16 October 2014

Tesco Hudl 2 review

Key Features: 8.3-inch 1920 x 1,200 Full HD display; Dolby speakers; 1.83 GHz Intel quad-core processor; Android 4.4.2 KitKat; 5-megapixel main camera; 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera; 8 hour battery life; 16GB storage; micro SD card support
Manufacturer: Tesco

What is the Tesco Hudl 2?

The Tesco Hudl 2 is the successor to the supermarket giant’s first tablet the Hudl, a tablet that definitely took us by surprise. It offered value for money, decent overall performance and showed signs that the design team had really thought about how to make cheap Android tablets easy to use for the entire family.

Tesco Hudl 2 review

One year on and with 750,000 units of the original Hudl shifted, the second generation Hudl is £10 more expensive at £129 and that extra tenner gets you improvements everywhere you look. The screen is bigger and is Full HD, it’s now powered by Intel and has new child safety features to drive home that family-friendly experience.

Tesco Hudl 2 tips and tricks

Where the Hudl, which is now just £79 made compromises, the Hudl 2 doesn’t and whether you pay £129 or the £65 you can get it for if you have enough Clubcard points, this is one of the best budget tablets you can buy.

Tesco Hudl 2: Design

While the first Hudl was a small, stumpy 7-inch tablet, the Hudl 2 now has an 8.3-inch display giving it a more narrow frame, which is better suited to using the Tesco tablet in landscape mode.

Weighing 410g, it’s heavier than the first Hudl (370g) and it’s definitely noticeable when holding it in one hand in portrait mode. Smaller hands will definitely find it more manageable in two hands. It’s slightly thinner though at 9mm thick, which does somewhat make up for the extra bulk.

It’s still a comfortable tablet to get to grips with and that’s helped once again by the soft touch plastic back, that sits even more snug against your hands and extends to the trim around the edges of the tablet where the corners are gently curved.

Tesco is sticking to its colourful, child-friendly theme with the Hudl 2 available in eight different colours with names like Tropical Turquoise and Bubblegum Pink. We had the Slate Black model, which is obviously the most serious and dullest looking of the bunch but whether you want something that’s bold or more understated, you have plenty of options here and there are cases to go with it too.

Build quality on the Hudl 2 feels similar to the first Hudl. The rubbery plastic has a nice durable feel however it seems the iPhone 6 is not the only hardware with bending issues. The Hudl 2 has some serious flex even with the slightest of pressure applied. It doesn’t have that worrying feel that it’s going to permanently turn the tablet wonky though and feels like a measure to make it more robust and child-proof.

Looking around the tablet you’ll find the micro USB charging port on the bottom edge with the volume rocker and standby button situated high up on the right edge. Unlike the Nexus 7 (2014 Edition), you’ll find a micro SD card slot so when you use up the 16GB onboard storage (which is actually closer to 9GB of usable space) this can be bumped up to 48GB. An additional 8GB micro SD card can be bought for as little as £4 on Amazon, so it doesn’t cost a lot to make more room for content.

Alongside the SD card slot is a micro HDMI port so you can hook the Hudl 2 to a HD TV to watch video or view photos on a bigger screen. Again, the micro HDMI cable you need is not supplied in the box, but you should be able to pick one up online for around £5, so it’s not an expensive investment.

Around the back is where you’ll find the new 5-megapixel camera sensor, which sits in close proximity to one of the two redesigned speakers that now have a nicer-looking drilled holed design that definitely adds to the Hudl 2’s already pleasing aesthetic.

Tesco Hudl 2: Screen

The most noticeable hardware change is the screen. The murky, slightly washed out 1,400 x 900 resolution model of the original Hudl is no more, replaced with a Full HD 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD display that’s sharper and so much nicer to watch video and read on.

The higher resolution may be spread across a larger 8.3-inch screen but pixel density has still been given a decent boost ramping up to 265ppi. As such it's so much better than the original and there’s not many £120 tablets that can offer this kind of screen quality. The Asus Memo Pad HD 7 is in the same price range as the Hudl 2 but only packs a 1,280 x 800 resolution display.

If we are going to be picky, and it’s our job to be really, it’s not the brightest display we’ve used even on its maximum setting. Also, whites are not exceptional and it lacks the punchy, vibrant colours you’d find on a Super AMOLED. You’d have to pay more to see improvements in those areas on similarly sized tablets though.

A nice added bonus is the use of IPS display technology to improve on the average viewing angles of the original plus it offers some improved visibility using the Hudl 2 outdoors in bright sunlight.

Tesco Hudl 2: Speaker Quality

To add to the Hudl 2’s video-watching credentials is the inclusion of new stereo speakers with Dolby optimized audio. Positioned on the back of the tablet, they offer significantly better sound quality, especially for watching films, but it’s not perfect.

