl 2 is undeniably that something.
Following in the footsteps of last year’s surprise hit Hudl (750,000 units sold), the Hudl 2 is £10 more expensive than its predecessor but offers a bigger, better screen, smoother design and a more powerful processor. Simply put it’s the best budget Android tablet available and perfect for both families and first-time users.
Like the first Hudl, the Hudl 2 has a soft plastic back that sits comfortably in the hand but that’s a bit of a demon for picking up smudges. There’s buttons round the edges for power and volume (which are a little too small to be easily found) as well as a Micro USB point for charging and loading media and a MicroSD slot for expanding the memory (left inexplicably without a cover).
The screen itself has been expanded to 8.3-inches and is now fully HD with a resolution of 1920 x 1200. It’s far from exceptional as far as displays go but it’s a hell of an improvement on the first Hudl (with a meagre 1400 x 900 resolution) and browsing the web and watching films is sharp and enjoyable. We would have liked it just a little brighter, however, and you’re not going to get much used out of it in direct sunlight – it’s an indoors pet.
The rest of technical specs are above what you’d expect for the price, with not-bad speakers positioned in rather ugly grilles on the back of the device (though this means they boom a little better when it’s place flat on its back) and solid 1.8 GHz processor running a relatively unencumbered Android KitKat 4.4.2. There’s only 16GB of storage however, which means this is never going to be a little media centre stuffed full of content - just a streaming device. All in all though, it’s a smooth performing little tablet. It can’t juggle more than a half dozen apps without some slow down, but in individual games it ticks along nicely.
However, the most surprising attraction of the Hudl 2 are the bundled apps – or, at least, one app: the ‘Get Started’ one. On the whole custom apps added to smartphones and tablets are garbage, but Tesco has done less-experienced technology users a favour here: Get Started offers comprehensive and clear tips on how to use the tablet for everything from shopping to gaming, as well as showing some basic security measures and ways to share the Hudl safely amongst family members.
Google’s Android has always been superior to Apple’s iOS in offering this sort of control, and with the Hudl 2’s cheap price and relatively durable build it’s a natural fit for parents looking to appease youngsters. The Hudl 2’s guide makes this whole process easier; showing users how to create multiple profiles and set limits on everything from online content to time allowed playing games. Obviously this is all sounding dull and fairly useless to anyone without children but it makes a real difference for parents – especially as similarly priced or similarly equipped tablets usually lack this sort of help.
Of course there’s still a lot of Tesco-sponsored rubbish on the Hudl 2, with a whole range of Blinkbox apps for streaming music and games (though these thankfully can be deleted) and a folder containing what are essentially hyperlinks to Tesco’s many services; from printing out photos to banking online. These will certainly annoy some people (especially the ‘Tesco Hub’ page with tips on spending Clubcard points and the like) but they shouldn’t a reason not to buy the device as they can all be hidden. And anyone wishing to get rid of that seemingly immovable 'T' in the top left corner of the homescreen can simply install Google's default launcher from the Play store.
There are some areas where the Hudl 2 is a bet of a letdown though: the five-megapixel rear camera is shoddy and the battery life doesn’t go much beyond six hours (sometimes dipping suddenly for no apparent reason). These things might a be a problem if the Hudl 2 is being used while travelling or outside they don’t really cut into the device’s broader appeal. It’s cheap, well built and a perfect tablet for the home, where it can be passed round for games, movies, Facebook, finding recipes and, yes, even doing the odd Tesco shop. We can’t begrudge them that I suppose.