Budget tablet head-to-head: Tesco Hudl vs Google Nexus 7 vs Amazon Kindle Fire HD

A few years back buying a budget Android tablet meant seriously compromising on every aspect of the hardware and software. 

Going for a low price tag meant you could expect to get something with a slow CPU, tiny helping of memory and very limited storage. Not to mention there was every chance that whatever ancient version of the Android OS it was using suffered numerous bugs, and you could usually forget about after-sales support.

But now that the price and performance of components has reached a pleasing balance, and Android's performance and user experience on big-screen devices is vastly improved, there's a new wave of affordable Android slates which offer top specs at knock-down prices that seriously undercut even the cheapest Apple iPad

The original Google Nexus 7 was the first to really show that it was possible to make a really great device without an outrageous RRP. Since then many others have entered the fray, and the most recent pretender to the throne is grocery giant Tesco with its oddly monikered 'Hudl'. 

Tesco's gigantic retail presence and formidable buying power make it a serious threat to more established names, but it's not going to be an easy ride. Google has released a brand new edition of the Nexus 7 and Amazon recently cut the price of its Kindle Fire HD.

That's great news for prospective tablet buyers who now have more choice than ever, but how do these low-cost tablets stand up against each other, and which one you should buy?

 
Display 7", IPS LCD, 1440 x 900, 242 ppi 7", IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080, 323 ppi 7", IPS LCD, 1280 x 800, 216 ppi
RAM 1GB 2GB 1GB
Processor 1.5GHz quad core 1.5GHz quad core 1.2GHz dual core
GPU Mali-400MP Adreno 320 PowerVR SGX 540
Chipset Rockchip RK3188 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro TI OMAP 4430
Internal storage 16GB 16GB/32GB 16/32GB
Expandable memory MicroSD up to 32GB No No
Mobile data No HSPA+, 4G LTE (optional) No
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB
Rear camera 3MP 5MP No
Front camera 2MP 1.2MP 1.3MP
Sensors GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer GPS, light, accelerometer, gyro, compass Accelerometer, gyroscope, light
Operating system Android 4.2.2 Android 4.3 Android based 'Fire OS'
Battery capacity unknown 3950mAh 4400mAh
Battery life (estimate) 9 hours video playback 9 hours 'active use' 11 hours
Output 3.5mm audio, micro-HDMI 3.5mm audio, slimport HDMI (adapter) 3.5mm audio, micro-HDMI
Weight 370g 290g 395g
Dimensions (HWD) 128.8 x 192.8 x 9.85mm 114 x 200 x 8.65mm 193 x 137 x 10.3mm
Build materials Plastic Polycarbonate, Corning Gorilla Glass  Polycarbonate, Corning Gorilla Glass
Colours Black, red, blue, purple Black Black
Price £119 £199 (16GB) / £239 (32GB) / £299 (32GB w/ 3G & LTE) £119 (16GB) / £139 (32GB)
 

Processor and memory

Unsurprisingly, the most expensive of these three has the biggest advantage in terms of raw horsepower: the latest Nexus 7 is packing a very fast quad core chipset and a hefty 2GB RAM.

Google Nexus 7 2013This doesn't mean the Hudl and Kindle are slouches, though. The Kindle may only have a dual core CPU, but benchmarks indicate that it's marginally quicker than the older Kindle Fire and around the same speed as the original Nexus 7. 

The Tesco Hudl has been clocked at 5443 on the Quadrant benchmark and 18,456 on the Antutu test. In comparison, the Nexus 7 scored 5475 and 20011

Benchmarks only tell part of the story of course, but it's good to see that even these very cheap tablets offer reasonable performance. In real world use you aren't likely to notice much difference unless you really push their capabilities with some demanding apps and games.

Display

The Nexus 7 has a spectacular 1080p screen that's vastly improved over the original model, good enough to justify an upgrade in our opinion. 

But then it does cost almost £100 more than the Hudl and Kindle Fire HD. These two are fairly evenly matched - the Hudl does have a slight advantage in resolution and pixel depth, however the Kindle Fire HD has been praised for its sharpness and bold colours, and it's certainly better than the disappointing display on the first Nexus 7. Crucially, both are capable of displaying 720p video natively. 