Amazon has used Dolby optimized audio in its Kindle Fire tablets with the aim of offering greater depth, richness and warmth so you don’t get that tinny, grating audio quality you usually find on most cheap tablets.

Tesco hasn’t revealed specifics about the Dolby-powered technology but it looks likely to be the same Dolby Digital Plus used in Amazon tablets to create surround sound through the speakers and headphones adding qualities like constant volume across all applications.

There’s some Dolby Audio options in the settings where you can opt for default mode for video and gaming, a dedicated music playback mode or one for improved voice clarity when making video calls.

It doesn’t take very long to notice how much better sounding these speakers are. Watching a film through Blinkbox Movies, sound has the directional quality to make audio sound more immersive and the detail is great as well - stereo speakers on a tablet really are worth looking out for. When you need to turn things up louder however, it loses its stability and some of the bad qualities you find in tablet speakers begin to creep in.

We’d say the Kindle Fire HDX tablets are still slightly ahead, but these are still a great set of speakers that surpass the quality of a host of more expensive tablets.

Tesco Hudl 2: Software and Apps

The Hudl 2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat with some Tesco touches that don’t feel too overbearing or intrusive on what is overall a slick and intuitive Android experience. If you have used an Android tablet before, then you’ll find all the key components in place. There’s capacitive buttons below the display, Google Now access, multiple homescreens, a notification drop down menu when you swipe from the top of the screen and the all-important ability to download apps from the Google Play Store.

It’s fully stocked with Google’s collection of apps including Play Movies & TV, Google Camera, Chrome and Google Maps. Like the first Hudl, Blinkbox services are there too, including a new books service. The Blinkbox music service is definitely the pick of the bunch, and the Hudl 2 comes with a book of vouchers to get you started with Blinkbox and other Tesco services.

The Tesco T is still up in the corner and whether you press or swipe left you’ll find access to the supermarket’s other shopping-centric interests. Here you can view Clubcard points, offers on Blinkbox content, groceries deals and find out opening times for your nearest Tesco store.

Tesco has gone to the effort of placing folders on the homscreen where you can also get quick access to other services like Tesco Direct, Tesco Bank and new services like Tesco Photo. The same is done for Blinkbox services and it’s also where you’ll find the Hudl 2’s most useful features.

The first is ‘Get started’. This is essentially an interactive manual for using the Hudl 2. It’s something Tesco did a great job with on the first Hudl and it’s even better this time around. Information is clearly presented with the kind of visually appealing interface that will quickly help you to get to grips not only with the hardware and software but tasks like using the internet.

It’s a comprehensive guide and gives you all the information you need without feeling overwhelming. Our only minor gripe is the lack of a search bar function but on the whole, tablet manufacturers could learn a thing or two about this approach to help first time tablet users.

Like the first Hudl, Tesco wants to make the entire experience a family-friendly one and this time it’s doing a whole lot more. The Child Safety feature introduced last year now goes beyond recommending third party software to protecting the little ones from accessing unsuitable content.

Tesco has worked with parent support group Parent Zone to develop the new Child Safety software where you can now set up separate child profiles. These are based around age groups and the main tablet owner can control how much time children can spend on the tablet, which apps they can access and set what type of websites they can access.

The child profiles are set up for under 5, 5-8 years old and 8-11 year olds all with different conditions based on what Tesco and Parent Zone deem children should be able to access.

We set up profiles for the different age groups to test how secure the profiles were and they are largely rock solid. You need to set up data encryption, which is basically a lock that only the main tablet user can unlock. Once you’ve set up the profiles you will be able to access them from the lock screen.

If you’ve set up time limits to use the Hudl 2 during the week and at the weekend, once that limit is up, the tablet will be inactive and no longer usable. This is a similar feature to the Freetime mode used on Kindle Fire tablets and is similarly effective.

App restrictions is something that was introduced in Android Jelly Bean and while we only had access to those permitted apps we also scanned around to see what other features we could still access. You can still turn on Bluetooth for instance, which could be an area of concern but elsewhere there’s very little you can do. You can’t reset the tablet or access any other user profiles.

Last up is the web safety feature. Here you can control the nature of content users can access and if they do try to stumble on something unsuitable only the main tablet user can unlock access to it. YouTube seemed like a good place to get potentially find a crack in this safety feature but it even made videos unsuitable unplayable. Tesco and Parent Zone have done a great job here to make this one of the safest tablets to use.

Android 4.4 KitKat tips, tricks, and hidden features

Tesco Hudl 2: Performance

The Hudl 2 sees the Tesco tablet move from an ARM-based chip set up to an Intel Z3735D chipset with integrated Intel HD Graphics GPU commonly found inside cheap Windows 8 tablets. There’s also 2GB of RAM to help with more intensive tasks and as a result it’s a more pleasing tablet to use in every aspect.

