Tesco's Hudl tablet is, at the time of writing, considered quite cheap. Android tablet hardware has plummeted in price so quickly and to such an extent that it's possible to buy a fairly high-spec piece of kit like this for just £119, a cost that has owners of expensive, rival brand tabs scoffing with derision. It can't be a proper thing, can it? Not for that kind of price?
A 7-inch tablet running Android 4.2.2 with only a few minor Tesco customisations added to Google's code. It's powered by a decent quad-core chipset alongside 1GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage space, with a relatively high-resolution 1440 x 900, 16:9 aspect ratio display.
Every man, woman and child in the UK, who will be optimistically popping one in the trolley the next time they visit their nearest out-of-town ultra-megastore.
It's a bit like the original Nexus 7, only slightly chunkier. You get a flat front panel that's one piece of glass with no plastic bezel, which makes it look rather stylish -- although it does mean the odd finger or thumb might stray onto the touchable area and activate something by accident.
Tesco's clearly designed Hudl to be held in landscape orientation to ease your consumption of its streamed media, what with the USB connector at the bottom-centre and Micro-HDMI output along the top, plus the front-facing camera sits in the middle when the tablet's held sideways. It's definitely one for sideways holders. Volume, power and the 3.5mm headphone jack are clustered around the top-right corner.
The back has your basic camera sensor (3MP, no flash), two speakers, and a vaguely rubberised, grippy coating. It does say "Tesco" on it, but "Hudl" is the most noticeable bit of branding. Annoyingly, it's nice enough that you'll want to look after it, meaning you ought to add the cost of a case to your mental sums about whether it's worth the money or not.
For a £120 budget device, it flies. The quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM work well together, and it's only when you're really hammering it with the app updates, downloads, radio streaming and more simultaneously that you notice any lag or slowdown. And even then it's just the odd tiny freeze.
The keyboard's usable and responsive, the twin speakers are just about loud and bassy enough that they make film-watching possible, and as for power, there's plenty. We loaded it up with a few 1080p video rips and it managed them with ease, not struggling in the slightest with HD MP4s, AVIs and MKVs, even when skipping through them to get to the best bits.
The Home screens -- and Google's widget-ready lock screen -- all fly around happily with barely any lag or glitches, plus once you've deleted all the Tesco widgets you're left with what's basically a stock Android tablet experience on a nippy, albeit perhaps slightly heavier than it could be, device.
The general performance. It's usable across the board. There's enough power and RAM to make the web browser (Chrome) usable, the display is high-res and bright enough for video playback, gaming is decent as long as you're not doing anything too cutting-edge and 3D; it can do everything. It's the budget powerhouse we've been waiting for.
Well the camera's a bit rubbish, actually, but at least you do get two of them thanks to the secondary front-facing chat cam. Seeing as it's been proven that people who use tablets to take photographs of important life events are idiots, we won't mark it down for its extremely gloomy, no-focus, no-flash imaging output.
While we found the speakers to be loud enough for most tasks, playing a couple of downloaded TV episodes we stuck on the Hudl gave us really low volume output. It was unlistenably low, even set to maximum. We've seen a few people complaining that tablet's audio output isn't that great, so there might be an issue with some codecs. For streaming stuff, though, it's fine.
- Tesco's pre-loaded Hudl with loads of widgets, advertising its Blinkbox video and radio services, shopping tools, Clubcard stuff and more all over the Home screens at first, but it's kindly allowed them to be binned if you want. The only unremovable Tesco touch is the little T logo in the bottom-left of the display that pops up the maker's feature guides and app shortcuts.
- Of all the Tesco apps, the one we actually used was Blinkbox Music. Because it's free. It's more of a radio station based thing, though, so it's hard to repeatedly listen to individual tracks. Search for a specific song and it returns a radio station based around it, with the idea being you "heart" songs to build up a personalised recommendation engine. Still, it's quite good as a radio.
- Apart from the few Tesco apps, it's a lean install of Android on here. Hudl's code doesn't even come with Facebook or Twitter apps pre-loaded. It's nice to see an uncluttered app drawer arrive on a new device for once.
- Hudl's onboard memory is formatted as one huge chunk, so there's no limitation on how much can be used as an apps partition. There's about 12GB free to use as you wish when it arrives, plus a Micro-SD slot "for the win."
It's a surprisingly well-made thing (even the box is a luxurious and thick cardboard slider you'll want to treasure), with performance roughly on a par with last year's Nexus 7. There are plenty of cheaper unbranded Android tablets about, but Hudl's look, feel and smooth user experience are impressive enough to raise it above the unbranded £99 clunkers that clog the Android tablet market.
Hudl isn't a crap tablet to fob kids off with. It looks, feels and performs like a proper, grown-up one, that everyone could use as their main fun-gadget without feeling any sense of shame about it coming from Tesco and being cheap. It's the best budget Android tablet around, in fact.
Processor: Quad-core 1.5Ghz
Screen: 7-inch 1440 x 900
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB, Micro-SD
Camera: 3MP rear camera, 2MP front camera
OS: Android 4.2.2