Our Tesco Hudl 2 review takes a close look at this great value Full HD tablet packing some unique family-led features.
Last year, one of the best budget tablets came out of that most unlikely of sources, supermarket chain Tesco’s. The Tesco Hudl was an absolute bargain, offering an HD screen and decent performance for just over £100, and now the Hudl 2 is back to offering even more ridiculous value for money.
By boosting the specs and adding some well-thought-out family features, including in-depth parental controls, Tesco has ensured that the Hudl 2 is another bargain at just £129 (a tenner more than the original Hudl). But surely there must be a downside, right?
Tesco Hudl 2 design: Perky portable
Tesco has kept the fun family-oriented design for the Hudl 2, complete with the same colourful finish of the original tablet – there are eight different colours to choose from, most of them bright and joyous. Our personal favourite is ‘Perky Purple’, which we were lucky enough to bag as our review model.
The two tablets look quite similar at first glance, but the Hudl 2 has been stretched out compared with last year’s design, with a 8.3-inch screen replacing the original 7-incher. The overall build reminds us of Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, with some thick bezels at each side which makes it easy to clutch when watching movies or messing around with apps in landscape mode.
Despite growing in width, the new Hudl is a wee bit slimmer than the old tablet, although it’s still reasonably chunky. At 410g it’s a little lighter than the iPad Air and we had no problem using it one-handed for long periods, although younger kids might want to rest it on their laps to avoid arm cramp.
The velvety soft-touch rear is as strokeably wonderful as always and lends a quality finish to the Hudl 2, something which would have been lost with a hard plastic shell. Just bear in mind that scuff marks and greasy fingerprints show up rather easy, so it’ll look a bit of a sorry state after being passed around by younger users with their sticky paws.
That same material stretches around the edges of the tablet, where you’ll also find the power and volume controls, micro USB for charging, a micro SD memory card slot and the mini HDMI port for hooking up to TVs.
Tesco Hudl 2 features: Parental controls
Android 4.4 KitKat is the OS of choice, but Tesco has fiddled with it quite substantially to add in a few great family features. For a start, there’s a quick and handy starter’s guide to steer you through the main features, so even Android virgins can get up and running in no time.
To emphasise that the Hudl 2 is indeed a family tablet, Tesco gives you the ability to set up seven different profiles on the single device. That means you and your kids can have your own personal wallpapers and desktops, but parents also get control over their kids’ usage, which is a massively appealing prospect given how tablets are essentially windows into the world.
Setting up a new profile is ridiculously quick and easy, taking less than a minute and allowing you to upload a photo. The admin user can set a passcode for their own profile, to stop kiddiewinks from getting in and fiddling with the settings, then get busy setting all the rules and laying down the law.
Still, the timer tool is a handy and unique feature, supplemented by direct control over what apps and websites your kids can access. The website feature is particularly in-depth, allowing you to ban specific sites or else broad categories of website, such as gambling or – hilariously – religion.
Elsewhere, Tesco has added a couple of own-brand widgets, so you can quickly see how many clubcard points you have or check out what accessories you can shell out for. It’s a shame you can’t easily remove this desktop, which is essentially one massive ad, but it’s a small price to pay for the low actual cost.
Tesco Hudl 2 screen and media: Razor sharp
One of the obvious highlights of the Hudl 2 is that 8.3-inch Full HD screen, which packs a super-sharp 1920×1200 resolution. At this price point, the results are simply stunning. The closest competitor is again Google’s Nexus 7, which rocks a slightly smaller Full HD display for a few more quid.
Images aren’t just sharp, they also boast wonderfully natural colours and decent contrast. Viewing angles are also satisfyingly wide, great news if your kids want to crowd around to watch something, while on top brightness the screen can cut through the glare from sunlight or overhead lighting.
However, while the screen is something worth shouting over, the same can’t be said for those dual speakers sat on the rear of the Hudl 2. They put out a decent power, certainly enough oomph for two or three people to enjoy a movie without the need for earphones, although the fact that they’re facing away from your ears means the audio is a little muffled and it’s all too easy to smother them with your palms by accident.
If you want to carry around a massive media collection, the micro SD slot is a necessary addition to the meagre 16GB of built-in storage, and something we’d expect from a modern tablet. Something we don’t see too often, however, is the mini HDMI port. This lets you hook the tablet up to your home TV, so you can stream your movies and other bits to the big screen to keep the whole family entertained. It’s a very welcome addition from Tesco and deserves to be lauded (although you’ll need to provide your own cable).
Tesco Hudl 2 performance and battery life: Powered by Intel
A 1.3GHz Intel Atom quad-core processor powers the Hudl 2, three times faster apparently than the first Hudl tablet, although we noticed a bit of lag on occasion when opening apps or simply waking the tablet from hibernation. However, considering the budget charms of the Hudl, overall performance is decent. We downloaded a number of recent games, including BombSquad and Beach Buggy Blitz, and these ran with satisfyingly smooth frame rates.
Battery life isn’t too spectacular, although it’s by no means bad either; merely average. You can expect just under five hours of video streaming with the screen on top brightness, or more or less a full day’s use when you restrict yourself to lighter tasks such as browsing the web. Of course, the likes of Apple’s iPad Mini with Retina Display are still champions by a clear margin in this area (although also twice as expensive).
Tesco Hudl 2 camera: If you really must
A 5-megapixel rear camera provides no real upgrade over last year’s 3.2-megapixel effort, proving to be an only-if-you-absolutely-have-to snapper, and to be honest we’d expect nothing else. Photos often take with a lag of a second or two after tapping the Hudl 2’s on-screen shutter button and occasionally look a little hazy when viewed back, even on that super-sharp screen.
Anything but perfect lighting conditions will cause problems with exposure, with no HDR mode to correct sharp contrast. And if your subject’s moving, expect them to come out as a blur. That said, the addition of manual focus (just tap the screen) means decent close-up shots are possible, especially with a static subject.
You get a handful of extra features, including a 360-degree panorama mode and a ‘soft focus’ mode which blurs the background, but we’d definitely only use the Hudl 2 as a camera if we had absolutely no alternatives. Which, in the days of smartphones, is unlikely.
A 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera can be used to chat online via apps such as Skype, and kids will no doubt enjoy taking selfies every hour of the day. It’s perfectly up to the task, although you’ll have to clutch the tablet in portrait mode during video calls or you’ll look like you’re gazing off-screen, thanks to the far left lens position.
Tesco Hudl 2: verdict
While the Hudl 2 isn’t a perfect tablet, its few flaws can easily be overlooked thanks to the incredible value for money on offer. With its built-in parental controls, glorious Full HD screen and thoughtful extras (such as that HDMI port), the Hudl 2 is one of the best budget tablets you can nab right now, and easily the best family tablet around.