Two of the biggest names on the UK high street have introduced their own budget 7″ Android tablets. The Tesco Hudl and the Argos MyTablet, at just £119 and £99 respectively, are priced firmly in impulse buy territory will be going head-to-head for a place in the nation’s shopping baskets this Christmas. But which is the best, and are either of them good enough to compete with the more established names like Google and Amazon?
We go hands-on with both to find out.
With the Hudl Tesco seems to be taking a similar approach to Amazon and the Kindle Fire: sell a decent quality tablet cheaply, and make your money from the ecosystem. The Hudl comes with a prominent link on the system bar to an app rounding up all of Tesco’s services. These range from Blinkbox movies and music, to groceries and banking. All attached to your Clubcard, of course.
Unlike Amazon’s heavily skinned interface the Tesco features on the Hudl are discreet enough that they can be safely ignored, although we suspect many users will find their inclusion useful. Especially the movie rental service, given that there’s an HDMI-out port on the tablet and a money-off voucher in the box to get you started.
The Hudl is neatly designed and has solid build quality, and at just £119 it feels like you’re getting real value for money. It is obviously a budget-minded device. Despite the presence of the quad-core processor performance is somewhat pedestrian (although is generally lag-free and quick enough for all the common casual tasks, so long as Candy Crush is about the limit of your gaming ambitions) and the cameras are low quality.
Yet the screen is great as this price point, on a par with the original Nexus 7, so is fine for ebook reading and video playback.
Where the Hudl gives the impression that Tesco was involved in every step of building a tablet, Argos’ strategy with the MyTablet appears to involve picking up a cheap Chinese tablet and sticking the Argos app on it. It’s sold under the Bush brand – Argos’ electronics arm – and is aimed at kids so comes with a bunch of extra apps like Angry Birds and BBC iPlayer.
The MyTablet is £20 cheaper than the Hudl, but the difference seems far greater than that. MyTablet is the kind of device that was giving Android tablets a bad name two years ago. In today’s world of Nexus’, Kindle Fires, Nook HDs and, yes, Hudls it’s difficult to justify its existence.
It delivers a pretty nasty user experience. The screen is too dim and, worse, has the dreaded 1024×600 resolution (15.75:9 aspect ratio) squeezed into a 16:9 display, making everything look either slightly squashed or slightly stretched depending on whether you’re holding the device in portrait or landscape mode. It’s a classic symptom of a cheapo tablet.
The software is barely any better. One of the first things you’re asked to do when you turn the tablet on is choose which launcher you want to use. If you’re new to Android you won’t have any idea what to do, or why. We feel bad for anyone who picks Argos’ hideous custom launcher and doesn’t know how to switch to the stock Android one. (Apparently there is a leaflet in the box that explains the launcher setup, but who reads those? More to the point, why should you have to? The whole point of tablet is that it presents the ‘friendly face’ of computing and doesn’t need any technical knowledge, let alone an instruction manual.)
And we found performance to be patchy. We weren’t expecting it to be fast, and it wasn’t, the screen was not as responsive as we’d have liked, and we also experienced a couple of wi-fi dropouts. These latter issues could be fixed with a firmware update, but we don’t know yet how well supported this device will be.
There’s no contest. Even at such a low price of £99 the MyTablet seems expensive for what you are getting, and there is far better to be had for not very much more money. The Hudl is superior in every respect both on paper and in use.
Our pick of low cost 7″ tablets is still the 2013 Nexus 7, at a starting price of £199. If you’ve owned tablets before, or are an experienced Android user, then the extra outlay is worth it because there are far fewer compromises on either spec or performance.
If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, and especially if you’re buying your first tablet, then the Tesco Hudl makes a very good buy. In some respects we prefer it to the Amazon Kindle Fire because it gives you the full Android experience, and if you’ve got Clubcard points to spare you can get it far cheaper than the £119 list price.