Boldly undercutting Google and Amazon – is the Tesco tablet a thing of budget beauty?
Tesco’s bargain-tastic Hudl 7-inch tablet seems to be going great guns, selling 35,000 units in its first two days alone after release in the UK. It’s cheap – coming in at just £120 (or £60 if purchased with specific Tesco Clubcard vouchers) – but moderately specced with it.
Any low-priced tablet will have to take on the stiff competition of the Google Nexus 7, especially since that Asus-created £199 wonder has recently been relaunched with a gutsy Qualcomm Snapdragon S4Pro, running a quad-core 1.5GHz Krait.
The Hudl’s ARMv7 processor also boasts 1.5GHz quad core, but without the Snapdragon and enhanced OpenGL video outlay of the Nexus 7. So can it really compete? And at a full £80 cheaper, does it really have to?
Consulting our old friend Antutu Benchmarking, the Google Nexus 7 comes out with an average score of 20,38, with the Hudl scoring a comparatively respectable 19,040. The only area where the Hudl really falls down is in 3D graphics performance, so it’s a surprisingly robust piece of kit internally. The 3.1 megapixel back camera also isn’t the greatest, taking smudgy pictures under most light conditions.
Externally, the Hudl is something of an acquired taste. With the brightly-coloured, non-removable back surround (ours is a livid red) screaming ‘Fisher Price’s My First Tablet’, dumping a fleet of Hudls on your unsuspecting workforce could make you a source of derision.
On the other hand, the Hudl stormed through the ‘dropping a tablet four feet to the ground test’, which we actually invented specially for the Tesco device, so convinced were we by its potential in this department.
So it’s rugged as heck, but this comes at a cost. Apart from the Hudl looking a bit silly, it’s also rather too heavy at 370g next to the Nexus 7’s 290g. It becomes genuinely uncomfortable to wield in one hand after a short amount of time, and that’s never a great thing with a 7in tablet.
Still, the Hudl’s promised nine hours of battery for video playback more or less checked out, beating the Nexus 7 quite considerably when we got around five hours of equivalent watching out of ours.
Of course, there’s a real difference in screen clarity to contribute to that difference. The Nexus 7’s screen is now among the best in the business, weighing in at 1920×1200 pixels and 323ppi. The Hudl’s 1400×900, 242ppi is no slouch, but the difference is noticeable, and there’s also an odd brownish hue to the visuals, giving everything a slight feeling of a once-glorious family photograph that’s spent one too many years on a sunny window ledge.
And then, quite apart from the bright red, Hudl and Tesco-inscribed rugged back, there’s a large amount of Tesco bloatware pre-loaded on the device itself.
From links to Blinkbox, to Clubcard login tiles to a “Tesco groceries” widget on the default home screen, Tesco’s makes it pretty clear what it wants you to do with the Hudl. The challenge for an IT manager, of course, is to get rid of it all, and we managed to shift everything (which is all just app-based) off the device, all apart from the little “T” logo, which is permanently resident with Android 4.2.2’s three function buttons at the bottom of the device, and links to a hub of shopping-related activity.
Ignore that, though, and Hudl’s Android shell is one of the purest we’ve seen outside the Nexus series.
Apart from added branded boot logos and some curiously altered functionality sound effects, Google’s default system shines through brilliantly, keeping CPU and RAM free just to run apps, rather than elaborate menu animations.
All in all, the Hudl can’t be faulted in most areas. A steal for anyone with the requisite Clubcard points, and still a bargain for everyone else, it balances work and play with an elegance that belies its clown shoes appearance. It’s just up to you whether your team will forgive you for making them the ones commuting in with the day-glo red Tesco tablet.
A bit too heavy and a bit too daft-looking, the Hudl’s excellent value specs nonetheless make it a great choice for mass tablet introduction on a budget.