Tesco's first Hudl was the ideal second tablet. Affordable at £119 (and ridiculously cheap at £60 if you took advantage of a Tesco Clubcard offer) it held its own with far pricier Android tablets, without being too obnoxious when it came to pushing Tesco's own services. The Hudl 2 carries on in this tradition, managing to up the specs for only a minimal increase in price.
Still sporting a colourful, matte plastic back finish (blue, orange, black, red, turquoise, white, purple and pink shades are all on offer), it immediately feels great in the hand. Whereas the first Hudl had a sizeable bezel around its display, the Hudl 2's width is notably slimmer. And whereas the first Hudl had a 7-inch screen, its successor jumps up to 8.3-inches, and pushes the resolution from 1400 x 900 of the original up to 1920 x 1200. It's a vibrant and colourful display, and definitely an improvement in terms of crispness compared to the first device.
The screen seemed a little glossy, and quite a stickler for retaining fingerprint marks, but viewing angles seemed good enough for a couple's shared movie watching session. Stereo speakers, making use of Dolby processing technology, sit on the rear beneath some rather large sound grille holes, but it was hard to get a grasp of how good they sounded amid the hubbub of the launch event.
Running Android 4.4.2, Tesco services are littered across the device. Thankfully, they're tucked away quite politely so that you could ignore them entirely should you choose to do so. However, for the families that are likely the Hudl 2's core audience, Tesco's additions to the standard Android interface are actually rather worthwhile.
Alongside the usual camera, Chrome browser, gallery, Gmail, Play Store and YouTube icons on the homescreen sits an additional row of shortcuts. One is a folder of containing Tesco's core services (groceries, Clubcard and banking among others, either directing to the corresponding webpage or, where available, app).
There's also a Blinkbox folder on the homepage too that has shortcuts for the Blinkbox music, movies and book buying or renting services. A Tesco-curated "Top Apps" portal will suggest apps to download based on their popularity with other Hudl users too, and you've also full access to Google's own Play Store and default app suite.
But the most interesting of all additions is a "Child Safety" app that can be accessed from the homescreen. This fires up an incredibly simple interface that allows you to set up as many as seven profiles on the device, each with individual parental control levels. This can include accessible apps and websites, and also the option to set a time limit for a user before they're locked out of the device. It'll be perfect for parents that want to keep a close eye on what their children are doing with the tablet (and how long they can spend "researching" their homework projects) without having to be looming over their shoulders the whole time.
Finally, there's a "T" button in the top left corner which fires up a page dedicated to your Tesco profile and services. From here you can check at-a-glance widgets on your Clubcard points tally, next scheduled grocery delivery and other opportunities to manage the wide array of services that Tesco offers. If you invest heavily in Tesco's brand, you could practically manage your entire life from this screen.
Performance-wise the tablet seems solid enough. An Intel Atom 1.83GHz quad-core processor is running the show, up from the 1.5GHz quad-core offering from Rockchip in the last Hudl. While I didn't have an opportunity to put the Hudl 2 through its paces with advanced 3D gaming applications, there wasn't a stutter or hang when multi-tasking or swiping through Tesco's own overlay. Battery life is quoted at eight hours, with dual-band Wi-Fi supported -- it'll take some further testing to see how these two features hold up.
The one area that did seem immediately disappointing however was the camera. Just 5MP around the back and 1.2MP up front, the rear camera only produced grainy shots, even in conditions that shouldn't have caused it too many problems. Of course, a rear camera on a tablet is hardly going to be your first shooter of choice, but there's little here that's obviously improved over the first model.
At £129, the Hudl 2 is looking like a steal. That's before the possibility of picking one up at £65 with Clubcard points, or considering the freebies thrown in (including £25 Blinkbox credit and a number of money-off vouchers for Tesco shops). Is it good enough to be your primary tablet though? That's up for debate -- the specs for the price here are great, but this obviously isn't going to match an iPad Mini's premium feel, or the feature-set of a top Android slate like the Nvidia Shield. But it's looking solid, and is the rare sort of gadget that you know you could leave with the kids without them getting into too much trouble (or being too much of an investment for them to take the crayons to). Out on October 9th, keep an eye out for our full review shortly.