Swiping through homescreens and launching applications is a breeze and the extra gigabyte of RAM improves its multitasking prowess. It’s gaming though where there’s a big difference from its predecessor. There’s no signs of lag and framerate drop and while it might lack the extra visual sheen you get on Snapdragon powered tablets and phones, the Hudl 2 is well equipped to play games.

The benchmark results back this up as well. In Geekbench 3, it delivers a multi core score of 1,914. The original Hudl in comparison scored 1,360 in the same tests, although it’s still someway behind the Snapdragon-powered Nexus 7 (2,672).

There was one sign of concern and that’s when the tablet refused to boot up despite having battery. After entering reboot mode by holding down the standby and volume buttons we were able to get back to normal and it was the one instance where we encountered an issue with the Hudl 2’s performance.

Tesco Hudl 2: Camera

Taking photos was one of the most underwhelming experiences on the first Hudl, whether that was with the main or front-facing camera. Now the main camera is up from a 3-megapixel to a 5-megapixel sensor, while the front-facing model is down from 2-megapixel to 1.2-megapixel, making it adequate at best for selfies and video chats. That’s the same camera setup as the £129 Asus Memo Pad HD 7.

While performance is better on the rear camera, and there’s more modes to play around with, you still wouldn’t want to use it in place of a decent mid range-smartphone camera.

There are more modes this time when you swipe left in the camera app. You’ve now got the 360-degree photo sphere mode, panoroma mode, bokeh-style lens blur and a video mode, which shoots in a pretty underwhelming 720p HD resolution.

The fidgety nature of stitching images together in photo sphere and the panorama mode make it difficult to yield good results while the lens blur mode takes an age to process images and doesn't deliver in the same way the feature does on the Galaxy S5 or the One M8 - you'll soon grow bored of it.

As the close up image below shows, the focus handles better than it did on the first Hudl but images struggle for vibrancy and detail and still look washed out. Colour accuracy underwhelms as well and on the whole, it produces the kind of images you are unlikely to want to share.

When you shoot from further out like the photo sample below, things are a little more stable, but beyond the colourful orange building in the forefront of the image, everything behind it struggles for sharpness.

When it comes to shooting video don't expect anything special either. You can actually film at 1080p HD with the main camera and 720P HD with the front-facing one. There's no added features to enhance footage, though, so results can still look grainy and lacklustre.

Best tips on taking good selfies

Tesco Hudl 2: Battery Life

Tesco doesn’t specify the capacity of the Hudl 2’s battery but does claim that it'll last eight hours, which is an hour less than the first Hudl was capable of.

In our experience that’s about as much as you can expect from the Hudl 2 and there’s no power management modes to push things further.

In general use you can get a day’s play but you will have to charge it when you get home. In our more intense testing, running a SD video on loop with 50% brightness and Wi-Fi turned off, it doesn’t take long to see how quickly the battery drains. We managed around the seven hour mark but what was more of concern was that after an hour and 20 minutes of video, it was down to 77%. That’s a big hit in battery life. What's to blame? The first thing we'd point the finger to is the screen. Powering that higher resolution can be demanding and surely contributes to a battery life, which is a bit below par.

Things don’t get much better when you need a quick charge adding around 10% from flat with a 30 minute charge from the supplied mains adaptor.

There’s similarly priced tablets that can definitely offer more battery like the Asus Memo Pad HD 7 tablet, which can get up to the ten hour mark in the same testing scenarios. If you plan to use it mostly at home with a plug socket nearby, it shouldn’t be a problem though.

Best Android battery saving apps

Should I buy the Tesco Hudl 2?

For a tablet that costs £129, the Tesco Hudl 2 is the best we’ve used and that should be a wake up call for more manufacturers who have failed to deliver the same quality for the same money. The screen is fantastic for the money, the speakers are better than the ones you can find on more expensive tablets and the Intel-driven performance is so much better than last year’s slightly sluggish Hudl. It’s also the other elements that Tesco gets right that others can learn from.

The Get Started guide and Child Safety features show a better appreciation of how daunting owning a tablet can be for some and that helps give the Hudl 2 added appeal. If you compare it to the competition like the Asus Memo Pad HD 7 (£129) or even the £200 Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX 7, it can stand proudly next to those 7-inch tablets and does an equal if not better job in many respects.

The Hudl 2 is a family-friendly tablet with high end features and if you can live with the far from overbearing Tesco services and some battery life gripes, this is a tablet you will not be disappointed with.


The Tesco Hudl 2 is the best budget tablet we’ve tested at this price. If you have £129 to spend on a tablet, this is the one to own.

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