GIVEN Tesco’s much-publicised accounting difficulties and retrenchment into its core activity of selling groceries, it’s no surprise that it has decided to stop trying to compete with Apple in the manufacture of tablet computers. But it is disappointing, because the Tesco Hudl 2 was the best value iPad clone by far, and a top performer to boot.
Tesco sold it for just £99, and if you had a Clubcard you could have had it it for a mere £65. With Apple’s similarly-sized iPad Mini 4 starting at £319 it was a walkover.
Ironically, the low price was probably what did for it, because Tesco’s profit margin must have been negligible - and many of the sell-on services with which it hoped to lock-in Hudl users disintegrated long ago.
So with Hudl supplies exhausted, which are the best value and best performing tablets now? There is no longer a clear market leader, but here are the top contenders…
1. Google’s Nexus 7 was one of the first non-Apple tablets to market. The new nine-inch Nexus comes at iPad prices, but the 2013 Nexus 7 is still available from Argos for £100. It’s smaller than the Hudl and has no SD card slot for extra storage, but it boasts decent front and rear cameras, and an HDMI socket to connect to your TV.
2. The eight-inch Acer Iconia One can currently be had for £120 on the high street, and Acer says you can draw on it with a regular pencil rather than a special stylus. The Acer products I’ve owned have had shorter than expected lives, but given its size and specification (especially the SD card slot), this may be worth a punt.
3. iPad Mini 2. The 2013 version of Apple’s eight-inch tablet is still available, and at £200 represents a more compelling proposition than the current, fourth-generation model. There is neither an SD card slot nor an HDMI socket, but the screen clarity is outstanding and the build quality peerless.
4. The eight-inch LINX 810B tablet comes from somewhere left of field: unlike the others it runs neither Apple’s iOS nor Google’s Android operating system, but a touch-screen version of Windows 10. This makes it behave more like a laptop PC and less like a phone; it also means there are far fewer tablet-specific apps available for it. It’s currently £100 at Currys and boasts a larger-than-average 32GB of internal storage plus an SD card slot. There’s also an HDMI socket for a TV hookup, but the inbuilt display has a relatively low resolution, as do the cameras. If you’re considering this, try it out in the shop to see if the Windows interface suits you - and check the Windows Store for availability of any apps you plan to use.
5. Amazon Fire. At seven inches, the smallest of Amazon’s own-brand line of tablets is also the cheapest on the market: just £50, delivered. As you’d expect at that price, there’s a catch - Amazon has removed access to Google’s app store in favour of its own “walled garden” of programmes, many designed to sell you other Amazon goods and services. The screen is no match for the Hudl and there’s only half as much storage (though you can add an SD card) but it’s fine for casual surfing and viewing.