Tech Talk: Helping a little

THE latest entrant to the increasingly lucrative and competitive computer tablet market is also the least expected: alongside Google and Apple sits Tesco.

The Hudl

The supermarket’s stab at a portable PC, taking its place just down the aisle from the meat and veg, is called the Hudl. Tesco says it’s been custom-designed from scratch and so can’t be dismissed as another cheap Chinese knock-off. But is it any better?

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Well, at just under £120 it’s a little more expensive than the rash of no-name Apple imitators at other high street chains, but it’s hardly a match for the similarly-sized, £270 iPad Mini. In fact, the Hudl is Tesco’s attempt to do what Amazon tried with the £160 Kindle Fire, and that’s to sell a device whose primary purpose is to sell more. To that end, Tesco has placed a big “T” menu on the home page, which takes you to handy online video services like Blinkbox and ClubCard TV, both of which are handily operated by Tesco. There are also links to – surprise! – online supermarket shopping, though you’re not restricted to Tesco.

In fairness, Tesco’s tablet is less locked down than Amazon’s Kindle, the primary goal of which is to display books, movies and music bought from Amazon. The Hudl, in contrast, allows you full access to the Google Play store, which has a range of apps second only to Apple’s. It sports a quad-core processor, a 7-inch HD screen and – unlike either the iPad or its main rival, the excellent Google Nexus, a slot for an SD card, which lets you expand its built-in storage from 16 to 48 gigabytes.

Its main purpose is to access music, video and e-book libraries, check email and surf. It does all this adequately, but web surfing is not quite the fluid experience enjoyed by iPad and Nexus owners. Then again, the Hudl is competing less with those than cheaper models online and at Argos. These can currently be found for as little as £80, but be warned that at that price processors will be less powerful and screens of lower resolution. Compatibility with video-rich apps like the BBC iPlayer may also be limited, so don’t buy a bargain basement tablet without testing it in the shop and making sure it’s fast enough to keep up with your fingers. Tesco’s competitor – which can be had for just £60 with enough Clubcard points – is a cut above those models, but for build quality, flexibility and all-round performance, the 16GB Google Nexus 7, at £160, is still the tablet to beat.