A Tesco tablet? An odd idea, but one that makes more sense the more you think about it. You see Tesco owns the Blinkbox film, TV and music streaming service and is projecting massive growth through its .com and Direct home delivery businesses. Anything that puts those services into the hands of as many potential (or existing) customers in as easily accessible form as possible and also lets them manage their Clubcard accounts is a Very Good Thing in Tesco's eyes. Enter then the Hudle, Tesco's new budget (£119 for cash, £60 if you have enough Clubcard points) Android tablet.
For the price the Hudle feels a remarkable well made device. OK, it's not quite as well screwed together as the £200 Nexus 7 but there is nothing really wrong with it. It's solid, robust, has a nice matte finish rear and a glass screen. Talking of the screen it's a 242dpi 1440 x 900 7-inch IPS affair and frankly it's rather good. Crisp, clear, bright and reasonably colourful. It's made of scratch resistant glass too rather than the toughened plastic you find on some budget devices.
The two 1 watt speakers at the back are not the most powerful or competent you will ever find on a modern tablet but they are a lot better than the single speaker that the first generation Nexus 7 had to make do with.
At 370g it's a little on the heavy side (the Nexus 7 weighs 340g, the iPad Mini 308g) but the rounded design makes it easy to hold even in one hand. Built in you get a decent 16GB of storage and there is a microSD card slot to expand that by up to 32GB. The Hudle has two cameras, a decent enough 2MP webcam at the front and a pretty poor 3MP main camera at the back. That main camera is more for using with augmented reality apps though than taking pictures. We all have much better cameras in our smartphones.
For connectivity you get dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 (one day soon you will get offers pushed to your Hudle as you walk around your local Tesco store via Bluetooth, trust me), GPS (another rarity at this price point) and a Micro HDMI port to connect your Hudle to your telly. Again, for the money that is an impressive specification.
Unlike Amazon which has hidden Android under its own locked-down overlay on the Kindle Fire the Hudle runs Android 4.2.2 almost unchanged. The only obvious addition is the "T" button in the task bar that launches the new improved Tesco Android app so you can shop on-line and manage your Clubcard account. It's actually a handy addition assuming you are a Tesco customer and I imagine most Hudle buyers will be.
Other than that it's Android as usual with all the Google apps including Gmail, Maps, YouTube and the full Play Store from which you can buy apps, music, books and the like if you prefer it to the Blinkbox offering. Tesco deserves a pat on the back for leaving things well alone here.
The Getting Started app is worth a mention. It's the best of its type I've seen and will soon have even the biggest Luddite feeling at home. Tesco has clearly put some thought into it.
Powering the Hudle is a 1.5GHz Cortex-A9 quad core processor with 1GB of RAM and a Mali 400 graphics chip. It's not the most powerful chipset on earth and struggles a bit with the latest, most demanding, 3D games but other than that it keeps everything moving at a decent clip. Again though you can't expect the same outright performance from a £120 Hudle as from a £200 Nexus 7.
Tesco doesn't what the Hudle's battery capacity is but it manged to play a 720p movie for nearly eight hours before it croaked so it must be pretty beefy. In more general use you shouldn't need to charge it more than once every two or three days. Judging from the display at my local Tesco Extra store there is also an impressive range of affordable accessories available.
Verdict: For the money the Hudle is a pretty impressive bit of kit. Tesco has wisely left the Android user interface well alone while the screen, body, connectivity and chipset are all more than you would expect for the money. The main camera is poor but then it's not really been designed to take pictures with so let's not dwell on that. If you find you've got some Clubcard points to hand, I'd say buy one.
Info: Tesco's Hudle page.