If screen quality is a prime consideration in your buying decision then the Nexus 7 is the clear winner, but the Hudl and Kindle both provide very good screens for the price.

Storage

All three /mobilebroadband/tablet-pcoffer at least 16GB internal storage, with 32GB options available for the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. But Tesco provides something neither of the others do: a microSD slot. This allows you to expand the storage by up to 32GB, providing far more flexibility. That's a big plus in our book, and it's disappointing to find the Nexus still missing expandable memory.

Connectivity and sensors

One of the major complaints from last year's Nexus 7 was its lack of a HDMI port. These are extremely useful on tablets as it allows you to throw the display up on a TV - brilliant for turning your tablet into a portable media centre or games machine (Android natively supports Bluetooth game controllers, including Playstation 3 pads). 

For some reason Asus and/or Google have chosen not to include HDMI once again, which is a big black mark. All is not lost though: it does now support slimport HDMI though this involves having to buy an additional adapter at a cost of about £20-£30.

Thankfully the Hudl and Kindle Fire HD both provide micro-HDMI as so you can enjoy some big screen action with the minimum of hassle.

All three include standard microUSB sockets for charging and data transfer. 

On the wireless side we get the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support across the board. Only the Nexus 7 has NFC but, erm, is anyone actually using that?

The sensor suites are fairly standard throughout with the typical gyroscopes and accelerometers that enable motion sensing functionality. The only notable omission is the Kindle Fire's lack of GPS, but we don't see this as a big downside on a tablet unless you planned to use it for something like an in-car entertainment system.

If mobile broadband is important the Nexus 7 is the only one at this time to offer a model with built-in 3G and 4G capabilities, however this will set you back £299. Consider purchasing a Wi-Fi hotspot dongle instead.

Software

You may not consider this side of things too much, after all Android is Android, right? But in fact it can be a crucial point of difference. 

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7One of the most appealing aspects of the Nexus 7 is its stock Android OS installation. You'll get new system updates as soon as Google deploys them, benefiting from bug fixes and new features much sooner than tablets with customised software. The newest Android 4.3 release is really quite nice, too.

The Tesco Hudl is largely unmodified. It looks and works pretty much like stock Android 4.2, however there are some bundled Tesco apps, and a persistent Tesco shortcut button in the lower left of the screen. We'll leave you to decide how annoying this might be. 

More concerning is how often - or even if - Tesco will issue OS updates. Some manufacturers have a very poor track record, but Tesco is a complete unknown on this front.

The Kindle Fire HD is an entirely different beast altogether. While it is powered by Android it's a heavily modified version created by Amazon and dubbed 'Fire OS'. 

The system is built around Amazon services such as Lovefilm and Kindle ebooks and the most important thing to keep in mind is that out of the box the Kindle does not support Google Play, only Amazon's own far more limited App Store, so you may lose access to favourite apps. While there are warranty-voiding workarounds it's an unusually restricted system that could prove a headache for unsuspecting Android fans with a large library of content.

Which tablet is right for you? 

Google Nexus 7

  • Pros

Fast hardware, brilliant display, solid build quality, stock Android OS, mobile broadband option.

  • Cons

No microSD slot, HDMI requires adapter, expensive compared to budget rivals.

Get the Google Nexus 7 if: you want a powerful full HD tablet at an affordable price.

Tesco Hudl

  • Pros

Low price tag for reasonably powerful device, HD display, microSD slot and HDMI port.

  • Cons

Tesco branded OS, future software updates are an unknown quantity

Get the Tesco Hudl if: you want the full Android experience for less, or a tablet for the family.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

  • Pros

User friendly OS with easy access to Amazon services, recent price drop is attractive.

  • Cons

Locked-down and heavily customised OS, no access to Google Play.

Get the Amazon Kindle if: you're heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem.

Comments

  • neutral

    by Thierry at 14:02 on 7 Oct 2013 Report abuse

    This is interesting. However, if you get away from big brands like those, you can get a better devices for less money.

  • neutral

    by luke warlow at 15:48 on 24 Oct 2013 Report abuse

    i asked in my local big tesco and they said that after christmas they are gonna update it to android 4.3!

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