It took a while for Android tablets to really take off, but the combination of a solid OS and capable-yet-cheap hardware has led to success for the Google Nexus 7, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and others.
Now this Tesco tablet, the Hudl, has arrived with its very own budget Android 4.2.2 OS, and it's threatening to undermine them all.
At a cost of just £119, the Tesco Hudl is a good £80 cheaper than the second generation Nexus 7. What's more, with a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, a 7-inch HD display and near-as-damnit stock Android Jelly Bean, it would appear to be a close match for Google's pace-setting compact tablet.
Tesco has begun bundling the Hudl with a variety of low-end smartphones too, including the Galaxy Fame and ancient BlackBerry Curve 9320 for a monthly fee - however it's likely you'll find it more cost effective to buy the Hudl outright and combine it with a phone at a monthly cost rather than getting pulled into the bundle..
- Get the Hudl for £119 from Tesco (opens in new tab)
The Hudl is a pretty solid device in the hand, too. Despite its 'Tesco Value range' pricing, its build quality feels very much in the same class as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, with a similar chunky plastic front and rubberised back design.
That's not to say it's particularly stylish, with its slightly bulging sides and shiny plastic edging ensuring that it won't be taking on the new Nexus 7 in the desirability stakes, let alone the iPad mini.
It also feels rather heavy in the hands. At 370g the Hudl sits squarely in between the aforementioned Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD, but its slightly cheaper looks and bargain price made us expect something a little lighter. It's not particularly a criticism - just an observation.
Interestingly, Tesco has designed the Hudl to be used primarily in landscape view, which is fairly uncommon for a 7-inch tablet. We can understand it though - web browsing, watching movies and playing games are all predominantly landscape activities.
The Hudl's landscape bias can be seen in the positioning of the front camera smack bang in the middle of the bezel along one of its longer sides, as well as in the location of its main hardware buttons.
These are rather unusually situated along one of the device's shorter edges - the top right, when it's aligned in landscape according to the front-camera and the embedded plastic Hudl insignia on the back.
This little design feature is something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it does prove easy to wake the device and adjust the volume whilst using it in landscape view.
However, use the Hudl in portrait view, which you'll still do an awful lot when picking it up for a quick email or web check, and it proves very tricky to locate these keys. It requires a complete rewiring of your tablet-brain.
Of course, this should prove much easier to adjust to for the first-time tablet owners at which the Tesco Hudl is aimed. The keys themselves are plastic but solid and pleasantly clicky.
That's it for hardware buttons. Tesco has followed the lead of its aforementioned rivals in omitting a physical home button in favour of utilising Android's built-in context-sensitive software controls.
At most stages of the interface, you'll be able to backup, go back to the home screen, or bring up the multi-tasking menu with these three controls.
It lacks the go-to immediacy of, say, the iPad mini's Home button, but it's unobtrusive and simple enough to use once you're accustomed to it.
Other hardware features include a microUSB charger along the Hudl's intended bottom edge and a welcome microSD card slot along the right hand side, below the volume button.
Added to the standard 16GB of internal storage (we would have expected 8GB in such a cheap tablet), the potential for up to 32GB of memory expansion bodes well for the Hudl as a long-serving multimedia servant.
As does the welcome addition of a Micro-HDMI port on the top edge. This means that you can easily hook up the Hudl to your TV - a feature that Tesco clearly included in order to push its Blinkbox service into your living room. More on that later.
It's a shame, then, that there's no Micro-HDMI cable included in the Hudl box, but this is a fairly easy and inexpensive addition to make. Besides, watching such video content directly on the Hudl isn't the chore you might be expecting.
The Hudl's is far from the best 7-inch display we've ever seen, and it doesn't hold a candle to the latest Nexus 7's 1920 x 1200 screen. But it still comes in at a respectable 1440 x 900 resolution, which is a good bit sharper than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, and is even ahead of last year's Google Nexus 7.
The Hudl produces a solid 242ppi, which isn't far short of the full-sized iPad 4 in terms of pure pixel density. Of course, colour reproduction isn't nearly as good as Apple's standard-setting tablet range, nor is it up to the latest Nexus 7 or the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.
Images just don't quite pop as they do on more premium equivalents, and the white balance is truly awful at times. Compare a website to a top-end tablet or smartphone and you'll see a distinctly yellowish tinge to the Hudl's efforts at rendering whites.