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Tesco Hudl 2 review: The best value tablet for your family

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The Good The Tesco Hudl 2 has a sturdy, fun design, a decent screen and loads of info on how to keep your kids safe when they venture online. Oh, it's also incredibly cheap.

The Bad The interface can be a little sluggish and the vast amount of Tesco software may dissuade buyers who frequent other supermarkets.

The Bottom Line Although it won't appeal to those of you looking for the slickest slate around, the Tesco Hudl 2 has the power, display quality and build to keep the whole family happy. The wealth of child safety features are a nice addition too.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

Apple's iPad Air is a super piece of technology with a brilliant high-resolution display and a wealth of power stuffed into a sleek, skinny metal body. Naturally then, it comes with a massive price tag attached, meaning it's likely to be out of budget for the average family.

Tesco's first Hudl tablet was designed to appeal to families who want a good all-round tablet to share that comes at a price that won't mean disaster when little Timmy accidentally sends it plummeting to the ground. Its successor, the Hudl 2, continues that philosophy, but makes some key upgrades.

It has a larger, higher definition display along with a more powerful processor, yet only costs £129 from Tesco -- considerably less than the £399 asking price for the entry-level iPad Air. Although it bears the Tesco name and comes with Tesco's shopping apps on board, it's still every bit as useful to those of you whose supermarket allegiances lie elsewhere.

Design and display

The Hudl 2 maintains the various design features of its predecessor. It's a chunky thing, with a rubberised body with dual stereo speakers stuck to the back. It's available in a range of eight bright colours too -- orange, red, pink, purple, white, dark blue, light blue and black.

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The Hudl 2 comes in eight different colours. Take your pick! Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There are a bunch of changes to the new model. Its larger screen means the body is wider (when holding it in landscape mode) although it hasn't ballooned out to an awkwardly large size. Tesco managed this by reducing the size of the bezel around the display, therefore maximising the size of the screen.

The speakers on the back have been changed from thin slits to grids of large circles, which is an effect that I think looks pretty cool. The speakers bear the Dolby Audio name. You won't feel totally immersed in sound when watching a movie, but they're loud enough to at least hear who's angry at who on "Eastenders" while you're chopping up veg for your dinner.

The thick rubberised body is easy to hold and feels capable of putting up with a decent amount of knocks and bumps. It certainly doesn't feel like it'll shatter the first time it falls from the sofa onto the carpet, but if you plan on handing it over to your over-excited five-year-old then you may want to invest in one of the various rubber cases Tesco also sells for £10.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Around the edges of the tablet you'll find a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer, a mini HDMI port for hooking the slate up to a big TV and a microSD card slot for expanding the 16GB of built-in storage. While 16GB is fairly generous for a budget tablet, if you want to load up a music and video to keep the kids entertained on a car journey or long flight, you'll want to pop in a card.

The display is physically bigger than before -- it's now 8.3 inches, rather than 7 inches -- and it's had a resolution bump too. It has a full HD (1,920x1,200-pixel) resolution, which is a noticeable bump up from the 1,440x900-pixels of its predecessor. Icons and text look sharper and the display itself is both brighter and has much better colours.

Sure, if you're looking for the absolute best image quality on a tablet screen then look towards the bigger, brighter screens on the iPad Air or Samsung Galaxy Tab S , but for the money, the Hudl 2 is more than adequate. For casual sofa surfing, watching Netflix in bed or tweeting about who deserved to win "Great British Bake Off", the Hudl 2 will suit you well and your kids certainly won't be complaining about less-than-outstanding screen quality.

Tesco software

The Hudl 2 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, and Tesco hasn't done much to the actual interface -- it's basically stock Android, so if you've ever used an Android device before, you won't struggle to make your way around. Even if you're new to Android, it's pretty easy to get to grips with.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Tesco has loaded it up with a whole bunch of its own apps and software, however. An app folder on the homescreen contains Tesco's various shopping apps, although some of them -- like the Clubcard app -- simply act as a bookmark, taking you to the webpage. Of course, if you're a dedicated Sainsbury's shopper then having all of Tesco's services on the front page isn't going to be a big sell for you.

Off to the left of the homescreens is a scrolling feed, showing your Clubcard balance, suggested movies from Tesco's Blinkbox service, your nearest store (as well as opening hours), recipes to try and featured offers in Tesco stores. It's mostly just a list of adverts masquerading as "exclusive content" but it's handy to be alerted when jacket potatoes are half price.

Blinkbox is Tesco's content service that lets you download films, music and books. Its movie selection isn't brilliant and titles aren't cheap -- A Million Ways to Die in the West costs £4.49 to rent in HD or £13.99 to buy. Tesco is reportedly looking to sell or in fact close Blinkbox as it's struggling to compete against companies like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Spotify and Google's own movies, music and books services. I'd certainly recommend looking to these before forking over your money to Blinkbox.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The tablet also comes with a host of software to teach you everything you need to know about using it, from how to use the navigation buttons, how and where to download apps, how to use apps to socialise and how to use privacy and security settings.

Knowing that you'll likely let your kids play around on the tablet, Tesco has also filled the Hudl with various tools to keep young eyes safe. You can create user profiles for each of your children, allowing you to restrict how long they can use it for at any one time and decide on what sort of content they can and can't see. There's loads of advice too about how to teach them about online safety and keeping their information safe. There's also information on how to explain to them that not all content online is accurate or safe, that posting inappropriate content is dangerous and may be seen by future employers (or the police) and what they should do if they're victims of bullying.

In fact, there's great advice about almost everything a child may want to do on the tablet, whether it's about what you need to tell your children, or practical tips on how you can block illegal content and where to turn if things go wrong. If you're concerned about unleashing your inquisitive young children on to the open Internet, reading these guidelines is a good place to start.

Power and performance

The tablet runs on a 1.8GHz quad-core processor from Intel that has enough power for most of the applications you're likely to need. Navigation is adequately swift -- although I found swiping around the homescreens and jumping into the app tray a little sluggish on occasion -- and apps and games load without much lag.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

High definition video streaming in Netflix was handled perfectly well, while social networking and Web browsing was every bit as swift as it is on any other tablet. The brightly coloured games your kids love will be tackled without hesitation and games like Minecraft and Asphalt 8 played fine too. If you're looking for the device with the highest performance around, look elsewhere, but the Hudl 2 has plenty of oomph to handled most things the average family will want to do.

There's a 5-megapixel camera on the back, which won't catapult any of your household to photography stardom, but will let you post a half decent photo to Facebook of your dog wearing a funny hat. The 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera will let you video call over Skype or Google Hangouts or take a variety of embarrassing selfies.

Conclusion

If you're looking for the sleekest, most high-performance tablet around then you've come to the wrong place. Why not pop along to our reviews of the iPad Air or Samsung Galaxy Tab S instead? The Tesco Hudl 2 doesn't have the best set of specs around, but it has more than enough to satisfy most families and its wealth of parental control information will help you arm your kids with the knowledge they need to stay safe online. It won't break the bank either at only £129.

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